Shah Jahan’s mausoleum (and architectural love letter) to his wife Mumtaz Mahal is surely at the top of most people’s must-see list in India. One of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World, it has quite the reputation to live up to! But what do you need to know for your Taj Mahal visit?
Where is the Taj Mahal located?
The Taj Mahal is in Agra, a city some 3 hours’ drive to the southeast of Delhi. Approached by train or via a modern, fast motorway, it is a best visited as an overnight stay to enjoy the monument at its finest.
Check out this great post from Bianca at ItsAllBee for more detailed information on how to get to Agra from Delhi, or join one of the many Delhi-Agra-Jaipur Golden Triangle tours or a shorter Delhi-Agra tour.
Don’t underestimate the number of touts and street sellers in Agra, who are attracted by the many visitors arriving on Taj tours (a staple of most North India tour packages) and to view the many other sights in the area. Unwanted attention is best avoided by keeping your eyes forward and carrying on walking. Don’t engage, even to say no, or you will find the vendors hard to shake off – but as a blonde female, I never felt threatened.
How to get to the Taj Mahal
The monument is located in the heart of Agra, but due to its scale it is recommended to take a taxi or autorickshaw (tuk-tuk) to reach the gates themselves, especially if you are arriving or leaving in the dark. Be sure to negotiate the fare before you set off; ask your hotel receptionist for a guide to what the price should be, and don’t be afraid to walk away if the figure is too high – you won’t struggle to find another willing driver!
What is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal opening time is 6am, and I would recommend being one of the first through the gate. Not only is the light beautiful and the weather cool, but you will (briefly) have the place to yourself. Arrive around 05:30 and queue outside the gate to be first through; note that mosquitos can be active at this time, though, so long sleeves/trousers and insect repellent are recommended.
Note about Taj Mahal visiting hours: On Fridays the entire site is closed, except for Muslims to attend prayers at the mosque in the afternoon. Make sure you plan your trip between Saturday and Thursday to avoid disappointment!
Why visit the Taj Mahal? What is there to see once I get there?
The iconic mausoleum itself is, of course, the main draw. Enormous up close, and made of marble inlaid with precious stone, it is breathtaking. You can enter the Taj, which is made up of a number of anterooms, with replicas of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal’s tombs at its heart. The real tombs are not publicly accessible and are located on the floor below.
To either side of the Taj are two buildings of red stone, one of which is a mosque while the other, mirroring it, was thought to be a guest house. There are also formal gardens to explore, as well as a museum.
Will it be busy?
In a word, yes! But Indian tourists outnumber foreigners by some margin, and it’s a great place to watch local life. Touts are not officially allowed on the site, although cheap entry prices for locals mean a few slip through simply by buying a ticket. As a general rule, though, you will be left alone to appreciate the monument.
How long do I need to allow?
It depends on how much of a dreamer you are! Not including queuing to get in, you could see most of the site in an hour, but allow up to 2 hours for photography and general awe-inspired wonderment.
Where can I get the best photos?
There are several classic shots of the Taj Mahal. The most unmissable is the long shot over the reflection pools with the “Princess Diana” bench at its centre. To get a shot on the bench itself, prepare for a long queue or get there early! However, beautifully framed shots can also be taken from under the arches at the back of the site, or try some quirky angles up close to really show the detail of the towering minarets and inlaid marble. Low light at sunrise and sunset can also give some nice effects with the Taj in silhouette. It’s impossible to take a picture of the Taj Mahal that isn’t beautiful.
Where’s the best place to view the sunset?
Across the Yamuna river from the Taj Mahal are the gardens of Mehtab Bagh, which make a great spot to watch the sun set over the monument, whilst enjoying local life as it passes by along the river bank.
Are there any other sights to see in the area?
Agra is a busy modern city with some other fine monuments such as the “Baby Taj” (Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah), and Agra Fort which is well worth a visit in itself. The World Heritage site of Fatehpur Sikri is also just outside Agra, so plan to spend a couple of days here to make the most of the area.
Is the Taj Mahal really worth the hype?
Unequivocally. I went there fully expecting to be disappointed, and assuming it wouldn’t live up to its reputation. But the opposite was true – my jaded eyes which had seen a million photos of the Taj Mahal were still transfixed by the real thing. Definitely not to be missed!
For more information and visitor details, see the official website: www.tajmahal.gov.in
Planning a trip to amazing India? Check out these posts to inspire your travels!
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Gandhi’s home state: The 12 top Gujarat highlights
Shatrunjaya: The Jain pilgrimage site of Palitana, Gujarat
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Or for another perspective on a visit to the Taj Mahal, with some stunning photos to boot, check out this post from India native Shivani at The Wandering Core:
Taj Mahal – The Mausoleum for the iconic love story!!