The Taj Mahal isn't the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra—the city is also home to Agra Fort, a centuries-old red sandstone fortress that was once the imperial city for a succession of Mughal rulers. Sightseeing here is like wandering around a city within a city. The most extraordinary building at Agra Fort is Jahangir Mahal, a massive palace that blends stunning Hindu-inspired features (like overhanging enclosed balconies) with Central Asian architectural elements (such as the signature pointed arches). Inside, tourists can see the gilded central court where royal women once passed their days.
Tourists can also check out a range of other noteworthy structures, including Anguri Bagh (a courtyard with puzzle piece-like outlines of gardens around water channels), Khas Mahal (a palace with pavilions made of white marble and red sandstone), Musamman Burj (an octagonal tower with intricate marble inlay work), and Diwan-i-Khas (a gathering hall featuring a pair of black and white marble thrones).
You've seen it in history books, on postcards, and in social media posts. But now, you've made your way to India, and you finally have the chance to see the Taj Mahal in real life. The magnificent structure dates back to the 17th century. Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was heartbroken after his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, passed away during childbirth, and decided to pay tribute to her with a white mausoleum. Construction took more than 20 years to complete and required the manpower of around 20,000 laborers.
There's never a bad time to see the Taj Mahal, but it's worth getting here early—the building seems to radiate at sunrise. Tourists can enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site via the west and east gates. Once inside, explore the ornamental gardens, which feature calming water features that reflect the Taj. Then, head inside the Taj itself and admire its perfect symmetry and white marble with elaborate floral cavings and semiprecious stone inlays. Sightseeing around the Taj Mahal complex continues at the Kau Ban Mosque, west of the Taj, and the Jawab, a building intended to mirror the mosque and preserve symmetry on the main structure's eastern side.
Set in a lovely, large square garden, Humayun's Tomb is a lofty mausoleum constructed of white marble and red sandstone. It was designed as a prototype of the Taj Mahal in Agra and is an excellent example of Mughal architecture. Built in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum as a memorial to her husband by Humayun's senior widow,
the tomb is surrounded by lush formal gardens and other tombs including Humayun's barber and the Tomb of Isa Khan (the architect of the Taj Mahal), a fine example of Lodi architecture and octagonal in shape. A fun thing to do is to try and catch a glimpse of this spectacular structure after nightfall when it's illuminated.
Looking a little like the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the equally impressive India Gate is a magnificent stone arch built as a memorial to Indian soldiers killed in WWI. An eternal flame burns beneath the massive structure, and its walls are inscribed with the names of more than 90,000 soldiers who died in the conflict.
Standing on a base of red stone and featuring a shallow domed bowl on top that is occasionally filled with burning oil (usually only on important anniversaries), the structure dominates the parkland around it, an always busy area with crowds of tourists and locals alike enjoying a picnic or simply relaxing. For a real treat, try to see the India Gate at night, considered one of the top free things to do in New Delhi. It's a spectacular sight when it and nearby fountains are floodlit.
The magnificent Bahá'í House of Worship, also known as the Lotus Temple due to its nine sides and stunning central dome, is an architectural masterpiece. Constructed of white concrete and marble, the entire structure looks as delicate as the flower it resembles. Rising from the surrounding nine pools of water, it almost appears as if it might burst into bloom at any moment. Built-in 1986, the temple has since attracted more than 70 million visitors, making it one of the world's most visited attractions.
Interestingly, this remarkable place of worship has no idols, religious pictures, or outward symbols of religion. Another modern-day temple worthy of a visit is the ISKCON Temple, one of the country's biggest Krishna temple complexes.
Completed in the 12th century, the beautiful Qutub Minar is India's tallest minaret. It's also now a UNESCO Word Heritage Site that attracts many international visitors eager to climb to the top for its breathtaking views of the surrounding area. This ornate five-story tower rises more than 70 meters and is covered with intricate carvings featuring the history of Qutub along with inscriptions from the Koran.
It's also notable for being constructed of a number of different types of stone (the first three stories are made of red sandstone, while the fourth and fifth stories were built with marble and sandstone). The complex also includes the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, a mosque at the base of the tower; a gateway built in 1310; and the tombs of Altamish, Alauddin Khalji, and Imam Zamin. Also worth seeing is the 2,000-year-old Iron Pillar, the Alai Minar.
"Rajpath, also known as the King's Way, is New Delhi's traditional ceremonial boulevard. It runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official presidential residence, past such important city landmarks as Vijay Chowk and India Gate all the way to the National Stadium. This broad avenue is flanked by trees, grass, and ponds, and comes alive each January 26th during the Republic Day Parade. This special occasion is marked by countless thousands gathering to celebrate the anniversary of the country's independence.
At the western end of Rajpath, the President's Residence-the Rashtrapati Bhavan (once the British Viceroy's residence)-is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent buildings in Delhi. It's an attractive place for a selfie given its eclectic mix of Mughal and European architectural styles that contains some 340 richly decorated rooms. Of particular interest is the new Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum, which offers a glimpse inside the building, along with interesting displays relating to past presidents. Hot Tip: If visiting in February or March, check out the adjoining Mughal Gardens, a splendid display of plantings surrounding the President's Residence."
The beautiful Red Fort (Lal Qila) was built by Shah Jahan in 1648 and served as the seat of Mughal power until 1857. This stunning structure, with its tall, red sandstone walls covers an area of more than two square kilometers, the entirety of which is crescent shaped and surrounded by a moat. The impressive main entrance, the Lahore Gate, is so named as it faces towards Lahore in Pakistan, while the even grander Delhi Gate was used by the emperor for ceremonial processions.
Entering through the Lahore Gate, visitors reach Chhatta Chowk, a 17th-century covered bazaar where items such as silks, jewelry, gems, and silverware can be purchased, along with souvenirs and food items. The Naubat Khana within the Red Fort once housed the musicians who played for the emperor, and its fine galleries still contain many interesting musical instruments such as kettledrums, gongs, and cymbals. Diwan-i-Am, the Hall of Public Audiences, where the emperor would receive his subjects, is also worth seeing for its stunning white marble.