One of the magnificient wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is also known as India’s honour, diginity and pride. This monument of love, built in the 17th Century still manages to woo the hearts of not just Indians, but many foreign nationals as well. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the number of footfalls of domestic and foreign tourists in Taj Mahal was a whopping 7.68 million in 2014, showing an increase of nearly 10.2% from the previous year (Archaeological Survey of India, 2015).
But, while many know the ancient city of Agra as the home to Taj Mahal, they don’t realise that the city in itself is a lot more. Right from attractions like the Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, and others, there are many tourist destinations in Agra, that this city can boast about!
Keeping that in mind, here are three things that make Agra one of the best tourist destinations in the world, besides the magnificent Taj Mahal of course:
The Shopping Therapy
Metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi are often known as the shopping hubs of India. But, if you are looking for something other than the conventional Prada or Gucci, Agra is the place to be. The quaint markets of Agra are famous for their marble stone inlay and collection of valubale products like leather shoes, belts and bags. Also, thier exquite jewellery and embroidery work is one you just cannot resist. But, that’s not all. While the products are unique in themselves, walking through the streets of Agra markets is an experience you just cannot miss. A busy thoroughfare of lanes and streets, with charming bright colours and intriguing little antique shops, the Kinari Bazar offers a variety of products along with a traditional Agra experience.
On the other hand, located close to the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and many Agra hotels, the Sardar Bazar is probably the next best place to shop in Agra. The shops here have items with a diverse price range, letting you shop for products as small as the quintessential Taj souvenirs to even garden furniture. Take your pick!
Every place has a unique and special type of food that represents its culture, and Agra is no less. While it’s gol gappas for Delhi, Agra, much like its people, prefer the sweeter cuisines. And, one in particular, ‘Petha’, a delicacy said to have originated from the kitchen of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, is an all-time favourite. Such is its popularity, that you will start seeing signs of shops selling Petha the minute you enter Agra. But, Agra cuisine isn’t limited to just sweetness. Like most parts of India, chaats (savoury snacks) like bhalla, kachoris and samosas are well-liked in Agra as well.
The Magnificent Monuments
Agra was ruled by the Mughals for a long time, and the Mughals were known for their love of architecture. Considering this, it is hardly a surprise that Agra is endowed with many fine buildings and monuments, which are sure to leave you awestruck and mesmerised. While the list is endless, a few great monuments of Agra include the Agra Fort, Taj Mahal, Humayun Fort, Fatehpur Sikhri, Bland Darwaza, Jama Masjid and many more. These structures are so well-built that even today, after many years, visiting these sites take you back to the era when the Mughal Kingdom was at its peak. After all, these monuments are the best examples of Mughal architecture in India. Truly magnificent!
The Bears Are Fine
While shopping, food and monuments are pretty standard attractions for most tourist destinations, what makes Agra stand out of the crowd is its Bear Rescue Facility. Taking a complete diversion from the culture and atmosphere of Agra, this facility is a wonderful initiative taken by the Agra government. Located about 20km from the main city is one of India’s biggest bear rehabilitation centre where rescued animals undergo complete a health check-up and are given medical aid if needed. What’s more, this facility is open for visitors seven days a week, during day times, where visitors can take a walk inside the centre and even choose to sponsor an animal. Thanks to Agra, the bears are just fine!
Yes, you should visit the Taj Mahal while in Agra, but don’t be surprised if Agra gives you much more. Outside the world of luxury hotels in Agra, is a world filled with culture, traditional paintings, folk dances, folk music and much more, that is sure to leave you awe-struck!