Agra is a beautiful city situated on the banks of Yamuna river in Uttar Pradesh. One of the cities with most population and the 19th populous city in India, Agra is preferred by many travelers for a weekend getaway. The best part about visiting Agra is the stunning Mughal era buildings that you get to explore. Agra is also included in the Golden triangle circuit with Delhi and Jaipur. And once you have explored the Taj Mahal and some other historic monuments in the great city of Agra, you can take a short trip to some destinations near Agra. The whole region gives you an insight to Indian history and culture and some of these places are almost as awe-inspiring (if not more) than Agra. Add to that the delicious cuisine of the region and the natural beauty surrounding it and what you get is an irresistible holiday spot worth driving to! So while Agra is definitely one of the most preferred weekend trip place, on your next trip you should consider visiting places around it.
Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar, the Mughal Emperor. A World Heritage Site, Fatehpur Sikhri used to be the Mughal capital for the longest time. The city’s architecture is what attracts people in large numbers here. A perfect combination of both Hindu and Islamic architectures, Fatehpur Sikhri is where you should be if you love buildings, monuments and their architecture style. Majority of these buildings in Fatehpur are made with red sandstone with intricate carvings and decorative designs.
And because Fatehpur is rich in history, here is a little insight into how Fatehpur Sikhri was made the capital. When Akbar was blessed with a son, he named him Salim to honor the Sufi saint. Also known as Jahangir, he later ruled the empire and after a series of many war victories, Akbar decided to build a new capital and that sis how he chose Sikri village. The city was given the name Fatehpur Sikri because Fateh means victory.
It took almost 15 years to build this city and Akbar took help from craftsmen and artisans from all across the country. Besides the magnificent historical monuments and a rich heritage, Fatehpur Sikri is also well known for its nine jewels. Though this city bears an abandoned look, the glory of this pace is as intact as it ever was.
Best time to visit: November to February is the best time to visit Fatehpur Sikri when the climate is soothing and conducive.
Sightseeing attractions: Of all the beautiful Mughal era buildings in Fatehpur Sikri, the Diwan-I-Khas is one of the major attractions of this city. It is the hall of private audience that with four charming chatris on the roof. It was here where Akbar had people coming over for discussions and these discussions happened in the presence of a private audience. The floral designs, stone walkways and the spectacular central pillar is what this attraction is most known for.
Buland Darwaza is situated in the famous mosque Jama Masjid. The gate made almost five years after the mosque was built. The Buland Darwaza is also rightly called as the Gate of Magnificence and was built as a celebration and dedication to Akbar’s victory over Gujarat. This gate is the highest in the world and thus you know you must no miss out on this.
Another well known and the most visited attraction in Fatehpur Sikri is the beautiful Jama Masjid. It is a mosque built in the 17th century and is also a World Heritage Site. One of the largest mosques in India, Jama Masjid sees a lot of devotes and believes every Friday. The architecture of Jama masjid is a great example of Iranian designs and styles.
Where to stay: Majority of the hotels in Fatehpur Sikri are located near its railway station. From mid range hotels to budget ones, there are many accommodation options for travelers. Hotel Vrindavan (094125 16664 Tariff- Rs 600 approx), Hotel Goverdhan Tourist Complex (094125 26585, Tariff- Rs 1600 approx) and Hotel Vrindavan(094125 16664, Tariff- Rs 600 approx) is what you should consider on your trip to this beautiful city.
Distance from Agra: 53 min (36.0 km) approximately
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Mathura, a city in Uttar Pradesh is popular for its culture and heritage. Known to be the birth place of Krishna, it also has a mythological significance. It is said that Krishna had spent his childhood in Mathura and if the beliefs are true then according to Garuda Purana, it is said that Mathura is one of the seven sites that grants Moksha. The most interesting part about Mathura is the festivals they celebrate with much pomp and joy. The whole city comes to life during festive period and that is possibly also the best time to visit this city. The tranquil ghats and the serene river Yamuna makes this city even more attractive and beautiful. And because it is also considered to be one of the holiest cities of India for Hindus, Mathura hosts a large number of tourists every year from all over.
Mathura is also one of the heritage cities that are a part of HRIDAY-Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojna scheme that was initiated by the Government of India. There are many attractions in Mathura that will make your trip to Mathura a fulfilling one.
Best time to visit: You can visit Mathura anytime between October and March when the climate is pleasant and comfortable
Sightseeing attractions: Because Mathura is greatly signified as Krishna’s birth place, the very first attraction of Mathura that you must visit is the Sri Krishna Janmabhomi temple which is the exact place of birth of Krishna. The prison cell in this temple is where Krishna was born before he was taken to Gokul. This temple sis visited by millions of devotees, especially during Janmashtami. The prison cell is also known as Garbha Griha.
Another great attraction in this holy city is the Vishram Ghat that is a worship place and is situate don the banks of Yamuna River. The meaning Vishram is rest and according to beliefs, it is said that Krishna rested in this spot after killing the demon Kansa. Devotees also flock here to take a holy bath and it is also one of the main ghats of Mathura.
The Krishna Janmasthan temple which popularly called as Kesava Deo Temple is a very sacred Hindu place of worship and is respected by millions. This temple is built right next to Krishna Janmabhoomi complex with the deity of Keshav Dev who is also a form of Krishna. Initially the deity of this temple was Bajranabh who was also the great grandson of Krishna.
The Mathura museum is one sightseeing spot of Mathura that you should definitely explore. A government museum, it displays many beautiful artifacts, sculptures and also intricately done paintings. It also houses the sculptures from Mathura school that dates back to the 2th century AD. Currently it is one of the most visited and leading museums of Uttar Pradesh.
Where to stay: Mathura has some really decent budget and mid range hotels that are all located close to the major places of interest of the city. Kridha Residency (+9192580 88041; approx Rs 3000), Hotel Krishnam Vrindavan (+9199973 78022; approx Rs 2,600), Ananda Krishna Van(+9199270 61068; approx Rs 1500), Vrinda Kunj Ashram(0565 244 2172; approx Rs 800) and Munger Mandir Guest House(+9198978 36640, approx Rs 1000) are some of the city’s best accommodation options.
Distance from Agra: 1 hour 31 min (57.3 km) approximately
Bharatpur is city located in Rajasthan in the Brij region. Popularly known as the Eastern gateway to Rajasthan, Bharatpur is also known for its Keoladeo National Park which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And because Bharatpur is also a part of the Golden Triangle of Delhi Jaipur and Agra, many tourists visit this place every year.
Bharatpur is loved mostly by people who are bird watchers. A true Bird pafradise, Bharatpur is where you should be on your next weekend getaway if you too belong to the same category. This city got is name from Bharat who was Ram’s second brother. Discovered by Suraj Mal in 1733 this city was made out of city called Mewat and this was probably the only dynasty ruled by non Rajputs in Rajasthan, a state of royals. The Lohagarh Fort was built by this very ruler after which Bharatpur was considered to be unbeatable because of the giant and spectacular fort. With the fort he also built two additional towers called the Jawahar Burj and Fateh Burj.
Most tourists come here for its historical significance and the magnificent monuments, while some tourists come here for the sanctuaries that this city has. It used to be a hunting ground or the royal family and also for British who visited this city.
Best time to visit: August to February is the best time to visit Bharatpur. During this time you will aos get to see some residing breeding birds in the sanctuaries.
Sightseeing attractions: The Bharatpur National Park also known as the Keoladeo Ghana national park is home to over 230 species of birds and is very famous, especially among bird watchers. It is a World Heritage Site and was protected in 1971. Ghana means dense and hence this sanctuary is a dense forest with woodlands and also wetlands. With birds, this sanctuary also had different species of reptiles. One of the richest bird sanctuaries in the world it is popular for its resident birds and also migratory birds.
Another attraction that you must not miss out on visiting is the Bharatpur palace. This palace is a perfect blend of Mughal and also Rajput architecture. Alluring floor tiles, exquisite designs and majestic apartments, Bharatpur Palace is an absolute delight to the eyes.
Lohagarh fort is also one of the main attractions of Bharatpur. It may not be like the other Forts of Rajasthan and may not have the same grandeur but does have an aura that makes you feel good. The magnificence if this fort is bound to leave you stunned. One has to pay an entry fee od Rs 10 for adults and Rs 5 for kids to enter this fort.
Where to stay: Bharatpur dies have many decent hotels for accommodation. Laxmi Vilas Palace(05644 223 523, Tariff- Rs 4400 approx), The Bharatpur Swaraj(078914 70316, Tariff- Rs 1400 approx), Udai Vilas Palace (096499 00154, Tariff- Rs 3300 approx), Hotel Park Regency(096727 80000, Tariff-Rs 2000 approx) are some of the best options.
Distance from Agra: 1 hour 16 min (58.3 km) approximately
Vrindavan is another very beautiful city that is situated on the banks of Yamuna River in Mathura district in Uttar Pradesh. Vrindavan is considered to be one of the oldest cities and the city where Krishna spent his childhood days. Because of such great historical significance, Vrindavan is home to many temples that were built in dedication to Krishna and also Radha. This place has been a great source of learning about Krishna and his life. People from all over flock here to worship Krishna and with so many temples, the number of tourists just increase. Vrindavan like the name truly suggests was once flanked by forests, but because rapid urbanization, the forests are fast depleting. You will see many tourists during the Brahmotsav festival that is one fof the biggest festivals after Holi and Janmashtami. Since Vrindavan is considered to be a sacred place, many people also come here to renounce all worldy pleasures forever and to even become sanyasis.
Best time to visit: October to March is the best time to visit Vrindavan. During this time you can also witness their festivals that are celebrated on a grand scale.
Sightseeing attractions: The Prem Mandir in Vrindavan is one of the newest temples built in dedication to Krishna. The temple exhibits the important events of Krishna’s life. It is 54 acre site that w as gifted to this city by Rasik saint Jagadguru Kripalu. The whole temple is made of Italian marble.
Banke Bihari temple is one of the most renowned and revered temples in Vrindavan. It was built in 1864 and unlike other temples; you will not get to see the idol of Krishna at any given time. In fact the lotus feet of Krishna also is displayed only once in a year. The aarti done here is also very interesting. They do not ring bells loudly or place curtains to cover the deity. You should visit this place when in Vrindavan.
The ISKCON temple is one of the biggest and the most popular temples of Vrindavan. This is one place that sees a lot of devotes all through the year. If not a believer, you can still come here for the aura and positive energy that you feel here.
And because you are in Vrindavan, do not return without visit the beautiful Yamuna River. Yamuna which is sometimes also called as Jamuna is one of the largest tributary river of Ganga and is considered to be very holy because it flows thought Mathura and Vrindavan. It is said that it was here where Krishna swam and played with his cowherd friends
Where to stay: Vrindavan hosts tourists and devotees throughout the year and for their comfort and convenience this city has ample accommodation options. Nidhivan Sarovar Portico Vrindavan (0565 303 7000 Tariff- Rs 4000 approx), Ananda Krishna Van(099270 61068, Tariff-Rs 1800 approx), Shri Krishna Dham(092191 98452, Tariff- Rs 1300 approx), Hotel Basera Brij Bhoomi(096909 44400, Tariff- Rs 1810 approx) and Kridha Residency (092580 88041, Tariff- Rs 2100 approx) are some of the great options.
Distance from Agra: 1 hour 33 min (75.4 km) approximately
Majestic palaces, beautiful temples and spectacular forts, Gwalior is all about these and much more. A very historic city of Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior has had a vibrant history. This city has been ruled by Marathas, Mughals,Tomars and also finally the Scindias in the 18th century. This city is also a part of the hundred cities that will be developed as a smart city under the Smart Cities mission. Thus, now you know that this place apart from all the architectural marvels also has a strong and rich historical importance.
Gwalior is also known as the fort city and Babur who was a Mughal emperor is also said to have described Gwalior was the pearl among the many fortresses in the empire. Another very interesting fact about this city is that during the British rule, Gwalior was one among the five states that received a gun salute. Not just that, it is also a big industrial and commercial region and a tourist capital of Madhya Pradesh.
Tansen, the musical genius was put to rest in peace in Gwalior and hence this city is also very rich in music. It is one of the oldest gharanas of Hindustani classical music. In fact the first ever museum that displays musical instruments is in Gwalior. Do you want more reasons to plan a trip to his beautiful city?
Best time to visit: October to March is the best time to visit Gwalior. Post march the summers get intense and the heat can be quite unbearable.
Sightseeing attractions: Padmavati Pawaya is an ancient city that has seen mentioning in many Sanskrit scripts. This city has majestic mansions and temples with huge gates. You should explore Padmavati Pawaya for an insight into the history of this city.
Another major attraction of Gwalior is the Kala Vithika which is renowned museum in Gwalior. It exhibits beautiful paintings and portraits that display the culture of Madhya Pradesh and the architecture of this museum as a perfect Gwalior style.
The Scindia Museum is also another attraction which is a part of the Jai Vilas Palace. You will be in awe once you visit this museum and also the palace. The palace has 400 rooms, out of which 40 rooms have been turned into a museum. The Palace was built by the prisoners of Gwalior fort and later was rewarded with a 12 year job. They had to weave the carpet of the hall which is now the largest in the whole of Asia.
The biggest tourist attraction is the Gwalior fort that is situated on a stunning sandstone hill and used to be the Tomar’s administrative quarters. They used this as a platform to witness the rule of different dynasties. The Gwalior fort for a very short period was also ruled by Rani Lakshmibai and Tatia Tope. The views from this fort are breathtaking. You can view the stunning valley below from this fort. The bright colors and the whole architecture is what you must check out. You have to pay an entry fee and it is Rs 75 for adults and Rs 40 for children. For foreigners you have to pay Rs 250.
Where to stay: Gwalior is the main tourist center of Madhya Pradesh and hence there is absolutely nothing to worry about for accommodation. From mid range hotels to budget ones, there is a lot you can choose from. Hotel Landmark(0751 401 1271, Tariff- Rs 3400 approx), Hotel Banjara(0751 407 7589, Tariff- Rs 1000 approx), Hotel Gwalior Regency(0751 234 0670, Tariff- Rs 3000 approx), Hotel Landmark(0751 401 1271, Tariff- Rs 3400 approx) and Usha Kiran Palace, Gwalior - A Taj Hotel(0751 244 4000, Tariff- Rs 8900 approx). These hotels have the basic facilities and amenities and are easily accessible.
Distance from Agra: 2 hours 22 min (119.5 km) approximately
One of the most popular destinations in Rajasthan amidst all the others is Sariska. It is mostly known for its tiger reserve and serves as an ideal spot for a weekend getaway. Located in Alwar district of Rajasthan, Sarikka Tiger reserve has diverse topography that consists of grasslands, dense forests and also rugged terrains and stunning cliffs. The best part about Sarika Tiger reserve is the Aravalli mountain range that surrounds the reserve. From tigers, langurs and many different birds, there is a lot that you will get to see here. And what’s more, this place also has many attractions nearby so that once you are done exploring you can head to other interesting spots.
The Sarsika National park is the largest as compared to any other Project Tiger Parks in India. Covering an area of 850 sq km, it was Maharaja Jai Singh who started a campaign to ensure that this area is protected. And thanks to his efforts today we have the beautiful Sariska National Park. It was declared to be a national park in 1979.
Of all the wildlife species found in this national Park, the Bengal Tiger is the most famous one. Leopards, jungle cats, caracal, golden jackals, chital, sambhar, hyena and myriad species of bird and reptiles.
Best time to visit: September to April is the best time to visit Sariska National Park. Avoid visiting this place during monsoon.
Sightseeing attractions: When in Sariska National Park, you can take a wildlife safari to view the beautiful creatures up close. If you love adventure, you are sure to live this safari. Earlier this spot was meant for hunting but since it is now protected it has now turned into a national park. You will be happy to find many endangered animals kept so nicely in their natural habitat. To take a safari tour in Sariska National Park, the cost for and adult is Rs 25 , Rs 200 for international tourists, Rs 200 if you want to use your camera, Rs 150 for a guide and you have to keep one guide per jeep.
After you are done exploring this park, you can then head to nearby attractions. The Kankwari fort is one of them that you can visit. This fort is the standing example of the battle fought between Shah Jahan’s sons. This fort was built by the youngest of them as a hiding place from his brother Aurangazeb. Big boulders and a beautiful entrance gate, the fort is a visual delight.
Another great attraction is the Naldeshwar Shrine that was built in the 18th century in dedication to Shiva. You do not have to be a believer to visit this temple. The scenic beauty of this shine is what you can visit this for. Flanked by dense forests and picturesque landscapes, a walk on this site is enough for you to feel refreshed.
Where to stay: There used to be a palace called Sariska Palace that has now been turned to a hotel. You can look for accommodation here; else there are other options as well. Hive Alwar (0144 663 3333, Tariff- Rs 4500 approx), Hotel Aravali(0144 233 2883, Tarrif- Rs 1300), Sariska Tiger Camp(093140 17210, Tariff- Rs 4400 approx) and Sariska - Tiger Heaven, A Sterling Holidays Resort(070231 01119, Tariff Rs 3700 approx) are the other options that you have.
Distance from Agra: 4 hours 2 min (213.9 km) approximately.
Sultanpur National Park in Haryana is where you should be on your next weekend trip. A haven for people who love both resident and migratory birds, this bird sanctuary is only for those who love wildlife. Currently they are home to at least 250 species of birds and during winters they attract more birds. These birds come from countries like Siberia, Afghanistan, Russia and also Turkey. This bird sanctuary is the most popular one in Rajasthan and hence you must visit this. Until recently, this bird sanctuary had only few cranes, but now they have a lot more to display. The main attraction point is the migratory birds. The black necked stork, Indian roller, red collared dove, little egret, rose ringed parakeet and several others are the many birds here.
And although it is a bird sanctuary they also have many animals like four horned antelope, hedgehog, blue bull, striped hyenas and many others. There s also an educational museum where you can get ample information about the birds. A lot of effort is going to maintaining the ecological balance of this park.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit this Bird sanctuary is from September to March. Winters are the best time if you want to spot the migratory birds.
Sightseeing Attractions: Apart from the sanctuary you can also visit the beautiful Sultanpur Lake where you sit by the banks and enjoy the sights of different birds. This lake is a must visit for people who just love watching birds.
You can also look out for the Machans that are four watchtowers located inside the park. You will get a view of the entire population of the park from these watchtowers. And panoramic views are always breathtaking, especially when it is of parks like these. These spots are also ideal to watch the birds.
Where to stay: You wouldn’t find too many options for accommodation here since most people come here for a day. And for those who are here for longer usually opt for stays near Gurgaon or Delhi. The Haryana Tourism Department has a guest house within the park. Bird Sanctuary Tourist Complex (+91 124 2015670) is one option that you have. They have decent rooms and also have a restaurant.
Distance from Agra: 4 hours 7 min (249.9 km) approximately
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