Everything you need to know about Taj Mahal
As one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, the Taj Mahal is more than just a postcard-like photography subject. Evoking a fascinating backstory founded on a fairytale-like romance and bookended by a bittersweet turn of events, the Taj Mahal remains an interesting enigma and symbol of India’s colorful and storied history. It is no wonder that the Taj Mahal is the most popular tourist destination in India attracting more than 8 million visitors a year.
To learn more about this magical place, here are important travel information you need to learn before planning a trip to Taj Mahal.
Referred to by the great Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore as “a teardrop on the cheek of time”, the Taj Mahal was constructed in 1632 as a tomb for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1631. Construction commenced in 1653 after more than two decades of summoning 20,000 workers and the best artists, cutters, and marble cutters from all over India, to make the Taj Mahal one of the world’s architectural splendor.
Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It lies approximately 125 miles or 210 kilometers from Delhi and 230 kilometers from Jaipur. Agra, Delhi, and Jaipur form India’s Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit.
Most tourists opt to visit Taj Mahal on a day-trip from Delhi, which connects to Agra by road and railway. Travel time by bus will take around 4 hours, a private car by 3 hours while a train ride reaches Agra in 2 hours.
Tip: Best to take the train if you are only making a day-trip to Agra. Take a train from the New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) to Agra Cantonment (AGC). The train station in Agra is only 20 minutes away from the Taj Mahal. Upon exiting the station, you can take a rickshaw to Taj Mahal.
Best Time to Visit the Taj Mahal
This writer visited the Taj Mahal in the month of March—the tail end of the winter season in India—when the weather is cool and perfect for morning and even a late afternoon stroll on the Taj Mahal grounds. The best time to visit is from October to March. Summer season—which is scorching in Agra—starts by April and lasts till July. After that, the wet monsoon season follows from August till September.
Important: Taj Mahal is closed every Friday and is only accessible for Muslims attending their prayers in the afternoon.
Taj Mahal Tours
For a hassle-free trip to the Taj Mahal, it is best to avail from the many tour packages offered by various companies.
Uttar Pradesh Tourism is also offering a sightseeing bus tour of Agra. This includes stops at Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri. The cost is around 3,000 Rupees for foreigners and 650 Rupees for Indian nationals. This will include bus fare, entrance tickets and guide fees.
Gates opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at 7:00 p.m. (except on Fridays, when it is closed for prayers). During the full moon of the month and the two nights prior and after the full moon—for a total of five nights—the Taj Mahal opens for night viewing from 8:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m.
The entrance ticket to Taj Mahal costs 1,050 Rupees for foreigners + 200 Rupees to see the main mausoleum. (This writer is suggesting to avail of the extra 200 INR to see the mausoleum for a complete experience) and 50 Rupees (+200 Rupees to see the mausoleum) for Indian nationals.
*For citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries, the entrance fee is 535 Rupees.
What to Wear
Since the Taj Mahal is a revered place, every visitor should dress up respectfully. Make sure to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. A headcover for women while isn’t a rule, is a better option to have. Wear light clothing during the warmer months and layered clothing during the winter months (November-February). You also need to take your shoes before entering the Taj Mahal so, better to wear shoes that are easy to remove.
Best Spots to Take Photographs
The best time of the day to visit the Taj Mahal is in the morning during sunrise when there is far lesser crowd. Here are some spots (other than the Princess Diana spot) where you can take a wonderful image of the Taj Mahal:
- The spot before the arch of the main doorway
- The usual image of the Taj Mahal as captured from the edge of the garden pool lining up towards the Taj Mahal. From here, you can achieve a shot of the Taj reflecting beautifully on the water
- A portrait of the Taj Mahal from the riverside showing the reflection of the Taj on the river
- Shot from the other side of the river, in a garden called ‘Mehtab Bagh’, where you can capture the Taj Mahal on the background
- The interior of the surrounding mosques
- of course, any close-up shot of the Taj Mahal will produce a wonderful image
Guides and Audio Tour
Thanks to technology, you can avail of an audio guide that is much cheaper as compared to hiring a personal tour guide. The mobile app AudioCompass provides detailed audio recorded guide that is available in English, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Italian.
Personal tour guides are available at the ticketing sites by the entrances of the Taj Mahal.
Spots to View the Taj Mahal from Afar
This writer stayed in a hostel with a rooftop that offers a view of the Taj Mahal. Actually, most of the hotels and hostels around Taj Mahal, have rooftops where you can still see the Taj—especially during sunset. However, there are other better spots to see the Taj.
The 25-acre Mughal Garden called Mehtab Bagh is the best place to view the Taj Mahal outside of it. It has an entrance fee of 300 Rupees for foreigners and 25 Rupees for Indian nationals.
There is also an abandoned watchtower located on the eastern side of the Taj Mahal. Locals are suggesting to go here to view the sunset. You can reach it by going east from the East Gate then taking a right turn at the first fork.
Attractions near Taj Mahal
Even if you’re taking a day-trip to Agra or have a few days to spare, you can still find time to explore these other attractions near the Taj Mahal.
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, Agra Fort is considered as the sister landmark of the Taj Mahal. It was first built in 1565 in honor of Akbar—the grandfather of Shah Jahan, the builder of Taj Mahal—the walled fortress of Agra Fort spreads 94 acres. Inside, there are several historic sites composed of palaces, tombs, and old Mughal government halls. One will never get tired of exploring the architectural wonders inside Agra Fort. It is also the site of the bittersweet part of Taj Mahal’s history, as this is where Shah Jahan was imprisoned until his death by his son Aurangzeb after ousting him as Mughal Emperor in 1658.
The tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah (the Baby Taj Mahal)
Built from 1622 to 1628, this mausoleum is also known as the “Bachcha Taj” and is often considered as the draft of the Taj Mahal. This Mughal tomb was constructed upon the orders of Nur Jahan for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, a known Persian General of the Mughal Empire. Coincidentally, Beg was the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal—for whom the Taj Mahal was built for by Shah Jahan.
Other Things to remember
- Do not bring these following items inside the Taj Mahal complex: food, cigarettes, and lighters. Tripods and other camera equipment such as lighting need prior permission. Taking photographs inside the mausoleum is strictly prohibited.
- Beware of Strangers who will introduce themselves as special tour guides every visitor should hire. You can enter the Taj Mahal even without a personal tour guide.
- Since the Taj Mahal is a major tourist attraction, beware of touts outside the premises. They will try to sell you all sorts of stuff including fake jewelries.
Agra Travel and Tour Packages
Searching for the best Agra hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of Agra affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.