If you’re all about the white Instagram marble aesthetic, the Taj Mahal should come high on your India bucketlist. The opulent architecture sits right on the banks of the River Yamuna, Agra and is one of the country’s most prized possessions. An icon of undying love, the mausoleum was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century as tribute to his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who passed away during delivery of their 14th child. The grandiosity of the marble-clad wonder is touted to be as much of a display of power as it was for love. History has it that it took over 20,000 workers and two decades to build this iconic stature but its other myths and tales remain wrapped in mystery. Since much remains unknown, perhaps it’s a good idea to visit and have your own story to tell!
How To Get There
Transportation to Agra has been becoming increasingly efficient, with train rides under 3 hours for a very affordable price. The Yamuna Expressway depart from Noida and costs 415 rupees for a one way trip and 665 rupees for a round trip. Agra is part of the famed Golden Triangle route, one that is commonly covered by first timers to India. Alternative transport include bus or flights from major cities.
Most would make Agra a day trip, but if you have the time, it’s advisable to spend a night in Agra so you can get up (not so) bright (at 4:30AM) and early to get to the towering monument before sunrise.
The Best Time To Visit Agra
November to March would be the most ideal months to visit weather wise, however, these are also peak months with high number of visitors. The weather becomes extremely unforgiving between April to June. October is relatively pleasant, though it still remains warm during the daytime. It is strongly advisable to dress appropriately throughout your tour of India, while also bearing in mind weather conditions.
Opening Hours, Entrance and Ticketing Details
The Taj Mahal is open everyday from sunrise to sunset (6:00 AM – 7:00 PM) everyday except on Fridays, where the mosque is accessible only for Muslims to attend prayers. Tickets are available for sale by 5:30AM at the ticket offices near the entry gates and queues can be massive. Alternatively, they can be purchased online here and do note that this is the only official website to get your tickets from.
Fees (as of 2018)
Foreigners: 1,000 rupees
Indian Nationals: 40 rupees
Children age younger than 15 years old are free to enter, regardless of nationality. A foreigner’s ticket includes a bottle of water, shoe covers which all must wear, a tourist map of Agra and bus/golf cart service to the entry gates. It also allows ticket holders to enter the monument before any Indian ticket holders waiting in line.
As of 2018, authorities have placed a cap of 40,000 Indian nationals to be allowed into the grounds each day. If you’re the 40,001st and up, you can choose to pay a foreigner’s ticket price to enter.
For 5 days a month, a night view of the monument is available from 8:30 PM to 12:30 AM (2 days before, the day of, and 2 days after the full moon night) for a lucky 400 guests at a maximum of 30 mins per stay. However, the closure on Fridays still continue during this period as well as during the month of Ramadan. Tickets for this must be purchased between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM 1 day in advance at the office of the Archeological Survey of India on Mall Road.
Fees (as of 2018)
Foreigners: 750 rupees
Indian Nationals: 510 rupees
There are 4 gates in total but only 3 used for entry—South, East and West. The Royal Gate is another masterpiece in itself. Vehicles are not allowed within 500 meters of the grounds due to pollution.
South Gate: the least used gate of the three, and only opens at 8:00 AM (sunrise visitors please take note).
East Gate: closest to well-known hotels and thus most popularly used by foreign tourists. Tends to get crowded in the early mornings when large groups tend to arrive there. If you’ve bought your ticket in advance, it is still said to be the best entry point. There are services to take you to the entry gate for those who can’t or don’t want to walk as the ticket office is about a 10 min walk away.
West Gate: used by majority of local visitors and has the longest lines throughout the day, but is the preferred option at sunrise to avoid the crowds at the East gate.
With all that being set in place, you’re now ready for your trip to the ivory beauty!
Throughout the years, the Taj Mahal has been shot in all its alabaster nobility by many, from famous photographers to the lone traveller. A nifty tip is when taking pictures of the marbled artistry is to overexpose by at least one stop otherwise it won’t look as white and bright as it does in real life.
The aura of the Taj is said to change depending on the time of day. Pearly gray and pale pink at sunrise, glittering white at noon, orangey-bronze at sunset and even a translucent blue in the evenings. For the morning people, visiting in the wee hours can be extremely rewarding, as you avoid the swelling crowds and heat later in the afternoon.
To Get The Best Views Away From The Actual Grounds
After a morning spent on the actual grounds, wander around the rest of Agra before heading to Mehtab Bagh, a huge 25 acre garden that is in perfect alignment and symmetry with the monument and is said to be an integral part of the original design. Entry costs 200 rupees for foreigners and 20 rupees for locals. Here you will get the best view of the Taj Mahal at sunset.
There’s also a lesser-known abandoned watchtower across a sandy field on the eastern side of the Taj Mahal. Get there by heading east from the East Gate and taking a right at the fork in the road. It costs 50 rupees to enter.
The final option are rooftop restaurants, one of which that is particularly known for food and views is the Saniya Palace Hotel which may be a good option after a long day around Agra.
Expectations and Tips
Finally, here are some expectations while you’re there.