My not so recent visit to the Taj Mahal was quite interesting and a memorable one. Like every child in this country, I was too taught about the history of Taj Mahal in school, so I did have a vague knowledge about the storyline and was always fascinated by it, especially the part of how it came into existence when a Mughal emperor ordered his subjects to build a huge marble mausoleum in memory of his first wife and later, his body was also entombed in this mausoleum! That was quite a love story to remember. As years passed, television content creator and filmmakers started to develop beautiful narratives of Taj Mahal which were so beautifully interpreted on screen. The virtual experience of a Taj Mahal tour often made me wonder if it actually looks as displayed on screen or is it just a VFX? It was not quite long time ago that I had stumbled upon an article which stated “10 places to visit before your die” and it had jotted down the names of all the places in India that one needs to se. I was not surprised to see “Taj Mahal” on top of that list and thought of immediately planning my Taj Mahal tour, along with other major cities in the north.
Since I visited the monument during sunrise, I was half sleepy but excitement level was high as my wait to experience my longtime dream had arrived. As I kept moving forward, I started to capture glimpses of minars and the building one by one from far, until I crossed the main entrance. Once I got there, I couldn’t take my eyes from the magnificent monument and as the sun basked its rays on this beautiful monument, it looked even better. It looked like a real painting to me! It was just an amazing place to be at and I could feel the energy change as soon as I walked inside the complex. Even with all the crowds and noise around, I just felt this aura that this structure had. It was kind of once-in-a-lifetime moment for me. At that moment, I just wanted to go up and see the Taj Mahal as close as I could. And more further I went, I the more I fell in love with it. The delicate intricate work on the marble of the mausoleum was so beautiful. The view of the river Yamuna on back of the monument was alluring. Overall, I had a very enjoyable and unforgettable experience on my Taj Mahal Tour.
While researching about my trip, I came across a lot of interesting information which helped me in planning my tour and there were a few things I wished I would have known before arriving in the city of Taj Mahal, Agra. Hence, I have jotted down my best tips and advice to how to make your Taj Mahal Tour memorable:
Best time to visit: Taj Mahal is located in the northern India. Hence, the climate is a huge factor to consider before your plan your Taj Mahal Tour. The most favorable months in a year to visit the Taj Mahal is between October & March. However, the time of visit is equally important as the month of visit and it is important to ensure that you make the most of your visit at the moment. The Taj Mahal opens at 6 am and closes at 5 pm. A view the Taj during sunrise and sunset is something that you must experience on a Taj Mahal Tour. For sunrise visit, you must reach the place atleast an hour before it opens. If you think that you would be the only early bird there to see the Taj Mahal this early, then you are probably mistaken. It is a very common time to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise and the early you reach there, the better it is, else you could be waiting in the ticket collection queue for probably a couple of hour. I saw a lot of people who arrived post 6 am getting disappointed as they had to stand in queue outside the ticket booth and not enter the premise on time. The same rule can be followed for sunset view. Then there is another important time you can visit and that is on the full moon night. Since the Taj was built from such immaculate, translucent marble, you can actually see the moonlight shine through the marble. It is spectacular. For a few days before and after each full moon, the Taj Mahal is open for night tours. Book in advance, as only a certain number of people per night is allowed. Given that the Taj Mahal is India’s biggest tourist attractions, it makes sense that it can be incredibly crowded. Although it can be overwhelming, you can offset some of the chaos by arriving early. Be open and positive and remember that you are under one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Closing days: The best days to take a Taj Mahal Tour are between Monday and Thursday. Fortunately, I visited the monument on a Monday and that too during sunrise. There were comparatively lesser number of visitors on that day, may be because it was a Monday. On Fridays, the Taj Mahal is closed for prayer. Hence, make sure you do not schedule your visit to the Taj Mahal on a Friday. If you visit on weekends and holidays, the place is really crowded.
How to get to Taj Mahal: My Taj Mahal Tour was combined with 2 more cities of Delhi and Jaipur and I started my tour in Delhi and it ended in Jaipur. I had hired a rental car for my entire tour in north India. Although there are other mode of transport such as flight, train and bus, between these cities, but public transport in India are often overcrowded and are prone to rescheduling and disorganized. I chose to travel by car so that I can move at my own pace and comfort without having any time restrictions. The 4 hours drive between Delhi & Agra was extremely pleasant and comfortable as I got to see lot of paddy fields, traditional houses and local attractions en-route. If you are a budget traveler, then you can also consider travelling by train. However, please note that there are two train stations in Agra, one is Agra Cantonment station & the other is Agra Fort station. For Taj Mahal Tour, the most convenient station to disembark at is the Agra Fort station. India’s first semi-high speed train that runs between Delhi and Jhansi also halts at Agra. It departs from Delhi at 8:10 am and arrives in Agra at 09:50 am. In the evening, it leaves Agra at 5:50 pm and reaches Delhi by 7:30 pm., which means that it takes only 1 hrs 40 mins to reach from its source to the destination. It is the fastest mode of transport between these two cities. Agra also has an airport, not a commercial one though. The nearest international airport to the Taj Mahal is of Delhi. But either ways, you will have to hire a local transportation like a cab or a local rickshaw to get to the vicinity of Taj Mahal. Since vehicles are not allowed inside 500 meter radius of the Taj, you might hire eco-friendly vehicles like cycle rickshaw, horse-driven carts knowns as tongas, etc. to reach the entry gate.
Buying of ticket: The tickets to Taj Mahal are available online on the Archaeological Survey of India’s website. Alternatively, it can be bought at various cash desks found near the entrance gates, which is what I did as I was contemplating whether to visit the Taj Mahal Tour during sunrise or sunset. It is not necessary to buy tickets in advance unless you are taking part in a night tour that takes place 2 days before and 1 day after each full moon. However, buying tickets the day before your scheduled arrival at the Taj will save you time when you arrive during the day. My ticket to Taj Mahal also entitled to a small discount for other notable sites of Agra the Agra Fort, Sikandra, Itmad-ud Daulah and Fatehpur Sikri, that I had intended to visit on this trip.
Best gate to enter Taj Mahal Complex: Around the Taj Complex, there are three gates that provide access to the terrain namely, the western gate, the eastern gate and the southern gate. Although the prices are the same, not all gates are equal and there are a few things to keep in mind before you leave. The western gate is the main entrance to the Taj Mahal, which is what I entered form. It may seem that this gate is the most comfortable in terms of accessibility, but it is also the most popular and the queues are usually much longer here than at the eastern or southern gates. Try to arrive at the Taj early in the morning or ready for the sunset if you use this gate. On most days, the eastern gate is a good entry point for the Taj Mahal, as it is generally much less frequented than the western and southern gates. This gate faces Fatehabad and is a convenient entry point for visitors as it is closest to many prime hotels of Agra. The southern gate is the least used for access to the Taj Mahal. It is surrounded by market, where you are probably plagued by scratches. However, it is the best option for independent travelers or for guests staying at nearby low-cost hotels. The only unfortunate thing about this gate is that it opens at 8am. So if you are hoping that you will be in the Taj to take sunrise view photos of the monument, then this is not the gate you can choose.
Know what not to bring with you on Taj Mahal Tour: The bags are scanned at the entrance of the Taj Mahal. So, if you have a backpack or purse, then you’ll need to get in yet another queue to get it checked and be very careful of things that you put in your bags because there are certain items that you cannot bring to the Taj Mahal. It includes food, headphones and even tripods. You can find out more about the list of prohibited items on their official website. I was careless not to clear my bag before leaving from the hotel as I was asked to step out of the line just because I was carrying a packet of chewing gum. It took me roughly around 20 mins just to cross the security gate. I saw many people getting asked to go back to the gate to store their tripod and headphones at near by shops who assures that they will hold on to your belongings till you return from your visit but will try to poach you in buying some goodies from their store.
Other main attractions besides Taj Mahal: There are some interesting things to see in Agra other than the Taj Mahal. There is a red sandstone fortress of Agra situated three kilometers from the Taj Mahal. Then, there is a Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah who is the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal, the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built and then there is the beautiful Mehtab gardens which offers the one of the best views of the Taj Mahal.
Option of hiring a local Guide: For a first time visitor in India, it is very important to have a guide with them during the local sightseeing, especially for a Taj Mahal tour. The most obvious reason is that they know the entire story and related stories about the monument. In addition, they can help you to get great pictures because they know the perfect places for a nice shot.
I think everyone should visit this gorgeous monument at least once in their lifetime. If you enjoyed this Taj Mahal blog then please share it with your friends and colleagues. In case there is anything you would like to know further about the Taj Mahal or its tours, please contact us! Information is given on the contact page of our website. Also, do check out our other blogs and articles and stay tuned for more..
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