Places to visit in Agra in one day
Agra is a city that I still have a love hate relationship with. It’s home to some of the most beautiful historical attractions in India, but it is also one of the most hectic and dirty cities on India’s Golden triangle. Luckily it is possible to see all the places to visit in Agra in one day.
I have seen the Taj Mahal three times now and every time it took my breath away. The Taj mahal alone is worth the effort to conquer the chaos of Agra. But there is more to Agra than just the Taj Mahal. The other places to visit in Agra are equally interesting and neatly fit in a one day itinerary.
Agra in one day
On my first visit to India in 2007 I almost didn’t make it to Agra. I fell ill in the nearby village of Fatehpur Sikri. The accumulation of 3 weeks of Indian bacteria in my stomach finally took its toll. I stayed in a lovely guesthouse where I stayed in bed for two days while the concerned staff brought me roti’s and herbal medicines.
I was supposed to stay only one night, but eventually stayed almost a week. The neighbour children took me to their local madrassa and invited me for tea to their homes. The hospitality was heartwarming and it was hard to leave.
But my days were numbered. If I still wanted to see the Taj Mahal I needed to go to Agra. Everything inside of me didn’t want to go to this hectic city, but I made a decision. The next day would be my birthday and nothing is more special than seeing the Taj Mahal on your 25th birthday, isn’t it?
I would take the bus and then hire a tuk tuk to see all the places to visit in Agra in one day. It was the best decision ever. While its tourist attractions are of exquisite beauty, the rest of the city is nothing to write home about.
Later in my life I visited Agra two more times to show the Taj Mahal to my mother and my boyfriend. Even though I never spent more than one day in Agra itself, I did discover some of the interesting places to visit near Agra such as Fatehpur Sikri and Mathura.
In this post I will share with you the most important places to visit in Agra in one day and some suggestions of places to visit near Agra in case you have more time.
Places to visit in Agra in one day
The Taj Mahal is the most beautiful mausoleum in the world and a symbol of love. It was built by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Although it was an arranged marriage when they were both very young they eventually fell in love. She died in 1631 giving birth to their 14th child.
Her last wish was for a large mausoleum to be built in Agra and so Shah Jahan did. It almost emptied the royal treasury and led to famines in the region as grain was diverted to Agra to feed the 20.000 man workforce.
The mausoleum is made of white marble and famous for its pietra dura. An inlay technique in which colored stones are used to create images. Obviously it is a must see, but it is also one of the most busy and crowded attractions in India with over 7 million visitors annually.
The gardens are large enough for people to spread out, but expect to stand in line to get inside the tomb chamber. The cenotaphs you see here are actually empty and the real tombs are at a lower level.
Insider tip: The only reason to stay in Agra is to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise when it is almost pink. It opens at 6 AM and in my opinion it is worth the early wake up call. Not only is the Taj Mahal at its most beautiful in the early hours of the day, but it is also still relatively quiet. Sunset is another great time to see the Taj Mahal, but this time it can be better enjoyed from a boat ride on the Yamuna from where you have some of the best views minus the crowds.
The Agra Fort was the residence of the very first Mughal emperors before the capital changed to Delhi. If you have been in the red fort in Delhi, where the Mughals moved next, you might see some similarities. Both are in fact more like a walled city within a city. Inside there are gardens, courtyards and several palaces. The agra fort is definitely among the top places to visit in Agra in one day.
The tomb of Itimad Ud Daulah is often called the Baby Taj, but it is in fact much older than the Taj Mahal and might even have been used as an inspiration. It’s one of the first examples of the pietra dura inlay technique using precious stones.
Even though the Baby Taj is much smaller, I might have liked it even more than the Taj Mahal. For one, it lacks the crowds and the pietra dura floral patterns are very pretty. Inside you will also find images of trees and vases.
The Jame Masjid (large mosque or friday mosque) in Agra was another master showpiece built by Shah Jahan and is one of the largest mosques in India. Like the Friday mosques in Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri it is made from red sandstone with white marble decorations.
If you still have some time left I can recommend a visit to Sadar bazaar. This is one of the less touristy parts of Agra and a great place to do some shopping. It is not as big or colorful as the bazaars in Jaipur or Delhi, but you can definitely find some nice souvenirs here such as traditional shoes and marble inlay items. For Dinner head to Mamma Franky house that has the best chicken kebabs with naan in Agra.
Places to visit near Agra
While it is possible to see all the places to visit in Agra in one day, there are some interesting places nearby that are a good reason to stay a bit longer in this region. If you have more than one day in Agra consider some of the lesser known places below. All of them are an easy day trip from Agra.
Most people visit Fatehpur Sikri as a daytrip from Agra, but I did it the other way around. I am not a city person and I loved the village atmosphere in this small rural town where I enjoyed the sunset views from the rooftop of my guesthouse while I recovered from my stomach bug.
On my next visits to Agra I always came back to Fatehpur Sikri. Nowadays it is a typical poor village in Uttar Pradesh, but it was once the capital of the Mughal empire. It was founded by Akbar and the choice for Fatehpur Sikri as the new capital was not a coincidence. The place was much loved by Akbar’s predecessors and first Mughal emperors Babur and Humayun.
It was also in Fatehpur Sikri that saint Salim Chisti predicted the birth of Akbar’s son Jahangir who was born there. The glory days of Fatehpur Sikri were short though. The city became the capital of the Mughal empire in 1571, but Akbar abandoned it already in 1585.
Highlights include Akbar’s red sandstone palace, the Jame Masjid with the Buland Darwaza gate (highest gateway in the world) and the tomb of Saint Salim Chisti that is still a popular pilgrimage site for local muslims.
Only 10 kilometers away from Agra lies Sikandra where you will find the impressive tomb of Akbar the Great. It’s a great example of Mughal architecture and although it is not as big as some of the other Mughal structures it is very beautiful and rich in elaborate and colorful decorations.
Mathura & Vrindavan
Being the birthplace of Krishna, Mathura is one of the seven holy cities in India that attracts hundreds of pilgrims every day. It’s a city of temples and scenic ghats along the Yamuna river that reminded me a bit of Varanasi.
Nearby Vrindavan is equally important as lots of events in Krishna’s life played out in this area. Nowadays it is a shelter city for widows that come here to seek refuge after the death of their husbands.
Like everywhere in India the business around religion and the amount of annoying wannabe guides can be a bit overwhelming at first. There will be more temples than you can visit, apparently over 5000 of them. The best way to enjoy the towns is walking through the scenic alleyways and the picturesque ghats.
For nature head to Bharatpur for the Bharatpur bird sanctuary and the Keoladeo National Park. This area is an important breeding site and wintering area for a number of aquatic birds. You will spot lots of them here including my favourite kingfisher. Besides birds you might also spot deers or wild boars.
Bear rescue center
The Agra bear rescue facility is one of the largest sloth bear rescue facilities in this world. It is run by Wildlife SOS that works throughout India for the conservation of sloth bears, elephants, leopards and other animals.
How to go to all the places to visit in Agra in one day.
How to get around in Agra
If you wish to see all the places to visit in Agra in one day it is best to use taxi’s or tuk tuks. To avoid having to negotiate everytime I can recommend the use of a taxi hailing app.
Uber is a good way to get around in Agra, but India has its own similar business called Ola cabs that is even more popular. The good thing about both Ola and Uber is that it is cheaper than a tuk tuk and you do not need to negotiate the price. Both offer a pool option in which you share your ride with others that makes it even more affordable.
Ola also has a tuk tuk option that is one of the best and most affordable ways to travel for shorter distances.
Where to eat in Agra
One of my favourite restaurants in Agra was the roadside stall “Time 2 Eat Mama Chicken” or “Franky’s chicken house”. There is no place to sit, but the chicken is the best you will ever taste.
Where to sleep in Agra
The first question is whether you should sleep in Agra. Personally I prefer to visit Agra as a day trip while staying in Fatehpur Sikri. However, there is one good reason to stay at least one night in Agra. That is to visit the Taj Mahal early (it opens at 6 AM) to see the sunrise and escape the crowds.
Agra: Good hostels in Agra are Hostel Moustache or Max guesthouse
Fatehpur Sikri: The Sunset View Guesthouse is behind the mosque in Fatehpur Sikri. It is not as clean as it could be and staff are of mixed quality, but the owner is friendly. The best about this guesthouse is the peaceful and quiet location and the view from the rooftop terrace. As the name implies, a great place to watch the sunset. I stayed here 3 times now and during my last visit we saw parrots, peacocks and squirrels who came to join us on the rooftop for breakfast.
When to visit Agra
The best time to visit Agra is between October and March. In October temperatures cool down and you might have a chance to join the festivities for Dussehra and Diwali. India’s biggest festivals.
Temperatures remain pleasant till March. In April and May, the area in general, will be extremely hot. In June it is the start of the monsoon that lasts till September and will see a lot of rainfall.
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