Images of the unruly city of Agra slowly faded as we reached the entrance of Mehtab Bagh. With about half an hour left till sunset, Jon and I raced towards the royal gardens. Then there it was, the giant marble structure set perfectly in a canvas of blue sky, the Taj Mahal.
First Impressions of Taj Mahal
Across from the Yamuna river, away from the tourist crowds at the Taj Mahal itself, Mehtab Bagh offers magnificent views of the Taj Mahal. I couldn’t think of a better way to see this wonder of the world for the first time. The gardens offered tranquility, where I could admire the Taj Mahal a good distance away from the bustling crowds.
Mehtab Bagh closes around sunset. Just before we left, we had a chance to take some gorgeous reflection photos with the Taj Mahal in background I can’t recall how long I’ve dreamt of seeing the Taj Mahal and I didn’t even plan to visit India this year. This moment was just perfect.
While it could have been enough to see the Taj Mahal from afar, we knew we just had to see it closer. Rain showers thwarted our efforts to see the Taj Mahal early the next day. The tuk tuk driver we had arranged to pick us up at 5:30am was also nowhere in sight. With no other choice, we had to wait it out until the rain stopped, eventually arriving at 11:30am. Anytime after 7am is apparently already busy at the Taj Mahal.
The Wonder of the World, Taj Mahal
Past the long queues of people at the South Gate, we finally met eye to eye with the Taj Mahal.
An exquisite display of fine craftsmanship and an incomparable token of love, the Taj Mahal is more than a beautiful monument. Taj Mahal, which means “Crown Palace”, was built between 1631 and 1648, commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died in childbirth in 1631.
A Closer Look at the Taj Mahal
From its sparkling white marble to its impeccable symmetry, the beauty of the Taj Mahal was truly mesmerizing. It’s spectacular from afar, but what is the Taj Mahal like up-close?
While it appears like its just all white from afar, the fine craftsmanship reveals itself up close. Calligraphy of verses from the Quran outlines the gateway of the Taj Mahal. Alongside the calligraphy are intricate designs of flowers and vines with precious stones inlaid in the marble.
The mausoleum was dimly lit but it was easy to see the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal at the center of the room, which was surrounded by an intricately carved marble screen. The actual tombs are located beneath this chamber. With a torch, we saw beautiful flowers carved on the walls with precious gems carefully placed to create magnificent blooms.
The Real Deal with Visiting the Taj Mahal
Thousands of people gather to see the Taj Mahal each day. Even when you already have the mindset that it will be crowded, it’s still overwhelming, especially in the middle of the day. People will be in the way of your photos, they will ask to take photos with you and sometimes they will try to get close to you even if you don’t want them to. This is India after all and yes, it can be a bit much but for the sake of visiting this wonder of the world, learn to be patient and just go with it.
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Where are the Best Views of the Taj Mahal?
The views from Mehtab Bagh, located across from the Taj Mahal, was my favourite spot. The quiet ambiance is perfect for anyone who wants to see the Taj Mahal in a more secluded setting. Late in the afternoon to sunset is the best time to see the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh. Entrance Fee to Mehtab Bagh is only 200 INR. We paid around 100INR for the tuk tuk to Mehtab Bagh from the bus station.
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Taj Mahal Grounds
A visit to the Taj Mahal itself is a must — the splendid details can only be experienced with a visit to the site itself. Entry to the Taj Mahal costs 1000 INR (for foreigners). Make sure to come in early (around sunrise) to beat the crowds. There is no dress code for the Taj Mahal.
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The Southern Gate of the Taj Mahal is an easy walk if you’re staying in the Taj Ganj area. From Fatehabad Road, where a lot of mid-range hotels are located (this is where we stayed), a tuk tuk to the Southern Gate of the Taj Mahal set us back 50 INR (80 INR on the way back).
Rooftop Restaurant in Taj Ganj
Taj Ganj is honestly, not a pleasant little area. It is undergoing some renovations at the moment and could turn out to be a promising place to stay in the future. We had a look at what the views of the Taj Mahal are like from some of the Rooftop restaurants (such as Saniya Palace Hotel) in Taj Ganj and they were quite underwhelming.
Agra Fort apparently offers (distant) views of the Taj Mahal. However, due to the rain, we didn’t have enough time to go. If you have visited Agra Fort, let us know what the experience was like. Did you have a good view of the Taj Mahal?
Tips for Your Visit to the Taj Mahal
How to Get to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra, around 200 km from Delhi. It is well connected to most tourist sites and can be reached by air, by train, by bus or by car.
Where to Stay
Agra itself is not a pleasant city but there are some decent hotels around. If you have a lot of money to spare, there are a few high end ones to choose from. Most hotels are located in either Taj Ganj or Fatehabad Road. We stayed in the area close to Fatehabad Road and it was quite a good choice considering the proximity of many restaurants and ease of finding a tuk tuk to get around.
Opening Hours and Entry Tickets for the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is open everyday except Fridays from sunrise to sunset. During the full moon, you can purchase special tickets to visit the site at night (8:30pm to 12:30am). Entry to the Taj Mahal costs 1000 INR (for foreigners). Note that there is a separate queue for foreigners for the tickets and entrance. You also receive a free bottle of water and shoe covers with your ticket (you need to take your shoes off or cover your shoes when you enter the mausoleum).
Do you want to visit the Taj Mahal? Have you been to any other wonders of the world? Let us know!