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* '''Bijlighar Bus Stand''' (also called Powerhouse Bus Stand) located near the Red Fort, 6 km from the Taj.
 
* '''Bijlighar Bus Stand''' (also called Powerhouse Bus Stand) located near the Red Fort, 6 km from the Taj.
 
* '''New Bus Stand''' at transport nagar, 12 km from the Taj, is only for other state's bus services (i.e. all except U.P. Roadways).
 
* '''New Bus Stand''' at transport nagar, 12 km from the Taj, is only for other state's bus services (i.e. all except U.P. Roadways).
 +
 +
Bus tickets can also booked online from '''http://www.apnabus.in''' website to reach Agra by bus.
  
 
===By road===
 
===By road===

Revision as of 14:52, 25 March 2011

The Taj Mahal

Agra [1] is the city of the Taj Mahal, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, some 200 km from Delhi.

Contents

Understand

Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri nearby. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra's days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire.

The city has little else to recommend it. Pollution, especially smog and litter, is rampant and travellers are pestered by swarms of touts and hawkers at every monument, mosque, temple or palace. That said, the sites are some of the wonders of the world and no trip to India is complete without at least one visit to the Taj.


History

While Agra's heyday was as the capital of the Mughal empire between 1526 and 1658, the city was founded much earlier. The earliest reference to Agra is in the ancient epic, the Mahabharata, while Ptolemy was the first person to call it by its modern name. The recorded history of Agra begins around the 11th century, and over the next 500 years, the city changed hands between various kings, both Hindu and Muslim.

In 1506, Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, moved his capital from Delhi to Agra. His son Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of the Lodi dynasty, as he was defeated in 1526 by Babur, the first Mughal ruler, in the battle of Panipat. Agra fell too, and became the capital of the Mughals, whose rule over Agra was uninterrupted except for a brief period between 1540 and 1556. In 1540, Sher Shah Shuri overthrew Humayun became the ruler of much of North India, including Agra. After Sher Shah Suri's death his descendants proved unequal to the task of ruling the kingdom, and Hemu, a Hindu general of Suri became the effective ruler who would later crown himself King Hemachandra Vikramaditya just as the kingdom was facing an assault from the reinvigorated Mughals. In 1556, Hemu would be defeated and killed in the second battle of Panipat, and the Mughals regained Agra.

Mughals were great builders. Babur built the Aram Bagh (garden of relaxation) modeled after the garden of paradise, where he was eventually buried after his death. His grandson Akbar refurbished the Agra fort and built the Fatehpur Sikri, an entire city just on the outskirts of Agra. He also renamed Agra after himself, and the city was known as Akbarabad while it was in Mughal hands. Akbar's grandson Shah Jehan would give Agra its most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, which is the mausoleum of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj is constructed in white marble. It took 20 years to construct, and is now universally known as a monument to love. Legend has it that Shah Jehan wanted a replica of the Taj constructed in black marble that would be his final resting place. There is no actual support for this theory, but even if it were true, it would have been unlikely to be eventuated. His son Aurangzeb was austere and pious, and had no time or inclination for the ostentation of his forefathers, preferring to spend his money on wars in South India. In any case, even during Shah Jehan's reign, which was the period when the Mughal empire was at its height, the construction of the Taj put a strain on the resources of the empire and caused a min-famine around Agra. Shah Jehan was eventually buried in the white Taj, next to his beloved Begum.

Shah Jehan, in addition to giving Agra its greatest claim to fame, was also responsible for beginning its decline, as decided to shift his capital to Shahjehanabad, which we now know as Old Delhi, in 1658. Though Aurangzeb ordered a move back, this too was short lived, as he moved his headquarters down south to Aurangabad to be focus on his wars. Agra declined, and so did the Mughal Empire. The city was eventually captured by the Marathas, who renamed it back to Agra. In 1803, it came under the British, who situated the Agra Presidency there, and when India gained independence, the city was incorporated into the state of Uttar Pradesh, and did not gain even the limited honour of being the state's capital, that distinction going to Lucknow, further east. It is now a tourist town, known for the Taj and a couple of other monuments.

Literature

Anyone interested in reading a novel based on the remarkable story behind the Taj Mahal's creation should consider Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. Beneath a Marble Sky is an international bestseller, has won multiple awards, and is being made into a movie by Hollywood. Other book (historical fiction) is The Taj by Colin De Silva.

Get in

Agra is 200 km southeast from Delhi and is one of the points of the tourist's Golden Triangle of Agra-Delhi-Jaipur. Agra is also very well connected via rail and road with other nearby cities and tourist destinations.

By plane

Service to Agra's Kheria Airport (IATA: AGR ICAO: VIAG) is seasonal. As of November 2008, the city is served by Kingfisher Airlines and Air India Regional, who both fly on the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tourist triangle route. The flight time to either is less than an hour. Travelers have had trouble with extreme lateness, and for that reason a hired car may be a safer (and probably cheaper) alternative.

By train

Agra is on the main train line between the Delhi-Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi-Chennai routes, and many trains connect Agra with these cities every day. Some east-bound trains from Delhi also travel via Agra, so direct connections to points in Eastern India (including Kolkata) are also available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. Agra and Delhi are notorious for their thick winter fog which reduces visibility to almost zero. If travelling in late December or early January (the fog season), travelers should be aware that, because of the reduced visibility, all trains slow down and travel time goes up. The Bhopal Shatabdi, for example, may arrive in Agra well after 10AM, and might return to Delhi well after midnight. There are three stations in Agra:

Stations

  • Agra Cantt (Station Code : AGC) is the main railway station and lies southwest of the Taj and Agra Fort, both of which are a short ride from the station by car, auto-rickshaw, or cycle rickshaw. There is a prepaid taxi stand right outside that charges a flat Rs 150 to any hotel in the city.The station has a pretty good Comesum food court that also sells cheap, hygienic takeaway snacks (sandwiches, samosas, etc).
  • Agra Fort station (Station Code : AF) near Agra Fort, is infrequently serviced by the interstate express trains. The station serves trains to the east (Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Kolkata) some of these trains also stop at Agra Cantt.
  • Raja Ki Mandi (Station Code : RKM) is a small station. Some of the trains which stop at Agra Cantt also stop here. The station has a laid-back and lazy atmosphere, but springs into life at the arrival of Intercity exp and Taj express.
  • Agra City is in the heart of Agra. A relic of the metre gauge era, this station is not particularly useful.
  • Idgah Railway Station is the first station if you arrive in Agra from Jaipur.

Lines

  • Delhi to Agra - Close to 20 trains connect Delhi and Agra each day with journey times varying from 2 hours to 5 hours. The best options are the Bhopal Shatabdi Express (departs New Delhi at 0615 arriving Agra Cantt at 0812; departs Agra Cantt at 2030 arriving New Delhi at 2230, daily except Friday) and the Taj Express (departs Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin at 0715 arriving Agra Cantt at 1007; departs Agra Cantt at 1855 arriving Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin at 2200, daily).
  • Agra to Jaipur - The journey to Jaipur (Station Code : JP) takes around 4 hour by train no. 2988 which leaves Agra Fort Railway Station at 6:25 PM and reaches Jaipur at around 10:20PM.

Also train number 2965 from agra cantonment to Jaipur at 5:40 PM. The train arrives at 10:15 PM. 300 Rs AC chair.


  • The Luxury train - Palace on Wheels [2]stops at Agra on its eight day round trip of tourist destinations in Rajasthan and Agra.

A Day's Excursion from Delhi to Agra

It is easy to visit Agra as a comfortable day trip by train from Delhi. Rise early in the morning and hop on to an AC chair car seat on the Bhopal Shatabdi (6:15AM) at New Delhi Railway Station (conveniently close to the backpacker hangout of Paharganj). Breakfast is served on the train (included in the fare), usually an omelet with a couple of slices of bread and coffee or tea. Arrive refreshed in Agra and, depending on your budget, either rent a car for the day or use rickshaws to get around. A visit to the Taj, followed by Agra Fort does not take a great deal of time. Add a visit to Akbar's tomb and/or itmad-ud-daulah (auto-rickshaw or taxi required), and you will still have time for a comfortable lunch and some r&r before catching the return train at 8:30PM where you can dine in the comfort of your seat (dinner is included in the fare). With a hired car, it is even possible for the hardy soul to swing by for a visit to Fatehpur Sikri for the complete Agra visit!

By bus

A number of buses connect Agra with Delhi. It takes around 4-5 hours to reach Agra by bus. There are basically three interstate bus stands:

  • Idgah Bus Stand is the primary bus stand for intercity travel, in the heart of the city, 8 km from the Taj.
  • Bijlighar Bus Stand (also called Powerhouse Bus Stand) located near the Red Fort, 6 km from the Taj.
  • New Bus Stand at transport nagar, 12 km from the Taj, is only for other state's bus services (i.e. all except U.P. Roadways).

Bus tickets can also booked online from http://www.apnabus.in website to reach Agra by bus.

By road

  • From Delhi: NH2, a modern divided highway, connects the 200 km distance from Delhi to Agra. The drive is typically 4-5 hours, a large chunk of which includes navigating the clogged roads around Delhi to get to the highway. The primary access to the highway is along Mathura Road in Delhi but, if coming from South Delhi or Delhi Airport, it is easier to take Aurobindo Marg (Mehrauli Road) and then work up to NH2 via Tughlakabad. While the highway is divided, it is important to keep an eye out for trucks, cars, and bullock carts heading the wrong way!

It is possible to hire a car with a driver (a big car for five persons from/to the Delhi airport costs Rs 3500). But beware! If you need to get from Agra to the airport in order to catch a flight, be sure to allow plenty of time for the trip, as traffic conditions may increase the drive time significantly. Also, it is wise to know your driver. There are situations when he may take over five hours to cover the distance, and you cannot force him to drive any faster than an autorickshaw (tuk-tuk).

  • From Jaipur: National Highway 11, a four lane divided highway, connects Agra with Jaipur via the bird sanctuary town of Bharatpur. The distance of around 255 Km can be covered in around 4 hours.

if you come from jaipur to Agra or Agra to jaipur, you will have better choice to have breakfast or Lunch on very good heritage Rajputana Midway near Village Pipalkhera(Mahua)

  • From Gwalior: A distance of around 120 km, takes around 1.5 hours on the National highway 3 (Agra- Mumbai Highway)
  • From Lucknow / Kanpur: NH2, the divided modern highway, continues on to Kanpur (285km, 5 hours) and from there to points East ending in Kolkata. From Kanpur, NH25 heads for the city of Lucknow (90 km, 2 hours).

Get around

Tongas, electric buses and electric tempos are readily available, and the best way to get to the Taj where no cars are allowed. Auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws are available every where, remember to agree on fares clearly in advance.

The best way to experince the city is to take a walk on the Mall Road (Sadar). The street is full of handicraft and leather goods shops. You will also find plenty of food items quite unique to the city.

By car

Cars are not allowed near the Taj Complex, but the rest of Agra is easily discovered by car. Rental is available from the following companies, Enterprises Car Rental and Hertz.

You can either book a taxi from hotel or directly book one outside the railway station. There is government authorized taxi stand. 950Rs/day for 12 hours. It maybe more costy to book through hotel. It is better to negotiate with the driver directly

See

Agra's top two sights by far are the incomparable Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. When planning your sightseeing, take heed of the convoluted entry fee system: for Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Itmud-ad-Daulah, Sikandra and Fatehpur Sikri, you must pay a Rs 500 levy to the Agra Development Authority in addition to the prices mentioned below. Once paid, the levy is valid for all sights, but only for one day. However, If you are not going to the Taj Mahal or happen to turn up on a Friday, then you do not have to pay the Rs 500 levy but a smaller one if you are going to the other sites. Eg Rs 50 for Red Fort

Current prices as of March 6th, 2011 are: Rs 750 for Taj Mahal and Rs 300 for Agra Fort. One gets Rs 50 discount when presenting ticket for Taj Mahal at Agra Fort.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal
Grand Entrance Building to the Taj Mahal Complex
Gate to the Taj Mahal Complex showing intricate work and Quranic passages in Arabic
Agra Fort, as seen from the Taj Mahal

Please note that the Taj Mahal is closed every Friday

The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Taj Mahal means Crown Palace; one of the wife's names was Mumtaz Mahal, Ornament of the Palace. The Taj is one of the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tombs in the world, one of the masterpieces of Indian Muslim architecture, and one of the great sites of the world's heritage.

The Taj Mahal has a life of its own that leaps out of marble, provided you understand that it is a monument of love. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore called it a teardrop on the cheek of eternity, while the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, said it was Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones. It is a celebration of woman built in marble and that is the way to appreciate it.

Although it is one of the most photographed edifices in the world and instantly recognisable, actually seeing it is awe-inspiring. Not everything is in the photos. The grounds of the complex include several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, and extensive ornamental gardens with flowering trees and bushes, and a small gift shop. The Taj framed by trees and reflected in a pool is amazing. Close up, large parts of the building are covered with inlaid stonework.

There is an apocryphal tale that Shah Jahan planned to build an exact copy out of black marble on the opposite side of the river. His plans were foiled by his son, who murdered three elder brothers and overthrew his father to acquire the throne. Shah Jahan is now buried alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal.

If you are taking a camera, beware that because the Taj is white your camera may underexpose your photos. If it is a film camera you will not find out until it is too late. Overexposure by 1 or 2 stops is recommended.

The Taj is open from 6:00 AM to 7:30 PM every day except Friday. Entry costs Rs 250 (plus levy of Rs 500) for foreigners and Rs 20 for Indians. Get there as early as possible to beat the crowds, and plan to visit the Taj at least two different times during the day (dusk and dawn are best) in order to experience the full effect of changing sunlight on the amazing building. It is also utterly stunning under a full moon. To buy tickets, you can go to the south gate, but this gate is 1 km far away of the entrance and the counter open at 8:00 AM. At the west and east gate, the counter open at 6:00 AM.

The Taj is located pretty much in the middle of town. Expect a line to get into the grounds. There are three gates. The western gate is the main gate where most tourists enter. A large number of people turn up on weekends and public holidays and entry through the western gate may take hours. The southern and eastern gates are much less busy and should be tried on such days.

Rules and Regulations at the Taj Mahal

Security is tight and rules and regulations are very important and must be followed at the Taj Mahal. There are many rules to be followed at the premises of the monument to maintain the holiness of the monument and other rules are mostly for the maintainance and protection of the monument. Remaining rules and regulations are to be followed for the protection of all the tourists visiting the Taj Mahal.

•Arms, ammunition, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, liquor, food, chewing gum, headphones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except video camera) such as Tripods, iPods and similar MP3 and music players are prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.

•Mobile Phones are allowed but must to be kept switched off.

•Eating and smoking is strictly prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.

•Lockers are available at the gates to keep your belongings (of course, at your own risk).

•Avoid carrying big bags and books inside the monument as this may increase your security check time.

•Video camera (handicam) is allowed up to the red sand stone platform at the main entrance gate of the Taj Mahal complex. There is a charge of 25 Rupees per video camera.

•Photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum, and visitors are requested not to make noise inside the mausoleum.

•Tourists must co-operate in keeping the monument neat and clean by making use of dustbins.

•Avoid touching and scratching the walls and surfaces of the monument as these are old heritage sites that need special care.

•Tourists are advised to hire approved guides and photographers who exhibit their identity cards.

•Tourists are allowed to carry a water bottle inside the monument. Shoe covers, 1/2 litre water bottle and Tourist Guide Map of Agra are provided free of cost with the foreigner's entry ticket for the Taj Mahal.

•Wheelchairs for disabled persons and First Aid Boxes are available at A.S.I. Office inside the Taj Mahal complex. A refundable charge of 1000 Rupees is to be deposited as security before wheelchairs are made available for the disabled.

•All the above mentioned items along with the mobile phones are banned for the night viewing of the Taj Mahal.

•Video cameras are permitted after the security check during night viewing of the Taj Mahal, though extra batteries are prohibited.

•Remember that the Taj Mahal is a religious site and it is best to dress conservatively when visiting the Taj Mahal complex, not only because the Taj Mahal itself is a mausoleum, but also because there are mosques inside the Taj Mahal complex, if you wish to visit them as well.



There are night viewing sessions on the nights of a full moon and the two days before and after (so five days in total). Exceptions are Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) and the month of Ramadan. Tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance, starting at 10am, but do not always sell out, so it can be worth looking into it when you arrive even if well after 10am. Tickets only allow viewing from the red sandstone plaza at the south end of the complex, and only for a 1/2 hour window.

Make sure to wear mosquito repellent.

It is a good idea to bring a flashlight, because the interior of the Taj Mahal is quite dark (even during the day) and to fully appreciate the details of the gem inlays, you need a good light.

Entering the palace within Agra Fort

Agra Fort

The Taj and the Yamuna River from the ramparts of Agra Fort

The fort is similar in layout to the Red Fort in Delhi, but considerably better preserved, as much of Delhi Fort was razed by the British after the Mutiny. As much as palace as a defensive structure, it is also constructed mainly from red sandstone.

Emperor Akbar, king at 14, began consolidating his empire and, as an assertion of his power built the fort in Agra between 1565 and 1571, at the same time as Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. Emperor Shah Jahan added to the fort and ended up a prisoner in it. The fort has a beautiful view of his masterpiece, the Taj Mahal, on a clear day.

You can get to the fort by Rickshaw from Taj Mahal for around 25-30Rs. Entry to the fort is Rs 250 (plus levy of 50 Rupees if you have not already paid the 500Rs fee for Taj Mahal).

There are left luggage services at Agra Fort where you can stow your bags at no cost. A fine of Rs 5,000 applies if you lose your luggage ticket.

Gardens

  • Swami Bagh, (10 km north of Agra). The white marble samadhi of the Radha Swami religion is currently under construction. It was started in 1904 and is nor expected to be completed until sometime next century. You can see pietra dura inlaid marblework actulally being worked on. Soami Bagh is 2km north of Agra and can be reached by bus or cycle.
  • Ram Bagh. The first Mughal gardens, built by the first Mughal Emperor Babar, 500 m North of the Chini Ka Rauza. Ram Bagh Crossing.
  • Mehtab Bagh, (directly across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, the trip takes about 30 minutes from the centre of town by autorickshaw and will cost about Rs 200). These botanical gardens give you an opportunity to view the Taj at a remove from the crowds of tourists.. Alternatively, walk past the entrance and straight to the sandy banks of the river: the view of the Taj is every bit as lovely (perhaps more so, since the barbed wire fence surrounding the gardens will be behind you), although you may have to deal with aggressive touts. Don't forget to take a round trip by auto rickshaw. Entrance to the park is Rs 100 for foreigners.

Temples

  • Balkeshwar Temple, (At Balkeshwar, at river side of Yamuna). A temple of Lord Shiva
  • Kailash Temple, (at Sikandra, at the river Yamuna). A Lord Shiva Temple.
  • Mankameshwar Temple, (At Rawatpara, near Agra Fort railway station. Near the raja ki mandi; a simple cycle rikshaw can take you there for a fare of 20/-.). Listen to the aarti, it purifies your soul.
  • Prithvinath Temple, (At Shahganj. On road to Jaypur.).
  • Rajeshwar Temple, (At Village Rajpur. On road to Shamshabd.).
  • Shyam Ji Maharaj Temple (At Bijlighar).
  • Mahakal And Mahakali Temple, (At Sikandra railway crossing on Sikandra Bodla road).
  • Rawli Maharaj Temple, (At Collectrate crossing, beside the railway track). Very old temple.

Other sights

The antechamber to Akbar's tomb at Sikandra
  • Sikandra, (10 km north of Agra on the Agra Delhi highway). Open from sunrise to sunset. The tomb of Akbar lies here in the centre of the large garden. Akbar started its construction himself but it was completed by his son Jehangir, who significantly modified the original plans which accounts for the somewhat cluttered architectural lines of the tomb. Four red sandstone gates lead to the tomb complex: one is Muslim, one Hindu, one Christian, and one is Akbar's patent mixture.
  • Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb. Empress Nur Jehan built Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, sometimes called the Baby Taj, for her father, Ghias-ud-Din Beg, the Chief Minister of Emperor Jahangir. Small in comparison to many other Mughal-era tombs, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietra dura, inlay designs and latticework presage many elements of the Taj Mahal.
  • Mariam's Tomb, (West from Akbar's Tomb on Agra-Delhi highway). Constructed by Jahangir in the memory of his mother Mariam Zammani a title bestowed upon her,. The grave is made of white marble. Though this building is in a ruined condition, yet it has in its vicinity, a Christian Mission School and a church. It is also said; Akbar himself made that it in the memory of his Christian wife.
  • Jama Masjid. A large mosque attributed to Princess Jahanara Begum, built in 1648 during the reign of the father Shah Jahan. Notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets.
  • Chini Ka Roza. A memorial dedicated to the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah Shukrullah of Shiraz, notable for its dome of blue glazed tiles.
  • Gurudwara Guru ka Taal, (at Delhi-Agra Highway, located between Transport Nagar and Sikandra), [3].

Do

  • Adlabs multiplex. Interactive Theatre, which is the first ever interactive cinema theatre in the world, each viewer holds a wireless remote unit with push buttons and a small LCD screen, enabling them to participate in a trivia game about the theme of the film. The show is called India in Motion, a 25 minute show where the audience will pass through today's India in, or on, a variety of typical vehicles and see the historical events at sites like Mohenjo Daro, Indraprastha and the Taj Mahal, experiencing the bumpy elephant rides with the wind blowing through their hair, or the swaying boat with salty spray on their faces. Before the actual show there is a interactive quiz on various topic relating to India. Rs 150 for a Hindi Show & Rs 450 for a show in English.
  • Taj Mahotsav, [4]. 10 day festival held in February every year at Shilpgram, near the Taj Mahal. It start from 18th of every February and continues till 27th of February. It is a festival of art, craft, culture, etc.

Buy

Agra has many shops selling various stone products, from jewellery to small boxes and plaques with inlay work resembling that on the Taj. The best of these are wonderful, and even the run-of-the-mill ones are rather pretty. Agra is also famous for its leather goods. Consider spending time in Sadar Bazaar for some shopping and enjoying cheap food.

Beware of being overcharged. Do not let anyone lead you to a shop, lest the price go up to cover their commission, typically 50%. Be very wary of the promises these people make. Bargain hard. Be prepared to walk away, you can nearly always get the same items in another shop. Also remember that in these globalized times, you can always order stuff you liked in your visit over the internet after you return.

Be careful with the jewels: Lots of stones are fakes and the price is very high!

Eat

Agra specialities are petha, a type of very sweet candy, and Dal Moth, a spicy lentil mix. Both are also popular souvenirs.

Chaat. Agra is a heaven for any Chaat lover. Chaat can be of various types but there is one thing common among them all is that they are spicy and you will find crowd outside virtually every chaat stall, especially popular places like Double Phatak (near Sikandra) for Mangores. You'll find quality Bhallas and Panipuri at Sadar and Belangunj. Samosa and Kachori are found at every sweet shop that flood the city. Some typical chaat items are Aloo Tikki (made by roasting mess made out of boiled potatoes), paneer tikka (cubes of cottage cheese baked in a tandoor with spices), pani puri or golguppa (small round hollow shells filled with a potato-based filling and a spicy sweet blend of sauces), mangores, Samosaes, Chachori etc. If you want to savour the typical Agra Breakfast do remember to have a bite of one of those spicy Berahi and round it off with sweet Jalebies.

Sweets. There are quite a few good sweets shops all round the city. The best stores for buying the famous petha of Agra are at Hari Parwat, a short ride from Agra Fort. Amongst the well-known stores are Panchi's , Bhimsain BaidyaNath and The Pracheen Petha store. There are many types of petha available but, for the authentic experience, try either the plain one (ivory white) or Angoori Flavored (rectangular and yellow pieces soaked in sugar syrup). Other stores in Agra include: Bikanervala, Deviram, Munnalal Petha, Gopaldas, and Ajanta Sweets, Kamla Nagar. Do remember to round off your meal with a Joda(Pair) of Pan unique to the city.

There are several restaurants in the Taj Ganj area, catering for the many tourists staying around the Taj Mahal.

  • Treat Restaurant, South Gate Taj Mahal, 9319697497 (). breakfast, lunch and dinner. 20-60 for main dish, great Indian food..
  • Silk Route Restaurant, 18-A/7-B Fatehabad Road (Opposite Howard Park Plaza), 0562 4002786, [5].
  • Only Restaurant, 0562-2364333 / 2266508, [6]. 600-800 for main dish of 2.
  • Journey's place Taj ganj. Perfect for early breakfast, when you want to wake up early to visit the Taj at 6 Am. 10 Rs Toast, 10 Rs coffee, 15 Rs cornflakes.
  • Kamat Hotel Roof top restaurant with view on the Taj. Correct quality. Beer available. 70 Rs for a vegetable curry.

Drink

Most hotel staff will be happy to find you a warm bottle of Indian beer for around 70-100 rs, but there is virtually no nightlife in Agra outside of cultural shows at some of the larger hotels and restaurants. After getting off the streets of Agra and into your hotel, you will not want to go back anyway.

Sleep

Budget

The main number of the budget hotels is situated around Taj-Mahal. From one point of view it is very convenient, but at the same time it is the most dirty district of the city (with monkeys on the roofs, rats inside the buildings and waiters who can not read and write). While choosing where to stay, be very careful! In the most places there is no hot water (you will get it only by ordering beforehand). It is necessary to check everything, including the presence of bed-linen.

  • Hotel Amba Inn, 1/51, Delhi Gate, Near Raja ki Mandi Railway Station (2 mins from railway station), 91 562 2520779, 91 9412720194, [7]. checkin: noon; checkout: noon. Offers facilities for 22 rooms in total. There are both double rooms, single rooms, as well as facility for an extra bed. All the rooms are air conditioned/air cooled, with television. Single Rs 550-800, double Rs 650-900.
  • Col Lamba Indian Home Stay, 58 Gulmohar Enclave, Shamshabad Rd, 0562-3298921, [8]. This B&B is run by Col.Lamba, a retired army officer, and his wife. There are 7 rooms which are very clean, airconditioned and with TVs. Home cooked lunch and dinner available on request. Guest Kitchens also present. Highlight of the B&B is the hosts who are very warm and hospitable and will assist you with their local knowledge. Around Rs 700 per person.
  • Dayal Lodge, 25 New Agra, Dayalbagh Road (Towards Dayalbagh), +91-9219606365, +91-562-2524560 (, fax: +91 562 2524560), [9]. checkin: 12 Noon; checkout: 12 Noon. Established in the early 60s, with 10 well furnished AC rooms/and Dormitories equipped with basic amenities. 24 Hrs. made-to-order kitchen, in-house laundry facilities, local airport/railway station transfers. Rs 450-750.
  • Hotel Jaiwal, 3 Taj Road, Sadar Bazar, +91 562 2363153. Rs 75-325.
  • Hotel Kamal, (by the south gate of the Taj Mahal), 0091-562-2330126 (). Rs 300-850.
  • Hotel Neel Kanth, Fatehabad Road, +91 562 2362039. Rs 100-00.
  • Youth Hostel, Sanjay Place, M. G. Road, +91 562 2154462. Rs 50-125.
  • Saniya Palace, Chowk kajziyan, South Gate, Taj Ganj, +91 (0562) 3270199. Good budget hotel with some A/C rooms. 24 hr room service. Friendly staff & fantastic views of the Taj mahal from the roof top restaurant. rs 600
  • Shanti lodge South Taj gate. From 400 Rs economic room, non AC. Hot water, TV. Restaurant on the roof top. Be careful with the bed sheets, not very clean. Cloak room available.

Mid-range

  • Hotel Mandakini Villas, Fatehabad Road, Purani Mandi, Taj Ganj (Next to Western Gate of Taj Mahal), Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, +91 5626453854, [10]. checkout: noon. 200 metres from the Taj Mahal's West Gate. It offers air-conditioned rooms each with cable TV with 100 channels, broadband Internet connection, private bathroom with cold water and direct-dial phone. You might get a little bit warmer than cold water by requesting it from the reception a few times. It is not possible to sleep without ear plugs in the first floor because of the noise coming from corridor and reception all night. Get a room from higher floors. Rates start at Rs 2,690.
  • Laurie's Hotel, Mahatma Gandhi Road, +91 562 2364536 (fax: +91 562 2268045). An old colonial hotel from the British era (some say it hasn't been upgraded since!), Laurie's retains some of the charm of travelling in India in days of yore. Rooms with impossibly high ceilings (fans, no aircon), lead off from verandahs with nice lawns outside. A swimming pool from yesteryears graces the lawn (unfortunately closed in the winter). But you can get British era service with 'bed tea', excellent freshly made chicken curry and rice to order, and creaky plumbing. Some people will love it, others hate it, but you can't be indifferent to Laurie's!
  • Hotel Raj. Directly in front of the central entry of the Taj Mahal, simple but clean. About Rs 800.

Splurge

Thanks to heavy competition, Agra's five-star hotels are pretty good value compared to most other cities in India.

  • ITC Mughal, Taj Ganj, +91-562-4021700, [11]. Formerly the Sheraton Mughal, this is one of Agra's top hotels, with views of the Taj from the roof viewing pavilion. Large pool. The hotel's age is starting to show, but the rooms are in fine shape. Popular with tour groups Rooms from US$160.
  • Oberoi Amarvilas, Taj East Gate Road, +91 (562) 2231515, [12]. The best (and most expensive) hotel in Agra. Its is consistently rated among the top 10 hotels in the world
  • Trident Hilton, Fathebad Road, +91 (562) 2331818, [13]. Solid Hilton quality, but poor location. Outdoor pool, gym. Rooms from US$89..


Contact

Agra comes under Uttar Pradesh (west) circle as per TRAI. BSNL [14],Airtel [15] are the two main providers of terrestrial telephone lines in Agra, while BNSL [16], AirTel [17], Vodafone [18] and Idea [19] provide GSM (triband) and Reliance [20] and Tata [21]provide CDMA services.

Internet

There are several internet cafes / Cyber Cafes from where you can access the internet for sending email or uploading your digital photos.

  • Reliance World[22] has broadband connectivity at many location across the city.
  • Sify Iway[23] also offers broadband connectivity at different locations spread all over the city.

Get out

Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri
Mosque in Fatehpur Sikri
Farehpur Sikri Complex
  • Fatehpur Sikri is a UNESCO world heritage site. Built in the the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for about 10 years. Then it was abandonded for reasons that are still something of a mystery. It includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. In order to get a full idea of this site it is better to take a guide (Rs 300 for 2 hours for its chargeless entrance part) or have a good printed guide, otherwise it is not very interesting to see it. The entrance to the site (even to the yard) is only without shoes.
  • Mathura is the birth place of Lord Krishna. There are many beautiful temples in Mathura, including the one built at Shri Krishna's birth place.
  • Vrindavan is also a religious place around 50 km from Agra, and quite close to Mathura. There are many temples here devoted to lord Krishna, a few of the more famous of which are Banke Bihari & the Iskcon Temple.
  • Nandgaon was the home of Shri Krishna`s foster father, Nand. On the top of the hill is the spacious temple of Nand Rai, built by the Hat ruler Roop Singh. The other temples here are dedicated to Narsingha, Gopinath, Nritya Gopal, Girdhari, Nand Nandan, and Yasodha Nandan, which is located half way up the hill. Nandgaon springs into action every year around March for the festival of Holi, when many a tourist flock the city for the famous "lath mar holi".
  • Bharatpur is about 56 km from Agra and houses the Famous bird sanctuary in which you can see thousands of rare birds including the Siberian Crane. There is the Lohagarh Fort, which remained invincible despite several attacks by the British. Just 32 km from Bharatpur is the Deeg Palace. This strong and massive fort was the summer resort of the rulers of Bharatpur and has many palaces and gardens.
  • National Chambal Sanctuary, (70 km away) is a natural sanctuary and the home of the endangered Indian gharial (a relative of the crocodile) and of the Ganges River Dolphin (also endangered).



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