On the banks of the Yamuna River lies Agra, adored by all who visit and occupying a place in the hearts of all romantics. Of course, the Taj Mahal is what draws most travelers to make a trip to Agra, but there are a plethora of notable sights to explore in the city aside from the iconic mausoleum. Situated in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is a wonderland of Mughal-era architecture, combined with the typical colorful chaos of such a sizeable Indian city. Between 1526 and 1658, Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire and many of the city’s buildings are monuments from this era are now designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Marathas took over the city after the Mughals, followed by the British Raj, and if you travel to Agra you’ll be able to trace this fascinating timeline through the city’s diverse and awe-inspiring buildings and monuments.
Agra is easily reached from Delhi, around 200 kilometers away, and is one of the three ‘Golden Triangle’ cities, making it an unmissable destination if you take a tour of India. The magical facades, historic ambiance and legendary legacy of Agra are sure to transport you back in time to the captivating Golden Age of the Mughals.
Although many tours of Agra focus on a few select highlights, there are more than enough things to do in Agra to consider spending an extended stay in this former Mughal capital. We recommend starting with the prominent UNESCO World Heritage Sites and then continuing to the lesser-known sights. Of course, the Taj Mahal is a bucket-list favorite and its white marble mausoleum is a universal symbol of love that has transcended across the centuries. Built-in the 17th-century by Emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of his favorite wife, it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful tombs in the world. You’ve probably seen hundreds of photos of the glistening monument, but nothing compares to visiting the Taj Mahal in person. Expect large crowds, or alternatively, visit very early in the day for a more peaceful experience.
Visiting the Agra Fort is another of the top things to do in Agra. Once the main residence of the Mughal Emperors, Agra Fort exudes stately elegance and power. More like a walled-city than a fortress, once inside the 70-foot high walls you’ll find idyllic courtyards, complete with scalloped arches, as well as the huge sandstone structure of the Jehangir’s Palace and the beautiful Khas Mahal Pavillion, among other impressive buildings. A tour of the Agra Fort is incomplete without contemplating the spectacular mirrored halls of the Shish Mahal, known as the ‘Glass Palace’.
If you’re trying to avoid the crowds or you’re an avid photographer, the Mahtab Bagh Botanical Gardens is one of the best places to visit in Agra. Savvy travelers know that the gardens of Mehtab Bagh are the ultimate destination for uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal, thanks to their location on the banks of the Yamuna River. The manicured square-shaped gardens are in perfect alignment with the white marble mausoleum across the water and the gardens buzz with an atmosphere of excitement at sunset owing to the spectacular views. A slice of nature amidst the bustling streets of Agra, be sure to pack your camera if you visit Mehtab Bagh Botanical Gardens.
Just 40 kilometers from the city is Agra’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site: the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri. Before Agra, Fatehpur Sikri held the title of capital of the Mughal Empire until it was completely abandoned at the turn of the 17th-century. A masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture, this red sandstone city is a popular and worthwhile stop on a tour of Agra.