Synonymous with the Taj Mahal, Agra is at the top of the wish list for most first time visitors to India. Despite its myriad appearances in brochures, magazines, books and on television the incredible beauty and perfect proportions of the 17th century mausoleum never fail to impress. It took an estimated 20 000 people 22 years to build the Taj Mahal from blocks of white marble, inscribe the verses of the Koran on its exterior and inlay thousands of mosaics with semi-precious stones. Throughout the day crowds gather to marvel at this wonder of the world, but simply step off the main pathways and you can absorb the magic from your own quiet corner. We also suggest a walk to Kachhpura to discover a community with long links to the Taj, impressive Mughal monuments and a glorious view of the Taj Mahal from the Moonlit Garden.
Further along the bank of the Yamuna River, construction of Agra’s Red Fort was begun by Akbar in 1565 and added to by successive Mughal emperors. There was an entire city within the massive red sandstone walls and Shah Jehan is said to have spent his last years imprisoned here staring at the Taj Mahal – the tomb he built for his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. A short drive from Agra is Fatehpur Sikri. This was Akbar’s capital until a water shortage forced him to return to Agra, leaving an atmospheric deserted city of incredible Mughal buildings.
Though not in Rajasthan, Agra is usually visited as part of a tour of this state, as well as during exploration of more of Uttar Pradesh.