If the Taj Mahal is on the top of your list of places to visit then you’ll definitely be booking a flight to Agra. Once the capital of the Mughal Empire, this medieval city is today one of the most visited destinations in India – if not the world. With a history dating back to the 16th century, Agra’s story is a fascinating one. The third Mughal emperor, Akbar, came to power when he was only 13. He made many great contributions during his reign including banning the slaughter of cows, making Agra the capital in 1566 and commissioning some of the most extraordinary buildings in India.
While most travellers would rather drive from Delhi
than take a flight to Agra, it’s worth spending a couple of days exploring its other fascinating sites. The Itmad-Ud-Daulah tomb – otherwise known as “The Baby Taj” – sits on the banks of the river Yamuna directly across the Taj Mahal. Built in 1628 as a tomb for Mirza Ghiyath Beg the monument adorns some of the best examples of Persian motifs and pietra duras. The Unesco site - Agra Fort - is another sight not to be missed while in Agra. The walled red fortress is home to some exquisite attractions including Jahangiri Palace, Khas Mahal and Anguri Bagh garden.
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Agra’s climate is tropical. April to June is very hot with temperatures more than 43 degrees (Celsius) and high pollution levels. The monsoon season can start in late June, reaching its peak in mid-July and continuing through September. Winters are chilly with temperatures ranging from the low single digits to 30s.The city's annual rainfall is approximately 66cm (26 inches), and most of it falls during July and September.
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The best time to book a flight to Agra is in winter, between November and March.
The summer months - April to July - are very hot, with temperatures often exceeding 35 degrees and hitting as much as 40 degrees. The monsoon rains fall between June and August, although it's usually just the afternoons that are affected.
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Hire a car and driver for your day in Agra and travel worry free. There are also many private tours in the area. The U.P. State Tourism Development Corporation offers tours at all the major sites. If you’d rather venture out on your own, don’t rent your own car. Driving in any Indian city is not recommended. Instead, travel by taxi or rickshaw – auto or bicycle. Make sure your haggling skills are sharpened before you board though. With the high number of tourists in Agra, drivers often quote ridiculously high prices. Don’t be afraid to haggle. Also, watch out for unplanned stops along your route. Drivers sometimes get a commission for bringing their passengers to local shops.
Rent a bike and try pedalling your way around Agra. There are rental shops all over and powering your own way around the city can be helpful since motorised vehicles are not allowed in the Taj Sanctuary.
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- There are three primary sights that every visitor to Agra wants to the visit: the stunning buildings of the Mughal era of the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the Fatehpur Sikri.
- The Taj Mahal is unquestionably the most famous building in Agra, if not India. Therefore, expect to meet a lot of other tourists visiting at the same time. To avoid the most of the crowds, head there in early morning or late evening. Watching the sun rise or set over the building offers one of the most beautiful views of this spectacular monument to love. For even less crowds, view the Taj Mahal from the other side of the Yamuna river.
- Agra Fort, or the Red Fort, is situated on the opposite side of the river to the Taj Mahal. The red sandstone gives the fort its name. There are two entrances to the fort, the Delhi Gate and the Amar Singh Gate, though visitors can only enter through the latter. Part of the fort is still in use by the Indian Army.
- Along with the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, Fatehpur Sikri is a Unesco World Heritage site. Perhaps less famous than the other two attractions, it is, however, equally unmissable. An entire ancient city, just an hour away from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri was the political capital of India during Akbar’s reign, but was abandoned after just 14 years. Today, you can see tombs, palaces, courts, gardens, fountains, gates, mosques and squares.
- Don’t just stick to the tourist spots for a good view of the city. Agra is a bustling metropolis, and one of the best ways to see this Indian city is on foot. Take a morning to walk through the streets and see the city as it goes about its daily business.
- If the intricate marble inlay of the Taj Mahal makes you long to own something similar, visit the Marble Handicrafts Emporium at 289, Fatehabad Road. The emporium is both a workshop and a marketplace. You can watch the demonstrations by craftsmen as they inlay semi-precious stones into the marble (a skill unique to the city). And then afterwards, you can buy a souvenir to take home…
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