Why visit Agra?
Located in the North region of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is home of the sacred landmark; the Taj Mahal. Situated around 200km south of New Delhi, Agra attracts millions of tourists each year. Most of them flock in coaches on a one day trip, mainly to visit the Taj Mahal.
Going to Agra from New Delhi
If you are in New Delhi, going on a one day trip is fairly easy thanks to the Gatimaan Express, India’s fastest train. Daily departures (excluding Fridays) leave from Hazrat Nizamuddin train station to Agra Cantonment train station at 08.10am. It is a direct train and it takes less than 2 hours. To go back to Delhi, the return train is at 05.50pm. This is the fastest option and the most suitable for those who want to visit Agra in a day. For 755INR one way, you will get a seat in an air-conditioned cabin with food included.
Apart from the above train, there are other frequent daily trains between New Delhi and Agra. These options are much cheaper but take a slightly longer time to arrive (around 2.40hrs). For those on a budget and with no time restrictions this might be a good option. We paid only 100INR one way for a second class (no ac) seat. There are also daily buses leaving from Delhi to Agra and back.
Alternatively, one can book a package with an agency and the ticket normally includes: pickup from hotel and drop off at Hazrat Nizamuddin train station, return train tickets, entrance to the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort, lunch and shopping. Ticket prices varies according to season and agent. Always check latest reviews prior booking to avoid scams and disappointments.
What to visit?
The main reason people from all over the world come to Agra is to see the majestic, historic and sacred landmark of the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal, which means ‘Crown of the Palace’, was built between 1632 and 1653 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. Both are now buried inside the mausoleum.
In 1983, the Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2014 alone, around 14 million people visited.
Opening hours are from dusk till dawn (06.00hrs – 19.00hrs), and it is closed on Fridays. Foreign tourist ticket cost 1,000INR. It is not allowed to carry any sort of tripods, food, cigarettes, lighters, and video is permitted only at certain areas. Visit as early as possible if you want to avoid the huge crowds and for better photo opportunities. We were there at 6 am and by the time we were leaving at 8 am, bus loads of visitors were arriving.
The second most visited landmark is Agra Fort. It was the Emperor’s residency during the reign of the Mughal dynasty. Situated 2.5km away from the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort is also a World Heritage site. The Fort is still in use today by the Indian Military. In fact, only 30% of it is open for tourists.
Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah
The third most visited landmark is the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, also known as ‘Baby Taj Mahal’ or ‘Jewel Box’ and is often regarded as a draft of the Tāj Mahal. The tomb was built between 1622 and 1628.
Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah opens from 07.00hrs till 18.00hrs. Entrance fee is 210INR.
Please bear in mind that these are religious and sacred landmarks so dress appropriate and treat the sites with respect.
When to visit?
The ideal period to visit Agra is from October to March. Temperatures will not be hot and it will be pleasant to walk around the bazaars and the historic landmarks. However, this is the main touristic season, so except large crowds. If you are visiting between December and January, take warm clothes as temperature can get as low as 5 degrees.
The monsoon period is from August to October. If you do not mind rain and puddles, then this might be the perfect timing.
Between April and June, temperatures tend to rise with May and June being the hottest months of the year. Crowds may not be as large but temperature can shoot up to 45 degrees Celsius. From experience, we suggest that you avoid visiting during these scorching hot months.
Where to stay?
Most people visit as a day trip but if you do decide to stay longer, accommodation to suit all budgets is available. We stayed at Moustache Hostel and can highly recommend it. Dorms start from 200INR. It is a clean hostel, friendly staff, rooftop restaurant with Taj Mahal view, warm showers and comfortable beds.