Agra

Sleep, Eat, Do: Agra

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Agra is a city in Uttar Pradesh state, northern India. It’s about 5hrs drive from the country’s capital, New Delhi and the city’s major attraction is the iconic mausoleum, Taj Mahal. I spent only a day here as part of my tour of the Golden Triangle and was able to visit some other tourist attractions within and just outside the city.

If you find yourself in Agra, here are some recommendations (based solely on my experience) on where to sleep, what to eat and what to do.

Sleep

I stayed at Radison Blu, Agra Taj East Gate for one night and I could have easily stayed there for longer. This hotel is pure class. And the best part, it was only $60 a night! – don’t convert this with today’s exchange rate, please,☺. If you think about the amount of money you’d pay to stay in this sort of hotel in Lagos, for example, you’d understand why this was such a big deal.

I loved everything about my stay here. From the ambience to the friendliness of the staff to the food and everything else. I almost skipped my afternoon tour just because I wanted to spend more time in my room! The hotel is also quite centralized, so you can get to the Agra Fort, Mehtab Bagh and the Taj Mahal in good time.

photos via Radisson blu

Eat

I stayed in Agra for a day only and didn’t really have any time to explore the local variety. I don’t know if it’s safe to assume that you can find the same foods in Agra as you would in Pune, where I did most of my street-food eating (I wrote about that here)

If you’re not really interested in trying local foods, you’ll find that most hotels would offer an intercontinental menu, so you’ll have lots of option to choose from.

Do

Visit the Taj Mahal – obviously. You can’t travel to Agra without seeing it, even if it is just to say that you have been there. The architectural details of this place is amazing, especially if you consider the era in which it was built. And of course, there is a beautiful, albeit sad, love story behind the tomb.

Visit the Agra Fort – The Taj’s lesser known sister attraction, also a UNESCO world heritage site, echoes the story of the Mughal Empire and is definitely worth visiting. PS: I found this place more intriguing than the Taj Mahal.

Visit Mehtab Bagh – The Moonlight Garden was an extension of the Taj Mahal Garden – on the other side of the river. Legend has it that Shah Jahan, the emperor who built the Taj Mahal, intended to build a similar tomb in this garden, made entirely out of black marble and connected the Taj through a bridge.

He was overthrown by his son before he could complete it and forced to live in a tower in the Agra Fort with a view of the Taj Mahal.

Shop for souvenirs – or don’t! I’ve read a lot about tour guides steering tourists to shops where overpriced souvenirs are sold as they get a commission or something. In Jaipur, I was taken to one of such shops despite my insistence on skipping it. A lot of the items in that shop were so expensive that I didn’t even have the luxury of being a compulsive buyer.

In Agra though, I did go shopping for simple souvenirs and I quite liked the experience. The shop owner was delightful and she made sure to pump me with a lot of free chai (tea) samples.

Visit Fatehpur Sikri – This city, located just outside the city of Agra was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and is considered to be his architectural legacy. The perfectly preserved city was abandoned shortly after its completion due to a shortage of water.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the sultan’s palace in the Disney animated feature film, Aladdin was inspired by the Taj Mahal? I’m guessing the name ‘Agrabah’ was also inspired by this city. Agra is also known for it’s population of monkeys and tigers; Aladdin’s pet, Abu is a monkey and Jasmine’s pet, Rajah is a tiger.
Have you ever been to Agra? What are your recommendations on what to sleep, eat and do? 
 If you haven’t been, is this somewhere you’d consider exploring?

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