The Taj Mahal looms fairytale-like from the banks of the Yamuna River. It's India’s most recognized monument and is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Taj Mahal has a rich history dating back to 1630 AD. It’s actually a tomb that contains the body of Mumtaz Mahal -- the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He had it built as an ode to his love for her. It's made out of marble and took 22 years and 20 000 workers to complete. Words cannot do the Taj Mahal justice, its incredible detail simply has to be seen to be appreciated.
Taj Mahal Location:
Getting to the Taj Mahal:
Agra is well connected by rail. The main railway station is Agra Cantt. High speed Shatabdi Express services operate from Delhi, Varanasi, and cities in Rajasthan. The new Yamuna Expressway (opened in August 2012) has reduced the travel time by road from Delhi to Agra to under three hours. It starts from Noida and a toll of 320 rupees per car for a one way trip (520 rupees round trip) is payable.
Trains from Delhi to Agra
Alternatively you can fly from major Indian cities, or take a tour from Delhi. Viator offer popular and highly rated private day tours to Agra, as well as combined day tours to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.
Taj Mahal Opening Hours:
6 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Friday (when it's closed for prayer). The Taj Mahal is also open for moonlight viewing from 8.30 p.m. until 12.30 a.m., two days before and after each full moon.
Taj Mahal Cost:
For foreigners, the entrance fee to the Taj Mahal consists of a 250 rupee Entry Tax (Archeological Society of India) and 500 rupees Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority). Indian nationals only pay is 20 rupees (50 cents). Children younger than 15 years are free. Night time tickets cost 750 rupees for foreigners and 500 rupees for Indian nationals, for half an hour’s admittance. These tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance from the Archaeological Survey of India office on Mall Road.
Taj Mahal Festivals:
The week long Taj Mahotsav takes place at Shilpgram in Agra, right near the Taj Mahal, from February 18-27 each year. The focus of this festival is on arts, crafts, Indian culture, and recreating the Mughal era. It gets underway with a spectacular procession that includes elephants, camels, and drummers. Elephant and camel rides are on offer, and there are also games for the kids, and a food festival. The venue has special significance, as it's apparently located on the site where the artisans who built the Taj Mahal once lived.
Taj Mahal Travel Tips:
The Taj Mahal appears to gradually alter its color in the changing light of the day. It’s well worth the effort to get up early and spend sunrise there, as it majestically reveals itself. Be prepared to encounter plenty of beggars and touts at the entrance. If you don’t want to pay the costly admission fee or battle the crowds, you can get a great view of the Taj from across the river bank. Once such place there is Mehtab Bagh
-- a 25 acre Mughal garden complex directly opposite the monument. The entry cost is 100 rupees for foreigners, and it's open until sunset. The view is one to remember!
Agra is a rather dirty and characterless city, so don’t spend more than a day there. The best time to visit is from November to February, otherwise it can be unbearably hot or rainy.
Unfortunately, many of the hotels in Agra are as uninspiring as the city itself. However, these 5 Appealing Hotels in Agra
should help make your stay a memorable one. There are hotels to suit all budgets.
Side Trips from Agra:
The deserted Mogul capital of Fatehpur Sikri
is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Agra and can easily be visited on a day trip. Nature lovers will appreciate a trip to the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary at the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Agra. Another place of interest is the beautifully carved, red ocher sandstone tomb that's Akbar's Mausoleum. It's located at Sikandra, only 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Agra.