Agra was the imperial capital of the Mughal court during the 16th and 17th centuries and therefore has palaces, tombs, forts and gardens. The Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and Akbar’s abandoned capital of Fatehpur Sikri have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Taj Mahal: This is one of the most famous buildings in the world. I have seen a number of the wonders of the world, from the Great Wall of China to the pyramids in Egypt, the Parthenon in Athens, Machu Picchu in Peru to the Coliseum and Forum in Rome, but I think I was more moved by seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise than any of the others. It is really spectacular and much more impressive close up. It took 22 years to complete and commemorates both the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal; it was completed in 1653. There is the impressive Lotus pool leading up to the Taj, a beautiful tomb chamber, a filigree marble screen carved from a single block of marble, wonderful calligraphic panels of Koranic verses above the arches and a beautiful Pietra Dura. This name for the marble facade is not all white, but has intricately carved floral designs inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones. It is really amazing to see it close up. You might want to buy your tickets online before you go to make sure you can enter at the best time for you.
The decorative elements, in addition to the pietra dura, include carved relief work of flowering plants, foliage and vases found on the lower portions of the walls, and beautifully inlaid calligraphy. There is also a three-domed mosque to the west of the Taj Mahal.
Agra Fort: This is a very impressive site also. It was built by Akbar between 1565 and 1573. It is situated along the riverfront and has imposing red sandstone ramparts that form a crescent along the river. There is an enormous complex of buildings on the site.
Fatehpur Sikri: This was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1571 in honor of the Sufi saint, Salim Chisti Fatehpur Sikri and was the Mughal capital for 14 years. It is a good example of a Mughal walled city with defined private and public areas, imposing gateways, and a blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture. This city is 23 miles west of Agra so very easy to see while there.