Agra & The Taj Mahal, India

Agra, home to the Taj
Mahal
and also a sprawling industrial city, although much more modern
than Delhi or Varanasi.  Agra has a full day
or more of sightseeing so it might be worth staying overnight.

Sights in Agra

  • Taj Mahal – The
    jewel of Agra and indeed all of India’s buildings.

  • Agra Fort
    – A massive red sandstone fort and palace filled with palaces, mosques
    and courtyards.

  • Itimad-ud-Daulah (Baby Taj) – The exquisite tomb of Mizra Ghiyas.
  • Chowk (marketplace) – lively and
    hectic, but a glimpse or real India and her hardworking traders.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is India’s most famous building. 
Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, this sublime
Mughal mausoleum is India’s tourist emblem.  The Taj was built by Emperor
Shah Jaham as a memorial for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving
birth to their fourteenth child in 1631.  The death of Mumtaz left the
emperor so heartbroken that his hair is said to have turned grey overnight.

The while marble mausoleum looks as immaculate today as when it was built.  There
are several other incredible buildings in the complex.  Sunrise is a good
time to visit.  Crowds and big cues build as the day goes along. 
The Taj Mahal looks the same from any of its four sides, and a great view
can be had across the river (get a taxi) at sunset, when the Taj Mahal is reflected
on the river surface.  Expect long cues and searches. Closed on Fridays.

Accommodation in Agra

The Taj Ganj (the series of streets outside the Taj
Mahal that housed its builders) is the most central and cheapest place to
stay.  It’s quite seedy though.

Taj Ganj

Hotel Sheela
Taj East Gate Rd
t:
2331194
www.hotelsheelaagra.com
No Taj
views but this is the best budget option in the Taj Gang because of the garden
that creates an oasis of calmness, the clean, attractive rooms, and the helpful
staff.  The garden restaurant is the perfect stop to sip a mixed fruit
lassi. Has Internet access.  Book ahead.  INR400+.

Hotel Kamal
Taj South Gate
t:
2330126
e: [email protected]
The best budget
hotel with a rooftop close up view of the Taj Mahal. Ask to see a number
of rooms as they vary regarding size, shape and window light.  In summer
hot water comes in a bucket.  The staff are very friendly and the
restaurant Stuff Makers is recommended.  INR300.

Getting to and from Agra

Train is the best way to arrive in Agra, especially from
Delhi.  There are regular trains to Varanasi, Jaipur
and long distance
trains to Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai
(Bombay)
, Goa and  Kerala.

Long haul buses are available to all major destinations
and can easily be booked.

Agra’s Kheira Airport is 7km from the city, with regular
flights to Delhi, Khajuraho
and Varanasi.

Scams and hassles in Agra

  • Taxi drivers and rickshaw wallahs will be very keen
    to take you to their souvenir shop of choice, where you’ll find the hard sell,
    inflated prices and the driver will get his commission.

  • Agra has endless gem import scams, where you will
    never make any money.  Avoid.

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