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Embarking on a Magical Journey Through History

Agra, India: Exploring the Wonders of the Mughal Empire

Agra is a city steeped in history located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. As the former capital of the Mughal Empire during the 16th and early 17th centuries, Agra played a pivotal role in shaping India's artistic and architectural heritage. The white marble mausoleums and red sandstone fortresses that dot the city's landscape eloquently testify to Agra's Islamic legacy.

The main attraction

Chief among Agra's attractions is undoubtedly the iconic Taj Mahal, considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal is a monument of love - constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan between 1632 and 1653 as a tomb for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Made entirely of white marble, the Taj Mahal is renowned for its perfect symmetry, intricate carvings and striking landscapes. Come early in the morning or late in the evening to experience the monument bathed in a breathtaking glow. For the full experience, take a stroll along the Yamuna River for picturesque views of the Taj Mahal's reflection.

Agra Fort

Just over 2km from the Taj Mahal lies another architectural wonder - the massive Agra Fort. Constructed of red sandstone, the fort encompasses within its sprawling boundaries the imperial apartments and audience halls of the Mughals. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fort underscores Agra's imperial legacy through beautiful carvings, lush courtyards and towering edifices like the Khas Mahal and the Anguri Bagh. A self-guided audio tour through the fort offers unique insights into Mughal history, art, culture and daily life. Be sure to check out the fort's museum housing gold and silver locks of hair donated by pilgrims - a peculiar tradition stemming from the belief that offering hair will fulfill wishes.

Other sights worth visiting

Beyond the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, there are other worthwhile sights scattered across the city:

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Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb

Nicknamed the 'Baby Taj', this 17th century white marble mausoleum was inspired by the Taj Mahal and built by Nur Jahan, wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir, as a tomb for her father. With intricate pietra dura artwork and slender minarets, it's a scaled-down but equally beautiful monument.

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Fatehpur Sikri

This "Ghost City" was the imperial capital of the Mughals between 1571 to 1585. The palace-city complex built by emperor Akbar contains ornate architectural marvels like the Panch Mahal and the Jama Masjid mosque. Wander through crumbling sandstone walls for a glimpse of Mughal grandeur.

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Sikandra

Located 10km outside Agra, Sikandra houses the majestic tomb of emperor Akbar. The red sandstone mausoleum surrounded by lush gardens offers stunning views of the Yamuna and provides a serene escape from city crowds.

Travel tips for Agra

Some tips for travelling to Agra:

Book accommodation in advance

The Taj Mahal receives millions of visitors annually, so book hotels well in advance - especially during summer (Mar-Jul) and peak December season. Check sites like BitBook where you can book hotels and earn rewards.

Buy timed entry tickets for the Taj online

Entry slots are limited due to visitor capping. Purchase them online to skip long queues. Opt for Sunset slots when the Taj is lit up - a truly magical experience!

Visit early morning or late evening

Beat the heat and crowds by visiting the Taj between sunrise to 9am or 4-5:30pm. You'll also see bats flying around the fort at dusk - quite the sight!

Bargain hard at shops

While Agra is known for exquisite marble artwork, don't pay the quoted prices at shops as they usually drop a lot lower. Barter it out.

Use guides with caution

Guides will offer fascinating tales but some exaggerate or make up facts for tips. Verify claims through independent research.

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