In Agra, sixteenth-century Mughal emperors built the massive rhubarb-coloured Red Fort as a home of luxury for themselves, their harem and court. Parts of the fort are open to the public. What you see now is a skeleton of ornately carved marble buildings with semi-precious stone inlays. Once it would have been clothed with fabulous awnings, carpets and wall hangings.
If all you want to do is visit the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal then both are just a day’s outing from Delhi (train or car). If staying longer there is a new temple, Swami Bagh, being built in the suburb of Dayal Bagh. It was started over a hundred years ago, but it’ll take a few more decades to build. The sculptural work on the marble stonework and the use of inlaid semi-precious stones to decorate the white surfaces is a marvel to behold.
The Chini-ka-Rauza has similar inlay work. It is the tomb of a chief minister of emperor Shah Jahan and is sited on the bank of the Yamuna River.
===> Explore local itineraries via the RELATED links below.
For a different view of the Taj Mahal, take a taxi to Mehtab Bagh (bagh means garden). It’s on the opposite bank of the Yamuna River to the Taj Mahal. The emperor Babur built this long before the Taj Mahal was built. A popular legend was that this was the foundations of a Black Taj Mahal to be a mirror image of the one on the opposite bank. But it’s just a fancy myth.
Being a tourist town, there are plenty of shops your driver or guide will want to take you to. They get a commission so the pressure can be quite obvious. It’s up to you whether you want to comply. The work on offer is quite magnificent especially the tables, plates, plaques and boxes of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones just like the Taj Mahal.
Fatehpur Sikri, just 40km/25m west of Agra, is a deserted city built by the emperor Akbar in the late 16th century. Why it was abandoned after just 16 years is still unknown, maybe they ran out of water. The palace complex is a World Heritage Site and has been well preserved. Outside are a number of interesting ruins and the Jama Masjid mosque with its immense entrance gateway.
Akbar’s Mausoleum in Sikandra is another fine Mughal building to visit on the way to Fatehpur Sikri.
A day trip is feasible from Delhi taking in just Agra’s sights or visiting just the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and then squeezing in a trip to Fatehpur Sikri.
A Shatabdi train leaves New Delhi railway station at 6am and gets into Agra about 8.30am. The return train to Delhi is about 8pm but as it comes from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh it often runs late.
An alternative is to hire a car and driver fromDelhi. Agra and Delhi are connected by a motorway and the trip will take about three hours.
A taxi hired for the day from the courtyard of the Agra railway station is your best bet. Prices are fixed, which is good but your driver may well want to include taking you shopping as part of your trip – whether you want to or not.