When I first came to Delhi, I was scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal as a day trip on my third day, but due to some bad experiences with taxi drivers I gave up on my plans and just stayed in my Delhi hotel room for the whole day. Luckily, I was not to be deterred for much longer, as I visited again one year later. With the Yamuna Expressway now allowing journeys between Delhi and Agra of 2 hours, there really is no excuse to visit Agra and of course the Taj Mahal, which many people consider to be India’s jewel in the crown. However, what some tourists don’t know is that Agra Fort, just a short tuktuk drive from the Taj, is equal to its more famous white marble cousin in almost every way!
The Taj Mahal is one of the true wonders of the world, and remains the most visited sight in Agra, India, and the whole Indian sub-continent – and with good reason! From the huge domed roof, to the striking minarets, and from the reflecting pools in front of the façade to the symmetrical parks and gardens surrounding the mausoleum itself, the Taj really is a great spectacle to behold. But can it be labelled the best attraction in Agra when you have the wonder of Agra Fort close by?
Much like the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visually, it is very similar to Lal Qila (the Red Fort) in Delhi, and sort of like Amber Fort in Jaipur. Built in the 11th century, Agra Fort is very important in terms of architectural history, and was actually the site of a battle during the Indian Rebellion in 1857 which led to a century of British rule thereafter. There is a great variation in colour here at Agra Fort compared to the layers of white marble you will find at the Taj, and something makes it look a little more real than its more famous sister attraction.
The entry price to Agra Fort is 300 Rupees for a foreigner (only 20 Rupees for Indian nationals), whereas access to the Taj Mahal will set you back another 1000 Rupees (a mere 40 Rupees for Indians). You can see that the Taj Mahal is much more expensive, and this is because the authorities know that tourists will pay the price to see it regardless. Overcharging foreigners is a common [mal]practice in India and Sri Lanka, but it didn’t deter me – although I am not sure I would bother visiting again if I was on a shoestring budget (based on the extortionate entry fees). One good thing at the Taj Mahal is that visitors under the age of 15 are not permitted access, so while it gets extremely busy with tourists like me, at least you won’t have any screaming kids getting in the way of your attempt to get that perfect selfie!