Agra is easily accessible from road, rail and air, though the frequency of flights is very low, so think twice before taking this route. I chose the rail route, as I am more of a train person; it took me 2 hours 50 mins, a distance of 204.2 km via the Taj Express Highway to reach Agra from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station. Ours was only a day-long trip.
Once you get down at Agra Cantonment railway station there is a proper, organised government system in place with fixed prices, whether you choose a taxi or a rickshaw, and it’s hassle-free. Choose one destination, or half day or full day services from the available options at a nominal rate. For a half-day trip, it’s just 500 for a rickshaw and 750 for a taxi. I opted for a rickshaw.
From there our journey started with what else, but the Taj Mahal! It was Independence week, so security was quite tight, and it took us almost 1.5-2 hours just to get into the Taj Mahal (you have to first buy a ticket, then there are different queues for men, women, and for foreigners, or the VIP line from which you can enter by paying a higher amount).
Finally I entered the Taj Mahal, whose construction began in 1632 and finished in 1648. The Taj Mahal, the eighth wonder of the world, lived up to its name and made for a worthwhile visit and experience, though the heat and long wait had killed most of my excitement.
Right next to the Taj Mahal, is a mosque made up of red sandstone and a mirror image of the mosque; together their symmetries perfectly balance the architecture of the Taj Mahal. Personally I loved the mosque, because I like colour. For me, the red sandstone was a better sight than the white marble. I know a lot of you would disagree here, but this is what I like!
Our second destination was Agra’s Red Fort, just 2.5 km northwest of the Taj Mahal. It’s huge but was much less crowded. As we reached, it started raining heavily, a phenomenon that Agra rarely witnesses (according to our rickshawala), so the roads are just not equipped to handle heavy showers. There’s water-logging within a few minutes of any downpour.
There are quite a few stand-alone shops that sell items made of marble, banana-silk saree, cotton suit piece, etc you can check them; if you like shopping while travelling.
Coming to food, it’s better to carry munchies as much as possible as there are only a handful of restaurants that don’t serve good quality or tasty food; there is no facility to eat outside the station, and according to some locals, the single present eatery was shut for renovation.
Agra is also known for its pethas, a special kind of sweet available in every sweet shop in the city. Agra Petha is made up of ash gourd or white pumpkin. There are almost 50 varieties of Pethas available, ranging from plain Petha and Angoori-flavored petha, to kesari petha and mango petha, to cube petha and many more.
If you’re not very much of a planner, then there are a lot of tour packages for the day, ranging anywhere between 800-1500 per person, which includes A/C Transport, Breakfast and Guide (I didn’t find the guide especially useful, so I wouldn’t recommend it).
Do remember that Agra is officially shut on Friday, so plan accordingly!
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