Located in the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal is a white marble monument built by the late Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Even with the international recognition it has received by being named one of the seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO world heritage site, one has to view its beauty in person to understand why Rudyard Kipling referred to it as “the embodiment of all things pure.”
Mark Twain described Varanasi as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Located along the holy Ganges river, the city has attracted hindu pilgrims to its 7 ghats (series of steps) along the river since sixth century BC. Each ghat is teeming with life and activities, with its own story and appeal, and can be observed by foot or by boat rides.
Fatehpur Sikri was the short-lived capital of the Mughal emperor Akbar. This now abandoned city is a popular day trip from Agra to view the hindu and muslim influenced architecture of the gates, palaces, and tombs in the city complex. Inside is the Panch Mahal or “Five-Storied Palace”, with an impressive five story pavilion that once marked the royal women’s quarters.
Don’t let the “fort” in Agra Fort mislead you – it was actually the massive imperial capital complex for Akbar in the city of Agra. It’s complete with royal apartments, mosques, assembly halls, and a dungeon. The complex is protected by the 1½ miles of wall and the Yamuna river on its west side. Visitors should consider getting a guide to explore all the wonderful Mughal architecture.