The Agra Guide – Visiting the Home of the Taj Mahal
Millions of visitors each year descent on the heavily congested city of Agra which is famous worldwide for being the home of one of the Eight Wonders of the World – The Taj Mahal. Navigating the city can seem pretty hectic and chaotic but there’s more than just tales of love and heartbreak wandering its streets.
We sent several days in Agra, visiting the Taj Mahal and finding other things that the city has to offer. Here is our guide to getting the most out of Agra;
(If you want to check out our 9 Best Tips for the Taj Mahal, find them here.)
When to go
The best time often recommended for travellers to visit Agra is in the winter between the months of November and February. Our trip to Agra happened to fall in April and although in the midday heat temperatures were hitting highs of 40C we managed to hide from the heat in cafes and restaurants. As we were outside of the peak tourist season we found that Agra was quieter although still hectic with traffic, it also worked out well for us with visiting the Taj Mahal!
Where to stay
Hotel Saniya Palace
Not to be confused with another oddly spelt hotel with a similar name a few streets over is the cheap and cheerful Hotel Saniya Palace. Its super close location to the East Gate of the Taj Mahal is one of its highlights but so are the lovely staff.
The completely no-frills budget rooms are located on the first floor and they are definitely not anything special but if you just want a cheap room and a flushing toilet then you are in luck. After having a few dodgy rooms in other cities we upgraded to their A/C room which is a stand-alone room on their rooftop next to their rooftop cafe. We really loved this room and we got stunning views of the Taj Mahal from our window too. The promise of hot water was slightly optimistic and the A/C unit leaked all over the floor but we were happy with a comfortable bed for two nights.
The food from the cafe is good too but beware of the monkeys (who will be chased off by staff members with bamboo sticks).
What to do
See the Taj Mahal
Well, the number one thing to do in Agra and the reason most people visit the city is for the breathing and quite frankly majestic mausoleum, The Taj Mahal. Spending a few hours walking around the grounds and the tombs are something not to be missed on a trip to India. We decided against booking a guide and instead we did our own research on the site before and after our visit. It was wonderful to explore it for ourselves and to see it with our own eyes. Make sure you get up before sunrise to beat the crowds and to watch the sun and all its vibrant colours light up the Taj. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you and that you enough charge on your camera!
For more tips on how to get the best out of your trip to the Taj Mahal, click here.
Entrance fee: 1000 rupees (£11/$14) this includes a bottle of water and shoe covers.
Find out more on the official Taj Mahal website here.
Watch a sunset
As much as seeing a sunrise in Agra is magical so is catching a sunset from a rooftop restaurant or from the banks of the river. We spent time watching the sunset from the rooftop cafe at Saniya Palace and we saw hundreds of colourful kites being flown right across the city. You’ll also get to watch the many monkey families playing around as the sun goes down.
Visit the Sheroes Hangout
There’s more than one reason to spend an extra day in Agra and that’s so that you can pay a visit to the Sheroes Hangout. She + heroes + hangout = Sheroes Hangout and this name has been given to the heroic women who run and work in the cafe who are acid attack survivors. These women aim to raise awareness surrounding acid attacks by interacting with diners and this outlet aids them in taking their power back, building back their self-confidence, and earning a living.
This cute cafe offers a varied menu of Indian and Western cuisine, including a delicious vegetarian burger. Visit them for lunch or dinner and when you leave pay what you think it is worth as there are no prices on the menu. The charity regularly run campaigns for acid attack survivors, and they also have a sister cafe in Lucknow.
The staff are lovely and friendly and there is a wall plastered with well wishes and comments from visitors from around the world who have come in to show their support and to eat some tasty food.
Find out more about them here.
Where to eat
Hotel Sainya Palace
The rooftop restaurant at our hotel was a fairly decent place and offered a mix of meat and vegetarian dishes. Staff were accommodating for dietary requests and they are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We particularly enjoyed the dhal and the aloo gobi. Their menu is quite simple but with a mix of Indian and Western dishes.
The best part about the cafe is the view of the Taj Mahal and over the other houses in the area, we bumped into many tour guides bringing their guests in for a dinner with a view. I doubt there is another budget hotel with such a good view!
Find them here.
We came for lunch here due to its high-ratings coming from Happy Cow (which is a plant-based bible for those travelling in India!). We visited a few times as the staff were friendly and they understand vegan meal requests. If you order the sizeable lunch thali staff will give you extra dhal and hold on the curd! Their menu is small but there are many options for a hearty Indian lunch or dinner and everything is vegetarian. Their prices are refreshing cheap too. They also have air conditioning and cool drinks.
We’d highly recommend it too!
Find them here.
Getting there and away
Agra is well connected with its bus and train stations. We arrived at Agra Fort station from Jaipur via train in under 4 hours and we also left by train via the Agra Cantt station. Tickets can be booked through hotels, guesthouses or by travel agents. Note that some tickets on Indian trains are left over for the tourist quota but in peak season these can fill up quickly so always try to book as far in advance as possible, you’ll also save extra charges from purchasing last minute tickets!
Find out more on the Indian Railways website here.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to Agra if you have any other tips or recommendations let us and other travellers know in the comments below!
Peace + plane tickets ✈