Fatehpur Sikri is a must-see on any trip through India’s Golden Triangle. It’s hard to describe – it’s more than a “site” or a “palace” – it’s so giant and has so many facets that it defies easy description. Half of the site is a palace for one of the Mughal emperors. Half of it is one of the largest mosques in India, with one of the highest gates!
The whole of it is just breathtaking! It takes the better part of a half a day to get through, and it’s absolutely worth it! The complex is set on a hill, so has amazing views of the area around it. It has gorgeous red sandstone architecture. And then there’s the mosque, with some of the incredible marble work India is known for.
General Fatehpur Sikri Information
Fatehpur Sikri is outside of Agra on the road to Jaipur, so most Golden Triangle tours will include it.
Fatehpur Sikri Entrance Fee & Other Costs
The entrance fee for foreign tourists covers the mosque, the palaces, and the entire site. It’s 510 rupees, which is a little less than $8 US. Most Golden Triangle group tours will include this fee in the tour cost itself, so you won’t have to worry about it.
You’ll want to take a bit of extra money. There is a bus that will take you back from the mosque to the parking, and it’s 10 rupees. Worth it – the site is giant!
The other thing is to buy a thread to tie on the marble screens of the Tomb of Salim Chisti. This is a fun practice, as it’s believed that it can make wishes come true. Plan to pay about 10 – 30 rupees for the thread.
If you want to know more about total costs to visit India, you can find my expenses for a Golden Triangle tour.
Fatehpur Sikri History
“Fatehpur Sikri” means “City of Victory” and it was founded by Akbar, who was one of the Mughal rulers. He started the main construction in 1571, and it was his main palace and the seat of the Mughal empire until 1585. It was completely abandoned in 1610 due to a lack of water.
While it was abandoned by the Mughals, it was in use for various purposes almost until modern day. The British even used it as a fort and barracks.
In 1986, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A Walk Through Fatehpur Sikri
First things first – this is India. Don’t be surprised to find lots of cows milling around when you park! This was one place that I actually saw more cows than usual, but they’re very docile.
Also, there are GIANT ants at the entrance to Fatehpur Sikri. I remember this well because being an American, and more specifically, a Floridian, I believe ants exist to be killed. So I intentionally stepped on a few of the giant ones.
Don’t do that. It’s considered very rude to kill animals. Even ants.
Fatehpur Sikri Entrance & Diwan-i-Aam
Most visitors start their visit at the palace side rather than the mosque side. At the entrance, there is a gorgeous expanse of well-manicured grass that’s just incredibly beautiful set against the red sandstone of the structures.
The main entrance is what used to be the Diwan-i-Aam, which is the hall of public audiences. It’s where the Akbar, the ruler who built Fatehpur Sikri, would meet the public. This is why there’s such an expanse of grass – the people needed somewhere to be!
You’ll start by walking into palace area, where you’ll get a view of the well. It’s not appetizing these days! But you can see just how giant it is by the size of the well versus the person in this picture!
As you enter, you’ll be on the outside of the complex, so you’ll be able to look out over the countryside. The views are just incredible!
As a counterpart to the hall of public audience, the Diwan-i-Khas is the hall of private audiences. It’s one of the more architecturally stunning portions of the complex!
This is where Akbar would hold audiences with any number of people, but privately. He was known for his interest in religion and would invite people of many faiths to come and discuss with him.
One of the buildings you can’t possibly miss is the Panch Mahal – it’s the five-story palace in the middle of the complex, and supposedly the screens inside it suggest it was built for the ladies of the palace.
Our guide told us that part of the reason it was built so high, and at a high point in the complex, was to create breezes. With it being so hot in so much of India, this was a place that the ladies could relax and try to escape some of the oppressive heat.
Fun fact: the Panch Mahal has a total of 176 columns!
This is one of the more gorgeous areas – there’s a platform surrounded by water. Our guide said that Akbar would invite musicians in and they would play on the center platform so the music would filter through the entire palace area.
The Wives’ Residences at Fatehpur Sikri
One of the funnier and more controversial parts of Fatehpur Sikri are the areas that are said to be palaces for Akbar’s favorite wives. He had three favorite wives – a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian. The guide showed us different areas and said that the smallest area was for the Muslim wife, the mid-sized area for the Christian wife, and the largest for the Hindu wife. A very clear pecking order, no?
I’ve since learned that there are some villagers that dispute these claims, but alas, it’s funny to think about. In general, it’s clear where the wives lived due to the architecture providing privacy.
The Mosque at Fatehpur Sikri
The palace side and the mosque side are somewhat separate at Fatephur Sikri – it’s very clear when you’re walking between the private palace side and the more public mosque side. If it’s clear for no other reason, it will be clear because you’ll be asked to take your shoes off!
The Jama Masjid mosque at Fatehpur Sikri is one of the largest in India, and it’s incredible! It’s got a large open courtyard with the Buland Darwaza on one side, and the Tomb of Salim Chisti in the middle.
This is one of the key things to see at Fatehpur Sikri – it’s the highest gateway in the world! It was built by Akbar to commemorate one of his victories.
Tomb of Salim Chisti
This is one of the other key areas of the mosque complex at Fatephur Sikri. After the Taj Mahal, you’ll be somewhat used to this architecture! In a sandstone complex, the Tomb of Salim Chisti stands out quite a lot because it’s made out of pure white marble. It’s got gorgeous and intricate marble screens all around it.
It’s been said that tying a thread around the screens will make a wish come true! Save some money so that you can buy one at the mosque and see if your wishes come true!