Sprawled along the banks of the Yamuna River in Uttar Pradesh, the medieval city of Agra boasts wonder after wonder, from the imposing Agra Fort to the enduring monument of love that is the Taj Mahal.
Agra was India’s capital in the 16th and 17th centuries and showcases the zenith of Mughal architecture. Most visitors are drawn by the irresistible allure of the Taj Mahal, the most celebrated of Indian monuments and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Commissioned by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his beloved wife, this extravagant marble mausoleum took 20,000 craftsmen 22 years to build. It’s striking from a distance and even more so up close with its carefully carved marble domes, inlaid precious stones and landscaped gardens. See it at its best at sunrise, its ivory marble sparkling in the morning light.
Close by are the immense 20-metre walls of the Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 16th century. Overlooking the Yamuna River, this vast fortress complex was the main residence of the Mughal Dynasty emperors. Explore the magnificent marble mosques, imposing gateways and exquisite palaces within before crossing the river to reach the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. Nicknamed the ‘Baby Taj’, the tomb is acknowledged as the forerunner of the Taj Mahal with its four corner minarets and intricate carvings.
It’s well worth venturing beyond Agra to see the deserted red sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri. Built by Emperor Akbar in the late 16th century, the city was abandoned soon after completion but has been amazingly preserved and looks much the same as it did in its heyday. Its former wealth is reflected in the impressive buildings that remain, from the Tomb of Salim Chishti to the Jama Masjid and “Gate of Victory” - the highest gate in the world at 54 metres.