The earliest reference to Agra can be found in the epic Mahabharata. It was in the medieval period, however, that Agra rose to prominence. The relatively young city is home to India’s most famous attraction, the Taj Mahal, and the stupendous 16th-century Mughal-built Agra Fort, which encompasses within its walls the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. Today, the bustling streets of Agra are home to a thriving carpet industry, leather workers and marble and sandstone sculptors. It is possible to visit Agra as a day trip by train from Delhi; however, Cox & Kings suggests you spend at least 1 or 2 nights to give yourself the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise or sunset. The Oberoi Amarvilãs in Agra enjoys an unparalleled location – all its rooms enjoy views of the Taj Mahal and it is most certainly worth the upgrade.
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Top things to do in Agra
Chambal river cruise
The Chambal Sanctuary Lodge is situated 80km from Agra and is a fine example of eco-friendly tourism in rural India. Serving locally grown ingredients in its dishes, and employing team members from the local community, the lodge is actively involved in reforestation and habitat regeneration within its environs.The Chambal Safari is a must for visitors to Agra, providing the unique experience of a river cruise on the River Chambal which lies within the sanctuary. Sail for 30km through ravines, providing close encounters with gharials, crocodiles, the rare and endangered Gangetic dolphin, marsh crocodiles, turtles and jungle cats. A birdwatcher's paradise, the Chambal riverbanks are the ideal habitat for a myriad of migratory and resident birds.
Cycle Tour of Historic Agra
Cycle past some of Agra’s most iconic sites including the Taj Mahal, Agra fort and Itmad-ud-Daula (the baby Taj). Suitable for all abilities, the cycle tour is taken at a gentle pace with plenty of stops for photo opportunities. You can also cycle through Kacchpura, a charming local village where you can observe rural life in the shadows of the Taj.
Discover the highlights of Agra
A full-day tour of Agra's sights includes the impressive Agra Fort, the local bazaar and, the highlight of the tour, the Taj Mahal, built in 1632 as a monument to Shah Jahan's wife, Mumtaz. Akbar began Agra Fort in 1565, with additions to the citadel being made until the time of Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan. The citadel consists of marble palaces, ornate alcoves and terrace pavilions. Continue to the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah, a building coated in white marble and displaying very detailed pietra dura inlay. Often referred to as the 'baby Taj', the tomb was built by the Empress Noor Jahan in memory of her father, Itmad-ud-Daulah. An exquisite building, the 'baby Taj' is thought to be a forerunner of the Taj Mahal.
Evening chaat crawl
Take part in an Indian food adventure on a carefully curated chaat crawl, visiting the city's most famous and tourist-friendly chaat and food stalls. Chaat are savoury snacks, typically served at roadside stops from stalls or carts - India's equivalent to fast food. With its origins in Uttar Pradesh, chaat have become immensely popular in the rest of India. However, Agra holds the accolade for serving up some of the country's best chaat. This tour is designed to deliver the gastronomic satisfaction that real foodies crave. An evening chaat crawl is the perfect safe and hygienic way to sample Indian street food at its best.
Explore the tomb of Akbar at Sikandra
About 10km from Agra lies Sikandra and the tomb of the greatest Mughal of them all, Akbar. A fusion of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles, some say this tomb, begun by Akbar himself and then completed by his son, is an example of the great ruler's idiosyncratic taste. The outstanding sandstone and marble mausoleum resembles a truncated pyramid, set on a marble platform in the midst of a 60-hectare garden. The huge courtyard is reached through a sublime gateway.
Heritage walk through Agra
Get to know Agra like a local, by spending an afternoon exploring the city's hidden lanes, bustling spice market, and religious mosques and temples, all with your feet to guide you. Sample treats at a 200-year-old sweet shop; hop on a cycle rickshaw and learn why Hindu families dress their idols; discover Indian history, from the Mughal era to British rule; and gain an insider's perspective on how modern India is changing. Finish with the spectacular sight of the Taj Mahal, the world's greatest ode to love, from a secret spot.
Sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal
Visit the Taj Mahal in the changing light of the rising sun, a truly magical time to gaze in wonder at this ode to eternal love, built by Shah Jahan on the death of his bride Mumtaz Mahal. Emperor Shah Jahan said upon its creation that it made 'the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes'. The Taj Mahal is widely recognised as the world's most beautiful monument. It was built over a period of 20 years, starting in 1632, by 20,000 labourers and craftsmen, and displays superb craftsmanship. The close up detail of the Taj Mahal is as exquisite as the overall architectural design, with semi-precious stones and beautiful patterns covering the marble surface. Not long after it was finished Shah Jahan was overthrown and imprisoned in Agra Fort where, for the rest of his days, he could only gaze out at the Taj Mahal through a window. Following his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried here alongside his treasured Mumtaz.
Visit an NGO sponsored school
Visit a local school to learn more about the education system in India. Many students will have a limited proficiency in English and you may be able to assist teaching a class, or, if you prefer, simply observe a lesson in the classroom. You can also talk to the teachers to understand the major challenges these children face and ways in which you could assist them further.
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