Travel Log: Two Days in Agra, India

 You may have seen on my socials that I recently had a wonderful opportunity to tour the "Golden Triangle" of India. My husband had a work trip come to fruition to the Delhi area, and while we were not originally planning to visit India this year we said "why not?" and planned out one week plus weekends itinerary after his work week that included visits to Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan/Ajabgarh, and Jaipur. You can find my Delhi travel log here, my Rajasthan/Ajabgarh travel log here, and today I am sharing how we spent two days in the historic city of Agra. Agra is the home of the majestic Taj Mahal built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to honor his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal--one of the seven modern wonders of the world, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a must see when visiting this part of India. Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire from the early to mid-1600's and contains additional important historical sites such as Akbar's Tomb and the Agra Fort. Please continue reading to see photos and details of how we spent our time in Agra, India.


We knew that we wanted to treat ourselves to a stay at the Oberoi Amarvillas during our time in Agra. The Oberoi Amarvilas is a five star luxury hotel located 600 meters from the Taj Mahal, beautifully designed taking inspiration from Mughal architecture, and each room has a view of this modern wonder of the world. In addition to the incredible views from the rooms, there are also views from the bar and lounge plus a stunning pool with both indoor and outdoor lounge areas. We booked a Premier Room with private balcony and I cannot say enough good things about the service and overall experience. If you are heading to Agra, I highly recommend this hotel and believe you will not be disappointed.








One of many wonderful benefits to staying at the Oberoi Amarvilas is a seamless sunrise Taj Mahal tour experience arranged by the hotel's wonderful staff. Our early morning started with coffee, tea, and pastries in the bar off the lobby at 5:00am, then at roughly 5:15am we met our guide and hopped in a golf cart waiting outside to transport us to the East Gate entrance to the Taj Mahal. A quick scan of our tickets at the entrance gates, a quick security check, and we were in. One thing to keep in mind so that it does not surprise you: there are separate security lines for men and women at not only the Taj Mahal, but also other attractions, shopping malls, and the airport. It was never a big deal, just a callout to make sure you get in the right line and on your way. Once inside the Taj Mahal gates, we spent approximately two hours walking through the grounds with our guide, learning an incredible amount of history and design details, and just taking it all in. I highly recommend touring the Taj Mahal with a guide for a couple of reasons: first and foremost you are highly likely to learn more than you would if you walked around by yourself with a guidebook, and second if you already have a guide you will be spared from people asking you every few seconds if you want to hire them for a guide or a photographer. I cannot blame anyone for hustling to make ends meet, but I have seen commentary from other tourists that the persistence can be exhausting to manage.


As I mentioned in my introduction to this post, the Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to honor his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after her death. It was commissioned in 1631 and completed in entirety in 1653 at a cost that in today's dollars equates to approximately $78M USD. What is amazing to me is that it took a total of only 22 years to complete this impressive marble structure without any modern technology or equipment. I read that over 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants were deployed to complete this massive construction project. The building itself is set within a 300 square meter garden with symmetrical quadrants and the long reflecting pool that you likely have seen in photos. There is a raised platform with two benches (one being the famous "Diana bench" where Princess Diana posed for her now iconic solo photo during her 1992 India tour), and below you'll see my attempt at getting a photo near the bench without people...but I still had to use my less than impressive Lightroom skills to remove a couple of people from the shot.


While I had learned a bit about the Taj Mahal from history books, facts such as who built it and why, I was grateful to learn so much more during our tour with our knowledgable guide. One example was learning about the mixture of architectural design: in addition to the Hindu elements due to India's deep Hindu roots, there are Islamic elements such as the Quranic verses inlaid in black onyx around the marble archways of the four entrances and Persian elements such as the floral designs inlaid in various precious gemstones in both the exterior and interior marble of the building because Mumtaz Mahal was Persian. Around the exterior, there are also thoughtful design details such as how the four columns at each corner were built at a 5cm angle so that they appear straight when you admire them from a distance. Inside the Taj Mahal, Mumtaz Mahal's tomb is placed at the exact center of the structure with her husband's tomb added in later on as the only non-symmetrical element of the entire complex. I highly recommend taking a tour of the Taj Mahal with a guide for the most meaningful learning experience. Last but not least--our guide knew all of the best photo spots to be sure to take us, including the most popular photos you see on Instagram. 10/10 recommend.









After our sunrise tour of the Taj Mahal, we were whisked back to the Oberoi Amarvilas via golf cart and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the main restaurant. Since we visited in the height of the dry season and temperatures were very warm during our time in Agra (highs of 105-106 degrees F/41 degrees C), we spent some time at the pool during the late morning and early afternoon and relaxed in our air conditioned room during the hottest hours of the day. We enjoyed sunset drinks with that beautiful view of the Taj Mahal, and a wonderful meal at the on-site Indian restaurant Esphahan that is only open in the evening for dinner. After our extremely informative tour of the Taj Mahal, we decided to continue our history education the following morning with a tour of the Agra Fort. Agra was the capital of India during the reign of Mughal emperors Humayun, Akbar, and Shah Jahan, until one of Shah Jahan's sons moved the capital back to Delhi. Shah Jahan spent the last years of his life under house arrest at the Agra Fort, in the company of his daughters and with a view of the Taj Mahal across the river. An early morning tour of the Agra Fort (~8:00am) meant that we had the place to ourselves, as many tourists visit the Taj Mahal first and then make their way over to the fort. The fort is constructed of red sandstone and beautiful marble with Quranic verses inlaid in black onyx and floral designs inlaid in precious gemstones similar to the Taj Mahal. Our guide shared that when designing the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan had artisans first work on the Agra Fort to prove their skills in a sort of "interview" for who proved themselves worthy to work on the Taj Mahal.



How amazing are the views of the Taj Mahal from this fort? I could not believe how beautiful the views were in the morning light and can only imagine how it must have looked in the 1500's and 1600's with crocodiles swimming in the moats and elephants walking outside of the walls. There are really cool animal and nature design elements built into the fort that you can see below: elephants sculpted into the exterior towers, marble supports designed to look like horse heads under the roof, and floral details around a central well in the floor. Call me a nerd, but I loved seeing all of these impressive details!






There were also similarities to the Red Fort we visited in India such as the receiving hall comprised of arches where the emperors would enable citizens to come and make requests on certain days of the year. There are geometric designs and symmetry throughout the structures and grounds that is so impressive to see considering how long ago they were built and without modern technology or equipment. I highly recommend taking time to visit the Agra Fort, with a guide if you can, to make the most of your learning experience.





Have you visited Agra and the Taj Mahal? If you have, please be sure to leave me a comment to let me know your favorite moment or place you visited. If Agra was not already on your list, I hope I have inspired you to think about adding this beautiful city and a tour of its historical sites to your future travel plans. Thank you for visiting my blog today and I hope you have a fabulous week! 

Comments

  1. Oh, how wonderful that an opportunity to travel to India arose like that! Love your outfit and the photos, would love to see the Taj Mahal in person one day! <3


    http://www.couture-case.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jelena, for visiting my blog and for your kind note! I am sure when you visit the Taj Mahal one day you will also be amazed. =)

      Delete
  2. What an incredible place to stay and loving all these pics of the Taj Mahal! I love all your travel posts so much!

    https://www.kathrineeldridge.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Kathrine! I am very much enjoying sharing my India travels and am so glad you are enjoying them.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Jennifer! The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort were incredible to see in person!

      Delete
  4. What an incredible trip! Your photos are stunning! Always love your trip recaps!

    Jill - Doused in Pink

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind note, Jill! I am very much enjoying sharing my India travels and am so glad you are enjoying reading them.

      Delete
  5. This looks incredible! Everything is so beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Laura! Agra and the Taj Mahal were so beautiful and I am happy to be able to share out my travels.

      Delete
  6. Wow! What an incredible opportunity to go and explore with your husband. This was such an awesome post and makes me want to plan another trip in the near future. We've also learned that having a guide for our top priorities is always worth it because the stories they tell are educational and entertaining. I also thought splitting the two big excursions into two days was a good idea. A nice balance of learning and relaxing.

    bosbodaciousblog.blogspot.ca

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind note, Bo! I am very much enjoying sharing my India travels and am so glad that you are enjoying reading them. A balance between learning and relaxing was also important to us so that we didn't feel like the week disappeared too quickly. I hope your week is going great so far!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the blogging world and leaving a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

Popular Posts