Heritage walks in Agra – A city that’s much more that the Taj Mahal

Several tourists miss out on the varied experience that Agra has to offer in their hurry to cover the famed ‘Golden Triangle’. You might think to yourself that you’ll take a flight to Agra, have a quick look at the main event – the Taj Mahal – before flying on out to Delhi. But you really are skipping past a myriad of heritage walks and little exploratory wanders through this picturesque city. The following places to visit in Agra lie relatively close together, placed near or on the banks of the Yamuna River and make for a wonderful heritage walk. As it is a central area, plenty of the best hotels in Agra can be found close by.

The Agra Fort:

This impressive structure fails to succumb to the Taj Mahal’s shadow and is truly a must-see structure. Steeped in India’s amazing history, the fort was constructed in the 16th century by the famed Emperor Akbar. This structure soon became Emperor Shah Jahan’s palace and consequent prison during the building of the Taj Mahal. Built as a military complex, you will see the various layers of defence an attacker would have had to make their way through, except perhaps the moat of crocodiles that was once there. The entire complex is decked in beautiful Mughal architectural touches with large courtyards strewn through it. Take a tour through it and gaze into the life of these famed royals.

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MehtabBagh:

For a dive into the heritage of Agra, take a stroll through the charbaghs or Persian-styled gardens built along the banks of the glistening Yamuna River. The MehtabBagh is the most iconic of these eleven gardens and one can catch the most idyllic view of the Taj Mahal from a spot selected by Emperor Shah Jahan himself. It is rumoured the Emperor planned to build himself a twin mausoleum in black to complement the white of his wife’s tomb – the Taj Mahal. The rest of the gardens are lined with fountains and gorgeous plants, and allow you to slip back into the past and gaze at it through the eyes of the Mughals themselves.

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Itimad-ud-Daulah:

Considered to be the ‘baby Taj’, this is the resting place of MirzaGhiyas Beg, NurJahan’s father. It certainly does live up to its nickname as plenty of the architectural elements eventually used in the Taj Mahal where practiced within the walls of the Daulah. The exquisite marble and the delicate pietradura inlay work can all be found here and will leave you speechless. The tomb combines the layout of early and late Mughal design and will leave history lovers thrilled.

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ChiniKaRauza:

No heritage visit to Agra is complete without a stop at the ChiniKaRauza. Home to the tomb of Allama Afzal Khan Mullah, Prime Minister to Emperor Shah Jahan, it makes for a memorable visit. The tomb was built in the mid-16th century and offers a look at some impressive glazed tile work or kashi / chini as they were called in Mughal architecture. Afzal Khan was a popular poet in his time as well, and his tomb is aptly unusual for its time. It is not as colourful as other buildings but is a simple monument with delicate coloured enamel work that has worn away with time. It is nonetheless an interesting site to visit with the enormous dome looming over visitors.

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