Literally meaning the City of Victory, Fatehpur Sikri was founded by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1571 and served as the capital from its founding to 1585. Emperor Akbar established the city to honour the local Sufi saint Salim Chishti who predicted the birth of his heir, Jahangir. Its name derived from the village of Sikri, which occupied the land prior to the construction of the city. The city was renamed Fatehpur Sikri to commemorate the successful Gujarat campaign by Emperor Akbar in 1573. It was abandoned in 1585 due to failure of the water supply. Today, there continues to be a town at the foothills of the historic site.
Often lumped together with Agra on tourist tours and trails, Fatehpur Sikri is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. It includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. The complex is made from red sandstone and is of Mughal architecture reflecting both Islamic and Hindu styles. Full of well preserved palaces and courtyards, it is a must see for anyone visiting Agra.
Car is the quickest way to reach Fatehpur Sikri. By road and in typical traffic, it is about a 40-km drive west (~50 minutes) from Agra along National Highway 21 (NH21). From Jaipur, it is about a 210-km drive east along NH21. From Delhi, it can be reached by driving south about 225 km on the Taj Express Highway, followed by National Highway 19 (NH19) at Mathura, then National Highway 2 (NH2) Agra Bypass, and finally NH 21 west to Fatehpur Sikri.
Parking lot for the historic site is at the base of the hill to the palace complex entrance.
1 Fatehpur Sikri Bus Stand. There are local buses that reach Fatehpur Sikri from the Agra Idgah bus stand that stop beneath the gate of the old palace, Buland Darwaza. The trip takes about an hour and a half.
2 Fatehpur Sikri Station (FTS). Fatehpur Sikri has its own railway station, located beneath the hill to the historic site, served daily by local trains from Agra Cantonment Station. Trips usually take an hour.
The easiest way to get around the town is by car or rickshaw. However, it is possible to walk to the entrance of the historic site from the stations. Around the UNESCO site, walking is the only mode of transport.
In order to get a full idea of this site it is better to take a guide (₹450 for 2h for its free entry part) or have a good printed guide. Entry to the site of the Jama Masjid (even to the yard) is only without wearing footwear. Beware sunny days when the flagstones get very hot. The vehicle parking is about a kilometre away and Agra Development Authority (ADA) runs some rickety non air conditioned buses to the site entrance from the parking lot area, fare is ₹10 per person one way. Ticket booths are by the entry to the fort area where the palaces are located. Tickets can be purchased in advance online from Archaeological Survey of India website for ₹35 Indian citizens/₹550 foreigners plus ₹10 Agra toll tax on site at the ticket counter. Otherwise, tickets purchased on site are ₹610 for foreigners.
- 1 Buland Darwaza. This grand gate was built to commemorate the military triumphs of Mughal emperor Akbar in Gujarat.
- 2 Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque). One of the largest mosque complexes in India. The architecture blends Indian with Persian influences.
- 3 Tomb of Salim Chishti, Dadupura. Salim Chishti was a Sufi saint, dearly respected by Emperor Akbar. In fact, the emperor held Salim in such great esteem that he named his son Salim (who would later be known as the Mughal emperor Jahangir) in honour of the saint. The mausoleum built for Salim Chishti in 1580 and 1581 is considered to be one of the greatest examples of Mughal architecture.
- 4 Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). Striking architecturally, a central pillar dominates the hall which is thought to represent religious syncretism that Akbar sought. An audience platform where the emperor sat crowns the pillar with bridges leading to the four corners of the room leading to open galleries around the upper floor.
- 5 Ibadat Khana (House of Worship). A hall where Emperor Akbar invited religious scholars of a variety of religions to discuss and debate.
- 6 Panch Mahal. Literally translating to "Five Palace", the five-storey building stands out from the rest of the complex with its almost Buddhist pagoda-like influences in its architectural design.
- 7 Naubat Khana (Drum House). It is here where the musicians of the court would play songs to announce the arrival or departure of the emperor, and for various other ceremonies.
- 8 Anup Talao (Peerless pool). The red sandstone architectural symmetry of the walls and bridges that crisscross the artificial lake or pool is beautiful but the water nowadays is polluted and dirty.
- 9 Samosa Mahal. The funny name of the palace (samosa referring to the pyramidal shaped dumplings in Indian cuisine) is because it does, in fact, resemble a samosa! It is clean and well maintained, though be wary of the guides in the palace, who can be pushy and touty.
- 10 Hiran Minar. A 30 m (98 ft) high, circular tower covered in spikes that look like elephant tusks. Akbar is said to have built it in remembrance of his beloved elephant, Hiran.
- 11 Birbal Bhawan (Birbal's Palace), Dadupura. Birbal was a Hindu courtier of Akbar, who ended up becoming one of Akbar's closest and most trusted military advisors. The stone carvings and interior of the palace where Birbal lived are magnificent.
- Jodha Restaurant, Hotel Goverdhan, Shahcoolie, Dadupura, ☏ . North Indian vegetarian and vegan food in a casual setting.
- 1 Sher-e-Punjab, Fatehpur Sikri Bypass Crossing, ☏ . Punjabi and other North Indian food with non-vegetarian and vegetarian options. The meals are hearty and feel satisfying after a long day of sightseeing.
Fatehpur Sikri lies in between the traditional Golden Triangle tourist circuit. It can be combined as a side-trip to any part of the rest of the circuit.