The Taj Mahal: Ultimate Guide

The Taj Mahal: Ultimate Guide

Visiting the Taj Mahal is likely on your list of places to visit when you are traveling to India. And it should be! Situated on the Yamuna River, this incredible architectural feat is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World for a reason. 

In this post, you will find everything you need to know for a Taj Mahal visit. 

The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. The death of Mumtaz left the emperor so heartbroken that his hair is said to have turned grey virtually overnight. Construction of the Taj Mahal began the following year, although the main building is thought to have been built in 8 years, the whole complex was not completed until 1653. Not long after it was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in Agra Fort, where for the rest of his days he could only gaze out at his creation through a window. Following his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried here alongside his beloved Mumtaz. In total, some 20 000 people from India and Central Asia worked on the building. Specialists were brought in from as far away as Europe to produce the exquisite marble screens and pietra dura made with thousands of semiprecious stones. The Taj Mahal was designated a World Heritage Site in 1983 and looks nearly as immaculate today as when it was first constructed. 

How to get there

The Taj Mahal is located within the city of Agra which forms part of the “Golden Triangle” with Delhi and Jaipur, each leg of the triangle being a little over 200 kilometers. 

Train: There are several trains a day from Delhi and Jaipur to Agra that take around 2 hours. You can book tickets at the origin train station or online. 

Flight: Agra airport is almost exclusively served with flights from Jaipur, which can be very cheap and take 55 minutes.

Car or Uber: You can take a Uber from Delhi or Jaipur to Agra or directly to the Taj Mahal this takes around 3 hours. 

Another option is to book a tour from Delhi, including transfer to Agra, Taj Mahal visit, and often one or to other sites in Agra. 

We got there by car from Jaipur.

Entrance fee and opening hours 

The Taj Mahal is open every day from 6 am – 7 pm except Friday it’s closed for prayer. 

Taj Mahal ticket price: For foreign visitors, a ticket costs 1100 rupees. If you want to enter the mausoleum itself you have to pay another 200 rupees. Included in the price is a bottle of water, shoe covers, and a tourist map of Agra. 

You can get your tickets online or at the ticket boots onsite. 

Best time to visit 

The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is from October to March. This season has the most comfortable temperatures; 20°C – 30°C. We were there in March and had temperatures around 25°C.

April – June: It can get hot with temperatures over 45°C. 

July – September: Monsson season.  

Entrance Gates 

There are 3 entry gates to the Taj Mahal: South, East, and West. We found the East Gate to be most convenient for us. 

The East Gate: This gate is nearby some of the more popular hotels. 

The West Gate: This is the most crowded gate throughout the day, as it receives roughly 60 – 70 % of the visitors.

The South Gate: Located by a market with pushy people selling souvenirs. The South Gate entrance receives the fewest number of visitors. It doesn’t open until 8 am. 

Know what you can’t bring inside 

Bags must be scanned, after getting your tickets you must get in another queue if you have a backpack or purse. 

There is a long list of items you cannot bring inside the Taj Mahal, including food, headphones, and tripods. We had a tripod with us which was taken. You can check the banned items on the official website 

Visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise

We recommend you to visit the Taj Mahal first thing in the morning. There will be fewer crowds and you will avoid the midday heat. Arrive at the ticket counter as early as possible. We arrived at 5.30 am (30 minutes before the counter opened), and there was already a queue. Even if you buy your tickets online you have to pass at the counter to get a bottle of water and shoe covers.  

Don’t set your expectations too high

Don’t expect a colorful sunrise. The sunrise isn’t actually behind the Taj Mahal and the gates don’t open the sun has actually risen. And even though you will be there early, you will still be joined by hundreds of tourists who are eagerly awaiting a glimpse of this beautiful place! 

Guides and audio guides 

The Taj Mahal is notorious for people posing as guides. We’ve read there are only 60 official guides at the Taj Mahal, yet more than 3000 touts offer their services to tourists. Instead, you can download the Captivatour application on your phone and download the audio guides.

Don’t hire a Taj Mahal Photographer 

You will be approached by fake photographers who want to document your visit and ask a lot of money for pictures. 

Don’t lose your shoe covers 

When you are on a Taj Mahal visit, it can be easy to forget that this is not just a wonder of the world but a mausoleum as well. The final burial place of Shah Jahan and his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. It’s not allowed to take pictures inside the tomb. But once you are outside the platform provides great views of the gardens, mosques, and the Yamuna river. 
 

Be patient 

Everyone wants to make beautiful pictures, so take a deep breath and wait for the right moment. Patience will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. 

Get up close! 

The thing that makes the Taj Mahal so beautiful is the details of marble carving. Don’t forget to look up close. 

Dangers and annoyances 

Be prepared to encounter plenty of beggars and touts here! Like we said before there are only 60 official guides and photographers at the Taj Mahal however more than 3000 touts are posing as guides and photographers. 
 

Metabh Bagh Gardens 

If you don’t want to pay the admission fee or battle the crowds, you can get a great view of the Taj Mahal from the river bank. Metabh Bagh is a 25-acre Mughal garden complex directly opposite the Taj Mahal. This place is best around sunset. When we were there there was almost no one else. 

The garden is open every day from 6 am to 6 pm and the entrance for foreigners is 300 rupees. You can get to the garden by tuk-tuk. 

It is one of the most beautiful buildings we have ever seen but we were a bit overwhelmed by the crowds. Please don’t center your whole India trip around just seeing the Taj Mahal, it’s just one stop among many other amazing, beautiful and vibrant Indian destinations!

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