Most of the time travelers visit Agra on a short one day trip either from New Delhi or Jaipur. And they have no idea to what to see in Agra beside the famous Taj Mahal… Agra is the only city in the world which boasts of having 3 world heritage sites by UNESCO: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Now visiting India’s most cherished monument Taj Mahal in a hurry under a hot afternoon sun is not at all fun. Moreover, Agra is not just about the Taj. This ancient 500 years old city is home to many splendid monuments like Red Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Itimad-ud-Daulah, Akbar’s Tomb, which should be in must see Agra tourist attraction list of every tourist. One has to look beyond the Taj to feel the essence of this 5 centuries old city which remained capital of India during Mughal period.
Being born and brought up in Agra & son of a tour guide, I’ve seen closely what Agra has to offer to tourists. Here’s my version of the best Agra tour Itinerary of places to see in Agra:
Note: Taj Mahal is closed full day on FRIDAYS.
What To See In Agra
Day 1 New Delhi – Agra
Starting from New Delhi, you can visit Agra after an early breakfast either by fast luxury train Shatabdi Express which starts from New Delhi Railway station at 6:00 am and arrives at Agra Cantt station at 08:06 am. Total time of journey is 2 Hours 6 minutes with just 1 halt at Mathura. Fare for Chair car is Rs. 465 and Executive Class is Rs. 900 per adult with breakfast included in both classes.
The second option is to hire a car with driver to travel to Taj Mahal which takes around 3.5 hours via Taj Expressway or around 4-5 hours via National Highway. Distance between New Delhi – Agra is 210 kms / 130 miles and the car journey from New Delhi – Agra should cost you around Rs.6,000 approximately.
Now the biggest mistake people do is once they step in Agra they immediately want to run to see Taj Mahal. Avoid visiting Taj in the afternoon since it’s too crowded and there is long waiting time in the queue to purchase tickets and clear the security check. Since no shoes are allowed on the white marble platform, the floor can get pretty hot in summers during afternoon.
The best time to see Taj is either at dawn or dusk or both. Since Taj is open from sunrise to sunset, I would say a visit around 4 pm in the evening or 6 am in the morning before the gates open is ideal. I always prefer the morning time 6 am sharp as there is very less local crowd and there are plenty of beautiful photo opportunities as the dust in the air gives a pink aura to the entire monument. This is what we call moods of Taj.
So coming back to the tour once you touch down in Agra by train I would suggest checking-in to your hotel followed by tour of the magnificent Agra Fort, a world heritage site declared by UNESCO. Explore its vast grounds with a certified guide who will explain you the splendid monuments inside red fort.
Post lunch proceed to the fabulous Taj Mahal around 3 pm. Although evenings tends to be quite crowded, but the Taj is extremely beautiful at dusk and the lighting is perfect for beautiful photography. Get a certified guide tour to acquaint yourself with the history and significance of this monument of love. Visit Taj Museum which is located inside Taj premises and opens from 10 am – 5 pm only. Spend remainder of the evening enjoying Taj as the sun sets. Recommended time duration: at least 2 hours inside the Taj to feel the essence of it.
Post Taj Mahal head over to nearby Kalakriti Cultural and Convention Center for ‘Mohabbat-the-Taj’ – a series of play depicting the saga of love with a big replica of Taj Mahal. An attempt to recreate the glory of Mughal architecture at its peak, Little Taj is a tribute to the craftsmanship of the original Taj Mahal. The magic unveils on the fantasy stage! Kalakriti created the world’s largest replica of Taj Mahal in Makarana marble. One can relish exclusive glimpse of the master creation in its various and vibrant moods and experience the breathtaking live show presented by performing artisans depicting the era in time.
Features of Taj replica: Built on a 12×12 feet platform of pure white makrana marble, it is 10 feet high, and studded with real semi-precious stones. Scaled dimensions match exactly with that of real Taj Mahal, the model weighs 10,000 Pounds. Two hydraulic lifts are installed, one to carry artists and another to elevate Taj during the live dance show. Tickets can be booked online through website or at the venue itself.
Time: 6:15 pm sharp
Duration: 80 minutes
Tickets: Maharaja (Rs. 4,000), Platinum (Rs. 1,500), Gold (Rs. 1,200), Silver Balcony (Rs. 1,000)
Language: Live show is running in Hindi + Urdu language; however they have interpretation facility through earphones for many other major foreign languages like English, French, German, Spanish, etc.
After the show you can head over for dinner at your hotel or many fine dining restaurants.
Day 2 Agra
Today will be a long day! Head to the Taj Mahal before 6 am when the gates open for the day. This glorious monument is at its best under the early morning sun. It is the best time to click pictures as not only is the light wonderful but it’s relatively less crowded too.
After exploring the fabulous Taj Mahal at sunrise, have a quick breakfast and then drive to the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. The deserted Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri was built by Emperor Akbar in 1569 and abandoned after fifteen years due to scarcity of water.Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, it is an amalgamation of Indian, Persian and Islamic architecture.
Distance: Fatehpur Sikri is around 39 kms far from Agra, around 1 hour drive in busy traffic.
Drive back to Agra at lunch time. In the evening, head to Mehtab Garden for a unique (and your last!) view of the Taj Mahal from across the Yamuna river! This 25 acre garden constructed during 1631 to 1635 alongside the beautiful Yamuna River is one of the most beautiful baghs (gardens) in the city that is a hit among the locals and the tourists alike…. Come here for splendid views of the Taj Mahal, in the lap of serene landscaped surroundings.
Use the remaining evening for visiting the old city bazaar, shopping the souvenirs and tasting the local sweet called “Petha”.
Day 3 Agra – New Delhi
In the morning after breakfast and check out from hotel proceed to Itimad-ud-daulah (nicknamed Baby Taj) and Sikandara (Akbar’s amazingly beautiful tomb). Itimad-ud-daulah is regarded as the draft to Taj Mahal, built between 1622 and 1628. Sikandara is the outstanding sandstone and marble tomb which commemorates the greatest of the Mughal emperors; Akbar.
Post lunch return to New Delhi by car. If leaving by train in night, you can use the time to do some more shopping or visiting other monuments like Mariyam’s Tomb and Chini-ka-rauza. The fastest train Shatabdi Express leaves Agra Cantt at 8:35 pm and arrives New Delhi at 10:45 pm. Fare for Chair car is Rs. 465 and Executive Class is Rs. 900 per adult with dinner included in both classes.
- Adjust your travel days if your travel days include a Friday (Taj Mahal is closed every Friday).
- All monuments in Agra are open on all national holidays i.e. 26th Jan, 15th Aug, 2nd Oct, Diwali & Holi.
- No Polluting vehicles are allowed within 500 meters radius of Taj Mahal. Parking Facility is available at Eastern Gate and Western Gate. Tourists can either choose to walk up to the main entrance or hire a battery operated rickshaw or horse cart.
- Eating and smoking is strictly prohibited inside Taj Mahal. Arms, ammunitions, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, liquor, eatables (Toffees), head phones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electronic goods (except camera) are also prohibited.
- Mobile phones are to be kept switched off.
- Avoid carrying big bags and books inside the monument; this may increase your security check time.
- Avoid touching & scratching the walls & surfaces of the monument as these are heritage sites and need special care.
To read more about the other places of interest beyond Taj Mahal, read: Beyond Taj Mahal In Agra : Great Things To See