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 monument dates back to 1632 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.
When to Go
The best time 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.
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. Visiting around dawn will also enable you to beat the huge crowds that start arriving later in the morning.
The Taj Mahal can be visited on a day trip from Delhi. 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 Yamuna Expressway opened in August 2012 and has reduced the travel time by road from Delhi to Agra to under three hours. It starts from Noida and a toll of 415 rupees per car for a one way trip (665 rupees round trip) is payable.
The bus is a good option if getting a train isn’t possible. Comfortable, air-conditioned Volvo buses depart from Anand Vihar terminal in New Delhi every hour during the day. The cost is about 700 rupees per person. The buses go via the Yamuna Expressway and stop at Vaango restaurant for a 30 minute snack and restroom break (the toilets are clean). Alternatively you can fly from major Indian cities, or take a tour from Delhi.
Opening Hours of the taj mahal
The Taj Mahal opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset, usually around 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, except Friday (when it’s closed for prayer). The Taj Mahal is also open for night viewing every full moon from 8.30 p.m. until 12.30 a.m., plus two days before and two days after the full moon (a total of five days). Night viewing is suspended during the holy month of Ramadan every year.
Entry Fees and Information
For foreigners, the ticket price is 1,100 rupees and for Indians, the price is 50 rupees. Children younger than 15 years can enter free. Tickets can be purchased at ticket offices near the entry gates or online at this website. (Do note, tickets for the Taj Mahal are no longer able to be purchased at Agra Fort or other monuments, and only offer a minimal discount if you wish to visit other monuments on the same day).
The foreigner’s ticket includes shoe covers, bottle of water, tourist map of Agra, and bus or golf cart service to the entry gate. It also enables ticket holders to enter the Taj Mahal ahead of any Indian ticket holders already waiting in line.
Night Viewing tickets cost 750 rupees for foreigners and 510 rupees for Indians, for half an hour’s admittance. Children aged three to 15 years must pay 500 rupees. These tickets must be purchased between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., one day in advance from the Archaeological Survey of India office on Mall Road. See more details here, including night viewing dates.
Vehicles aren’t allowed within 500 meters of the Taj Mahal because of pollution. There are three entry gates—South, East, and West.
- The West gate is the main gate that the majority of local Indian visitors enter through, and it generally has the longest lines throughout the day. However, it’s the preferred option at sunrise to avoid the crowds at the East gate.
- The East gate is popularly used by foreign tourists, as it’s closest to a number of well-known hotels. It usually has shorter queues except for at sunrise, when large groups tend to arrive there. If you buy your ticket in advance the day before, it’s still the best entry point. Do note that the ticket office (in Shilpgram) is inconveniently located about 10 minutes walk from the gate. Buses, golf carts and cycle rickshaws are available for those that can’t, or don’t want to, walk.
- The South gate is the least-used gate. It’s close to a congested market area where many of the cheap hotels are situated, making it favored by budget and independent travelers. However, it doesn’t open until 8 a.m. A huge sandstone gateway provides access to the inner compound there.
There are exclusive ticket counters for foreigners at both the East and West gates.
Security at the Taj Mahal
Strict security is in place at the Taj Mahal, and there are checkpoints at the entrances. Your bag will be scanned and searched. Large bags and day packs aren’t allowed to be taken inside. Only small bags containing essential items are permitted. This includes one cell phone, a camera, and a water bottle per person. You can’t bring edibles, tobacco products or lighters, electrical items (including phone chargers, headphones, iPads, torches), knives, or camera tripods inside. Cell phones are also banned during night viewing sessions, although cameras are still allowed. Luggage storage facilities are provided at the entry gates.
See the Taj Mahal Without Going Inside
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. This is ideal for sunset. One such place there is Mehtab Bagh—a 25 acre Mughal garden complex directly opposite the monument. The entry cost is 250 rupees for foreigners and 20 rupees for Indians, and it’s open until sunset. Unfortunately, an unsightly barbed wire fence has been erected beside the river to stop tourists from wandering along it.
It’s possible to take a row boat out on the river. Head down the path along the eastern wall of the Taj Mahal to the riverside temple, where you will find boatmen. There’s also a little-known abandoned watchtower across a sandy field on the eastern side of the Taj Mahal. It’s an ideal place for a splendid sunset view of the monument. Reach it by heading east from the East Gate and taking a right at the fork in the road. Pay the official 50 rupees to enter.
Uttar Pradesh Tourism’s Taj Khema hotel offers notable vistas of the Taj Mahal from its gardens too. A new marble bench was installed on a mound there in early 2015, especially for visitors. Sip tea and watch the sunset! The hotel is located about 200 meters from the monument, on the eastern side. It’s a government-run establish, so don’t expect great service though.
Cleaning of the Taj Mahal’s Exterior
The first thorough cleaning of the Taj Mahal to remove the yellow discoloration from pollution and restore the marble to its original brilliant white color occurred in 2018. To achieve this, a natural clay paste was applied to the monument’s exterior. The clay packing of the main dome remains and is planned to be undertaken in stages, starting from the front of the monument.
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. 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.
Dangers and Annoyances
Visiting the Taj Mahal can be overwhelming for all the wrong reasons. Be prepared to encounter plenty of beggars and touts there. According to this news report, it has become an increasingly troublesome problem, and many visitors go back home feeling cheated, threatened and abused. Touts operate in sophisticated gangs that have counterparts in other cities who identify potential targets at railway stations. Once the tourists reach Agra, the touts start pestering them by claiming that they are guides or taxi drivers. They commonly use ploys such as free taxi rides or the promise of heavy discounts.
Note: There are 24 hour official prepaid auto rickshaw and taxi booths just outside Agra railway station. Use these to avoid the hassle, and if you book a tour there check the quality of your vehicle to make sure it’s satisfactory.
Do be sure to tell auto rickshaw drivers which Taj Mahal entry gate you wish to be taken to, otherwise it’s likely that you’ll find yourself dropped off in the area where expensive horse and cart or camel rides wait to take tour groups to the west gate.
Apparently, there are only 50-60 approved guides at the Taj Mahal. However, more than 3,000 touts posing as photographers, guides or middleman, openly solicit customers at the monument’s three gates (especially at the western gate, which receives around 60-70% of visitors). Hundreds of hawkers (who pay bribes to the police) are also a problem at the Taj Mahal, despite being officially banned.
In addition, foreigners, particularly women and parents with young children, are frequently asked to pose for photographs (or even being photographed without permission) by other people including groups of guys. This can be intrusive and uncomfortable. This news article warns about selfie seekers at the Taj Mahal.
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Lovely Historic Taj
It is truly a wonder!