Agra Fort – The fort is similar in layout to the Red Fort in Delhi, but considerably better preserved, as much of Delhi Fort was razed by the British after the Mutiny. As much as palace as a defensive structure, it is also constructed mainly from red sandstone.
Emperor Akbar, king at 14, began consolidating his empire and, as an assertion of his power built the fort in Agra between 1565 and 1571, at the same time as Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. Emperor Shah Jahan added to the fort and ended up a prisoner in it. The fort has a beautiful view of his masterpiece, the Taj Mahal, on a clear day.
You can get to the fort by Rickshaw from Taj Mahal for around ₹25-30. Entry to the fort is ₹250 (plus levy of ₹50 if you have not already paid the ₹500 fee for Taj Mahal).
There are left luggage services at Agra Fort where you can stow your bags at no cost. A fine of ₹5,000 applies if you lose your luggage ticket.
There are also audio guides available at Agra Fort which you can rent for a cost of ₹100 in English and other foreign languages (German, French, Spanish, etc) or ₹60 in Indian languages such as Hindi or Bengali.
• Soami Bagh, (10 km north of Agra). The white marble samadhi of the Radha Soami religion is currently under construction. It was started in 1904 and is not expected to be completed until sometime next century. You can see pietra dura inlaid marblework actulally being worked on. Soami Bagh is 2km north of Agra and can be reached by bus or cycle.
• Ram Bagh. The first Mughal gardens, built by the first Mughal Emperor Babar, 500 m North of the Chini Ka Rauza.
• Mehtab Bagh, (directly across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, the trip takes about 30 minutes from the centre of town by autorickshaw and will cost about ₹200). Sunrise to Sunset.These botanical gardens give you an opportunity to view the Taj at a remove from the crowds of tourists.. Alternatively, walk past the entrance and straight to the sandy banks of the river: the view of the Taj is every bit as lovely (perhaps more so, since the barbed wire fence surrounding the gardens will be behind you), although you may have to deal with aggressive touts. In the rainy season when the river is full you can get good photos of the Taj at sunset, as the reflection mirrors off the water. Take a round trip by auto rickshaw, as there are usually aren’t any rickshaws looking for fares here. Entrance to the park is ₹100 for foreigners.
• Balkeshwar Temple, (At Balkeshwar, at river side of Yamuna). A temple of Lord Shiva
• Kailash Temple, (at Sikandra, at the river Yamuna). A Lord Shiva Temple.
• Mankameshwar Temple, (At Rawatpara, near Agra Fort railway station. Near the raja ki mandi; a simple cycle rikshaw can take you there for a fare of 20/-.). Listen to the aarti, it purifies your soul. It is the MOST VISITED temple by LOCALS…..and during festive seasons its so crowded disrupting the traffic in the nerby areas…
• Prithvinath Temple, (At Shahganj. On road to Jaipur.).
• Rajeshwar Temple, (At Village Rajpur. On road to Shamshabd.).
• Shyam Ji Maharaj Temple (At Bijlighar).
• Mahakal And Mahakali Temple, (At Sikandra railway crossing on Sikandra Bodla road).
• Rawli Maharaj Temple, (At Collectrate crossing, beside the railway track). Very old temple.
How to Get There
Agra is 200 km southeast from Delhi and is one of the points of the tourist’s Golden Triangle of Agra-Delhi-Jaipur. Agra is also very well connected via rail and road with other nearby cities and tourist destinations.
By plane – Service to Agra’s Kheria Airport is 5 days a week. As of January 2014, the city is served by Air India, which flies on the Delhi-Agra- via Varanasi, Agra – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Delhi ( 3 days a week, ie Monday,Wednesday and Saturday). Another Air India flight Mumbai – Agra – Mumbai (Tuesday and Thursday) provides international connections via Mumbai and usually observes full load factor. The flights now are usually on time and provides connectivity via Delhi and Mumbai. One can save a lot of time travelling by air to Agra.
By train – Agra is on the main train line between the Delhi-Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi-Chennai routes, and many trains connect Agra with these cities every day. Some east-bound trains from Delhi also travel via Agra, so direct connections to points in Eastern India (including Kolkata) are also available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. Agra and Delhi are notorious for their thick winter fog which reduces visibility to almost zero. If travelling in late December or early January (the fog season), travelers should be aware that, because of the reduced visibility, all trains slow down and travel time goes up. The Bhopal Shatabdi, for example, may arrive in Agra well after 10AM, and might return to Delhi well after midnight. From a safety point of view, it is always preferable to travel by train during the winters. Driving in fog on the road is very risky.
Delhi to Agra – Close to 20 trains connect Delhi and Agra each day with journey times varying from 2 hours to 5 hours. The best options are the Bhopal Shatabdi Express and the Taj Express. Train tickets can be booked online through Indian Railways (www.irctc.co.in) paying by debit or credit card. Once one is at Agra station could hire UP tourism conducted tours on air-conditioned luxury coaches. Also, organize tour is available from Delhi.
Delhi to Agra by road – New highway is being constructed from Greater Noida to Taj Mahal City. It should take 2 to 3 hours & could be very popular among tourist as the road condition matches all international standard.
The Luxury train – Palace on Wheels stops at Agra on its eight day round trip of tourist destinations in Rajasthan and Agra.
A day’s excursion from Delhi to Agra – It is easy to visit Agra for comfortable [same day Agra trip by train] from Delhi. Rise early in the morning and hop on to an air-con chair car seat on the Bhopal Shatabdi leaving at 06:00 from New Delhi Railway Station. Breakfast is served on the train, which is included in the fare, is usually an omelette with a couple of slices of bread and coffee or tea. Arrive in Agra and then either rent a car for the day or use rickshaws to get around. A visit to the Taj, followed by Agra Fort does not take a great deal of time. Add a visit to Akbar’s tomb and/or itmad-ud-daulah, for which an auto-rickshaw or taxi required, and you will still have time for lunch before catching the return train at 20:30 for dinner, which again is included in the fare. With a hired car it is even possible also visit Fatehpur Sikri.
By bus – A number of buses connect Agra with Delhi. It takes around 4-5 hours to reach Agra by bus. There are basically three interstate bus stands:
• Idgah Bus Stand is the primary bus stand for travelling towards Rajasthan/Madhya Pradesh, in the heart of the city, 8 km from the Taj. The well run Rajasthan Government (RSRTC) bus to Jaipur (roughly one bus per hour) departs from Hotel Sakura near Idgah bus stand. There’s a small ticket booth outside the hotel. Do note that a common scam happens when you arrive at a stop outside Jaipur city a man will inform everyone that this is the last stop in Jaipur. Do not get down, since the bus will go further inside the city and the man is trying to get you to a commission paying hotel.
• ISBT at Transport Nagar, 12 km from the Taj, is an inter state bus terminal. Most of the buses pass through here, except for buses originating from Idgah Bus Stand and going towards Rajasthan.
Note: Do not rely on Private Luxury Buses and Travel Agencies as they are very expensive and may drop you to your destination late. They’ll also tell you that the bus is direct to the destination but it’s not.
By Taxi – For local sight seeing in Agra, it is better to hire a taxi on a full day basis (8 Hour 80 Km). A reliable way of booking your cab is to book it online. Also, you can either book a taxi from hotel or directly book one outside the railway station. There is government authorized taxi stand. ₹950/day for 8 hours. It maybe more costly to book through hotel as hotels do have their in the fares. It is better to negotiate with the driver directly or book trough some online car rental portal. Meanwhile, to visit you can find some local taxi available for your convenience.
Cars are not allowed near the Taj Complex, but the rest of Agra is easily discovered by car. Rental is available.
If you plan to travel to Agra on the taxi from Delhi International airport, make sure you engage the taxi that can take you inter-city or ‘outstation’ (the white ones). The prepaid taxi kiosk for the local taxi services are known to arrange (privately outside the auspices of the prepaid taxi system) a local taxi (green and yellow ones) to take you to Agra – in this case the taxi will have to take a big detour to get a government permit to travel intercity before heading to Agra. Not only substantial time wasted, the taxi are also smaller and uncomfortable. The taxi kiosk for local travel should redirect you to the intercity taxi, but being unscrupulous they want to made a cut of the fare when they arrange one for you.
By road • From Delhi: NH2, a modern divided highway, connects the 200 km distance from Delhi to Agra. The drive is typically 4-5 hours, a large chunk of which includes navigating the clogged roads around Delhi to get to the highway. The primary access to the highway is along Mathura Road in Delhi but, if coming from South Delhi or Delhi Airport, it is easier to take Aurobindo Marg (Mehrauli Road) and then work up to NH2 via Tughlakabad. While the highway is divided, it is important to keep an eye out for trucks, cars, and bullock carts heading the wrong way!
It is possible to hire a car with a driver (a big car for five persons from/to the Delhi airport costs ₹3500). But beware! If you need to get from Agra to the airport in order to catch a flight, be sure to allow plenty of time for the trip, as traffic conditions may increase the drive time significantly. Also, it is wise to know your driver. There are situations when he may take over five hours to cover the distance, and you cannot force him to drive any faster than an autorickshaw (tuk-tuk).
The new Yamuna Expressway from greater Noida(delhi) to Agra is a very modern six lane expressway, also known as Taj expressway. Specially for 3-5 people travelling by train (first class) and spending on tickets, better way is to rent a car – called tourist taxi in india. with yellow licence plates. (private cars have white licence plates) Two models of estate cars are very popular, Chevrolet Tavera and Toyota innova. Choose Innova. Specially recommended if you travel with kids. The taxi comes with driver. From Delhi via the new expressway, it should be two hours by car. Ordinary local bus takes 3 hours. Start early morning, around 5:00 Am, two hours to Agra, you will be in Agra by sunrise. All monuments are open from sunrise to sunset. Go around town in your own car , at your own leisure, can cover all monuments in one day, and after sunset start back for Delhi, should be in Delhi in time for dinner. This obviates the need to carry luggage around since it is only a day trip. Just check if the driver is knowledgeable old hand who knows his way around, and you may just have to pay for his lunch, breakfast etc. This will be little more expensive than train, but at your own leuisure. Also INSIST on going by the new expressway, or tell them you WON’T pay him after you reach Delhi. Because the old highway takes anywhere between 4-6 hours. You will have to pay the toll on the way, about Rs. 320/- one way, for bus/truck it is Rs.1050/-.
• From Jaipur: National Highway 11, a four lane divided highway, connects Agra with Jaipur via the bird sanctuary town of Bharatpur. The distance of around 255 Km can be covered in around 4 hours. If you come from Jaipur to Agra or Agra to jaipur, you will have better choice to have breakfast or Lunch on very good heritage Rajputana Midway near Village Pipalkhera(Mahua)
• From Gwalior: A distance of around 120 km, takes around 1.5 hours on the National highway 3 (Agra- Mumbai Highway)
• From Lucknow / Kanpur: NH2, the divided modern highway, continues on to Kanpur (285km, 5 hours) and from there to points East ending in Kolkata. From Kanpur, NH25 heads for the city of Lucknow (90 km, 2 hours).
Tongas, electric buses and electric tempos are readily available, and the best way to get to the Taj where no cars are allowed. Auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws are available every where, remember to agree on fares clearly in advance. In case you are a foreigner, please ensure that you bargain everywhere and bargain hard! Generally things are available at 40% of the initially quoted fares.
The best way to experience the city is to take a walk on the Mall Road (Sadar). The street is full of handicraft and leather goods shops. You will also find plenty of food items quite unique to the city. Indian palate is generally very spicy. Please ensure that you carry antacid tablets in case you are not habitual to the spicy foods. As a guide, an auto rickshaw from Agra Cantonement station to the Taj Mahal is about Rs 80 (at least in off season); and a cycle rickshaw from the Taj Mahal to Agra Fort is Rs 40. An air conditioned taxi for the day should cost around Rs 1200. They will charge slightly more if you want to go to Fatehpur Sikri as it’s a bit further out. Be warned that the drivers will probably try to make unscheduled stops along the way at marble and textile shops for which they receive commissions. Firmly tell them that you’re not interested in shopping – though this might not get you anywhere so try to just to go with the flow – you won’t be pressured into buying anything but if you have a tight schedule it can be annoying.
The Taj Mahal • Locations & Activities