I can't believe it's taking me this long to share the next instalment of our Andaman Adventures, but since we've arrived home life has be a bit crazy and I've barely found time to think, let alone write!
When we were planning our trip we knew that we'd be away over Mike's birthday and he had two requests for his celebration - he wanted to go on a train and he wanted to seen the Taj Mahal. Luckily Agra, home of the Taj Mahal isn't too far from Delhi and you can get there by train! Score! There are a few options when it comes to visiting Agra, but because we were a bit short on time we decided a day trip from Delhi with private guide was the best option for us. Private tours are a fantastic way to see India if you don't have a lot of time, it can be a very bureaucratic place and having someone with you who knows how everything works can be a real asset. Yes, it is a bit more expensive, and yes you might need to politely decline the hard sell at your guide's mate's shop, but generally we've had really good experiences.
A day trip to Agra is totally doable, as long as you don't mind a long day! We were in a car by 7am headed to catch the Indian version of HS2, the Gatimaan Express, which speeds through the Indian countryside in a blaze of hospitality, from beautifully scented roses on arrival to continuous food and tea throughout the journey. It's the fastest way to get to Agra from Delhi, and quite a different experience to my past train experiences spent hanging out in cramped bunks on slow overnight trains!
Our first stop in Agra was the iconic Taj Mahal, and it never ceases to impress! There's something amazing about this beautiful structure which rises up from the dust and the dirt, it's pretty magical. Our tour guide worked out pretty quickly that we'd rather take our time to wander around sites and explore, so while he was on hand with facts and history he also kept his distance and pointed out cool spots we might want to check out. It was lovely to take our time and really take in the Taj Mahal, it's a beautiful and slightly overwhelming place, so having space to digest everything was quite special.
Next up was the Baby Taj or the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. Considered the inspiration for the Taj Mahal, this smaller tomb is less well known and has fewer visitors, but is just as beautiful. Surrounded by picturesque gardens it's the perfect place to take a moment and relax. Starting to see a theme? I think after the shock of Delhi's chaos I must have been craving some peace and quiet!
Opposite the Taj Mahal is Mehtab Bagh, a Mughal built garden with some of the most spectacular views of the iconic tomb. Again, our guide left us to wander around for an hour or so, taking in the view of the Taj and relaxing alongside picnicking families and young couples after some privacy in the shade of the trees. Mehtab Bagh isn't generally on the tourist trail, but I'd definitely suggest taking some time out to visit, especially if you've been finding India a little overwhelming, it's a real escape.
Travelling back to Delhi late at night Mike and I reflected on our trip, visiting the Taj Mahal was something quite special, and something that will stay with both of us for a really long time. We really appreciated the time we had to explore and hangout together somewhere so beautiful, it was amazing. Oh and we also decided we really want a Persian rug, but that's another story.
Have you been to Agra? What did you think?