Everyone has seen the photos and knows some of the history, but the Taj Mahal is truly a sight that needs to be seen with your own eyes. The sheer size of the off white marble mausoleum is breathtaking. No photo will do it justice.
It is very easy to gain access to the Taj Mahal. There are ticket offices near each of the entrance gates. It is not necessary to book tickets online. For foreign travellers a ticket will set you back 1,000 rupees (approx £11), which includes a bottle of water and shoe covers. An electronic bus will take visitors from the ticket office to the gate. Make sure you are aware of what you can and can’t take in to the Taj Mahal as they are very strict about this (it is clearly detailed on signs in the ticket office and at the gate).
If you would like to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, make sure you enter via the east or west gate as the south gate does not open until 8am. Visiting at sunrise means you avoid the unbearable mid day heat and also the majority of the crowd.
The Taj Mahal is one of the New7 Wonders of the World – and rightly so! Surrounded by gardens and a sandstone fort, the symmetry of the Taj is extremely satisfying. From the huge domed roof, to the four slightly outward tilting minarets, and the reflection of the front of the mausoleum in the pools is really very impressive.
It’s amazing to think this grand structure was built by one of the Mughal emperors to house the tomb of his favourite wife. And then for him to be kept imprisoned in the much less stunning (in my opinion) Agra Fort, just a couple of kilometres further upstream on the Yamuna river, by his own son!
Inside the grounds of the Taj Mahal the peace and tranquility is very calming. As soon as you cross the threshold to leave, the tuk tuk drivers and stall owners are on your back. They are extremely persistent and the sheer volume of people trying to get your attention is really quite unsettling. Having to say ‘no, thank you’ over and over again becomes tiresome very quickly.
In my opinion, it is not worth staying in Agra. The city itself is extremely busy, chaotic and not very easy on the eye. It has been a bit of a challenge to find a good place to stay and nice restaurants to eat in. A day trip from Delhi is all you would need here. That is enough time to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, as well as maybe another attraction if you wish. Trains run frequently enough, or you could take a private taxi if you have the funds.
We missed the train we had hoped to catch from Delhi as the system for foreigners to buy train tickets is extremely long and a bit old fashioned. We ended up on the 11:25am train which cost us 170 rupees (approx £2). This was the cheapest option with no air con. We thought this would be manageable on such a short journey. Unfortunately, due to a passenger sitting at the open train door and crushing their feet between the moving train and platform, we were delayed by one hour. The journey should have taken two and a half hours, but ended up taking three and a half. There are many different options for trains – different durations and costs.