If there is any city in India, which exudes an air of ancient royalty at the very mention of its name, it’s one and only Agra. Although the erstwhile Mughal capital has become more of a modern urban center, with abundant millennial quirks, it has not been able to completely override its intrinsic regal trait. But before you even land there or start wandering around, you need to know what to look for. Agra might not be a huge city, but it’s quite layered.
So, here we are, bringing you some of the best tips for a successful Agra exploration, with a dash of offbeat.
Opt for a road trip, instead of bus or trains.
Agra is most accessible and a popular weekend getaway from Delhi and surrounding the capital region. Being centrally located in Delhi has multitudes of options for Agra travel. If you are flying to Delhi from another city, you can easily book a cab at the airport and enjoy the short and sweet road trip. The journey from Delhi to Agra by car is smooth and seamless and lets you experience the rustic locales of U.P.
Plan a day trip.
Sometimes, you might just have a day to spend in Agra, or you could be just stopping over on your way to another destination. For such cases, you can plan a one-day itinerary to zip through the highlights and still manage to capture the best of Agra. To make it convenient, you can plan the same from Delhi itself. The Delhi to Agra cab fare is reasonable and economical and can save you the time, money, and hassle of hunting local cabs in Agra. You can keep the car with you throughout the day and visit places that interest you.
Travel in the right season.
Summers are the harshest in Agra and if you want to enjoy walking around and exploring to your heart’s content, you should avoid the warmer months. Instead, travel in winter or early spring, when the temperatures are perfect and make it conducive to explore the city properly.
Find centrally located accommodation.
The best way to cover major sightseeing in Agra is to stay somewhere close to the city’s center. You will find some of the best hotels and guest houses in Tajganj – the neighborhood surrounding the Taj Mahal and other monuments in the vicinity. For upscale accommodation options, Fatehabad Road is the place to be.
See beyond the Taj.
There’s no contention in how and why Agra is synonymous with this wonder of the world. But, there’s more to the city beyond this UNESCO World Heritage Site. And unless you explore those, you wouldn’t know what this city stands for. Monuments like the Itmad-Ud-Daulah Tomb or Miniature Taj, Akbar’s Tomb, Dhakri-Ka-Mahal (burial of Akbar’s 300 wives/consorts), or Chini Ka Rauza, are few of the 48-50 lesser-known monuments of Agra, which are steeped in history of the city and are worth a visit.
Explore religious history at Fatehpur Sikri.
We all know that Fatehpur Sikri is famous for the memorial tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti, and is considered sacred. But did you know that Fatehpur was once also a Jain pilgrimage site? Excavations have revealed numerous statues of Jain Tirthankaras and other religious relics, dating back to at least a 1000 years. It couldn’t be more fascinating than to find the hidden layers of Agra’s history.
Walk the historic food trail.
Food has a fascinating way of embracing us into its origin. Home to the quintessential Mughlai cuisine, Agra presents you with an endless buffet of generation-worn recipes, simplistic local cuisines, and traditional confections. You can join a food tour (many available online) and explore some of the vintage eateries and old neighborhoods serving Mughlai classics and be delighted at the rich culinary legacy this city has to offer.
Explore the other side of Agra’s heritage.
While the city earned its fame as a seat of the nation’s most historic ruling empire, there is a side of Agra, which is often not talked about. The rural areas surrounding the city, where the ethnic tribes of this region live. Korai, the rustic hamlet, off the Agra-Fatehpur Highway, is home to the Kalandhar tribes, known as bear tamers. The clusters of mud houses with thatched roofs, surrounded by small patches of farms, is a stark contrast to the city’s royal portrayal and is a must-see.
Discover pure nature at the largest bird sanctuary
Besides history and heritage, Agra is also home to the nation’s biggest avian reserve. Whether you are a feather-lover or not, a trip to Agra will be incomplete without visiting the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. The national park is nature’s paradise with more than 230 species of resident and migratory birds and is only an hour’s drive from the city. If you enjoy birding, then visit between November and February to spot the most exotic migrators you will ever find.
The long-lost legacy of this historic city still stands true in its remarkable ancient architecture, culture, and the traditional pockets of the city. All you need to do is explore it in the right places, at the right time, and read between the cracked walls and hidden niches to have a fulfilling trip!