Agra Travel Guide

 A guide to exploring Agra

We totally understand if you feel like Experiencing Agra is all about visiting the Taj Mahal. But a city with such a rich history has a lot more to offer. In fact, even before Shah Jahan built the glorious Taj Mahal, there were other emperors who laid the foundations for Agra to become a glorious city. One which has many architectural beauties worth your time. But it doesn’t stop there. Even today, Agra has numerous intriguing experiences that are often overshadowed by one of the seven wonders of the world. And you don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy these experiences. So here’s why we feel Agra has a lot more for you to experience.

History and Culture of Agra

One thing which is evident from Agra’s appeal is the city’s Mughal heritage. Emperor Sikandar Lodi was the one who first laid the foundations to build the city. If you’re a history buff, you will definitely admire the beauty and the stories that the Agra Fort holds. One thing which we can’t deny is the architectural taste of King Akbar. Agra’s rich Mughal Heritage is a treat to our eyes and King Akbar is one of the reasons for it. Yes, Shah Jahan’s grandpa was the one who made the city a center for education, arts and commerce. Then the grandson decided to take things up a notch and build the Taj Mahal.

While the city’s culture is largely influenced by its Mughal heritage, it also has influences of the Brij culture, which is known to be a forest culture. Another way of getting a taste of Agra’s culture is by visiting the city during the Taj Mahotsav, in the month of February. The wonderful displays of arts and crafts are bound to keep your head turning. If you’re a foodie, you are bound to enjoy the amazing mughlai cuisine. But the city has much more than just kebabs, biryanis and tandoori dishes to drool over.

How to get to Agra

By Air –  While Agra does have an airport, there are not many frequent flights to get to the city as the airport is also a military airbase. Air India does provide direct flights from Jaipur. But there would only be 2-3 direct flights a week, which would be spread out over 2 days or so. There would be several flights from across the country but you’d have to pick them smartly. Reason being, most of these flights would have multiple layovers which would unnecessarily increase your travel time. So if you’re travelling from one of the more distant states and flying is your best bet, take a flight to Delhi. From there you can directly drive down to Agra. If you’re planning to spend some time in Delhi, then take the Gatimaan Train from Delhi. This particular train takes you to Agra in just an hour. Either way, first flying to Delhi makes the most sense to get to Agra.

By Rail –  Getting to Agra by train is also a convenient option. There are many options and the connectivity is also good. From Delhi, Jaipur and Gwalior, you will have plenty of trains and the frequency is also good. Even if you’re coming from Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai, you should have no trouble finding a train. Although, it’s always better to plan and book your tickets in advance. One thing for you to keep in mind is that Agra has 5 railway stations, with Agra Cantt being the main one. So depending on where you want to go and where you’re planning to stay in Agra, make sure you book your train accordingly.

Getting to Agra from Delhi is the easiest and the number of options in terms of trains would definitely make your life easier. But our recommendation would be the Gatimaan Express. While a few trains might take about 2 to 2.5 hours to reach, the Gatimaan Express takes just 1 hour 40 minutes to reach Agra from Delhi. It also happens to be a very economical option so you would end up saving a few bucks too.

By Road – This is definitely the best way to reach Agra. Driving down to Agra works well regardless of whether you’re travelling with your family, friends or your partner. The roads are pretty well connected. Take the Yamuna Expressway if you’re driving down from Delhi and you should reach Agra in about 4 hours. You can also take the NH11 and drive to Agra from Jaipur, if you’re in Rajasthan. The travel time on this route would be approximately 4.5 hours.

For those travelling from Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior to Agra is also a comfortable drive of about 3 hours, through the NH44. With the roads being so well connected, you could drive to Agra from a host of cities that are in different directions of Agra. If you’re already in UP and are planning to drive to Agra, Kanpur and Lucknow are two cities you could easily drive from. The NH19 and Agra-Lucknow expressway are the best routes to take. It would take you an average of 5 hours to reach Agra from either of Kanpur and Lucknow.

Best time to travel to Agra

Like most places, Agra is also best experienced between October and March. October and March are more favourable than the rest in terms of the weather. In October the weather can be humid during the noon but pleasant in the evening. Between November and February, you can enjoy nice and cool winters. But don’t be a hero and make the same mistakes we did. It gets really cold post sundown and you don’t want to catch a cold or have anything ruin your trip. The temperature tends to drop as low as 1 degree. So you should definitely pack some warm clothes like sweaters, shawls and jackets.

With that being said, August and September are definitely not bad months to visit the city. It does get hot but not to the point that it pricks you and brings you down. If you’re someone who can take a bit of a heat, you should be fine. Expect the temperatures to go up to 35 degrees in the noon. You would also be witnessing a few showers here and there. Especially in the month of August. One thing is for sure, the city won’t always be too crowded because most people visit Agra to primarily check out the Taj Mahal and a couple of other sites. So they often leave in a day or two.

The bottom line is that November to February is the best time to visit for those who love cool winters. October and March are favourable for those who prefer a milder climate while August and September is best for those who enjoy warmer weather.

Getting around Agra

Getting around Agra is not at all a hassle as there are many rickshaws and cycle rickshaws easily available. On average, you would be spending about INR 50 for a distance of 2-3 kms. You will also find prepaid Taxis and Rickshaws at the railway stations. And outside every monument, there will always be stands of rickshaws and cabs. Ola and Uber’s services are also available in the city, so that’s another option if you don’t want to waste your efforts in haggling. You can also take the Agra-Mathura City Transport Services and take buses to get around the city.

Breaking a stereotype about Agra

People sometimes do have this misconception that there’s nothing beyond the Taj Mahal in Agra. But it certainly isn’t true. Most tourists visit Agra for just a day or 2 at the most. During this period, they tend to visit the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, take a half-day tour to Fatehpur Sikri and that’s about it. However, if you take the time to truly explore the city, you’ll find that there are quite a few interesting experiences.

The city’s mughal heritage is just one facet which gives you a host of things to discover. But there are also a lot of markets, narrow alleyways, a charming lake and amazing restaurants and street food stalls. Each of these places have a history and story of their own. You just have to discover it.

These are just some of our recommendations and our personal favourites. But there are a lot of wonderful experiences within the city and around it too. Make sure you take the time to just walk around and soak the vibe of Agra in. Keep an open mind and you’ll find that Agra has much more to offer than it is known for.

Go check out

Taj Mahal – There’s no way we could start with anything but the Taj Mahal here, right? The only tip we’ll give you is that the Taj Mahal is best visited at 6 AM. Why? Read our blog Experiencing Sunrise From Taj Mahal to know more about this one of its kind experiences.

Agra Fort – The Agra Fort is another famous and important monument of Agra. Back when the Mughals were still ruling the land, the emperors would use the Fort as their residence. The Fort which was built by Akbar in 1573 is also considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. Even if you’re not a history buff, the place is worth a visit, if only to witness the beautiful architectural work done using red sandstones.

 

Fatehpur Sikri – One of our personal favourites is definitely Fatehpur Sikri. This little town built by Akbar was supposed to be the capital for his empire. But due to an issue with the water supply in the town, the fortress city was eventually abandoned. Fatehpur Sikri is also a gateway to the many historical monuments that were created by the Mughal dynasty. Diwan-I-Khas, Buland Darwaza and the Jama Masjid are just some of them.

Wildlife SOS – For all its historical charm, Agra is also home to Wildlife SOS, which is just a 30 minutes drive away. Spotting creatures like Sloth Bears, Elephants and Leopards given a safe haven was definitely heartwarming. Especially after knowing how animals can be exploited these days for different reasons. As wildlife enthusiasts, we loved how animals were taken care of and watching them in their natural habitat is something we would definitely recommend. Best part is that you can also volunteer with Wildlife SOS and contribute to their cause.

Sheroes Hangout – One of those experiences that truly stuck with us. We love food of all types so we often visit different cafes and restaurants. But Sheroes Hangout is more than just a good place to eat and chill. It’s an initiative started by women who were victims of acid attacks. The cafe’s warm and cheerful vibe is just the same as the spirit of the women who run it. What was fascinating for us was that you won’t find the price for any dish on the menu. That’s because they let you pay as you wish. Sheroes Hangout is a place we strongly recommend not only for good food and a chilled out vibe but also for the overall experience.

Dasaprakash – When it comes to South Indian cuisine, it’s hard for us to say no. So when we came across this restaurant, we couldn’t help but check it out. You would think that Agra is a place where you will primarily get only mughlai cuisine. But Dosa here is really amazing. We loved the Dosa and Idli we had here and it’s definitely some of the best we had. Their Dosas are generously cooked in ghee and the sambhar they serve is also supremely delicious. So if you feel like having something different when in Agra, don’t miss out on visiting Dasaprakash.