VISITING TAJ MAHAL FOR FIRST THE FIRST TIME
If you haven’t heard about the city of Agra in India, I will give you a hint why this place is one of the best place to visit – Taj Mahal. Now we’re talking, right? So yes, Agra is the city where one of the seven world wonders is located. But despite that I assure you that it has much more to offer for city guests.
Where is Agra?
Agra is located in Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It’s around 210 km (128 miles) away from countries capital Delhi. Agra is one of the most populous city in its state, it has around 4.4 million people living in it and plus all the tourists that are coming and going everyday. You can imagine how busy this city is.
The city of Agra is a very historical place which takes us back to 16th century when it was founded by Muslim ruler Sultan Sikandar Lodi and belonged to Delhi Sultanate. But the golden times for this place came with Mughals (you will hear a lot of them while visiting northern parts of India) at the end of 16h century.
Agra was made as a capital of Mughal Empire, so the streets saw a lot of building all around. As the center of Empire along with military camps there was also art, commerce and religion blooming at its finest. Walking on the streets of Agra might take you back in time while seeing beautiful architecture of Red Fort. Isn’t it nice to put yourself in those old days, at least for a minute, and pretend that you’re the Emperor of this all? I love doing that.
If you’re planning your trip to India you can also read How to spend 2 days in Delhi.
How to get there?
There is a lot of options to reach Agra. Let’s say you are coming from Delhi:
1. Hire a private driver. Safe and expensive (comparing to other options). You can ask in your hotel about it.
2. Flight. Agra has its own airport (domestic flights) so you can reach it basically from all parts of India including Delhi.
3. Bus. There are some buses that goes from Delhi to Agra and journey takes around 3-4 hours (check for tickets on 12go.asia or redbus).
4. Train. There is quite a few daily trains that runs between Agra and Delhi. You have an option for the morning express train which takes just 1 hour and 40 minutes or any other train during the day. You can read more about Indian trains here.
5. One day (or more days) tour. You can book it in your hotel, or TripAdvisor or any other travel agency that you like. These day trips are very popular and easy way to visit Agra and its main attractions from Delhi or Jaipur.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN AGRA
If you decided to visit Agra but you’re not sure how much time you should spend there listen to this. If you’re on a really tight timeline – do a day trip from anywhere you are. If you like to take it slower – one night in Agra will be enough. This city has what to offer for its guests, but also there is not as much to see and do as in other places in India. One day is pretty enough to see the main things.
The most iconic place to visit in the world. It is an enormous white-ivory marble mausoleum complex which is now one the UNESCO world heritage site. Taj Mahal is a monument to the boundless love from Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. To create what we see right now it took the whole architect team to work as hard as they can along with 20,000 carvers, stone-cutters, painters, calligraphers, masons and other artist who were hired from all over India and as far as Turkey and Iran. Taj Mahal is a pure masterpiece, with a blend of Islamic, Persian and Indian architectural styles and which was built between 1631 and 1648 using white marble inlaid with semiprecious stones and carvings.
I think we all have seen pictures of Taj Mahal, but I can tell you that it will never look as good as in reality. When I took a first glance at it while pushing myself though all the people standing in the gate I felt that my knees aren’t holding my legs anymore. The feeling of being there made me cry of gratitude, standing there and looking at one of the seven World Wonders was something that I thought will just stay as my dream. And then there’s that love story… Would you do something like that for you loved one? Would your partner do that for you? This is really something worth visiting.
Things to remember when visiting Taj Mahal:
- Entry ticket price for foreigners – 1100 Rupees (~12£, ~13 Eur, ~15$).
- Taj Mahal complex is closed on Fridays.
- Taj Mahal opens one hour before sunrise and closes 45 minutes before sunset.
- When visiting Taj Mahal during the winter keep in mind that it might be foggy during early morning hours. Fog clears up in a few hours but at the beginning it will create a moody look for your pictures.
- Prohibited items: cameras/phones accessories – microphones, tripods, any other gadgets that you use, headphones, food, drink, lighters, tobacco and other stuff. You can check full list here.
- Strictly no drones.
- I recommend carrying just the essentials – passport, phone/camera, money in a small bag or pocket so that you would have a quick security check.
- In case you brought a prohibited item – there is a luggage storage room.
2. Agra Fort
Agra fort is another place worth visiting. This fort was the main residency for Mughal Dynasty emperors. This red sandstone fort construction started in 1565 and it took around 8 years to finish it. Many structures were added later by other Mughal emperors, like The Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid), constructed by Shah Jahan, is a perfectly proportioned structure made completely out of white marble. Also Octagonal Tower (Musamman Burj), the residence of emperor favourite wifes Mumtaz Mahal, Palace of Mirrors (Sheesh Mahal), which walls and ceilings inlaid with thousands of small mirrors and many more.
All of this might sound boring for some but visiting historical places, especially forts and palaces, are just a pointless walk in the building if you skip the part where you should really immerse your attention in the history of that place.
Some very interesting fact – Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the same one who built Taj Mahal, was imprisoned in this fort by his son Aurangzeb, and spent the last 8 years of his life there. Entrance fee for foreigners – 650 Rupees (~7£, ~8 Eur, ~9$).
I dropped this here for you, because at the moment while I’m writing this, I can’t remember the name of this palace in the fort, but this picture might be a help when you will be there. So while you’re walking there you will see Taj Mahal. Since is located a few kilometres away, it will look very small. But! When you follow the column path at the opposite side of this building you will spot that Taj Mahal is bigger! It’s an illusion created by our eyes when we do not see the space that sets these to buildings apart! Let me know if you find this place, ok?
3. Mehtab Bagh
The Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight) Garden lies north of Taj Mahal on the opposite side of the Yamuna River. It was originally designed as a viewing place of Taj Mahal. You can see and take a perfect pictures from every corner of it. It’s a perfect place to see sunset with the view of Taj Mahal. Entrance fee for foreigners – 200 Rupees (~2£, 2.5 Eur, ~3$).
I think this would be more than enough to visit in one day. Walking around Taj Mahal, Red Fort and allowing yourself to stop for some food and snacks and chai somewhere on the way will really make this special (and I think the most expensive here in India).
But if you want to do something more here’s a few more places to visit while you’re in Agra:
- Akbar’s Tomb
Akbar’s Tomb is another lovely place to visit while you’re in Agra. It was on my list too, but I had a tight schedule for visiting Agra and because the train ride was longer than it supposed to be I had to skip this place. This tomb was built for a Mughal emperor Akbar, he designed and started constructions in 1605 while was still alive and it was finished by his son Jahangir in 1613. Akbar’s tomb is a red sandstone and white marble masterpiece. It’s surrounded by beautiful 119 acres garden area. Unique shape of its structure and the design of decorated inlaid panels from red sandstone and marble is what everyone should see in their lives. This place is located at Sikandra, one of the Agras suburbs, about 8 km away from city centre.
It’s open from 6 am to 6.30 pm and entry fee is 200 Rupees (~2.10£, ~2.40 Eur, ~2.60$) for foreigners.
- Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah (Baby Taj Mahal)
Yes, there is a Baby Taj in Agra which they say it’s a place worth visiting if you have some spare time! Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah was built 5 years before the construction of Taj Mahal began, in 1622-1628, by Nur Jahan for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, which actually was the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal, the woman who the famous Taj Mahal was built for. It is smaller in size but more delicate structure with marble lattice screens and fine carvings. Itmad-ud-Daulah Tomb is located on the eastern bank side of a Yamuna River around 25 minutes away from Taj Mahal.
It’s open from 6 am till 6.30 pm and they say that the best time to visit is just before the sunset! Entry price for foreigners – 210 Rupees (~2.20£, ~2.5 Eur, ~2.80$)
Where to stay?
Well rated LUXURY 5 star hotel Taj Hotel & Convention Centre Agra – has a spa and a rooftop infinity pool with a views to Taj Mahal, located just a 0.6 miles away from Taj Mahal.
Sai Palace – 1 star hotel located 2 minutes away from Taj Mahal! It has a rooftop dining area where you can enjoy your food or drink with a beautiful view to the famous mausoleum!
Stay adventurous and see you on the road!