The beginning of this trip was full on. With plenty of optional activities which people didn’t want to turn down, we wouldn’t really get any ‘free’ time until we arrived in Pushkar in 4 days time.
But for now, it was time to continue our journey as we travelled to Agra.
Agra lies 206km (128 miles) south of Delhi, and sits on the Yamuna River.
It is also home to one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal.
For many people, visiting the Taj Mahal is one of the main reasons for visiting India. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the Taj. Of course I was. But for me, it was a nice to see, and not my main reasons for visiting.
Before we reached the Taj Mahal for our afternoon visit, it was time to board our train from Delhi to Agra. During the train journey, our group was split, and I found myself sitting next to a local lady. I had heard that Indian people love to chat, so was bracing myself for a torrent of questions. We exchanged the usual niceties, Where are you from? Where are you travelling to? And then we let each other travel in peace, with the exception of saying our goodbyes and wishes of safe travels at the end of the 2 hour journey.
On arrival at the bustling train station in Agra, we headed outside to pick up our taxis which had been arranged prior to our arrival. It became quite clear throughout the trip, that our group leader Afsha had built up a relationship with local taxi companies, as she seemed to know them all, which added an extra layer of safety to out trip (and less opportunities to be scammed)!
Our first stop of the day was Agra Fort. Agra Fort was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638 when the capital of India was moved from Agra to Delhi. In 1983, Agra Fort became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
On arrival at the Fort, we were lucky enough to witness a solar eclipse. Does it get any better than seeing an eclipse in magical, enchanting India?
Sadly, it was too much of a cloudy/smoggy day to see the Taj from the Fort. It looked as though we would have to wait until our visit to the Taj Mahal to see it properly.
Despite Agra being famous for the Taj Mahal, according to the guide books, it doesn’t have much else to offer, but I would certainly recommend visiting Agra Fort if you are staying Agra for a day or two.
From Agra Fort, it was time to jump into our taxis which were waiting to take us to our hotel, ready to freshen up before we made our way to the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal needs little introduction.
Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth in 1631. The emperor was left heartbroken. Construction of the Taj Mahal started the following year. Shortly after it was completed, circa 1653, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son, and was imprisoned in Agra Fort where he spent the rest of his days gazing out through a window at the Taj Mahal. After his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried inside the Taj Mahal alongside his beloved Mumtaz.
Today, more than 3 million tourists visit the Taj Mahal each year.
Having arrived at the Taj feeling slightly unwell (we all knew Delhi Belly would strike at some point, but I was praying this wouldn’t be the day!), we battled with the crowds as we made our way to the entrance.
As we caught our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, I felt myself well up. I still can’t really explain why. Whether it was the beauty of the structure that stood in front of me, or whether it’s the story behind it’s construction. It was simply breathtaking. I had seen hundreds, if not thousands of photos of the Taj, yet none of them did it justice. Even my own photos don’t do it justice. I just stood in awe looking at the beautiful site in front of me.
They say the Taj looks at it’s best from a distance. And I guess it does in a way. But it’s also fascinating close up, as you can see the detailed carvings in the great marble structure.
As the sun set on another cold, but magical day, it was time to return to our hotel in preparation for an early start the following day.
Much to our dismay, when we reached the hotel, we found there was no internet. Thanks to the ongoing political situation in India, certain states throughout our time in India would be experiencing the same problem. With no prior warnings so we could let our loved ones know, it felt strange being completely cut off from the outside world. In a weird way, it came with a sense of excitement. We had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world, and the outside world had no idea where we were. For almost 24 hours, we were lost to India…