Taj Mahal Travel Guide

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Introduction

The Taj Mahal has an enchanting energy that beams from its glorious white façade. Anyone who basks in its presence is immediately overcome with its stunning beauty, immaculate aesthetic appearance and sheer joy. One of the 7 Wonders of The World, this stunning building lives up to its reputation. As you approach ‘the most beautiful building in the world’ you’ll be stunned by the white marble, shining gloriously in the morning sun. Something about this royal tomb will give you goose bumps. The grandeur of the Taj is truly awe-inspiring. As many people will tell you, it’s definitely worth a trip to India, and will be your highlight of the adventure. Here’s your guide on how to see the Taj Mahal yourself.

The Experience

After fighting through the anarchic, dusty and shambolic Agra, and lining up with what feels like a million Indians, you will finally make it through to the stunning grounds of the Taj Mahal. You won’t see the great building straight away, adding to its mystery and allure. But instantly, you will feel more relaxed.

The vendors are not allowed past this point, and you won’t be harassed by souvenirs sellers and food vendors, who will stop at nothing to get your business. Some will even follow you down the road and will not stop until you buy. Entering the grounds of The Taj Mahal is a welcome relief from this hounding.

You will follow the crowds and your guide through the immaculately manicured gardens and grounds of the Taj Mahal, before passing underneath the first gate. After emerging, you’ll finally see the beautiful glimmering façade of the Taj Mahal for the first time. It’s no secret that your first glimpse will take your breath away. Be prepared to stand still for a few moments while taking it all in. Try your best to stand tall for your first glimpse of the Taj, as many tourists will have their selfie sticks and camera phones high in the air, ready to capture the first viewing. While it’s nice that everyone understands the importance of beauty of the building, it can also be frustrating.

As your guide walks you through the gardens and grounds in front of the Taj, they will tell you all about the romantic history of the building and some fun facts about it, including that the worth of this stunning building is a little over a billion USD.

You will have a plethora of opportunities to take photos of the glorious buildings, including the ‘classic’ shot right in front. You will have to line up, and you might get other tourists in your photo, but it will all be worth it. You guide will also have many ideas for photos you can take, many of which can be quite lame. If you’re a fan of Indian boy bands, you’ll feel right at home.

You’ll walk around the Taj Mahal, through the middle, and around to the back, where you’ll gaze across the muddy river in front of you. The Taj Mahal looks exactly the same from each of its four sides, and you’ll find yourself taking photos on each of the sides you stumble across. You’ll also be given some shoe protectors, to preserve the tiles within the Taj itself, and the surrounding white tiles. This has been a very important push from the Indian government, as the white tile discolouration can look unclean.

Some of the most incredible experiences of witnessing the Taj Mahal have occurred at sunrise and sunset. You must arrive at these times on a tour, as they will especially open and close the gates to the complex for these groups. Please beware, during the Winter months, India has a notorious blanket of thick fog that covers most northern areas. If you go in the morning for Sunrise during these months, you might find that you cannot see the Taj Mahal at all.

How to Get There

The best place to land in India is the capital, New Delhi. It’s not only the economic and cultural capital of India, but it is also the most effective launching point for your Taj Mahal adventure. It’s a 20-hour flight from LA, usually with one stop over and will cost approximately $1200USD. The Taj Mahal itself is located in the town of Agra.

You can get to the Taj Mahal from New Delhi, through a taxi or an organised tour. A taxi is relatively inexpensive and is cheaper when split between a few travellers. The journey will take around 3 and a half hours, and you will drive on a long highway, through the Indian countryside to arrive in the busy and dilapidated city of Agra. The advantage of this mode of transport is that it will take you straight to the chaotic main entrance of the Taj Mahal.

The other option is to travel to the city of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located. Most local, budget airlines offer flights to Agra, with a stopover in Varanasi. The distance between the two cities is only 137kms, so a stopover in the city of Varanasi (1000kms from New Delhi) is necessary to make the journey’s length worthwhile. There are plenty of hotels, in a range of different price ranges in Agra. The town completely and totally services its most famous landmark and you won’t be able to escape the touts flaunting their Taj Mahal souvenirs and trinkets. The city of Agra itself isn’t riveting, and some travellers even say that skipping the town altogether was a smart option. The choice is yours.

However you decide to embark on this journey – some say spiritual journey – please be aware that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. Many travellers have made the mistake and missed their chance to visit this incredible site.

Tickets and Guides

Any hotel in Agra and New Delhi can organise a guide for you, anyone in the hospitality industry will have connections and will be able to help you on your way. This will cost a little extra, as the overall amount will usually include the taxi and the guide. Please keep in mind that ‘everyone is friends with everyone’ in India. If you go with this option, more often than not, you will stop in at a café or restaurant in Agra that’s owned by the driver or guides brother/friend/cousin/etc. It’s all part of the journey and a big part of India’s charm. Just be prepared to be flexible and let them take the lead.

You can also opt to make your own way to Agra and buy your tickets at the gate. The only disadvantage of this is that when you have a guide already, they will push you through the lines and get you into the Taj Mahal faster. If you’re doing it yourself, be prepared to wait in the long lies with the rest of India – seriously, on average 35 thousand tourists visit every DAY! Once you have braved the lines, you will find the grounds of the Taj Mahal tranquil and relaxed – very different from the bustling Agra. You can then get a guide, who will help you explore the grounds.

There are three different gates to access the Taj Mahal, the southern, eastern and western. You can buy tickets are any of these three gates, from sunrise to sunset. The prices of tickets for foreigners is about $15USD – very cheap considering you’re about to enter a World Wonder and UNESCO World Heritage Listed site. If you pre-arrange your tour to the Taj Mahal from your hotel in Agra of New Delhi, then the ticket price should be included in the original price quoted to you.

You can also buy tickets in advance online, however you will still need to pick them up at the gates. Be prepared for the lines. Even though the internet is still relatively new in India, the speed at which people are learning is insane. They have clued on to the online tickets and more and more people are choosing this option.

The Taj Mahal should definitely be on everyone’s Bucket List, for its pure beauty and unmatched presence. It’s worth the journey to India, a stark contrast with its dirty streets and polluted waterways. Take photos to capture these memories, as this will truly be a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Taj Mahal really is ‘the most beautiful building in the world’.

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