The Magical Taj Mahal
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | April 15th, 2017
We planned an exciting multi-country vacation for January 2017, and India was our first stop. We landed in Delhi, checked into our hotel, and instantly began planning the next day's journey out to the Taj Mahal.
The Taj had been on both of our bucket lists for quite some time. We couldn't wait to get a glimpse of this breathtaking monument. Its stunning ivory marble, intricate carvings, and perfectly hand-crafted towers are truly awe-inspiring. I really don't think there is a more beautiful structure in the world. Aside from its good looks, there is a magical allure to the Taj Mahal. It's an allure that brings millions of tourists to India every year to marvel at this incredible mausoleum.
How To Get There
There are a few ways to get to the Taj Mahal - by train, private car, or group tour. We opted to take the train. The most difficult part was booking the tickets on the Indian Railways website. It can be a little confusing, but just follow the steps and you will figure it out. If you want to bypass the website, you can purchase your ticket at the train station. Just remember that trains do sell out, especially those going to Agra Cantt (the Taj Mahal's stop). Average travel time from Delhi to Agra is two to four hours. Trains often get delayed while in route, so a two hour journey may turn in to a four hour journey.
Once you arrive to Agra Cantt Station, find a local taxi to drive you to the Taj Mahal. It should cost around 150 rs / $2 USD, and it will take around ten minutes to get there.
When you arrive at the front gate, purchase your entry ticket (costs 1,000 rs / $16 USD), and proceed to the security check point. Now, here is something we did not know. There is a large list of things that are not allowed inside the grounds. The official website offers a full list, but some examples are backpacks, tripods, headphones, food, drones, battery packs, and large bags. To avoid any problems, pack light and leave valuables back at the hotel. All you really need to bring is some cash, credit cards, your passport, and a camera. To be safe, leave everything else back at the hotel.
Once you pass through security, you will be at one of the most beautiful places in the world - the Taj Mahal!
After we walked in, and literally stood staring at the Taj Mahal for a solid twenty minutes, we wandered around the lush gardens, gazed at the stunning reflecting pool, and found the bench where Princess Diana took that famous photo back in 1992 (btw...you can take one there, too!) We then got up close to the Taj Mahal, so we could see just how beautiful every detail is. It is truly exquisite.
After a few hours exploring, hunger started to set in and we decided to end our day at a nearby restaurant that had a fantastic view of the mausoleum. I recommend stopping at the Hotel Saniya's rooftop patio for a drink or a meal. You'll find friendly faces, delicious cuisine, and exceptional views.
As we ate lunch, we chatted with fellow travelers, and continued to gaze at the backdrop in wonder. I soon realized what that magical allure was all about. It's a feeling you can't describe. It's a feeling that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
The best time to visit is from November to March when the days are warm and comfortable. The months of April through October bring the heat, with temperatures often rising above 90° or even 100°F.
The Taj Mahal is open daily (EXCEPT for Friday) from 6 am until 7 pm. It is closed on Fridays for prayer.
Entry costs 1,000 rupees / $16 USD. Children under 14 are free.
It is best to visit the monument in the early morning to beat the heat and the crowds. This is also a great time for taking pictures because the lighting is exquisite.
There are three entrance gates, and I recommend using the East or West Gate. The South Gate doesn't open until 8 am, and it is usually the busiest gate.
Men and women have separate entrance lines. If you're traveling with people of the opposite sex, be prepared to separate from them for a bit.
Be sure to leave things, such as large bags, tripods, drones, headphones, battery packs, and food back at your hotel. Check the official website for a complete list of do's and don'ts.
I recommend using TripAdvisor to find hotels near the Taj Mahal.