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The Taj Mahal is one of the 7 wonders of the world and rightly so. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan to honor the memory of his beloved wife - Mumtaz. Her dying wish was that her husband channel his love for architecture and build a grand tomb for her. That's exactly what Shahjahan did, and more. The beauty of the Taj Mahal, which is made out of white marble, is like none other. Watching it from up-close takes your breath away. However, you can get some of the best views of the Taj Mahal from different viewpoints all over Agra.
How to Reach Agra from Delhi
Delhi to Agra is a distance of 230 km approximately. This can be covered via road or by train.
Delhi to Agra - Train
There are plenty of trains from Delhi to Agra running all day. Nonetheless, I suggest taking an early morning train to beat the afternoon heat and reach Agra as early as possible. I would recommend 2 trains. First is the Taj Express. It leaves Delhi at 7.10 am from the Hazrat Nizamuddin station and reaches Agra within 3 hours. It has comfortable seating and you can usually book the train on the same or previous day and still get a seat.
The second train, the one I travelled in, is the Gatimaan express. This too, leaves from Hazrat Nizamuddin station in Delhi. It's the fastest train from Delhi to Agra. It leaves from Delhi at 8.10 am and reaches Agra within 1 hour 40 minutes. There are 2 coaches in this train - the AC chair car (costing Rs 750 per seat) and the executive AC chair car (costing Rs 1500 per seat). They serve a warm wholesome breakfast on this train, as shown in the picture above. I would highly recommend taking this train from Delhi to Agra!
Delhi to Agra - Bus
Just like trains, there are also regular buses from Delhi to Agra. Head to any travel agent and they will put you on a comfortable AC bus to Agra. The cost of the ticket is usually Rs 500. The journey from Delhi to Agra by road takes 3 hours via the Yamuna Expressway.
Best Views of the Taj Mahal
1. Inside the Taj Mahal complex
It's no surprise that you'll get fantastic Taj Mahal views once you enter the complex. Be sure to walk around the entire area, including the gardens. Furthermore, there are two sandstone structures on both sides of the Taj, one of them being a mosque. The view from inside the mosque, through it's arch is nothing short of picture-perfect. Also be sure to notice the details and inscriptions on the white marble. They make for good pictures as well.
Taj Mahal timings are from sunrise to sunset. Sunrise is a popular time to visit the Taj Mahal that's why you can expect a large crowd even at the opening time. The effort of waking up early is definitely worth watching the sunrise from the Taj Mahal. The ticket counters are located next to the gates.
2. Agra Fort
Agra Fort is an impressive structure which housed the Mughal family for generations - including Akbar, Jehangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. It is highly recommended to hire a guide while touring the Agra Fort just because there is history and a story inside every room and courtyard of the palace. While most of the palace is made up of red sandstone, emperor Shahjahan wanted his part of the fort to be made up of white marble, just like the Taj Mahal. When he was imprisoned by his own son, Aurangzeb, Shahjahan urged his son to lock him up in a room from where he could see his beloved creation - the Taj Mahal. For this reason, some of the best views of the Taj Mahal can be seen from Shahjahan's side of the palace.
3. Mehtab Bagh
Of all the Taj Mahal viewpoints, this one is a favourite among many! Mehtab Bagh, loosely translated to "Moonlight garden" is situated right opposite to the Taj Mahal, on the other side of the yamuna river. Most people prefer to come here either to watch the sunrise or the sunset. Taking a stroll in the garden is a pleasant way to spend time watching the Taj from across the river. Just like the Taj Mahal, the Mehtab bagh timings are from sunrise to sunset. The tickets cost Rs 300 for foreigners and Rs 25 for Indians.
4. Dussehra Ghat Sunset View - The Taj Mahal Sunset Viewpoint
To reach Dussehra Ghat, turn right from the Eastern gate of the Taj Mahal and walk down to the end of the road. Dussehra Ghat houses a Hindu temple on the bank of the Yamuna river, behind the Taj Mahal. It's famous for the sunset view of the Taj Mahal. In the evening, there are throngs of people gathered here to watch the sun go down. If you're lucky, the sky will fire up in bright orange hues which will reflect in the river. The entire scene is captivating, especially when accompanied by a soft breeze. Read more about tips for visiting the Taj Mahal.
5. Taj Mahal Boat Ride - Sunrise boating in Agra
The Taj Mahal boat ride is one of the best experiences in Agra. Be cautioned that boat rides in the yamuna river have been made illegal. However, there is one boatman who takes people on an illegal boat ride from 6 am to 8 am. He usually charges Rs 150 for the ride and uses Rs 50 from each boat ride to pay off the policeman keeping watch. You can find him at the Dussehra ghat every morning. Just ask anyone for the boatman and they'll direct you to him. The boat ride lasts for roughly 15 minutes. He will row the boat to the other side of the river, where you'll get the Taj view reflecting in the water. Once you've taken your pictures, he'll row back to the Dussehra ghat.
6. Saniya Palace Restaurant
I happened to stumble across this restaurant while researching Taj Mahal viewpoints before my Agra trip. The entrance to this restaurant is located 200 meters from the Eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. While the entrance may look dodgy, the view from the rooftop is quite stunning. There are 3 areas of seating - the open air seating as shown in the picture above, a higher open air seating and a shaded area. The view of the Taj Mahal is visible from all three areas. Depending on the time of the day and how hot it is, you can choose where you want to sit.
Where to Stay in Agra
While there is no shortage of hotels in Agra, I suggest taking a hotel or hostel on the Eastern gate road. Zostel Agra is a popular choice of hostel on this road. The common room/ dining area is swanky and hip, as evident in the picture above. They have dorm rooms as well as private rooms. Other hostels in this area include Zig-Zag hostel and Moustache hostel. All of these are within walking distance of the Taj Mahal.
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