Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, some 200 km from Delhi. Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri nearby. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra's days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire.
Places to Visit:
The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Taj Mahal means Crown Palace; one of the wife's names was Mumtaz Mahal, Ornament of the Palace. The Taj is one of the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tombs in the world, one of the masterpieces of Indian Muslim architecture, and one of the great sites of the world's heritage.
Although it is one of the most photographed edifices in the world and instantly recognisable, it is awe-inspiring in real life. Not everything is in the photos. The grounds of the complex include several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, and extensive ornamental gardens with flowering trees and bushes, and a small gift shop.
The fort is similar in layout to the Red Fort in Delhi, but considerably better preserved, as much of Delhi Fort was razed by the British after the Mutiny. As much a palace as a defensive structure, it is constructed mainly from red sandstone. Emperor Akbar began consolidating his empire and, as an assertion of his power built the fort in Agra between 1565 and 1571, at the same time as Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. Emperor Shah Jahan added to the fort and ended up a prisoner in it. The fort has a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal, on a clear day.
Open from sunrise to sunset. The tomb of Akbar lies here in the centre of the large garden. Akbar started its construction himself but it was completed by his son Jehangir, who significantly modified the original plans which accounts for the somewhat cluttered architectural lines of the tomb. Four red sandstone gates lead to the tomb complex: one is Muslim, one Hindu, one Christian, and one is Akbar's patent mixture.
Access by Air : Agra's Kheria airport is 7km from the city centre, but Indian Airlines has ceased its Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi flights and there are currently no scheduled flights to or from Agra.
Access by Rail : There are regular trains to Agra from Delhi and Jaipur. The Palace on Wheels stops in Agra on its eighth day.
Access by Road : The best way to get to Agra is to rent a car or take a bus from New Delhi. New Delhi is a large airport and easily accessible. The brand new Delhi-Agra Expressway has reduced travel time to Agra to 3 hours.
The city features mild winters, hot and dry summers and a monsoon season. The monsoon, though substantial in Agra, is not quite as heavy as the monsoon in other parts of India. Winters are bit chilly but are the best time to visit Agra.