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Agra is best known for the Taj Mahal. But there are several other places, innumerable things to do, and countless things to see in this alluring land. From visiting Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary to shopping at Kinari Bazaar and relishing in the famous Mughlai cuisine, there is a lot to revel in.
Exciting activities to do in Agra :
1. Visit Taj Mahal
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One of the main things to do in Agra is a visit to the mesmeric Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, the monument is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This beautiful white mausoleum is often recognised as the Jewel of Muslim art in India.
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It was declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. Its construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653. Thousands of artisans and craftsmen were roped in to build the mausoleum. The construction was entrusted to a panel of architects under the supervision of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, who is believed to be the principal designer, Makramat Khan and Abd-ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan.
The Taj Mahal is one of the most important tourist places in India. It attracts about 2 million visitors annually. There is a two tier pricing system where Indians are charged a lesser entry fee than foreigners. Visiting here is considered a must when in Agra.
2. Visit Agra Fort
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Among many things to do in Agra, amother very important one is visiting the Agra Fort. This majestic monument is situated at a distance of 2.5 km from the Taj Mahal. It was originally a brick fort erected by the Hindu Sikarwar Rajputs and was later used by the first Sultan of Delhi Sikandar Lodhi as his residence.
The fort sprawls over 94 acres and has a semi-circular plan. There are four gates on four sides and one of them, the Kizri Gate, opens to the river. The most important of all the gates are the Delhi Gate and the Lahore Gate. The Lahore Gate is also known as the Amar Singh Gate for Amar Singh Rathore.
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The Delhi Gate is grandest of all gates and is considered to be a masterpiece of Akbar’s time. It was built in 1568 to serve as the king’s formal gate and also strengthen the security of the fort. An inner gateway called the Hathi Pol is guarded by two life size stone elephant statues with their riders.
The Indian military is now using the Northern portion of the Agra Fort and hence the Delhi Gate has been closed to the public. The Amar Singh Gate is open to tourists. The monument reflects an interesting mix of Hindu and Mughal architectural styles.
3. Visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
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The Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is now known as the Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park and is situated in Bharatpur in Rajasthan. During you visit to Agra, you can easily hire a private vehicle or take a bus from Agra to Bharatpur. A visit to this place is one of things to do in Agra.
The sanctuary is home to more than 230 species of birds and is a major tourist destination. It attracts a large number of ornithologists, bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts throughout the year. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a protected sanctuary in 1971.
The sanctuary is a man-made national park and protects the Bharatpur area from flooding during the monsoons. It was earlier used as a waterfowl hunting ground. Every year, the sanctuary plays host to a number of migratory birds for winter breeding. It is situated at a distance of 50 km from Agra and is well connected by rail, road and air ways.
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It is acknowledged to be one of the best bird watching sites of Asia and hence attracts a large number of tourists. The park is open from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. Food and accommodation facilities are available within the precincts of the park.
4. Visit Fatehpur Sikri
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Fatehpur Sikri was founded by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1569 and has served as the Mughal capital from 1571 to 1585. According to historians, Akbar took particular interest in the construction of this place and is even believed to have dictated the style of architecture used. His objective was probably to recreate the splendour of Persian courts, as Akbar planned the complex on Persian principles.
The entire monument is made of red sandstone, facilitated by the easy availability of sandstone in the area. Fatehpur Sikri is situated on a rocky ledge. The palace city is surrounded by a wall on three sides while a lake is located on the fourth side.
Some of the important buildings that you must visit within the complex include the Buland Darwaza, the Jama Masjid, the tomb of Salim Chisti, the Diwan-i-Aam, the Ibadat Khana, Anup Talao, Mariam-uz-Zaman’s palace, Naubat Khana and Birbal’s House.
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Fatehpur Sikri is situated at a distance of about 39 km from Agra. The nearest airport is the Kheria Airport at Agra, and the nearest railway station is the Fatehpur Sikri railway station. State transport buses offer regular service from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri.
5. Shopping at Kinari Bazaar
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If you are a shopaholic, the most interesting among many things to do in Agra would be shopping at Kinari Bazaar. It is a wholesale retail market which offers everything you require for daily use or for special occasions such as weddings. If you have a wedding to attend and would like to buy some good stuff without burning your pockets, Kinari Bazaar is the place to visit. Be it a Hindu wedding or a Christian wedding, you can find everything you need here from lehengas, dupattas, salwar kameez, kurtas, sherwanis to turbans.
The bazaar specialises in traditional wedding dresses and also has a great variety of borders and embellishments. It also has a huge collection of garments for festivals and other special occasions. During Sankranti in August, you can shop from a huge collection of kites. Costumes, items and props for performing Ramleela can also be easily bought at the bazaar.
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Furthermore, there are embroidery items such as lace, thread work, embellishments, borders, stonework, gold/silver work and garlands. These are of special appeal to those interested in fashion designing and stitching. The best part about this bazaar is that all the items sold here are dirt cheap and you can always bag yourself a great deal if you are good at bargaining. Avoid the monsoons, and you will have a great time at the Kinari Bazaar.
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The marketplace can easily be reached by rail or road. The nearest railway station is situated at a distance of 3 km from the bazaar and the nearest airport is just 22 km away. The bazaar is open from Monday to Saturday and remains closed on Sundays.
The best time to visit is from noon to around 4 pm. There are several places worth a visit nearby such as the Paranthe Wali Gali in Chandnichowk, Gurudwara Sisganj, among others. For those who love shopping and know how to get the best deal through bargaining, a visit to the Kinari Bazaar is certainly a gratifying experience.
6. Eat Mughlai Cuisine
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One of the most enjoyable things to do in Agra is to feast on the mouth-watering Mughlai cuisine. From delicious chicken tikka to crunchy kebabs, the city has a lot to offer when it comes to Mughlai cuisine. There are some very good restaurants in the city which can serve you the most delectable dishes from Mughlai cuisine.
Agra had been the seat of the Mughals for a considerable time, which gives the cuisine here an edge over all the other cities in the country. The Taj Ganj area in the city is one of the best places where you can enjoy lip smacking dishes from Mughlai cuisine. The must-have dishes during a visit to Agra include the boti kebab, seekh and tandoori chicken.
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If you are looking for a good restaurant, there are several places in Agra where you can enjoy this royal cuisine. The Only Restaurant at Taj Ganj is an upscale restaurant which allows you to indulge in the best of Mughlai cuisine amidst regal settings in soft and vibrant colours. The interiors of the restaurant provide a classy atmosphere. Bright tablecloths and bamboo lined interiors make the place look beautiful. The restaurant also plays live music in the evenings.
Another such place is the Park Dining Room which offers great service, fantastic food and a wonderful ambience. Guests can also have dishes from Chinese and Continental cuisines. The third best place to feast your taste buds is the Moti Mahal Deluxe – Tandoori Trail which offers fantastic Mughlai cuisine. The signature dishes at this restaurant include Dal Makhni, Tandoori Chicken and Butter Chicken.
7. Visit Akbar’s Mausoleum at Sikandra
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Visiting the tomb of Akbar in Sikandra is one of the things to do in Agra. The tomb is one of the most notable masterpieces of the Mughal era. Built in 1605 to 1616, this tomb sprawls over 119 acres. The construction of the tomb was commissioned by Emperor Akbar himself around 1600. He had done this in accordance with the Tartary tradition of commencing the construction of one’s own tomb during his lifetime. Akbar chose the location and planned the structure of the tomb himself. The structure was completed by his son Jahangir in 1605-1613, after the Emperor’s death.
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The tomb is situated in Sikandra, which is located at a distance of 8 km from the city centre, and is very close to the tomb of Miriam, who was the wife of Akbar and the mother of Jahangir. The tomb is noted for its remarkable architectural style. The South gate of the structure is the largest and has four marble chhatri topped minarets, similar to those of the Taj Mahal. It is surrounded by walls on four sides and the building is a four tiered pyramid. This pyramid is surmounted by a marble pavillion which contains the false tomb. The actual tomb is located in the basement.
The mausoleum is constructed out of red sandstone and its features are enhanced by the white marble. The inlaid panels of these materials and black slate adorn the tomb of the great emperor as well as the main gatehouse. The designs used for the panels are geometric, floral and calligraphic.
The tomb of the great Emperor Akbar is one of the most important tourist destinations in Agra and attracts a large number of tourists from all over the country and the world. It is one of the must-visit destinations in Agra if you are interested in history and architecture of the Mughals.
8. Bird Watching and Chambal River Safari
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Situated at a distance of about 77 km from Agra is the River Chambal. The National Chambal Safari is a protected zone which boasts of 242 species of resident and migratory bird species, muggers, gharials, eight species of turtles and Gangetic dolphins.
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It is one of the places that you must visit during a trip to Agra as it offers a lot of things to see in Agra. You can take jeep rides or camel rides to enjoy the beauty of the region. For a closer experience you can cruise down the river or walk through the lush green fields or simply laze under the sun.
The National Chambal Safari offers a great opportunity for bird watching and you can learn more about the different species of birds in the region during bird watching trips. This trip is an absolute delight to the senses and will give you a relaxing and refreshing experience.