Highlights of Agra
Agra is home to three World Heritage sites, lies just 200km from Delhi and is considered the jewel in the crown of Indian tourism. This city should be on every Indian tour itinerary as it is the location of the Taj Mahal, perhaps the best known and arguably the most beautiful building in the entire world. The city is home also to the magnificent Agra Fort which overlooks the Taj Mahal across the holy Yamuna River, as well as a number of other well preserved tombs and mausoleums. Just forty kilometres from Agra lies the fortified ancient Mughal city of Fatehphur Sikri.
The Taj Mahal – This monument was started in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shan Jahan as a memorial to his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth while giving birth to her 14th child. This beautiful white marble building inlaid with thousands of semi-precious stones, is perfectly symmetrical in accordance with Islamic architectural practice and looks as immaculate today as when it was first constructed. The Taj Mahal is truly a stunning building which should appear on every travellers “must see” list. Go if you can – you are unlikely to be disappointed. The best time to visit is at sunrise when the building seems to gradually change colour as the sun rises. Sunset is another magical time to see the Taj.
The Agra Fort – Near the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone and white marble encompasses, within its 2.5 kilometre long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques. Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal ended his days imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in Agra Fort, from which he had a view of the building erected in honour of his deceased wife.
Fetehpur Sikri – Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire for just ten years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. The fortified ancient city comprised a series of palaces, public buildings and mosques, as well as living areas for the court, the army, and servants of the king and for an entire population whose history has not been recorded. Fetehphur Sikri is located approximately forty kilometres from Agra, just off the main road from Jaipur and is well worth a visit to appreciate just how extensive and advanced the Mughal empire once was.
The superb attractions of Agra draw thousands of tourists to the city each day and as a result, unaccompanied tourists must inevitably run a gauntlet of rickshaw wallahs, touts, souvenir salesman and unlicensed guides all pitching for business. Agra is also a good place to shop for handicrafts which include some beautiful marble items inlaid with semi-precious stones as well as leather goods, rugs and gemstones.
All tours provided by India Wildlife Holidays are guided by qualified tour guides which considerably reduces unwanted approaches and hassle at the major sights.