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Things to Do in Agra

Crowded, congested Agra, a city of some 1.5 million people in Northern India, often lands a spot on any first-time visitor’s itinerary for one reason: the magnificent Taj Mahal. While the gorgeous white marble mausoleum and the nearby Agra Fort offer reason enough to visit, few take the time to linger and appreciate the historical significance of a place where one Mughal emperor after another left behind grand architectural wonders as testament to the dynasty’s wealth and power.

The first historical mention of Agra dates back to the 11th century, though the great Mughal capital wouldn’t reach its “Golden Age” until the early 16th century when the capital was officially moved from Delhi to Agra. Ironically, Shah Jahan, the man behind the city’s biggest claim to fame, was also responsible for shifting the capital back to Delhi, setting in motion Agra’s decline.

Like the Taj Mahal, many of Agra’s other historic sites take the form of tombs and mausoleums. For example, the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah, often billed as a mini Taj Mahal, was considered one of the most innovative works of its time and likely served as an architectural inspiration to Shah Jahan. While less ornate, the Akbar’s Tomb is no less impressive.
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Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden)
611 Tours and Activities

Facing the glistening Taj Mahal across the Yamuna River, Mehtab Bagh is where travelers in the know go for picture-perfect views of the mausoleum without the crowds. In perfect alignment with the Taj, the best time to visit Mehtab Bagh is in the early evening when its white marble and minarets turn pink under the setting sun.

The 25-acre garden was commissioned by Emperor Babur in 1530 and was designed to be a “moonlit pleasure garden,” an oasis of fragrant flowers, fruit trees, pavilions and fountains. In the late 19th century, the gardens were even thought to hold the foundations of the fabled Black Taj. While Mehtab Bagh has been turned into a more modern garden today, its symmetry with the Taj Mahal and garden walls along the riverbank continue to make this a popular viewing spot among those looking for peace and quiet.

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Fatehpur Sikri
86 Tours and Activities

Set 25 miles (40 km) west of Agra lies the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory), built by Akbar in the late 16th century to serve as the new capital of the Mughal Empire. For 14 years from 1571 to 1585, the red sandstone-fortified city served as the dynasty’s seat of power, and at its peak, Englishman Ralph Fitch found it to be considerably larger and grander than even London. This grandeur was short-lived, however, as in 1585, Akbar moved the capital to Lahore in his campaign against Afghan tribes. By 1619, the city had been completely abandoned and would remain so until archaeologists began exploring it in 1892.

Today, Fatehpur Sikri is a ghost town of beautiful sandstone arches, buildings and courtyards exhibiting Persian, Hindu and Jain design elements. Since Akbar was the only emperor to reside in the city for a significant amount of time, it’s considered one of the purist examples of the great emperor’s design aesthetic.

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Korai Village
4 Tours and Activities

Visitors to Agra who want to experience the culture, color, traditions and diversity of real India, not just the iconic Taj Mahal, will find all of this and more in Korai Village. Travelers can escape the tourist route and venture into old world India as they wander the dirt roads of this picturesque village. Learn about local life, interact with villagers, and gain an insider’s look at the rituals of daily life for dozens of families living here.

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