Agra and the Beautiful Taj Mahal

Visiting Agra was an unforgettable, magical experience and it was definitely a highlight from my time in India. Despite the Taj Mahal being partially under scaffolding when I visited, the grandeur and symmetrywas spectacular.

Adding the Taj Mahal to any itinerary needs no explanation, but including a few nights stay in Agra might start to raise questions. It’s definitely worth hanging around, as Agra has so much more to offer than the normal tour of the most photographed building in the world.

If you’re looking to visit Agra, here are the parts I enjoyed the most.

Boat Ride at Sunset
The west wall of the Taj Mahal backs onto Yamuna river, so viewing it by boat not only offers a new perspective, but it also allows some photographs with no crowds in. Although tourists boats are banned from travelling outside the Taj, there’s still trips available if you ask around. The setting sun cast the Taj in a beautiful shade of red and combined with the stillness and quiet of the water, it was an enchanting 30 minute ride.

Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
Unfortunately I can’t claim that I made it for sunrise itself, but I got there just after and the early start was certainly rewarded. The majority of tourist buses don’t arrive until late morning, meaning the Taj is relatively quiet. There’s still the unavoidable jostling to get the perfect photograph, but you can just about manage to capture it with no one in. The temperature is also still bearable at this time of day, which is helpful when you have to walk over the white tiles with no shoes.

Sunset at a Rooftop Restaurant
The majority of restaurants in Agra have a rooftop terrace, where you can enjoy the sunset whilst drinking beer and eating dinner. Although it’s not the greatest spot for photographs, it’s still a great experience to watch the Taj disappear into the night. When I visited, you could also see monkeys roaming around on the rooftops and colonies of bats filling the dusk sky.

Fatehpur Sikri: Ghost City
The former imperial capital is certainly dwarfed in the Taj Mahal’s shadow, but the now ghost city is definitely worth a visit. The impressive entranceway with numerous stone steps (and goats) leads into a courtyard filled with sellers of clothes, “handmade” products and generic tourist junk. Following on from the courtyard, the stunning architecture of the ghost city can be found with numerous nooks and crannies to explore. There’s also some interesting history to learn, including how they used elephants to stand on people’s heads as punishment. Fatehpur Sikri is around an hour and a half journey from Agra city, so be sure to plan half a day to visit.

Advice

  • Bring a back-up battery for your camera and make sure you have plenty of free space, as you’ll undoubtedly take hundreds of photographs
  • Pack light when visiting the Taj, as they confiscate everything from food to torches
  • Stay as near to the Taj as possible, as it makes the early start easier.

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