You might be surprised to learn that there is so much more to see and do in the fascinating city of Agra than ‘just’ the mighty Taj Mahal; the Mughal rulers left exquisite forts, elaborate tombs, decorative mausoleums and awe-inspiring monuments for curious travellers with more than just a day to spare…
Taj Mahal – So we can’t start a list of the top things to do in Agra without mentioning the most famous structure in the world: the mighty Taj Mahal. Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the monument stands as the ultimate testament of love; for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan constructed this white marble wonder in 1632 for his queen, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is located on the banks of River Yamuna and is best captured either at sunrise or sunset.
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah - Dubbed the ‘Baby Taj’ thanks to its resemblance, the tomb is an elaborate Mughal mausoleum dedicated to I'timād-ud-Daulah, although this wad actually built first! It was constructed in 1625 by Empress Noor Jahan to commemorate her father. The tomb is built from yellow marble, punctuated with a black and white black marble inlay. The most striking thing about the tomb is its feminine qualities.
Agra Fort - Emperor Akbar constructed UNESCO-listed Agra Fort in 1565 and is similar in layout to Delhi’s Red Fort, yet it's much better preserved. The exquisite design houses many other ornate
buildings, such as the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), Diwan-i-Am (hall of public audience) and the octagonal tower of the Musamman Burj where Emperor Shah Jahan died.
Jama Masjid - Also known as the Friday Mosque, Jama Masjid overlooks Agra Fort. This mosque is one of the largest in India and is culturally important thanks to its Iranian architecture. It was constructed in 1648 by Jahanara Begum, who was the daughter of Empress Mumtaz Mahal and Emperor Shah Jahan.
Tomb of Akbar the Great – The Mughal masterpiece commemorates Emperor Akbar. Located in the Sikandra district of Agra, the tomb covers some 48 hectares. The tomb was initiated by Akbar himself in 1605 and was completed by his son Jehangir eight years later. The tomb complex is richly decorated in a multitude of styles. The main structure is built in red sandstone surrounded by a four square formal garden. The tomb is reached via the ornate marble gateway.
Ram Bagh - The delectable Ram Bagh is the earliest example of a Mughal styled garden in India and was created by the Mughal Emperor Babur in 1528.
Mankameshwar Temple – Devoted to Lord Shiva, the Mankameshwar Temple is located close to the Agra Fort railway station and tends to attract mostly locals rather than tourists.
Mehtab Bagh – Located opposite the Yamuna River, are the beautiful Mehtab Bagh Botanical Gardens, where you can spy on the Taj Mahal from a (relatively crowd-free) distance.
Dayal Bagh – This pure white marble memorial to Radhaswamy Samadhi is highly ornate and the 110 feet tall structure has, deliberately, been under a constant state of construction for the last 100 years.
Fatehpur Sikri – This UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed as the capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. Fatehpur Sikri, aka the City of Victory, was built by Emperor Akbar and contains exquisite palaces, hidden courtyards and the Jama Masjid Mosque. It was later abandoned by the ruler, however the reasons remain unknown.
Agra Museum – Don’t miss the small museum located within the Taj Mahal gardens which is home to original architectural plans of the mighty Taj. There are also special plates on display which break into pieces should the food placed upon them contain poison.
Kailash Temple – Strategically located on the banks of the Yamuna River at Sikandra, this majestic temple welcomes all to prayer and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is part of the four temple complex that stands at each corner of Agra.
Mariam's Tomb – This tomb contains ornate carvings and legend has it that it was built in 1611 for the wife of Emperor Akbar – Mariyam, aka Mariam who hailed from Goa.
Soami Bagh – The gardens of the unfinished Samadhi dedicated to the Radha Soami religion (see above) are more complete and a good place to get some respite from the heat of the city.
Chini-Ka-Roza – Emperor Shah Jahan’s Prime Minister, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah of Shiraz is commemorated at this memorial, which is elaborately decorated with a dome of blue glazed tiles.
Mathura-Vrindavan – Make the journey to Mathura which is hailed as the birthplace of Krishna which is surrounded by a multitude of temples and shrines all dedicated to this god.
Taj Mahotsav – Catch this ten day cultural festival which is held each February/March time at the Shilpgram, which is close to the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahotsav is a colourful lively festival celebrating arts, cultures and crafts.
Sur Surover – For a little slice of peace, head out to Sur Surover, aka Keetham Lake which covers 2.5 square kilometers. Teeming with water birds and various fish species, the lake is nestled within the Surdas Reserve Forest and is a great spot for picnicking families.
Balkeshwar Temple – Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Balkeshwar Temple lies on the banks of the Yamuna River.
Bhartpur Bird Sanctuary – Discover India’s endemic water birds at this bird sanctuary with the Keoladeo Ghana National Park which welcomes its most famous resident each winter; the very rare Siberian Crane.
Rawli Maharaj Temple – This is one of the oldest temples within Agra City on the Fatehpur Sikri and is typically busiest when locals meet during all Hindu festivals.
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