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Agra, Journey to the Taj Mahal: Travel Opinion and Analysis

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Agra is the place which will simply make you say “Wah Taj!” (Wow Taj!) even if you do not know the meaning of it. Situated on the bank of the river Yamuna, Agra is the former capital of Hindustan, 200 Km (124mi) South of the national capital, New Delhi. It is commonly accepted that Sultan Sikandar Lodī, the Ruler of the Delhi Sultanate founded Agra in the year 1504. However, the city was founded much before and has its earliest reference in Mahabharat and Mahirshi Angira in 1000 BC.

How Should I Prepare My Itinerary for Agra?

If you are based in Delhi or if you are going to Agra from Delhi, then seeing the most important attractions in Agra requires only one day. The best way to travel to Agra from Delhi is by train. Almost every train from Delhi going to South passes through Agra. There are large number of morning trains that takes three to four hours to reach Agra, but if you want to save time for travelling in Agra, my advice is to book Bhopal Shatabdi Express (also same day return journey) powered by Ghaziabad WAP 5 engine that runs at 150 Km/hr. This train will take you to Agra conveniently and comfortably in just two hours. It starts from New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) around 6 AM and reaches Agra Cantt Railway Station (AGC) around 8 AM. While returning it departs from Agra around 8:45 PM and reaches New Delhi at 10:45 PM. Beware, all the Delhi bound trains in winter from November to February are prone to be late from their scheduled time due to dense fog conditions in the region.Train is the cheapest and fastest option to reach Agra, There are also a number of daily bus and taxi hire services that you can chose from. You can easily book them from Indian Railways website irctc.com or travel websites like makemytrip.com. I recommend you to browse through makemytrip coupons and you may make your journey even cheaper.

The World Reporter in Bhopal Shatabdi Express
Bhopal Shatabdi Express (c) The World Reporter

Lots of tourists go to Agra and then return to Delhi on the same day, some also travel further to Jaipur completing the golden triangle of Indian tourism (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).

What to do Once You Reach Agra?

As soon as you will get down at Agra Cantt. Railway Station, number of taxi drivers will surround you, usually in a group. They work for government pre-paid taxi service, but still they will insist and rush to you as if they are all individuals. I asked them the reason, “you work for government, seeing you insisting and forcing us to go with you so much looks a bit tricky”, but he replied that it is because he will also take us to the market, where he will get some commission which is his own. Hence, all the drivers insists you to chose them. This happens specially if you are non Indian, or if you are with foreigners because they are the ones who would actually buy something from those markets.

It is good if you book a taxi, it will be with you for the whole day and will bring you back to the railway station in the evening according to the time of your train. As soon as you will reach Pre-Paid taxi counter you will see list of travel packages covering many attractions. Agra is blessed with a number of historical monuments, out of which most famous ones are the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri which are also UNESCO world heritage site. What I have observed is that most of the tourists cover only Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

The first destination in your trip would be Taj Mahal, which is nearly 7 KM from the railway station. You would be entering from the West Gate which is one of the main entrance. If the queue is long, then may be you can try entering from South Gate which is less busy. Your taxi would wait for you outside and you can admire the beauty of the Taj for as long as you want.

Visiting The Taj Mahal

the world reporter at the taj mahal
Taj Mahal (c) The World Reporter

Although I lived almost for all my life in Delhi just 200 Km away from Agra, but it was only last year in November that I actually made to Taj Mahal for the first time. It is really strange for everyone and for me that one of the most visited monument in the world was unseen by me till now. I had been seeing Taj Mahal many times in videos, and photos since my childhood and I used to say, yes it is beautiful! But when I actually went there to see, I was silent for a moment and “Wah Taj!” were the only two words that came out of my mouth. It is  magnificent and is brilliantly white. I have not seen something so white before, shining in the bright sunlight.  Before I could proceed even further I saw my teammate who was holding an SLR camera with her burst into tears, it was her dream to see Taj Mahal since her childhood in Russia, although it wasn’t the first time she was seeing the Taj.

Be informed that no eatables are allowed inside. You cannot eat inside. And of course no guns and ammunition is allowed inside. If you still have got something you can get it stored in a cloak room some 100 metres away from the security checking.

Taxis and other vehicles cannot go beyond a certain point and from there you will have to walk to the entrance of Taj Mahal. Correct distance of the entrance of Taj Mahal would be mentioned on sign boards. People will approach you to take horse cart, camel cart or battery car/golf cart to the entrance, you may chose any of them. If you are not interested, the you can simply walk as it is a short track.

For Indian citizens the cost of the ticket is only ₹20 and for the foreigners it is ₹750. I heard from many of my non Indian friends about this huge discrimination and I just tell them, we pay taxes and so we deserve subsidized prices 😉 Foreigners will get a half litre water bottle and shoe covers with their ticket for free, and Indians may also buy it just for paying ₹10 extra.

Taj Mahal is surrounded by lush green gardens and artificial lakes. If you walk over to the other side of the Taj you can enjoy a beautiful view of the River Yamuna flowing via Delhi, that takes a sharp turn right where the Taj Mahal is situated.

Many guides and photographers will approach you, chose only those who have a valid Identity card if you really wish to hire a guide. The best way is to learn about Taj Mahal before visiting it, or buy a audio guide or book at the ticket counter and spend good time learning and admiring the monument. Guides do tell interesting things and can speak almost all the major languages of the world, but they are very quick as they have to approach maximum group of tourists. They will cover the entire place in just half an hour, the place which actually deserves you spending two to three hours.

Do not buy anything on the street sold by the people who will aggressively approach you, unless if you really find the things interesting and of good quality. Every thing is negotiable, you have to bargain. These sellers are so aggressive that they will force you to buy things like map, keychains, photos, etc.

If you are a woman tourist, then beware of the guys who either in groups or individuals might approach you to get their picture clicked with you, if you are not comfortable, simply say no.

As you will go out of the complex your taxi will be waiting for you and can take you to a nice restaurant or Agra Fort whichever is your priority.

Visiting Agra Fort

The World Reporter at Agra Fort
Agra Fort (c) The World Reporter

If you have been in Delhi, and have seen Red Fort, then you will find many similarities. The fort is mere one or two kilometres from Taj Mahal. Agra fort  is very big and looks really strong. Its structure and architecture give the sense of the strength of the then Mughal Empire. The Fort was continuously built by many Mughal kings. Out of which work by Shah Jahan is the most prominent due to his fondness with white Marble. All his work is done with white marble, which is easily recognizable in a fort mainly built with red sandstone.

Guides are more aggressive here, and will tell you that it is worthless coming here if you don’t hire them, as it is a complex fort built with medieval military strategies. Hiring a guide is completely a tourist’s own decision. You might be able to learn interesting things, but if you wish to explore yourself it would also be great. Agra fort has some great picture taking points, one of which is just along the river and you can see only the river and trees between you and the beautiful Taj Mahal.

Keep your Taj Mahal tickets safe. If you have them, you can get a price cut of ₹50 in the ticket for Agra Fort. For Indians it is the same for ₹20 and for foreigners who have ticket of Taj Mahal it will cost  ₹250.

If you are in Agra only for one day, then a trip to another UNESCO World heritage site, Fatehpur Sikri may become really tight, as it is built in the outskirts of the city of Agra nearly 40 Km away. Most of the tourists who come here spend the rest of their time in shopping and eating. I would really encourage you to also visit Fatehpur Sikri, if you have no scheduled train or bus in the night or if you are in Agra for more than a day.

Exploring The Markets in Agra

Taxi drivers will take you to some fixed shops and restaurants where they take almost every tourist who come with them and earn good commission. Restaurants are generally multi cuisine, have good ambiance  and slightly costlier than others. Food is normal. If you have a request of going to a particular restaurant they will take you there as well, but still they might insist you to go to the one where they are offering. 

One of the shops where they will take you will be a marble workshop where same kind of work is done as  it is on Taj Mahal, people in the workshop may also teach you how they work and then will take you to their store where you can buy their items. Other places where you will be taken are semi precious and precious stones shops and shops where you can buy shawls and other Indian clothing and jewellery. All the shopkeepers or traders here will force you to see, but will not force you to buy, It is your decision.

Almost all the traders, shopkeepers, guides and even street sellers know many European and Asian languages, specially Russian. If you are Russian you will not face any language problem at all. However it is also the trick used by the sellers to lure you by talking in your language and then force you to buy. 

Agra is an important and must destination for almost every tourist who visits India. You would have seen the Taj many times on TV and books like me, but it really deserves a visit from you. Then only you will be able to do the justice to the monument and the admiration which it deserves. It will only take one day from you, but will leave an imprint on your soul for the rest of your life making you realize the preciousness of love. If it doesn’t bring the smile on your face or tears of joy in your eyes, let me know! 

Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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From Barcelona to Machu Picchu: a guide for travel lovers

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Barcelona is the Spanish most visited city for travelers all over the globe that offers many contrasts and interesting surroundings worth visiting. Although other kind of travelers prefer peaceful and at the same time adventurous walking routes by Machu Picchu.

Barcelona is still the most visited Spanish city attracting visitors from all over the world. Cosmopolitanism, modernity, the sea’s open life, gastronomic offers and culture are elements that attract people from other places, as well as Gaudí’s architecture and many other key points are part of this unique Mediterranean city.

But there’s a lot more to discover. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a beautiful region that has many contrasts worth visiting along with Barcelona as a starting point. To make it possible and smooth, barcelona tours is an agency that besides carrying out general tours, it creates private routes according to your preferences.

To get to know the most emblematic city icons, 3 or 4 days can be enough, although nobody wants to miss live music flamenco night shows in a “tablao” or going to the Catalan music Palau to enjoy classical interpretations in one of its European Sanctuaries.

Barcelona shore excursions: what visitors want

What to visit when traveling to Catalonia? barcelona shore excursions have become very fashionable and visitors themselves like it that way. Rent a boat to go bathing on the high seas or travel from Barcelona to Girona or Tarragona marina’s and get to know two emblematic Catalan cities full of ancient history are very exciting things to do, as it is traveling on a boat to Balearic Islands and discover Ibiza: the island of party and fun, or it’s sisters Majorca and Menorca.

If the aim is adventure then you should certainly go to see the Montserrat mysterious mountains and a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin, the most revered of Catalunya. Some others choose visiting Michelin restaurants in Empordà region, where Celler de Can Roca stands out. Travelers can not miss the most universal Catalan museum in Figueres town dedicated to painter Salvador Dalí.

Wine and cava wineries are very popular in Catalonia, and they are a must visit place for all wine lovers.

How to make the most of your trip

Visiting so much in little time can be tricky and stressful at times, so If you want to make the most of your trip it’s worthwhile to let others do the job and get focused on living every minute of it. Among all agencies dedicated to support tourism, BCN exclusive has a huge amount of positive testimonies and adapts to every customer preference to make the most of all barcelona city tours.

Testimonies from people around the world show gratitude to the agency for an outstanding service and how much they learned in the tours inside and out of the city. Catalonia is a surprise box, and Barcelona as its capital, combines all these contrasts that makes of Barcelona the most modern Mediterranean city. As a result, the city has become the first destination chosen by university and master degree students, well above other European capitals.

Machu Picchu: a natural marvel

Most adventurous travelers may prefer to join the Inca Jungle Trek, a 3 to 4 day road that many consider an initiation and can be done by walking or cycling, but also taking advantage and practise adventure sports as rafting or Tyrolean.

The guide accompanying travelers groups will also regale the group with anecdotes and history of one of the oldest and wise cultures of the world: the Inca. On the last day of excursion, travelers can contemplate the valleys at the foot of Machu Picchu, a natural marvel. Both adventurous and cosmopolitan visitors, if they have decided on one of these two destinations, must begin to organize their trip now and make of this journey an unforgettable time.

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Explore the royal city of Mysore

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Call it the Heritage City or the City of Palaces, the city of Mysore still emanates a feeling of au royale even in a 21st century India. A place of heritage for royal families, sultans, and legendary names in history, every corner of Mysore is steeped in stories of victory, power, and grandeur. A tour of this majestic city is only justified when you explore the royal heritage of the City of Palaces.

Getting there

Conveniently located on the southern edge of the Karnataka State, Mysore is easily accessible from major cities. It takes about three hours to travel the 152 KM distance from Bangalore to Mysore.

History and Heritage

The city of Mysore served as the capital for the Kingdom of Mysore between the 1300s until 1956. These six centuries saw the kingdom change hands of rulers and kings, from the Wadiyar Dynasty, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. But the common element of all the rulers was their penchant for art and culture. Under their patronage, they contributed to the city’s visual and cultural glory which earned Mysore the fame of Karnataka’s cultural capital.

A royal tour

If you want to experience the regal side of Mysore, you cannot but miss these structures of historical and architectural significance. You can join a heritage walking tour to explore the city on foot, or head from Bangalore to Mysore by car and stop by at monuments, palaces, and museums and learn about the legends that made Mysore. You can start your walk from the Town Hall, built in 1884, as a tribute to the first Dewan of the city.

mysore-palace-598472_1280

Mysore Palace- The official residence of the royal family of Wadiyars, the palace itself is a work of marvel. An overwhelming blend of   Indo-Saracenic, neoclassical, Indo-Islamic and Gothic architectural works, the Mysore Palace is a breathtaking sight. Built in 1912, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts delicate works of mirrors, stained glass, mosaic and more. On any given day, you will find more tourists here than even at the Taj Mahal. Every Sunday, the palace comes alive with 97000 light bulbs bedazzling its façade and the premises.

Lalitha Palace– Yet another heritage building, the two-storied Lalitha Mahal sits on a ridge at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, which makes for a great vantage point. The palace was transformed into a hotel and offers a royal stay. If you truly want a feeling of royalty, then a stay here would be an experience.

Jaganmohan Palace– One of the seven prominent palaces of Mysore city, is a stunning work of ancient Indian architecture with intricate interiors and exteriors. The palace, transformed into a royal art gallery since 1915, houses paintings of the royal family, art by Raja Ravi Varma and an array of rare and antique musical instruments.

Museums- Stop by the Rail Museum to explore the archaic steam engines, the Maharani’s saloon, and other railway souvenirs. There’s also the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion showcasing more than 6500 folk artifacts from all parts of Karnataka. The Folk Art Museum, one of the most visited in the city, is also known for its collection of toys, models, and figurines.

Crawford Hall- Built in 1947, this is a must visit historic structure in Mysore. The royal palace is now known as the Mysore University but still renders a rich heritage to its ambiance.

Small, medium or large-scale, every historical building and monument of Mysore has a majestic touch to it. And such architecture speaks of its glorious past, which has left traces for the modern civilization to explore.

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Sightseeing Madrid: personalized and unforgettable life experiences

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Getting to know Madrid on Segway or bicycle is becoming the in demand to discover the best places in the city.

Madrid is the capital of Spain and one of the most cosmopolitan and interesting European destinations. The city has good communications, a great airport with proximity to the city center and an excellent underground service and these are just are some of the key factors that promote tourism in the capital.

The city’s positive perception is influenced by it’s nightlife, cosmopolitan atmosphere and hospitality, it also influences its status as a LGBT friendly city and is known for its top quality restaurants.

A good way to visit the city and make the most of the experience is through segway tour madrid, tours to visit monuments, night tours, gastronomic or tapas tours that will bring the city to life, and once you get to know the city you will want to visit again and again. No city is quite like Madrid.

Segway: an ecological and very dynamic transport

Segway is a lightweight two-wheeled transport vehicle. Electric and Gyro, these personal transporters were invented by Dean Kamen and incorporate a computer-controlled swing. They been presented to the world in 2001 and thought to be used as a way of transport in big cities, leaving motorbikes and cars aside and thus help to combat pollution.

However, segway madrid is very used for leisure and all big Spanish cities have Segway tours, ideal for groups of friends who want to get to know better the city from a different perspective without need to tire yourself with endless walking.

The exciting world of Escape Room has drifted into the escape Street

Street Escape application launching for groups has revolutionized the segway sector and the next tourist season will have a new attraction: an innovative escape outdoor activity that uses a software to geolocate a route that has previously been blocked at different points and participants must unlock through different analogue and digital tests that must be completed in a certain time.

For the application development a software is used that requires a technological device and that groups will have to manage in a completely intuitive way.

And besides this popular activity, other leisure group options such as ginkanas, physical tests related to segway management, cultural and technical activities and even sporting activities like playing polo with Segway can be carried out in Madrid.

Biking is the most effective and economic way to discover a city

Alternatively, madrid bike rental is another great way to get to know Madrid. They are used by citizens and tourists to travel around the city as they do with Segway.

But there is a big difference between one vehicle and another, since bicycles are more often demanded, a good way of exercising while going from one place to another, a must have for a healthy life, that is also a environmentally friendly choice and a very economical option.

Tour the city as you like or by guided bike tours?

You can rent a bike for as long as you want and travel the city to your free will. You can also hire specific itineraries in order to discover the best hidden places and monuments. You can also access the madrid bike tour and get to know iconic places such Bernabeu stadium or Retiro park.

You can also choose night bike tours lit by the street lights of Madrid city center against a backdrop of the stunning sunset in a very special place: Debod Temple, one of the fab meeting points for locals to enjoy the setting of the sun.

Madrid is a city worth discovering and to do it by bike or Segway increases this unique experience, always exciting when it comes to discover new places.

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