That famous white marble wonder the Taj Mahal has captured the world’s imagination for centuries. But there’s more to Agra than the monument of timeless love and devotion. Here we bring you everything else you need to see and do to make the most of this historical city.
1. Experience some other architectural delights
Believe it or not, Agra has other stunning buildings to see. Like the Agra Fort for instance. This majestic fort has sixteen palaces, has served as a home to six Mughal Emperors and offers a breathtaking view of the dominant Taj. Also check out Itmad-ud-dualah, known as the ‘Baby Taj’. This look-alike was commissioned by Queen Noor Jahan as a tribute to her father.
2. Have your prayers answered
At Fatehpur Sikri, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will not only find the highest gateway in the world, Buland Darwaza (Grand Entrance), but also the Tomb of Salim Chishti. The Sufi Saint’s revered resting place attracts millions of people every year. It is widely believed that all your prayers will be answered here. And when one day they are, you must return to the shrine to perform a small ritual.
3. Capture the colours of the Dhobi Ghat
Carpeted with yards of fabric in more colours than known to man, Agra’s Dhobi Ghat is an unlikely but popular destination. This part of the river, where washer-folk scrub their laundry, attracts photographers as well as filmmakers from all across the world. Locations in and around it were recently seen in Slumdog Millionaire.
4. Eat with your hands
For many years Agra served as a home to the Mughal dynasty. Their influence can be seen in the city’s famous Mughlai cuisine. This rich cuisine has found fame and following all over the world, but this is where it originated. Authentic Mughlai dishes are served in most homes as well as restaurants.
5. Find souvenirs and bargain hard
Indigenous arts and crafts are everywhere in Agra. Jewels, handmade leather goods and fabrics embroidered with ethnic motives are highest on the visitor wish-list. Overpricing is extremely common, so bargain meanly.
6. Ride a rickshaw
The cycle-rickshaw is a quaint inheritance from a vanishing India. Slowly being edged out elsewhere by air-conditioned SUVs, the rickshaw remains an integral part of Agra’s old-world charm. But it’s wise to save this experience for a cool evening.
7. Get a handful of henna
Henna is usually applied on special occasions, but as a visitor you don’t need an excuse to turn your hand into a canvas for henna artists. The art is common all over India, but in Agra you can get a beautiful henna tattoo for a fraction of the price charged in the bigger cities. For a few extra rupees you could even get your arms and feet adorned with intricate designs.
8. Walk through the alleys
By negotiating the narrow alleys in many parts of the city you can sense what Agra was like decades ago. Many houses here are centuries old and historically important in their own right. They are a photographer’s delight.
9. Be strung along
Using music, humor and sound effects, the art of puppetry is still being kept alive in Agra. However, the themes and content of the shows have expanded considerably. Now, politics and Bollywood movies frequently find a place, with delightful spoofs and dramatic retellings. Find details near the city’s top tourist spots.
CheersBye Homestays offers various welcoming family homes to stay in in Agra.
Homestays combine the comfort and distinction of a boutique hotel with the personal hospitality, informality and local knowledge enjoyed when staying with family friends. They offer an insight into the culture, traditions, history and everyday life of an Indian family. What’s more, guests get the chance to enjoy authentic Indian food at its very best – home cooked.