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. It has a rich history dating back to 1630 AD and is 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.
Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Delhi. It's part of India's popular Golden Triangle tourist circuit.
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. Find out about the best Trains from Delhi to Agra.
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.
Alternatively you can fly from major Indian cities, or take a tour from Delhi.
Tours from Delhi to Agra:
If you'd like to take a tour from Delhi to see the Taj Mahal at full moon, Viator offers two day Taj Mahal full moon private tours.
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.
Entry Fees and Information:
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.
The Taj has three entry gates -- south, east, and west. The western gate is the main gate and generally has the longest queues. The south gate is closest to the Taj Ganj area, which is popular with travelers and where many of the budget hotels are situated. A huge sandstone gateway provides access to the inner compound there. The east gate has the shortest queues but do note that the ticket office (in Shilpgram) is inconveniently located nearly one kilometer from the gate.
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.
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 too much time there. In case you're wondering what else to do in and around the city, take a look at these 8 Top Agra Places to Visit.
The best time to go there is from November to February, otherwise it can be unbearably hot or rainy. You'll be able to get some excellent off-season discounts though.
Where to Stay:
Unfortunately, many of the hotels in Agra are as uninspiring as the city itself. However, these 10 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.