I was seventeen when I last visited Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. So, when we got the opportunity to take the kids to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri during a weekend, we jumped at it. I wanted to show the kids how beautiful the Taj really is. I was a little apprehensive because when I last visited, I remember a tourist area filled with hustlers, tiny shops and lots of filth everywhere. But, I also remember just how stunning the Taj Mahal was — it rose up like a lotus in a pond.
Day 1 – Reach Delhi and take a taxi to Agra
We reached Delhi late in the afternoon. We pre-hired a taxi to take us to Agra. Note: It is possible to visit these three places as a day trip by leaving Delhi early in the morning and returning late in the night (which we did when I was a kid). However, when you do that, most often you reach Agra late in the morning and it does get pretty hot quickly. This time around, we wanted to visit the Taj at sunrise — boy was it worth it!
Important Note: We also pre-booked our sunrise time entry tickets to the Taj Mahal on their official website. Make sure you carry clear printouts or save it properly on your phone along with your IDs. Check their website for the most current entry requirements.
We travelled on the Yamuna Expressway. Along the way we stopped at a rest stop (the 2nd one from Delhi) and had dinner. We reached Agra at night and checked into our hotel. The next morning, we headed out around 5:30am.
Day 2 – Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and back to Delhi
At 5:30am our taxi arrived and took us to the Taj Mahal. Instead of walking in the bazaar (there is a nice pedestrian path now), we paid a small amount of money to take a minibus to the entrance. We showed our e-tickets (this is where print outs are much better) before going in. Once we crossed the entrance, jaws dropped! Spectacular!! There really is nothing like it. The Taj Mahal was especially gorgeous with the early morning sunshine lighting it gently. Honestly, no photos can describe or capture what your eye sees. We spent the next two hours wandering around the premises with the help of a local guide.
Around 8:30am we headed back to the hotel to grab breakfast. After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and headed to Agra Fort. We spent about two hours looking around the fort before heading to Fatehpur Sikri.
Before leaving Agra we stopped by a small sweet store to pick up some of the famous Agra sweets in a bustling market.
We reached Fatehpur Sikri around 1pm. We decided to have lunch at a restaurant by the highway. Once in, it appeared many folks stop by for lunch. Afterward we headed to the Fort.
The accessibility of the fort has been improved significantly. You can once again travel by mini bus to the entrance area and walk the rest of the way. It will take you about 3 hours to properly explore the fort and the mosque (along with the Tomb of Salim Chishti who is a descendant of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer).
After the sightseeing was completed, we took a short coffee break before heading back to Delhi.
- Spending an extra day in Agra is not a bad idea. There are many other interesting places to visit if you have the time, including, Akbar’s Tomb and a bear sanctuary.
- Close to Fatehpur Sikri is the Keoladeo National Park, which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. For us, the timings (time of the year and time of the day) did not work out this time around. But, depending on when you plan to visit, do consider this small detour — especially if you are a bird watcher.
- Mathura (birthplace of Lord Krishna) is also close to Fatehpur Sikri. It is a nice place to visit and spend some time as it is a culturally very important place.
- Visiting the Taj – Morning, noon or night? Well, I visited during the morning and noon times and my vote would definitely be for morning time. Night? Have seen pictures and heard about its beauty at night, but can’t give you first hand feedback… maybe next time.
- Places to stay in Agra – Depends on how long you plan to be there. If you want to go all out, staying at a really nice, high end hotel makes sense. However, if your objective is just to find a nice place to spend the night, there are many clean, nice hotels that will fit the bill and are very affordable.
- Paid toilets and mini-bus rides – Carry small change with you ( Rs. 5 and 10) so that you can have access to clean toilets or use the mini-bus to ferry you to the entrances.
- Shopping – Marble inlay art is very famous in Agra. There is so much haggling that you really don’t know the right price… just buy for the amount you are comfortable with. We did end up picking up an expensive display plate. We were hoping to purchase a green/gray soapstone art piece from Fatehpur Sikri but just did not have the time to shop : (
- Bottomline – you can comfortably complete this circuit in 2 days.
Photo credits: Full front view of Buland Darwaza, Agra Fort close-ups, Akbar’s Tomb close-ups – These pictures were taken by my son and he has kindly shared them with me 🙂