Most people understandably prefer not to stay very long in Agra, as it's a rather unappealing city with a lot of touts. However, there are quite a few worthwhile places to visit in Agra and around, apart from India's most famous monument -- the Taj Mahal. The many interesting remnants of the Mughal era will surprise you and the crazy, congested bazaars of the Old City will fascinate you. It's possible to experience village life and get close to nature as well.
You can visit Agra on a day trip from Delhi and options for private tours offered by Viator (which can easily be booked online) are listed below.
Wondering where to stay in Agra? Check out these Top Hotels, Homestays and Hostels Near the Taj Mahal.
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The Taj Mahal looms like a fairy tale from the banks of the Yamuna River. It has a rich history dating back to 1630 AD and is actually a tomb that contains the body of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He had it built as an ode to his love for her. It's made out of marble and took 22 years and 20 000 workers to complete.
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Agra Fort is one of the finest Mughal forts in India. It was originally a brick fort that was held by a clan of Rajputs. However, it was subsequently captured by the Mughals and rebuilt by Emperor Akbar, who decided to shift his capital there in 1558. There are many buildings inside, including mosques, public and private audience halls, palaces, towers, and courtyards. Another attraction is the evening sound and light show that recreates the Fort's history.
03 of 10If you don’t want to pay the costly admission fee or battle the crowds to visit the Taj (or just would like an alternative perspective of it), you can see it from across the river bank. One such place there is Mehtab Bagh, "The Moonlight Garden". This 25 acre Mughal garden complex is situated directly opposite the monument and was actually built before the Taj, by Emperor Babur (the founder of the Mughal Empire). It fell into ruin but has been beautifully reconstructed. The entry cost is 100 rupees for foreigners, and it's open until sunset. The view is one to remember!
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Tucked away between trinket shops opposite The Gateway Hotel on Fatehabad Road is groovy graffiti-filled cafe that's a must-visit in Agra. The remarkable and inspiring Sheroes Hangout is completely staffed by women who are survivors of horrific acid attacks in India. It opened in December 2014 and was founded by a Delhi-based NGO called Stop Acid Attacks. The idea is to raise awareness of this dreadful issue and give the women confidence to show their faces in public after being disfigured. As well as serving tasty food and beverages, the cafe has an ever-expanding library (so you can relax and read while you eat) and an exhibition space.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Want to experience the heart of Agra? In the Old City behind Jama Masjid (mosque), you'll find a tangle of narrow lanes housing a startling variety of wares including spices, clothes, saris, jewelry, shoes, and snack stalls. It's a place where traditional arts and crafts, such as marble work, are alive. This area, known as Kinari Bazaar, can be quite overwhelming if you don't know your way around. Hence, taking a tour is recommended.
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The Mughal Heritage Walk is a community based tourism initiative of CURE (Center for Urban and Regional Excellence) and the Uttar Pradesh government, to help villagers make an income from tourism and improve their living conditions. This one kilometer walk takes place on the riverside opposite the Taj Mahal and goes through Kachhpura village. You'll get to visit a number of lesser-known monuments of the Mughal Era in a rural setting, interact with the village communities, and enjoy a fabulous view of the Taj Mahal as well. The walking tour costs 1,250 rupees for adults and 750 rupees for children under 12 years old.
07 of 10Get away from the crowds and enjoy the Taj Mahal surrounded by nature. About 500 meters from the east gate, on Fatehabad Road, you'll find a reserve forest that provides a unique opportunity to view the monument in different hues. There are four main photo points, 20 foot high watch towers in different locations, and a 9 kilometer walking trail with visuals of the Taj Mahal in various settings. This forested area is rich is flora and fauna.
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If you're an animal lover, don't miss out on visiting the Agra Bear Rescue Center, set by Wildlife SOS on 160 acres of land allotted by the Uttar Pradesh government. It houses hundreds of sloth bears that have been rescued and rehabilitated after being held captive and forced to dance. The Facility is open every day from sunrise to sunset and is located on the Delhi-Agra Road, 16 kilometers before Agra inside Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. The entry cost, set by the government, is 50 rupees for Indians and 500 rupees for foreigners. (Wildlife SOS doesn't receive this money).
Wildlife SOS also has an Elephant Conservation and Care Center near Agra, where you can spend time with rescued elephants.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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A relatively new rural tourism initiative, Korai Village can be visited on the way to Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. It's located just off the highway, less than 10 kilometers before this heritage site. Korai is a tribal village, whose inhabitants were the keepers of dancing sloth bears. They've been struggling to earn an income and survive since the bears were taken away, as they were not provided with compensation. You'll be able to learn about and experience daily village life, and even meet the village magician, Mohammad.
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Fatehpur Sikri is located approximately an hour west of Agra and is a popular side trip. This now deserted city was once the proud capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, and is one of India's top historical destinations. It was abandoned by its occupants after only 15 years due to insufficient water supply.