The following day, we hired a taxi for the day. First we headed to Fatehpur Sikri, a couple of hours outside of Agra. It’s a silent hilltop city of abandoned palaces and gorgeous crumbling red stone buildings. We were there first thing in the morning and had the place to ourselves – a beautiful thing! There are some beautiful buildings here, with lots to explore. It's well worth the trip.
After visiting the main area, we went next door to the Mosque (Jama Masjid) next door. Again, we were glad to have socks because the grounds were not clean and we had to take off our shoes. The courtyard is huge. The gleaming white tomb in the middle has even tighter security - you can't even carry your shoes inside. There was no official shoe-keeper, so we just took turns wandering around.
Back in Agra, we visited the Itimad-Ud-Daulah (aka Baby Taj) It is sort of a scaled-down version of the Taj, and is pleasant to check out, especially for the beautiful inlaid carvings inside.
Our final stop was the Dayal Bagh, which is advertised as the next Taj Mahal. Similar to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the building has been under construction for years (since 1915), with no end in sight. We were able to wander around freely checking out craftsmen at work, working on stone carvings etc. It was a great opportunity to see how the inlay work is done. There was no one there, since it's not really on the tourist path yet. It was well worth the trip, and we were very glad our Let's Go guidebook told us to check it out. Our driver told us that in all his years of driving a taxi, no tourist had ever asked to be taken here, but it's a really worthwhile side-trip.
We also visited the Agra Fort, which is the sister building to the Red Fort iin Delhi. In the distance, through the smog, we were vaguely able to make out the Taj. Otherwise, the Agra Fort has very nice gardens and courtyards, some beautiful buildings, and a good view of the city (and the smog).
We headed back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and continued on to Varanasi (Banaras).