I have been to Agra many times for a day trip or a maximum of two days to explore the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, and nearby attractions. I visited Agra mainly to explore the Taj Mahal, famously known as the Seven Wonders of the World. I had the impression that Agra is only meant for the Taj Mahal but my perceptions about Agra got misplaced as I discovered Agra beyond Taj when I was recently invited by Ekaa Villa to explore the places and not the Taj. Due to a large amount of publicity for the Taj Mahal, other offbeat, lesser-known places have been dwarfed in front of it. Truly, my first response was what could Agra bring more to the table, yet I was soon to find out in any case. And it makes me wonder how often people know about Offbeat Agra places beyond the Taj Mahal.
Agra has many significant tombs, gardens, and monuments which are spectacular sights to visit but are often overshadowed by the Taj Mahal. Agra Beyond Taj is perfect for armchair travellers who love to experience beyond touristy activities.
The oldest Persian garden in India, Aram Bagh or Ram Bagh is an ideal point of interest to cherish the Yamuna river view and learn about the Mughal Dynasty. Built by Babur in 1528, this garden was one of the most beautiful places in Agra in that era. According to legend, Emperor Akbar proposed to his third wife here, who was a gardener and caretaker there, by lying idle for 6 days until she agreed to marry him.
The garden was created in the concept of Paradise or Jannat where canals and pathways are divided into four ways which represent the Islamic Jannat.
The garden has so many water spurts which make the garden cold in the summer season.
The entry cost is 200 rupees for foreigners and 20 rupees for Indians, and it’s open until sunset.
IItimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb or the Baby Taj, the dazzling tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg, ought not to be missed. This Persian aristocrat was Mumtaz Mahal’s grandfather and Emperor Jehangir’s wazir (chief minister). His daughter Nur Jahan, who wedded Jehangir, constructed the burial chamber somewhere in the range of 1622 and 1628 in a style like the burial place she worked for Jehangir, close to Lahore in Pakistan. It is viewed as the draft of the Taj Mahal.
The entry cost is 210 rupees for foreigners and 10 rupees for Indians, and it’s open until sunset.
While visiting another prominent Garden Mehtab bagh, we found 11 stairs standing tall in an unstructured way. Just 11 stairs and nothing surrounding gives the place something different vibe. No strong history is found behind those 11 stairs, but they might have been represented as a sun clock to calculate the time according to the sun’s movement.
If you do not want to see Taj in the crowd, Mehtab Bagh should be your option then. You can see an amazing view of the Taj from across the river bank. This would be your view to always remember this kind of moment. This 25 acres Mughal Garden was built before the Taj by Babur and is situated directly opposite of Taj Mahal. Mehtab Bagh is also called Moonlight Garden. This place is also wrongly called the Black Taj Mahal, which Emperor Shahjahan wanted to make for himself.
The entry cost is 300 rupees for foreigners and 25 rupees for Indians, and it’s open until sunset.
Built-in red sandstone with a white marble inlay, this astonishing Mausoleum is the burial chamber of one of the best Mughal rulers; Akbar. With an amazing entryway with four minarets that have been complicatedly cut and a patio in front of the grave in the basement, which is covered with wonderful stucco artworks, the landmark will provide you with a quintessence of the enumerating with which it has been conceptualized. This is one of the splendid gateways you must visit.
Did you know Akbar had himself started the construction of his tomb, whose designs are similar to the Taj Mahal?
At Sikandra, Akbar’s wife Mariyam Zamani’s tomb is also situated. Akbar’s daughters Shakrul Nisha Begum and Aram Bano are also entombed here at Sikandra.
The entry cost is 110 rupees for foreigners and 15 rupees for Indians, and it’s open until sunset.
I had no idea about this 17th-century Catholic Cemetery, where a vivid collection of inscribed gravestones can be found. The most prominent was John Hessing’s tomb, which is built in red stone and is a replica of the Taj Mahal. Just like Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal as a symbol of his love for his wife Mumtaz, John Hessing’s tomb was built by John’s wife Anne after his death to express her love for John.
Some points are perfect for Sunrise and you can witness a surreal view of the Taj. Dashrath Ghat, and Hathi Ghats are a few examples to cherish the Sunrise points of the Taj Mahal.
To experience Agra like a local, one can walk through Sadar Bazaar, and Kinari Bazaar to get the fantastic shopping vibes. Agra has terrific places to buy churi (bangles), leather stuff, and marble souvenirs as gift items.
Agra is famous for Petha and Daal moths. Petha is one of the famous desserts of Agra which is prepared from pumpkin and sugar. Gopal Das and Panchi Petha are so famous that everyone wants to try these delicacies whenever they are in Agra.
Apart from Petha, Agra has many local cuisines to try which I bet will make you a foodie for sure. Pushpak Mishthan Bhandar is one such the oldest breakfast place that sells hotcakes of Agra called Bhedai, another special heirloom of Agra. Bhedai is served with aloo ki sabzi, which is one of the mouth-watering delicacies your taste buds would look for again. After the tummy-full bhedai do not forget to try Jalebi and Kullhad wali malai milk to make the breakfast like a royal feast.
In the evening we tried Agra’s special chaats from Chaat Galli and at night after dinner, we went to station Market to try some kadahi doodh and soan papdi which would make you visit Agra again.
Trains run from major stations to Agra. From Delhi, it takes 4 hours to reach Agra By Train.
The easiest way to reach Agra by road is to take the Yamuna Expressway from Delhi and you will reach it within 4 hours. There are a lot of Buses from Delhi and other places to visit Agra.
Nearby Airport is Delhi Airport which is 165 km away from Agra. From where you can commute via cab, traitor bus.
Ekaa Villa & Kitchen – I stayed at Ekaa villa, which is Agra’s only boutique hotel situated on Fatehabad Road. They have amazing, colourful 13 rooms across four categories.
I liked their minimalistic plastic usage. In each room, you will find glass bottles instead of plastic water bottles. Also in the washroom, they use glass bottles of toiletries instead of plastic ones. Ekaa has amazing food ( Pattal platter is my recommendation and you must try it).
Note: Try Ekaa’s Agra Beyond Taj Experience with an unparalleled view of the Taj and taste some street famous food to experience an offbeat Agra.
There are many hotels you can see in Agra as per your budget. From budget properties to 5-star resorts, you can find many options if you want to see Taj and not beyond Taj. But if you want to experience Agra as a complete historical city, you must check out a curated package from Ekaa Villa where you can spot all these locations and have some finger-licking food for sure.
The barren roads, the pastoral calmness hung in the air, changing the colour of the mud dunes from clay brown to camel yellow, the nomadic hue of the lifestyle, frequent noises and the half-forgotten walls set against the backdrop of azure sky, Agra is mesmerizing and have soaked its beauty in the rustic chill of its lifestyle.