When you think of India you probably think of the Taj Mahal, and rightly so! Located in the city of Agra just a few hours south of Delhi, it’s a world famous icon and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also made the list as one of the New 7 Wonders of The World. The Taj Mahal is an incredible edifice made completely from marble with intricate stone work carved right into every surface.
While visiting here is a must, there are a few other impressive sites to see while in Agra. Plan to spend a bit more time in this city after soaking in the main attraction. All within easy driving distance from the Taj, these 3 sites are worth a visit.
Located just up river from the Taj Mahal along the banks of the Yamuna River, this impressive fort encompasses a small city covering approximately 94 acres. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Entering through the Amar Singh Gate, this imposing Mughal fort is one of the best you’ll find in India. The original structure was built some time during the 11th century. It has been occupied by a long line of Sultans, each adding palaces and mosques slowly expanding it over time. With its red walls reaching heights of over 20 meters, its easy to see how it’s remained standing over the centuries despite its long military history.
Filled with white marble rooms and intricate stone work, this once fort-turned-palace is a maze of beauty and a work of art. With stunning views of the the Taj Mahal in the distance, the Agra Fort is full of history so plan to spend a few hours wandering in and out of its rooms and manicured grounds.
The Tomb of Akbar The Great
The Tomb of Akbar The Great is an impressive piece of architecture is located just a short drive from the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. It has some of the most stunning works of art adoring its walls. The shear beauty and intricacy of the tomb is a masterpiece and one of my favorite sites to admire in India.
Staying with tradition, Mughal Emperor Akbar The Great began planning the construction of his own tomb around the year 1600. Though he died before it was finished, his son took over construction of the massive tomb, finishing it in 1613.
The grand entrance gate itself is absolutely incredible and that’s just the start. Made of red sandstone, it has 4 minarets made of white marble measuring 3 stories high.
After passing through the gateway you emerge on the other side to a long, beautiful courtyard with gardens on either side (you may even see wild deer grazing).
Once inside the complex you make your way to the tomb itself, located inside the massive structure at the end of the walkway. Be sure to look up and all around at the walls as you enter through the colorful entrance hall.
Once inside the actual tomb, you can view the white marble cenotaph of Akbar The Great. Surprisingly, the tomb is located in a very plain, square room without much fanfare.
Unlike the Taj Mahal, you can spend as much time as you like wandering the insides of the tomb without a line up of people. Take the time to wander through the whole complex and maybe pause to rest your legs.
The Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah
The beautiful site goes by the nick name “Baby Taj” as it’s also made out of white marble and has a slight resemblance to its big brother, the Taj Mahal. It too is located along the banks of the Yamuna River and the grounds are beautiful to stroll around away from crowds.
As with the Tomb of Akbar The Great, you enter through a large, beautifully decorated gate and emerge into a garden on the other side. The Tomb itself is, once again, an intricate piece of work. Its covered with in-layed stones of various colors creating stunning patterns all over the walls, inside and out.
Much smaller than the previous 2 sights, the Baby Taj is still worth a visit. A Mughal mausoleum, it also has the nick name of “jewel box” and some believe it to be the draft for the Taj Mahal. Commissioned by Nur Jahan, who was the wife of Jahangir, (the fourth Mughal Emperor and eldest son of Akbar the Great) it was to be the tomb for her father. Built between 1622 and 1628, the entire complex is perfectly symmetrical except for the 2 cenotaphs lying side by side in its interior. There lie the parents of Nur Jahan.
Like the Tomb of Akbar The Great, the grounds have a few other buildings scattered around the complex, all lined up in a grid pattern. This site won’t take as long to explore as the others, and I found it to be very peaceful and relaxing.
Overall, I’m glad I had an extra day to explore the other sites of Agra after visiting the Taj Mahal. There is so much history located in this large city that its worth the time to spend an extra day or two visiting these lesser-known edifices.