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A City Guide to Agra - Taj Mahal, Ancient Forts, and Mughal Gardens

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Agra is where you'll find one of the most romantic wonders the world, the Taj Mahal. It's also a destination with spiritual mythology dating back to the ancient "Mahabharata." With elegant gardens from the Mughal era, peaceful wildlife sanctuaries, and 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the city offers a wealth of exciting choices for visitors.

World-famous Taj Mahal

 

Known as one of the greatest architectural marvels in the world, the Taj Mahal draws tourists to Agra in droves. Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned it in 1632 as the final resting place for Mumtaz Mahal, his beloved wife. The domed building, which stands within spacious grounds, is a magnificent example of Mughal architecture. Not only is it a World Heritage Site, but it’s also been voted as one of the "New7Wonders of the World." Throughout this white marble monument, you'll see inlaid gemstones, while intricate carvings adorn interior walls. Try viewing it in moonlight for a truly breathtaking experience.

 

  • Taj Mahal, Agra 282001, Uttar Pradesh; Tel: +91 562 2226431; Website: Taj Mahal

Mughal mausoleums and tombs

 

The city's ancient mausoleums attract thousands of visitors each year. The tomb of Akbar the Great, a powerful Mughal Emperor, is located in a red sandstone and white marble complex 8 km from the centre of Agra. A false tomb sits within a pavilion inside a pyramid-shaped building, but Akbar's real tomb remains in the basement, a tradition found in many mausoleums. Sometimes referred to as "Baby Taj," the Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah was commissioned for Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the grandfather of the Taj Mahal's honoree, Mumtaz. During the day, sunlight streams through its intricately carved marble walls.

 

 

Visiting wildlife sanctuaries

 

The non-profit organization Wildlife SOS has world-class facilities where they've created havens for elephants, black bears, and leopards rescued from cruel conditions, including circuses and joyrides. In Agra, you can spend a couple of hours or an entire day tending to resident black bears alongside carers and vets. Just over an hour's drive away in Mathura, the elephant sanctuary welcomes visitors to get close to these majestic creatures. You can splash around with them in the pool, feed them fruit, and walk with the herd. Both full-day and shorter visits can be arranged.

 

 

Wandering through Mughal gardens

 

Moonlight Garden, or Mehtab Bagh, is an elaborate Mughal garden featuring fruit trees and narcissi plants. Legend states it was built on the other side of the Yamuna River to the Taj Mahal because it’s the perfect spot for gazing at the monument. Fountains, pavilions, and white walkways add to the serene atmosphere that gardens of this era are renowned for. Ram Bagh, 5 km from Taj Mahal, was created in 1528, making it one of the oldest Mughal gardens in India. The gardens were designed with tiered levels and rivers, symbolic of the Islamic ideal of paradise.

 

  • Mehtab Bagh, Near Taj Mahal, Nagla Devjit, Agra 282001, Uttar Pradesh; Website: Mehtab Bagh
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  • Ram Bagh, Agra 282001, Uttar Pradesh ; Website: Ram Bagh

 

Exploring World Heritage Sites

 

Agra Fort, originally built around the 11th century, became one of the most important strongholds of the Mughal dynasty when it was rebuilt in the 16th century. The impressive sandstone structure is typical of the era's architecture. Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned inside the fort by his own son and died there before his body was taken to the Taj Mahal. Another fascinating historical monument is the walled city of Fatehpur Sikri, 37 km from Agra. The red sandstone complex contains the tomb of Sufi saint Salim Chishti, who the walled city was constructed to honor.

 

  • Agra Fort, Rakabganj, Agra 282003, Uttar Pradesh; Tel: +91 562 2960457; Website: Agra Fort
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  • Fatehpur Sikri, Agra 282003, Uttar Pradesh; Website: Fatehpur Sikri