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This article is an Agra travel guide that contains information on planning a Taj Mahal visit along with expert Taj Mahal visiting tips and secrets.
Visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra can be overwhelming, especially if it's your first visit to India. Agra, in general, is overcrowded with locals. Furthermore, the large influx of tourists adds to the population. Nonetheless, that being said, there's nothing more captivating than seeing the Taj Mahal for the very first time. This post is a detailed Agra travel guide that will come handy whether you're a first time visitor to Agra or even if you've been there before. In fact, with this post, your Taj Mahal visit will be simplified, with some expert Taj Mahal visiting tips and secrets.
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Table of Contents
- What to Know Before Visiting the Taj Mahal
- Taj Mahal Visit - Top Tips for Visiting the Taj Mahal
- What to Wear During Your Taj Mahal Visit
- Planning a Taj Mahal Visit from Delhi
- Agra Travel Guide - Places to Visit in Agra in 2 Days
- Where to Stay in Agra
What to Know Before Visiting the Taj Mahal
If you're looking to make the best of exploring the monument during your Taj Mahal visit, it's important to know a few facts first. I've met quite a few people (including myself) who didn't do enough research before visiting an important monument. Consequently, it leads to a few shocks and disappointments. Take a look at some relevant information with respect to visiting the Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal Timings - When Does the Taj Mahal Open and Close
The Taj Mahal opening timings are from sunrise to sunset. The ticket counters open an hour before sunrise. It's important to note here that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. There is a small percentage of people who come to Agra on Fridays, not knowing that they won't be able to visit it. While there are plenty of Taj Mahal viewpoints where you'll get to see it anyways, you don't wanna miss out on viewing the Taj Mahal from up-close. Check out the opening time of the Taj Mahal on the official wesbite of the Taj Mahal.
Best Time of the Day to Visit the Taj Mahal
The best time of the day to see the Taj Mahal is, undoubtedly, sunrise. You will be surprised to see a large number of people gathered at the gates early in the morning. Granted that it gets overwhelming to see a huge crowd. At the same time, there will be numerous people coming to you, asking you to hire them as your guide. All of that being said, there's nothing more mesmerizing than watching the Taj Mahal come alive during sunrise. Similarly, sunset is also one of the best times to visit the Taj Mahal. The reflection of the sun in the nearby Yamuna river visible from the Taj is quite spectacular.
Best Time of the Year to Visit the Taj Mahal
- October to March: This is probably the best time of the year to visit Agra. Although some might find the weather a little cold, it's a much better alternative to visiting Agra during the summer heat. With this in mind, note that December and January can get quite cold with temperatures dropping as low at 2°C.
- April to June: These summer months are the hottest time of the year. Generally speaking, summer in North India can be unsparingly hot. Carry a water bottle with you at all times to stay hydrated.
- July to September: The monsoon showers during this time of the year provide the much-needed respite from the heat. If you're trying to avoid the extreme heat and cold, this is the best time of the year to visit Agra. In any event, carry a raincoat or umbrella while traveling to Agra in the rainy season.
Taj Mahal Visit - Top Tips for Vsiting the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal gets over 8 million visitors annually. Needless to say, it gets crowded and overbearing. To make the most of your Taj Mahal visit and avoid facing any hassles, follow these simple tips. These will help you to seamlessly visit this top attraction in Agra.
1. Choosing the Gate to Enter the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal has three gates - the eastern gate, the western gate, and the southern gate. The southern gate is an exit-only gate in a not-very-nice area and is best avoided. The western gate of the Taj Mahal is a popular choice, which makes it the most crowded one. This is the reason why choosing the eastern gate to enter the Taj Mahal would be a wise decision. In the morning, the queue here is approximately 10-15 minutes long, which is quite decent.
2. Where to Buy Tickets to the Taj Mahal
Tickets to the Taj Mahal can be bought on the spot from ticket counters near the gates. Ticket counters open an hour before sunrise. The Taj Mahal ticket costs are divided into four categories.
- Indian Nationals - INR 50 ( plus an additional INR 200 to enter the main mausoleum)
- Visitors from SAARC or BIMSTEC Nations - INR 540 ( plus an additional INR 200 to enter the main mausoleum)
- Foreign Nationals not belonging to SAARC or BIMSTEC Nations - INR 1100 ( plus an additional INR 200 to enter the main mausoleum)
- Children below the age of 15 - Free
You can even buy tickets to the Taj Mahal online.
3. How to Reach the Taj Mahal
This one is probably one of the more helpful Taj Mahal visiting tips that I found. If you're staying on the Taj Mahal east gate road, which I recommend, walk to the Taj Mahal eastern gate parking. On the other hand, if you're staying elsewhere, ask your cab or tuk-tuk driver to drop you here. At this point, no vehicles are permitted to go any closer to the Taj Mahal. Here you'll find rickshaws or tuk-tuks charging you INR 50 or more to drop you to the Taj, which is at the distance of 1.2 km from the east gate parking. However, what a lot of people don't know is that if you go inside the parking area, the government operates battery vehicles that take you directly to the Taj Mahal. Moreover, they just charge INR 10 for this ride! These vehicles operate both to and from the Taj Mahal and the parking lot.
4. Know What Not to Carry inside the Taj Mahal
Security inside the Taj Mahal is tight. There is a thorough bag check done at the gate. Thus, to avoid wasting your precious time, know what not to carry to the Taj Mahal. Tripods and drones are banned inside the Taj Mahal. In fact, drones are illegal in all of Agra. Any books, except for guide books, are not permitted inside. Also, be mindful of any cigarettes or lighters lying around in your bag. In my experience, carrying a small bag containing just a wallet, important cards, a camera, and a small water bottle is enough.
5. Get that Famous Shot of the Taj Mahal
The moment you walk into the Taj Mahal's big gate, there's the first Taj Mahal viewpoint. There'll be scores of people gathered here to take a picture. However, you need to keep walking ahead. There is another viewpoint located just a few meters ahead. The view of the Taj Mahal looks much better from here. Not to mention, most of the "famous" shots of the Taj Mahal are taken from this second viewpoint. There's even a bench here to sit and get a nice shot with the Taj Mahal in the background. Often there's a queue to get a picture taken here. Wait patiently for a few minutes and you'll get your epic shot!
6. Get a Close-Up View and Notice the Intricate Details
The Taj Mahal is more than just a structure made of white marble. From far, it may look like a simple marbled tomb whereas, from up close, you'll be able to notice just how much effort has been put into the details. As a matter of fact, the entire monument has been carved up with intricate writings and patterns all over it. Get up close, enter the area just outside the main mausoleum and take some time to walk around to marvel at these details.
7. View the Taj Mahal from a Mosque
There are two structures on either side of the Taj Mahal. On the east side, there's a building called the Mehman Khana whereas, on the west, there's a mosque. This is the place to go if you want a picture of the Taj Mahal from a beautifully arched frame. In fact, I've written a detailed post on where to find the best views of the Taj Mahal. You'll find a guide to this mosque and many more Taj Mahal viewpoints in that post.
8. Beware of Footwear Thieves inside the Taj Mahal
Yup, you read that right. To enter the mausoleum inside the Taj Mahal, you need to either remove your footwear or cover it up with a cloth that you can purchase outside the gate. If you choose to remove your footwear, be mindful that when you come back, it might not be there. And this comes from personal experience. It happened to my friend while we were inside the mausoleum. This is the reason why purchasing a protective cover is advised. However, most people don't dispose of these covers properly and you'll find them littered all over the place. If you choose to go with this option, please discard these covers only in the dustbin instead of throwing it on the road.
What to Wear During Your Taj Mahal Visit
Generally speaking, there's no official dress code for visiting the Taj Mahal. However, it's advisable to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders, especially because that part of India is conservative and also because there's a mosque inside the Taj Mahal complex. Maxi dresses, long skirts, brightly-colored trousers look great against the white of the Taj. Many men and women dress up in Indian clothes such as sarees and churidars. It's heartening to see them embrace the local style of clothing. During the summers, carry light cotton clothes. On the other hand, during winter, definitely wear sweaters and jackets to keep yourself warm.
Planning a Taj Mahal Visit from Delhi
How to Reach Taj Mahal from Delhi
Delhi to Agra is a distance of 230 km approximately. This small distance can be covered via road or by train. Buses and trains are inexpensive ways to reach Agra from Delhi. But, these two means of transportation can get crowded. In that case, hiring a cab is also a viable, albeit, more expensive option.
Delhi to Agra by 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 traveled 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 on this train - the AC chair car (costing INR 750 per seat) and the executive AC chair car (costing INR 1500 per seat). They serve a warm wholesome breakfast on this train. I would highly recommend taking this train from Delhi to Agra!
Delhi to Agra by Bus
Just like trains, there are also regular buses from Delhi to Agra. Head to any travel agency and they will put you on a comfortable AC bus to Agra. The cost of the ticket is usually INR 500. The journey from Delhi to Agra by road takes approximately 3 hours via the Yamuna Expressway.
One Day Trip from Delhi to Agra
Since Agra is just a short distance from Delhi, some people choose to take a day trip to Agra. Since the Taj Mahal can get crowded before noon, it's advisable to leave from Delhi early in the morning. Thus, reach Agra by 10 am. Firstly, visit the Taj Mahal. Then, see some of the other famous sights in Agra, which are mentioned in the next section. Before you leave, don't forget to see a sunset view of the Taj Mahal. Finally, you can leave Agra just after seeing the sunset. There are trains running all day. Just make sure you know the timing of the last train to Delhi.
Agra Travel Guide - Places to Visit in Agra in 2 Days
Even though this Agra travel guide focuses mainly on the aspect of planning a smooth Taj Mahal visit, I strongly recommend spending at least 2 days in Agra to take in all the views of the Taj Mahal and to visit all the other sightseeing spots. Take a look at some of the best places to visit in Agra in 2 days.
1. Agra Fort
The Agra Fort was the colossal home of the Mughal Emperors and their families. From the Mughal emperor Akbar to his son Jehangir and Jehangir's son Shahjahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, each of them has lived here. This fort has a beautiful garden, red sandstone as well as white marble sections, and great views of the Taj Mahal. The Mughals lived lavish lives so you'll get an insight into their abode. I would highly recommend hiring a guide because of the interesting stories they will tell you about the fort.
2. Mehtab Bagh
Mehtab Bagh, or "Moonlight Garden" offers one of the best views of the Taj Mahal. It's located across the river, directly opposite the Taj Mahal. The garden is quite large and has some tress so you can sit in the shade and look at the Taj. Additionally, it's also great to walk around and find good angles for photographing the Taj Mahal.
3. Sunset View of Taj Mahal from Dussehra Ghat
Not only does Dussehra Ghat offer a spectacular view but also the most beautiful sunset view of the Taj Mahal. To reach here, turn right from the Taj Mahal eastern gate and walk down to the end of the road. This spot is getting popular among visitor so you'll see quite a few of them gathered to watch the sunset. Watching the sun go down across the Taj is one of the best things to do in Agra.
4. Watch out for the hillarious signs
Let's be honest. We all love a misspelt road sign that makes us laugh. Luckily enough, you'll find quite a few of these in Agra. There was one liquor shop that I came across which had a hysterical sign board. Can you guess what it says?
5.. Visit a Rooftop Restaurant in Agra
If you're looking for unique places to photograph the Taj Mahal, then the answer lies in the rooftop restaurants in Agra. As a matter of fact, it's one restaurant in particular. Saniya Palace Restaurant is well-known for some of the best views of the Taj Mahal. It is located close to the southern gate of the Taj Mahal and is also an easy walking distance from the east gate. The food here is decent enough. Plus, you get a breathtaking view with your meal.
Where to Stay in Agra
It's advisable to find hotels near the Taj Mahal Eastern Gate which will put you a short walk away from the Taj Mahal. There's a range of hotels and hostels on this road.
I stayed at Zostel Agra for 3 nights when I had planned my Taj Mahal visit. What I loved the most about Zostel Agra was it's close proximity to the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. I just had to walk a couple of hundred meters to reach the battery car parking and take a ride to the Taj Mahal for a mere INR 10. Even without it, the Taj Mahal was less than a kilometer from the hostel. Plus, it was convenient to go to the other places to visit in Agra in 2 days from here. Zosel Agra has dorms as well as private rooms and the cafe + common room has a view to die for! (pictured above).
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