Although Agra is best-known for the Taj Mahal, the area is home to two other UNESCO World Heritage sites, both of which are excellent examples of Mughal architecture. Here’s the best way to see all three in one day and still have time left over for dinner and a show.
Morning: The Taj Mahal
Wake up before the crack of dawn and make your way to the Taj Mahal, Agra’s principal attraction. Lines begin to form early, so it’s best to book a skip-the-line ticket or tour package to avoid long waits (though you’ll still want to get there early for the best photography conditions). Spend your morning exploring the beautiful Mughal gardens that lead to the Taj before entering the ancient mausoleum. Audio guides are available, but going with a guide is useful if you want a more in-depth understanding of the story behind the Taj (or help getting great photographs).
Afternoon: Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri
Grab lunch before making your way to nearby Agra Fort, the city’s other UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made primarily of red sandstone, this gargantuan fortification was the primary residence of generations of Mughal emperors, and Shahjahan (who built the Taj) was imprisoned here by his own grandson. After your visit, head to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fatehpur Sikri, a magnificently preserved ghost town that served as the capital of the Mughal empire for 14 years. It’s a 25-mile (40-kilometer) drive from Agra, and while you can hire guides right at the site, it’s easiest to book a tour from Agra that includes transportation.
Night: Mohabbat the Taj at Kalakriti
Wrap up your day in Agra with dinner and a show. Held on most nights at the Kalakriti Cultural & Convention Center, Mohabbat the Taj is a theatrical performance, complete with music and dance, that recounts the story of Shahjahan (the emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal) and his beloved wife Mumtaz, in whose honor the monument was built. It’s an entertaining way to learn about the history behind the Taj. Grab dinner after the performance, or, for the best value, book a combo tour that includes theater tickets, dinner, and hotel transfers.