Weekend Getaway from Delhi – The Delhi – Gwalior – Agra Road Trip
I had spent almost a month of solo backpacking in Europe, exploring its mountains, fairy-tales villages, cobblestone streets, colorful houses, historic palaces, and much more.
Before even returning to India, I had made plans with my friends back home for a short trip from Delhi. I reached Delhi from Budapest on the morning of 9th September'18, and we still hadn't decided a place yet.
By night, we had already done thorough research of all the places we could visit and explore in the given 2-day time frame. And just when it started to seem that there won't be any plan, two of my friends took the initiative and finalized Gwalior and made the required bookings.
Phewww!! Finally, we were going to take this trip!!
We had to leave for Gwalior the next day early morning, so I had almost one day to rest and rejuvenate before going for the next trip.
How to reach Gwalior from Delhi?
One of my friends had his car in the city, so we decided to self-drive from Delhi to Gwalior. Gwalior is around 330 km from Delhi, and if you take the Yamuna Expressway, it will take you about 6 hours to reach Gwalior. I would advise you to leave early morning to avoid city crowds.
It took us almost 3 hours to reach Agra from Delhi where we made a quick stop for breakfast at a funky hostel. And from Agra, it took us another 3 hours to reach Gwalior.
PS: We had decided to stop in Agra on our way back. You can do the other way too!
We reached Gwalior around 2:00 pm. After a quick nap and freshening up, we left for Gwalior Fort. Since it was almost evening, instead of hiking up the fort, we decided to take our car to the top to save some time. But I'm pretty sure that hiking must be a great experience - enjoying every part of the fort as you walk up.
TIP 1: If you are planning to take your vehicle up to the fort, navigate to Urvai gate where you'll find a dedicated parking spot. Do not get swayed by the people at the main Gwalior gate who might offer you to show the right direction and get paid for almost nothing.
Trust your google maps 🙂
The fort has two main parts - Man Mandir Palace and Gujari Mahal. Enter the fort through Hathi Pol and be welcomed by glazed blue and brown tiled ochre walls.
Continue to the lower level rooms, and you'll see the dark dungeons where people were held captive and tortured.
As you step out of the prison rooms, walk to the Johar Kund, where the Rajputani ladies used to perform mass Sati if their king lost a battle.
Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to explore Gujari Mahal as it was already the closing time.
Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhorh
After touring the fort, we went to the nearby Gurudwara Sri Data Bandi Chorh which also has strong historical links.
History of the Gurudwara
Once, when the Mughal ruler, Jahangir, fell sick, he was suggested that a religious person, specifically Shri Guru Hargobind Singh Ji, needs to pray for his wellness in the Gwalior Fort. Jahangir asked Guru Ji to stay in the fort and pray for him. Given his good relations with the emperor, Guru Ji agreed to it. During his stay in the fort, Guru Ji met 52 Rajput rulers who were captured by Jahangir and tortured in the fort.
Days passed, and Jahangir got unwell again. This time his wife was told that the emperor is holding a holy man as captive, and they need to release him for the well-being of the whole empire. Jahangir ordered for Guru Ji's release, and that's when Guru Ji put a condition that he will leave the fort only if the emperor agrees to release the 52 arrested kings along with him.
Jahangir agreed to Guru Ji's condition stating that only the rulers who'd be able to hold Guru Ji's veil would get released. So, all the 52 Rajas held Guru Ji's veil as he walked out of the fort. And that's how the name came to be - Bandi (Prisoner) Chhorh (Release).
We stayed in Gurudwara for some time - paid our respects and ate Langar, before heading back to the hotel.
The next day, we ate Gwalior street food for breakfast before starting our journey back to Delhi. On our way back, we made a stop in Agra to see Taj Mahal, the unbeatable beauty of India.
The Taj Mahal
It has been in my list for quite some time now, that I had to visit one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.
We got a little late in leaving from Gwalior, and it was almost 4 pm when we reached Agra. By this time the weather had cooled down a bit, and it wasn't as hot which made exploring the place easier for us - so getting late was, in fact, a blessing in disguise.
We took the West side entrance and parked our car there. It was around a-20 minute walk from the parking lot to the main entrance gate.
TIP 2: Try to park your vehicle in the dedicated parking spot of the Taj Mahal premises. It is cheaper and more reliable.
TIP 3: It is generally suggested to take the East side entrance because it is less crowded. But depending on the day of the week and time of the day, you can also take the West gate. For us, we didn't have to wait in a long queue primarily because it was a Tuesday evening.
As you enter from the West Gate, you will see a red sandstone building, known as the Fatehpur Begum. It serves as the main entrance, and as you walk through it, you'll have your first look of the Taj Mahal.
Walk around and click lots of pictures.
Head to the sacred tomb after that. Wear the throw-away shoe covers that you must have received at the ticket counter before joining the queue that leads you inside the hall. Keep in mind that photography is restricted there, so try to take in every moment as you walk through it.
TIP 4: As you walk towards the Taj Mahal from the parking area, you'll see many vendors trying to sell you the shoe cover for a price a little higher than what you'll get inside, so keep that in mind, just in case you get inclined towards buying it from them.
It costs 5 INR for a shoe cover at the counter.
Be greeted by views of the river Yamuna as you walk out of the hall.
Spend some time appreciating the architecture, and gardens of the Mahal before heading back.
Agra Street Food
After Taj Mahal, we made a stop at Sadar Bazar Agra, for the much-known street food of the city. We tried food from many stalls and ate to our heart's contentment.
Do get yourself the famous Petha (an Indian sweet) packed from Panchi Petha before you leave.
Almost 8 pm by now, we had a 3-hour journey ahead of us before we reached back home. We just had to be a little careful of not dozing away after all the food that we had at Sadar Bazar.