What to See in Agra—Beyond the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal gets all the Agra love, which is fair—the marble and jewel-inlaid mausoleum was built as a dedication to love, after all—but the city is so much more than that. While every other tourist is taking the exact same sunrise selfie by the Taj's reflection pools, you could be busy sari shopping, temple hopping, and cooing over baby elephants. We’ve got the inside scoop on what’s cool in Agra beyond its beloved landmark.
Shop for saris
Always wanted to try on a colorful sari for size but intimidated by the intricate folding and tucking process? A visit to the sari salon at the ITC Mughal, Agra – a Luxury Collection Hotel is in order. Sari experts will help you choose between emerald green or sapphire blue fabric, then wrap you up tight and send you on your well-dressed way. Bangles and bindis are included, but getting out of your new sari is up to you.
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Sleep like a raj
A night at the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra is as close as you’ll get to living the life an Indian king. Stepping into the ornate lobby is like stepping back in time to the opulence of 17th-century India. There are gorgeous Taj Mahal views from all of the guest rooms, an outdoor pool in a Mughal era-inspired terraced garden, and live Indian dance and musical performances. The only downside is that it might prove impossible to leave the hotel to actually explore present-day Agra.
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Visit baby elephants
Interacting with animals in India can be a definite no-no, but that’s not the case at Wildlife SOS. The ethical organization rescues elephants, bears, and leopards that have been mistreated across the country and works to rehabilitate them back to health. Visitors get a chance to walk alongside the elephants during their daily exercise, but you won’t find any elephant riding or see animal performances here—just lots of elephant cuteness and serious animal rescue.
Give back to women-owned businesses
A visit to Agra isn’t complete without stopping for a steaming cup of chai at Sheroes Café. More than a restaurant, this grassroots movement trains and employs female victims of acid attacks in India. Along with big servings of sisterhood and service, visitors learn how the organization has made major legal moves to keep women safe from attacks and get justice in India’s court system. Prepare to be deeply moved.
Get blessed at Soami Bagh Temple
The Soami Bagh Temple is considered sacred for Radhasoami followers. Its architecture and aesthetics rival the Taj Mahal thanks to white marble, intricate handmade carving details, and a massive white dome. If you’re looking for tranquility and peace in Agra, however, this is your stop. Before heading inside, be sure to buy a marigold garland as a symbol of spirituality (you’ll see them for sale all around the temple and on the streets).
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Eat the world’s largest naan
Eating the world’s biggest naan sounds like a touristy gimmick—until you’ve had a bite of all its fluffy flatbread goodness. Peshwari restaurant is the place to order it along with other clay tandoor delicacies like kebabs. There’s also a full menu of cocktails and wines, but the gigantic naan, delivered table-side by a grinning waiter, definitely steals the show.
Get lost while shopping
No visit to Agra is complete without diving into the stream of people and goods at the Kinari Bazaar. Technically, there are multiple markets specializing in different wares, from jewelry and saris to spices, shoes, and snack stalls, but shoppers consider it one single massive market. All you need to do is bargain for deals and go with the chaotic flow—you can find your way back when you’re out of rupees.
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Savor tandoori at Esphahan
Mughal royals inspired the menus at this famous fine-dining restaurant—an indication of the level of quality you can expect. If you do manage to get a table at one of the two very strict dinner seatings, you’ll be treated to attentive service, elegant interiors, and lovely garden views that do their best to distract from the main course: the food. Diners choose between a three-course sampling of rotating Indian favorites or a six-course tasting menu that fuses Western and Indian flavors together. Book well in advance.
Pay tribute to Mother Teresa
Established as a Catholic Church by Mother Teresa herself, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity is now an orphanage run by nuns that serves about 200 Indian children and adults with special needs. There is a church with services on the grounds, though most visitors come to bring donations of toys, clothes, and cash for the kids. Prepare to be hugged.
Experience Agra with a tour group
If you really want to be in the know on the constantly changing and lively city of Agra, it’s best to go with a guide. Local English speakers, well-versed in the ins and outs of Agra, lead tours with G Adventures. Group numbers are small, so you won’t get overwhelmed or overlooked, and—okay, okay—they’ll take you on a tour of the Taj Mahal…twice. It’s worth the trip.
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