The most pleasurable time to visit Agra is during the chilly winter. This is because the region remains quite hot and humid during the summers. Besides, that is the time when you can enjoy one of the most famous annual fairs in the otherwise sleepy small town of Bateshwar on the banks of the Yamuna River (Details in the following section of ‘The Four Definite Detours’).
STAR ATTRACTION: Kabootar baz is one of Agra’s star attractions. It refers to pigeon fancying — the typical established tradition of the city. Agra pigeon fanciers fly the pigeons in flocks instead of racing them. The sight to be enjoyed is the manner in which they control the birds using codes of calls and high-pitched whistles. Four to five flocks fly above Taj ganj around 4 p.m. every evening.
MOVING AROUND IN AGRA: THE MEANS
You can avail of many modes of transportation within the Agra metropolitan area. They range from the cheapest ones like the cycle-rickshaws for short trips, buses (both city buses as well as the deluxe ones) and trains to moderately priced rides in auto-rickshaws and taxis. Auto-rickshaws are cheaper than the taxis. Bicycles are also available on hourly basis to move around the city.
You can also move to certain key locations within larger Agra in the pre-paid taxis. While going for taxis or auto-rickshaws or even tourist buses, it is always advisable to book any of them only through the registered counters of the respective privately run or even the public transport systems. This is a secure and economical move.
To conserve the beauty of the Taj Mahal, only pollution-free vehicles are allowed to ply in the Taj Mahal area.
ACCOMMODATION: There are numerous hotels in Agra to suit your budget. They range from the economical ones starting from Rs. 800 for a night stay; and also another range of hotels in the Rs. 801-Rs.1200 bracket; yet another group of hotels in the Rs.1200-Rs 2500 range besides the ones where you need to cough up Rs. 2501 and above. If you are of the adventurous type, you can also opt for the dharamshalas. Many of these lodges owned by charitable institutions or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), offer both food and accommodation at market prices.
Shopping Spree in Agra
Experience the Agra environment as you make your way through the bustling bazaars and the labyrinthine streets. The main markets within the city area are government sponsored souvenir shops, Raja ka Mandi, Sadar Bazaar, Sanjay Place, and Kinari Bazaar. Of course, you will find several stalls selling all forms items beyond the Taj Mahal complex.
Agra is known for its Mughal-style designer jewellery, exquisite handicrafts, and mini souvenirs of the Taj Mahal and chessboards made from both marble and wood. Don’t forget to buy a small replica of the Taj Mahal to take back with you as a souvenir item. The handicrafts include leather items like fancy juttis (shoes and other footwear), purses and wallets that are hand-made, crafted woodwork, soft stone lay work, and marble tabletops among others. Some other popular items of Agra are sandalwood items, durries, carpets, and textiles like saris, salwars, kurtas, and Afghanis.
Shopping in Agra is a pretty romantic experience! Varieties of knick knacks jostle for customers’ attention in all the stalls across the medieval town with some modernity. The best part of this shopping experience is that you can go for bargaining at most of the stalls. The goods on offer are affordable as well. Depending on the outlet and quality of the items, prices vary widely.
Gourmets Guide in Agra famous for its salty snack
Agra is famous for its salty snack known locally as Dalmoth and sweets, particularly Gazak and Petha. Depending on your budget, you can have unforgettable feasting feelings – be it in the star swanky restaurants or the roadside open eateries. You can have your pick of cuisines ranging from Indian including North Indian, Hyderabadi or Nawabi and also South Indian, to Chinese and continental. Air-conditioned restaurants franchisees are obviously there.
But the most fascinating gastronomically sub-continental tour for you could be the sweetmeats, the mouthwatering spicy and tangy chaat ranges, the different varieties of paranthas, as well as the Frontier and Mughlai dishes like the locally popular and yet moderately priced Tandoori Chicken at the dhabas (food stalls). The open-air food stalls have a wonderfully homely private environment with many different types of cuisines right in the most economy range.
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