10 ways to enhance your Agra experience
Agra (210 kms from Delhi) is perceived to be all about the Taj Mahal, one of the original seven wonders of the world. Rich Mughal heritage of Agra, its ethnic cuisine and cultural elements combined with its evolution as a major tourist destination has made Agra much more than just about Taj Mahal. Here we explore 10 ways to enhance your Agra experience.
1. Heritage and Culture Walk
Heritage and Culture walk of Agra is a 2 and a half hour walk cum Cycle Rickshaw tour that comprises a visit to 11 different areas that are linked to the culture and heritage of Agra.
- Agra Fort (Built in 1080 AD) where 5 different armies stayed over a period of many centuries and is recognised as a UNESCO heritage site.
- Shahi Jama Masjid (Friday Moque) – A giant mosque, a fine example of Mughal architecture built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan’s eldest daughter Jahanara Begum in 1648.
- Chimman Lal Poori Wala – A 200 years old snack and refreshment shop (run by the sixth generation of the family)
- Paan Leaves (Betel leaf) Auction Store – Old Agra bazaar is renowned for its Paan leaves auction since the Mughal times, and the tradition continues even today. The Paan auction is very interesting for the spectators and takes place twice a day, morning & evening.
- Bridal Lehenga Workshop – A workshop that specialises in Bridal Indian dresses. Here you interact with skilled craftsmen to understand process of making lehengas.
- Vaidya Ramdutt Gali – A lane with Ayurvedic doctors (Doctors specialise in treating patients using age old science of Ayurveda using natural herbs).
- Mankameshwar Temple – An ancient temple devoted to Lord Shiva, where Lord Shiva is depicted as a person and not a Lingam. It is said that the Shivlinga is covered by the silver metal and was founded by Lord Shiva himself during Dwapara era when Lord Krishna was born in Mathura.
- Lohar Gali – A street bustling with vendors selling colorful clothes, dresses for deities, floral decoration, etc.
- Musician’s Balcony – A 135 year old building depicting love for music of Mohan Lal, a local merchant in late 19th century.
- Rawatpara Spice Market – A 500 year old spice market set up by the Mughal emperors. Even today it is a street full of aromas with spice traders on both sides.
2. Agra Food Walk
Agra Food walk is a 2 hour walk where travellers savour local flavours and delicacies. Agra is renowned for its Petha (a sweet) and different varieties of Chaats (Tasty flavorful snacks). The walk is meant for foodies looking to explore the oldest and most popular food outlets of Agra such as:
- Rambabu Paratha Bhandar – Started in 1930, the shop is run by the third generation of the family and offers around 16 varieties of Parathas served with two types of curries, chutney and pickles.
- Mama Franky House – A paradise for Kebab lovers in the heart of Sadar Bazaar, just a few steps away from Chaat Gali (Haven for street food in Agra). Here one can see the cooking demo of Rumali Roti (also known as the flying bread), Butter Naan, Chicken Tikka, Mutton Seekh Kebab, Soya Chaap and more.
- Chaat Gali – Chaat Gali (means “The Chaat Lane”) in Sadar Bazaar is a paradise for Indian street food lovers. Here one finds a whole range of North Indian dishes being served all round the year. Tourists going to the Taj Mahal make it a point to come here. Few of the offerings of the Chaat Gali are Aloo Tikki, Dahi Gunjiya, Moong ki Dal ka Cheela, Golgappe, Aloo Chaat, Bhel Puri, Badam Pista Kulfi, etc.
- Deviram Restaurant – A 70 years old sweet shop, serving renowned dishes of Agra such as Bedai (a variant of Kachori, served with spicy potato curry and curd (yoghurt) along with Jalebi) and Samosa (a fried Indian snack).
- Panchhi Petha – The most reckoned manufacturer, exporter and supplier of a huge assortment of more than 20 Petha variants such as Petha Gulab Ladoo, Kancha Petha, Kesar Angoori Petha, Kesar Petha, etc.
3. Explore Colonial Agra
Under the British rule, Agra assumed great importance and served as the home of many senior officials. Agra Cantonment is heart of the British Colonial era settlements. A 2 hour drive takes travellers through a number of interesting public buildings, churches, cemeteries and bungalows dating back to colonial times such as
- St George’s Church (1826) (Designed by the architect of Shimla’s Christ Church),
- Havelock Memorial Church, constructed in 1873 (Commemorates one of the British generals of the Indian Mutiny of 1857),
- Mother Teresa’s Charity Home in Agra (An Orphanage),
- General Post Office (Built by the British in 1905 and sports a typical colonial style exterior),
- Mary’s Church (1923)
- Agra Club (Built by the British, the elite club of Agra)
4. Cycling in Agra
A 4 hour guided tour that’s a unique way to discover Agra & its beautiful heritage monuments on bike. Here you visit the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Baby Taj, Itmad-ud-Daulah & Kacchpura Village (near Mehtab Bagh).
Alternatively, there is a shorter 1.5 hour tour that gives you an opportunity to cycle through the lesser chaotic roads of Agra and experience a bit of adventure by cycling through the protected forest offering great views of the Taj Mahal. On your way back, you can visit the biggest vegetable wholesale market in Agra.
5. Experience the Taj differently
Taj Mahal can be viewed from different areas of Agra and can be experienced in many different ways such as
- Yoga Facing the Taj Mahal – 1 hour Yoga session covering Asana, Dhyana and Pranayam at a lush green mound about 150 meters from the Taj Mahal offering an upclose experience of the Taj.
- Taj Mahal Experience from a Village – Taj Mahal can be viewed from a nearby village that offers uninhibited views of both the Taj Mahal and Agra. You are welcomed by the host family and can enjoy breakfast, lunch or high tea here.
- Mehtab Bagh – Mehtab Bagh across the Yamuna river offers stunning views of the Taj, its popular for travellers who have already visited Taj Mahal earlier to come back for another view across the river.
6. Royal Buggy Ride
A 30 minute ride through Agra town that makes you feel like a Royal. Here you travel through the lanes and cross roads of Agra, reliving an era gone by. There are options to take 2 horse carriage and 4 horse carriage (both for max 4 persons). This is perfect for honeymooners and anniversaries to make your partner feel special in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, an eternal symbol of love and romance.
7. Bateshwar Temple Excursion
Bateshwar is set 70 kms south of Agra by the Yamuna river and is home to a set of 100+ Lord Shiva Temples. Bateshwar Temples is one of the few Lord Shiva temples where Lord Shiva is depicted as a person and not a Lingam. The drive to Bateshwar is through pristine countryside and offers superb views of locals going through their daily chores. There is a boat ride on the river that takes you to other side of the temple from where you can capture some of the most spectacular photographs of the temples and its reflection in the Yamuna River. The area is also a prime bird watching site and one can sight many birds by the Yamuna river. Bateshwar is home to the renowned Bateshwar Cattle Fair, held every November.
8. Bharatpur Birding Excursion
Keoladeo Ghana National Park (popular known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) is set at 62 kms west of Agra and is a prime bird watching site (a UNESCO world heritage site). Bharatpur is an excellent day excursion where one can do some walking through woodlands, marshlands and grasslands for a possibility to sight 200+ species of birds. The bird density in Bharatpur is very good especially during winters and therefore a Bharatpur excursion makes for a fun filled day for travellers looking to be away from the touristy character of Agra.
9. Bear / Elephant NGOs
22 kms from Agra are NGOs that are home to bears and elephants, rescued from circuses all over India and where travellers can spend some time interacting with these animals and doing activities such as
- Food preparation for bears/elephants including assisting keepers in cutting fruits / loading / making enrichment treats
- Distribution of food to the bears/elephants
- Scrubbing and bathing the elephants
10. Taj Mahal by Night
The Taj Mahal on a moonlit night is a one of a kind memorable experience. Imagine the magic of arriving post dinner with your partner on a full moon night for the Taj Mahal. It’s simply magical!
Note: Night viewing of Taj Mahal is available on five days in a month i.e. on full moon night and two nights before and two after the full moon. Timing: 20:30 hrs. to 00.30 hrs. in 8 batches of max. 50 people each. Time duration for each batch is half an hour (30 minutes).