Agra, the city that is home to the world’s most wondrous tombstone the Taj Mahal. It is the most visited site in India and the main reason we visit the city. Agra is situated on the large bend of the holy Yamuna River in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Agra attracts not only foreigners but also many local Indians vacationers. It is only a day trip from Delhi away which is 206 km up North. Agra used to be the capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. Many of the cities beautiful heritage sites date back to this era and we spend two days visiting them.
When you visit one of The Seven Wonders, your expectations are high and you might be disappointed. But the Taj Mahal lives up to its fame. The marvelous white marble tomb has a magical allure that draws your attention the minute it appears in your sight. The Taj is believed to by built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. He was heartbroken after her death and decided to build the world’s most beautiful monument for her. It took his 22,000 workers 22 years to build. But there happens to be a black side on the famous ”love story”. The myth goes that Sha Jahan cut off his workers hands just after the completion of the Taj Mahal so that no one would ever be able to build such a monument again. The Taj is open for visitors from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening. For beautiful sunset views and pictures from a different angle, rent a driver to bring you to the best viewing spots on the other side of the river.
Agra Fort is another beautiful piece of architectural history built by the Mughals and symbol of power, strength and pliability. Emperor Akbar built the fort in red sandstone in 1654. It served as a strategic military point and as a royal residence. I love the fine details within the fort that are carved into the marble and stone. Visit the fort early morning with sunrise for a magical view of the Taj Mahal through one of the lookouts in the fortress.
The tomb of L’timād-ud-Daulah
The gorgeous tomb of L’timād-ud-Daulah also known as the Baby Taj is the first Mughal tomb built completely from marble with pietra dura artwork. It is less touristy than the Taj and has beautiful finely carved jali (marble lattice screens).
Sheroes art cafe is a colorful hangout run by women who all have in common that they have survived acid attacks. The café is full of books, handmade clothes and a menu full of delicious dishes for which the customer can pay as they like. Read more about this inspiring place.
Where to sleep?
We visit Agra during peak summer month June. With this in mind, we chose to stay at luxury hotel ITC Mughal, to escape the heat during the day and enjoy its comfortable facilities.
The minute you step into ITC Mughal it is like you enter the Mughal dynasty. We are welcomed with both a bindi patched between our eyes by a beautiful smiling lady. Every decor detail is inspired by the Mughal era. Curving lamps emitting Arabic patterns, a delicate use of marble, red typical Mughal monuments and large sofa’s with plump cushions.
The red brick and sandstone residence is spread over 35 acres of luxurious landscaped gardens with fountains a spa, fitness center, swimming pool and an observatory deck with view of the Taj Mahal. The hotel has elegant large rooms including suites and Mughal Chambers. Some of them feature a personal plunge pool, a view of the garden or even the Taj itself! The hotel has dedicated attentive staff taking care of all your needs 24 hours a day.
Price: $$$$ | For booking and current prices check: ICT Mughal
Address: Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
Facilities: swimming pool —restaurants— Flat screen TV – spa – complimentary tea/coffee facilities – fitness room — travel desk— laundry service — huge garden —bathrobes and slippers —toiletries—mini-bar —24 reception — air-conditioning — bar — locker — view of the Taj Mahal.
Make sure you Dine at the Peshawri restaurant downstairs. It is the best restaurant in Agra serving delicacies from the North West frontier cooked in the clay tandoor in the live open kitchen. I recommend the Dal Bukhara, their signature dish, the best you ever had and of course our favorite Indian dessert gulab jamuns, an absolute treat for those with a sweet tooth!
For a comfortable visit to Agra and decent knowledgeable guides contact www.rajasthantourbycaranddriver.com