The main reason for our visit to Agra was to see the Taj Mahal. I think that is the only reason people come to Agra really.
How we got there:
We arrived in Agra from New Delhi via train. Read this post to hear about our experiences using Indian Trains. As with everywhere in India we used tuk tuks to travel around.
Where we stayed:
We stayed in Hotel Sheela which is right next to the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal, we couldn’t stay any closer if we tried. It is so close in fact the tuk tuks cannot take you to the hotel and we had a 5 minute walk from the road to get there. It was basic but clean and served nice, cheap meals. It got extremely cold during the night and we were huddled up fully clothed under scratchy blankets. They also had no working showers, so we had our first experience of a bucket wash. All part of the adventure I guess.
Itimad ud Daulah – The Baby Taj
Our first order of business was to visit the lesser known Itimad ud Daulah – aka The Baby Taj. We hadn’t heard of the Baby Taj before visiting Agra and we’re so glad we took the time to see it. It was built 5 years before construction of the Taj Mahal began. It was built by Nur Jahan for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg. All of this intertwines with the history of the Taj Mahal as the woman who the famous mausoleum was built for (Mumtaz Mahal) is Mirza’s grandaughter.
We enjoyed wandering around here, it wasn’t busy at all, we almost had the place to ourselves. It was so very pretty, and a great place for the kids to explore.
The Mehtab Bagh is a garden of sorts that lies on the opposite side of the Yamuna River to the Taj Mahal. It was supposed the be the site of the legendary black marble Taj which Shah Jahan wanted to build for himself opposite the Taj Mahal so he could forever be opposite his wife, unfortunately he was imprisoned by his son before he could complete the build. The ruins of the foundations can be seen in the Mehtab Bagh, and it was fun to share this legend with the kids.
The highlight of this place is the view across the river to the Taj Mahal. It was fascinating for us to see the contrast between western tourists who have saved up a lifetime to visit this architectural wonder, and the local goat herders, living in poverty, walking along the banks of the Yamuna cutting reeds.
We watched the sunset cuddled on the wall looking over to the Taj Mahal and had a goosebump inducing pinch ourselves moment. It was pretty magical.
Agra Fort was the main residence of the Mughal Emperors until 1638. It is still used by the Indian Army so you can only visit a part of the fort. It was a nice place for the kids to explore and burn some energy, but in all honesty we found it a little underwhelming.
Now for the real reason we visited Agra. We woke up at 5am to go and get our tickets at 5.30am. It was very very cold and misty. We waited in the queue, not too long luckily and headed inside at 6am.
The Taj Mahal was obviously stunning, we all know this, that is why it is one of the wonders of the world. Seeing the sunrise and watching the majestic building rise out of the fog was just breathtaking.
A couple of things that spoilt it a little. People throwing their empty water bottles and plastic shoe covers on the floor and into the fountains, and a particular brand of people that I like to call Insta-nobs. They were very aggressive when trying to get their perfect Instagram worthy shot of the Taj. Happily pushing people out of the way. One vile western woman prancing about in a red sari shouted at Ava because Ava was in the back of her shot. Unintentionally, Ava had photo-bombed, she was upset as she didn’t understand why the lady was so angry with her, in her words “I was just looking at the bricks mummy”. So if you are to visit I recommend going at sunrise, but steer clear of the social media snakes!
We enjoyed exploring the sites of Agra, and seeing the Taj Mahal is a once in a lifetime experience. You only need a couple of days here as once you’ve seen all of the sites there isn’t much else to do. Would we visit again? Not now we’ve done it, no.
You can see all of our photos from Agra on our Facebook Page.
You can also read all about our other Indian adventures here.
Don’t forget to view our India Part 1 Vlog to see our adventures.