Agra is the home of one of the most famous sights of India, and possibly the world, the Taj Mahal. This iconic building is recognisable to everybody and is on most people’s list of things to visit at some point in their Lives. It is truly spectacular, and is one of the few sites that are actually more impressive when you see it for real than in its photographs.
The Taj Mahal, one of the new 7 wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a white marble tomb build by the Mughal emperor for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who gave birth to 14 children and died at the delivery of the 14th… The Taj Mahal was finished in 1653 and constructed with materials from all over the world, and over 20,000 people were used to move building materials.
The first thing to remember is that the guide books are actually right in that the absolute best time to visit is very early in the morning, as close to dawn as you can manage, it is most certainly worth getting out of bed early for two reasons, firstly, if you are lucky the dawn light is absolutely perfect and bathes the site in a beautiful pink glow that just adds to the magic of the place, and secondly (perhaps more importantly) the crowds are much less, it very quickly becomes overwhelming and the good pictures are always made better without the crowds, avoid the winter time because it’s cold and foggy… My plan was to make beautiful pictures wearing a long dress and I ended up with my airport clothes because I was freezing. Excuse me for the outfit :)))
As with most of the sites in India, you will be mobbed with local ‘guides’ as soon as you get to the car park, it is worth taking one, after making sure that they are accredited by the site, as they can tell you a lot about the history, and also know all the best spots to take pictures from. I could speak for a long time about how beautiful this place is but will let the pictures tell the story.
You should also visit the Red Fort, just about every town in Rajasthan has one from the mogul times, and Agra has a very nice one. The fort has the ‘prison quarters’ of the mogul who built the Taj (he was imprisoned by his son because he spent too much money on the construction and had plans on building a second black Taj Mahal for himself). For a prison it is very luxurious, and has great views across the river of the Taj.
If you are lucky enough to find room, the Oberoi is the only hotel that actually has rooms with views of the Taj, which are spectacular, however if you can’t make it there ITC Mughal a Luxury Collection is another great hotel in Agra itself.
Food, as you would expect in India is very good and you can eat very well in many places. I loved the Peshawari restaurant in the Itc Mughal hotel, it was the best Indian food I ever had. Don’t forget to get some Petha and Dalmouth – very famous (in India) sweets from Agra