The Taj Mahal is India’s most iconic, historic attraction. The distinctive, pure white and symmetrical pillars that surround the ornate, domed mausoleum are instantly recognizable across the world.
This Muslim tomb, built by a king to remember his lost wife, is a building that has long captured the imagination of travelers and romantics who make the journey to Agra for a firsthand Taj Mahal visit.
With its enduring popularity though, the Taj Mahal can at times seem like a daunting and crowded place to visit, with long queues to match the lengthy pillars.
It’s a sight though that just has to be seen. The Taj Mahal truly is famous for very good reasons. To help you to make the most of your Taj Mahal visit, here’s our practical guide for traveling to India’s most famous attraction.
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How to Travel to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra, a major city that’s found in the north of India in the large province of Uttar Pradesh.
Agra was once the capital of the Islamic dominated Mughal Empire and was once the most important city in northern India.
Times changed, but Agra remains world-famous for the Taj Mahal and as such has become an important stop on the tourist trail, with excellent transport links connecting the city to the rest of the country.
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Agra is one of the major stops on the famous Golden Triangle route, which takes tourists from Delhi to Agra and then onto Jaipur, for a fast-paced look at the diversity of this historic region of India.
From Delhi, it’s a distance of 150 miles to Agra. There are plenty of trains every day, with the fast express route taking as little as two hours. By taking the express train you could even make a Taj Mahal visit in a day from Delhi if you were particularly short on time.
Buses are more frequent than trains, but you can expect the road journey to be slower than the express train option, with a travel time of at least four hours.
A Brief History of the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is one of the most historic sights to see anywhere in India, and it helps to know at least a small part of the intriguing story that led to its construction, in order to appreciate the majesty of the Taj Mahal even more.
In the 16th century, the Mughal Empire swept across India from the plains of Central Asia, asserting their dominance over the subcontinent and bringing Islam with them.
Agra was made the capital of this vast empire and during the reign of Shah Jahan who ruled from 1628 to 1658, much of the city’s now iconic architecture was designed and commissioned, including the Taj Mahal.
Shah Jahan’s wife, Princess Mumtaz Mahal, died unexpectedly during childbirth in 1631, leaving her husband and emperor distraught. To help to overcome his grief, he decided to build the grandest building in Agra to commemorate her memory. This became the Taj Mahal.
Leaving out no expense, the Taj Mahal was built from pure marble, using the best materials and architects from across the Mughal Empire and due to its lavish and opulent design, it took twenty years before it was completed.
The Shah’s wife was laid to rest inside the huge, marble-clad tomb, and when the Shah himself also passed away in 1666, his family laid him to rest next to his beloved wife, and today the couple still lie next to each other.
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Best Time to Visit the Taj Mahal
The best time to make your Taj Mahal visit is in the dry, winter season that runs from November to March when the weather is pleasant and there’s little chance of rainfall.
The rest of the year, you can expect to experience wet weather, particularly during the heavy monsoon season which is usually expected between June and September which also when things are at their hottest and most humid.
The dry, winter months are the most crowded and with millions of visitors descending upon Agra every year, it can be worth waiting until the end of the dry season to make your Taj Mahal visit or even braving the wet, humid weather of summer if you are looking to escape the crowds.
The best time of the day to visit the Taj Mahal is early in the morning when the light is best for photography and the crowds are at their thinnest.
With this in mind, it’s certainly worth spending the night in Agra rather than day-tripping from Delhi. The Taj Mahal is open from sunrise to sunset every day (usually from 6:00 AM until 6:30 PM).
Just remember, it’s closed on Fridays when only Muslims are allowed in for prayer.
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What To See Inside the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is a large mausoleum with several unique sections to explore within the compound, alongside several different entrance and exit ways too.
There are three gates, located at the east, west and south sides of the Taj Mahal. The western gate is the most popular and the most crowded, but if you get here early this is the place to enter as it leads to the most iconic view of the Taj Mahal.
As you enter, you see the glittering domes across the waters of the reflective pond. The east gate is also popular at sunrise for having the best light for photographers, while the southern gate tends to be the quietest throughout the day.
First, enjoy the beautiful green gardens that are landscaped around the Taj Mahal. This is where you can enjoy the reflecting pool before walking towards the mausoleum itself.
On either side of the grand, domed mausoleum are two contrasting red, brick mosques. Along the edge of the river that the Taj Mahal faces, red brick walls line the banks.
The marble floor almost shimmers in the sun, and it’s here by the mosques that you can admire the tall minarets and the dome.
To get inside the mausoleum itself, you will need to queue. It’s worth the wait to experience the beauty of the inner dome and to see the intricate, handcrafted designs and inscriptions surrounding the tomb of the Shah and his beloved wife.
There’s no photography allowed inside the dome itself, and remember to dress modestly, as this is very much a revered place.
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Tickets and Costs
Foreigners will pay a significantly higher price than locals when purchasing tickets, however, foreigners are also allowed to make their Taj Mahal visit via a much smaller queue.
Locals will pay just 50 Indian Rupees for a ticket, less than one US Dollar, but are forced to line up for hours. Foreigners will pay 1100 Indian Rupees for their ticket, around 15 US Dollars, which by western standards is still hardly an extortionate cost to experience one of the world’s most iconic sights.
Ticket prices for foreigners include not only the shorter, priority entrance queue but also a small bottle of water, a map of Agra and overshoes to cover your feet with if entering the tomb itself.
On the way in, you can expect heavy security, so pack light for the trip to avoid unnecessary waiting times. It’s not allowed to take in tripods, including selfie sticks, as well as food and even chewing gum.
It’s best to simply carry only your camera and nothing else when visiting the Taj Mahal, to save on time and to stop anything being confiscated or held back for later collection when you depart.
Our top recommended tours of the Taj Mahal:
- Agra: Taj Mahal Skip-the-Line Entrance Ticket
- Delhi Agra and Taj Mahal Private Day Trip by Express Train with Lunch
- Private Tour: Agra and the Taj Mahal Day Trip from Delhi
- Viator Exclusive: Private Taj Mahal & Agra Fort Tour, Dine with a View
Paying a visit to the Taj Mahal is a special moment in your life but you must also remember to be respectful of not only the site but the local culture. Follow our dress code guidelines for the perfect visit.
- Men: It is advised to wear long pants and avoid wearing shorts. Do not wear tank tops or muscle shirts, no matter how hot it is. Instead, wear a t-shirt, short sleeves are okay, or a long-sleeved shirt.
- Women: Covering up is the name of the game in India, especially if you want to avoid unwanted attention. For your visit to the Taj Mahal, be sure to wear either long pants, long skirts or a long dress that covers you all the way past the ankles. Avoid wearing sleeveless or tight-fitting tops, instead, opt for a lightweight linen top. Short sleeve is okay. Headscarves are not required to visit the interior.
Do I Need a Guide to Visit the Taj Mahal?
A Taj Mahal visit is easily done independently, however, if you would like a guide to help you through and to explain the detailed history, it’s best to organize this through official channels, either with a reputable tour agency in advance or through the official Ministry of Tourism.
You will quickly find when you arrive in Agra, that there are a lot of touts and scammers trying to mislead visitors. You do not need a tour if you don’t need one, so do not listen to the potentially fake advice being handed out.
Simply follow the instructions in this guide and make your own way to the Taj Mahal if traveling independently.
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