There are many incredible sights in North India, but none quite as magical or moving as the Taj. The magnificent Taj Mahal, a mausoleum made of nearly-white marble, an everlasting memorial built in remembrance of Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan between 1631 and 1648; is nothing short of an architectural miracle. This incredible World Wonder is a symbol of eternal love and romance, and has been gracefully described as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity” by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. Or even more apt and poignant to his love story, the Taj is said to “make the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes” according to its maker, Emperor Shah Jahan.
As many as 2 to 4 million people visit the Taj every single year, but this isn’t just a big tourist attraction with no soul. Many who visit are locals and many who visit come to admire the great architecture and to walk the path of true lovers before us. For travellers to India, the Taj Mahal is very much a bucket list must. And if you’re planning on exploring this incredible UNESCO site soon, read on for everything you need to know before you visit.
The Taj Mahal is located in the spectacular city of Agra in North India’s state of Uttar Pradesh. Although the marble mausoleum dominates the skyline and is very much the city’s iconic landmark, Agra also features a number of other interesting sights and architecture for those who wish to spend an extended period of time here. Some of these sights include the Itmad-Ud-Daulah Tomb, Mehtab Bagh Gardens, Jama Mosque, Agra Fort, Akbar’s Tomb, Guru ka Tal, the Chini Ka Rauza mausoleum, Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani, Moti Mosque and the Musamman Burj.
Built for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is a symbol of love and loss. The Emperor’s wife died giving birth to their 14th child and it is said by many that his hair turned grey virtually overnight after being overwhelmed with sadness and grief. Emperor Shah Jahan was heartbroken and he ordered the construction of an incredible memorial in 1632, a year following his wife’s tragic passing. It took some 20,000 workers from India and Central Asia to bring the building to completion, and although the main building was finished in just 8 years, it took more than 20 years for the entire complex to be done. Set within an elegant courtyard with a reflecting pool, the Taj features a giant dome and intricately carved white marble pietra dura with thousands of semi-precious stones. Specialists were brought in from all around the world so that the Taj Mahal could include the most extravagant and opulent materials for his construction and today, the mausoleum remains as one of the most expensive architectural creations in India.
Located in the Western part of the Uttar Pradesh state and bordering the state of Rajasthan, Agra can be reached from Jaipur or New Delhi by car or train. The city of Agra also has its own airport which serves visitors coming from Delhi and Varanasi via Air India. Within the city, you can get to the Taj by several means of public transport including taxi, Tempo three wheelers, auto-rickshaws or cycle rickshaws. For those who want to save money on transport or get a little bit of exercise, there really is no better way of seeing the city than on two wheels. Bicycle hire is available by the hour in various different areas of the city and it’s a great way to get to the Taj Mahal from the popular hotel areas around Fatehabad Road or Eastgate.
You can do all the major sites in Agra in one day, two if you want to enjoy a more relaxed pace. But it all depends on what you priorities are and how long you want to spend at each place. To really get to know the ins and outs of Agra, to learn more about its rich history and to attune yourself to the local vibe and culture, we’d recommend 2 nights at least like our Classic North India Tour or if you have other North India destinations on your bucket list, just one night like our Koh-i-Noor: Luxury India Tour could be just right for you to see the Taj in daylight and also at sunset.
If you’ve got time, the building looks spectacular at sunrise and also during the brief moments of twilight before the night sets in. And make sure you leave ample time to go inside to look at the tomb and to also explore the Taj Museum which is free of charge and open to the public from 9am to 5pm daily (except for Fridays).
The beautiful city of Agra is such a great place to stay and you’ll be ideally located to explore numerous sights / attractions and impressive architectural gems such as the Jama Mosque, the Agra Fort, the Musamman Burj or the Chini Ka Rauza mausoleum – and not forgetting, the Taj. Some of the most popular areas to stay if you are looking for luxury hotels include Fatehabad Road or Eastgate. Our fantastic tours include overnight stops in the most opulent hotels and resorts (with breakfast included) plus private chauffeurs and expert guides. Just a few of our favourite places to stay include:
* The Oberoi Amarvilas
The lavishly appointed Oberoi Amarvilas is just 600 metres from the Taj Mahal and it features lush gardens and elegant pavilions with reflecting pools and cascading fountains and it offer 102 luxurious rooms and suites.
* Radisson Blu Agra Taj East Gate
The 5 star Radisson Blu Agra Taj East Gate is a superior hotel set in 4.5 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. The hotel is located close to the Taj Mahal and features a number of hotel dining options plus a choice of bars, a swimming pool, fitness centre and luxury spa.
The climate in India can be extreme and extremely varied across the year. The best time of year to visit is usually during the cool, dry season between the months of November of March when rainfall is at its lowest, humidity is not as much of a problem and the high temperatures are much more manageable. Agra has a semi-arid climate and the city is known for its mild winters and hot summers. The city is also hit by the monsoon season between July and September but the rain, although heavy, is not as intense as it is in other parts of India so travelling at this time is still possible.
The Taj is open Sunday to Thursday throughout the year with tickets available for daytime viewing (between the hours of 8:00am to 5:00pm) and for night time viewing (8:30pm to 12:30am). It’s important to note that night viewing is only available for five nights in the month, during the week of full moon.
India is a conservative country and women are expected to dress modestly. Covering arms, legs, cleavage and shoulders is an important sign of respect for visitors to the country and inappropriate clothing should not be packed in your suitcase. Please be respectful to the local people and pack trousers, tops, shawls and scarves that cover your body. But other than some basic rules of modesty, there is no enforced dress code by law. As a general ‘rule’, it’s recommended that women who visit the Taj Mahal cover their knees; if you’re worried about the heat, maxi skirts, loose fitting maxi dresses or floaty linen trousers are a great option. As there is no official dress code, men may find it comfortable to dress to the weather but shirts or t-shirts with sleeves (rather than tank tops) and trousers or long shorts may be a smarter choice for visiting sites such as the Taj.
Ticket prices for the Taj Mahal are around 1,000 Rupees for foreign tourists, 530 Rupees for Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries and 40 Rupees for Domestic/Indian residents. There’s a separate pricing system for evening viewing tickets, which are only available five days out of the month.
All tickets can be purchased from the following places:
* Taj Mahal Western Gate (near Saheli Burj)
* Taj Mahal Eastern Gate (750 metres away at Shilpgram)
* Taj Mahal Southern Gate
For all inclusive tours with luxury accommodation, private chauffeurs and tour transport and expert guides included in the prices, please take a look at Corinthian Travel’s North India tours packages.
There is much to see at the Taj Mahal, including the various Taj exteriors that shouldn’t be missed. See the intricately designed Plinth which the mausoleum is built on, The Marble Platform which houses the tomb chamber, The Pishtaqs and Monumental Porches, the Four Minarets which are displayed in the front courtyard, The Riverfront Terrace (Chabutra) which is the most ambitious terrace ever built in a Mughal riverfront garden scheme, The Roof Terrace and The Main Finial. Inside, you will get a chance to explore the Rauza-i-Munauwara décor, The Tomb and The Tomb Chamber which is the domed hall which is paved with marble inlaid octagonal stars on the floor, The Lower Tomb Chamber plus The Screen and Cenotaphs.
You also don’t want to miss the stunning Taj Gardens and the free Taj Museum, which is open all day and does not require additional ticket purchase.
From the Taj Mahal, you are less than 20 minutes away from the heart of the city centre. Or just a little further south from the Taj Protected Forest adjacent to the Taj Mahal, you’ll come across the neighbourhoods of Dalihai, Bansal Nagar, Basai and Taj Negari where there are a number of restaurants. Go to the popular Fatehabad Road and you will find many different restaurants to choose from, including some fine dining establishments.
If you’re after some traditional street food, try Pratap Pura MG Road, which serves street from the hours of breakfast to late evening. Or head over to the streets surrounding Crystal Tower on Fatehabad where you’ll see some tasty food carts and a few vendors dotted around the tourist areas.
Just like any other popular tourist destination in the world, the Taj Mahal is not without its hawkers, hasslers and sometimes scammers! And whilst most people are just friendly every-day people trying to make a living, or curious families excited to see a foreigner in their midst, there will be some people out there who will try and scam you and steal your money. Photo scams are the most common when you arrive and it’s not uncommon for scammers to usher you into position, take a photograph without your consent or without explaining what he’s doing before charging you a price at the end of it. Other common scams, which are often conducted by local, unregistered tour guides, involve fake souvenirs being sold to tourists such as semi-precious stones and gems just like the ones used to adorn the mausoleum.
Here are some insider tips to ensure you avoid the scams when visiting the Taj Mahal:
* Pre-book your taxi
Always pre-book your taxi when possible. This will ensure that you do not get overcharged. Or negotiate with your taxi driver beforehand.
* Be prepared to get hassled
Vendors and hawkers will approach you (especially if you have blonde hair and blue eyes!) so beware of scammers trying to charge you for photos they have taken.
* Don’t bring food or flammables
There are strict rules about what you can take in so please check with your guide before you go. Men and women will be searched in separate lines, and food and flammable liquids will be confiscated.
* Keep hydrated
There’s not much shade from the sun when you are outside the building so make the most of the chai tea sellers who walk up and down the queue at the entrance and on your way into the tomb.
* Travel with a trusted guide
To avoid possible scams and transport issues, book a tour with Corinthian Travel and have private drivers, registered guides and luxury accommodation included in the price.