Is there any building more iconic than the Taj Mahal?
If it’s your first time visiting India chances are pretty high that visiting the Taj Mahal is on top of your bucket list. Seeing this magical place up close is a must when you’re traveling through Rajasthan.
There are several ways to visit the architectural marvel but if you’re a little short on time and you want to get the most out of your itinerary you should plan a day trip to the Taj Mahal from Delhi.
In this guide I will share my personal experience with you and give you all the tips you need to plan the perfect day trip to the Taj Mahal yourself!
Many people visit the Taj Mahal to take some fabulous photos and that’s another reason why I’ve prepared this little guide for you. I’ll share all of the best photography spots with you of the Taj Mahal!
The Perfect Taj Mahal Day Trip From Delhi
The Taj Mahal was built in Agra, between between 1631 and 1653, as a pure token of love and dedication. How else can you explain someone building a white-marble mausoleum for their favourite wife? The monument is a token of love from Mughul Emperor Shah Jahan to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who’s grave also lies within.
It’s considered one of the New Wonders of the World and attracts over 2.5 million visitors every year for its symmetry, structural beauty, intricate calligraphy, inlaid gemstones, and magnificent garden.
The Taj Mahal Story
Located on the southern bank of the Yamuna River near Agra, India, the Taj Mahal took 22 years to build and finally reached completion in 1653.
The Taj Mahal was a declaration of lasting love from Shan Jahan to his departed soulmate.
Shah Jahan and Arjumand Banu Begum met for the very first time in 1607. At that time he was only 15 years old and often his days were filled with strolling around the royal bazaar, flirting with the girls from high-ranking families that staffed the booths.
It’s at one of these booths that Shah Jahan met his beloved wife and it was love at first sight. But the odds weren’t in their favour. The prince first had to marry another and later on he took a third wife as well. But the prince always loved Arjumand Banu Begum the most and he gave her the name Mumtaz Mahal “Chosen one of the Palace”.
She was beautiful, smart, kind hearted and the public adored her cause she cared so deeply for them.
The pair had 14 children together but it’s the birth of their 14th child that would take her life.
During that time Shah Jahan was at war and his heavily pregnant wife accompanied him. But during the birthing process complications arose and she died in Shah Jahan’s arms. She was buried at the scene and reports say that in Shah Jahan’s anguish, he went to his own tent and cried for eight days without ceasing.
In December 1631 Shah Jahan gave the order to dig up his former wife and bring her body 700km further to Agra. Her return was a grand procession with thousands of soldiers accompanying her body and mourners lining the route.
Filled with grief, Shah Jahan then poured all of his energy into designing the biggest and most beautiful mausoleum he could think of and that’s how the Taj Mahal came to exist. He wanted the Taj Mahal to represent “heaven” and no expenses were spared in realising this.
When to visit the Taj Mahal
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra is during the Winter months from November to March.
Within that time period it’s best to avoid 2 months mainly December and January. During these months there’s a high chance of the Taj Mahal being surrounded by a lot of fog.
You can visit the Taj Mahal every day from sunrise until sunset (6am until 7pm), except on Friday, then the entire complex is only open for prayers between 12pm and 2pm.
The best time however to visit the Taj Mahal is at sunrise. And yes this means you’ll have to get out of bed very early but thrust me it’s all worth it!
To ensure you’ll be inside the complex as one of the first ones makes ure to get in line at 5.30am. The ticket booth opens at 6am but people start to line up way from before.
Since you’ll be visiting the Taj Mahal as part of a day trip from Delhi you’ll have to leave your hotel in Delhi around 2am since it’s 3,5 hours driving to Agra.
How to reach the Taj Mahal in Agra
A visit to the Taj Mahal makes for the perfect day trip from Delhi and there are several options to reach this marble marvel.
If you want to reach the Taj Mahal for sunrise the only way to get there on time is to hire a private car that will take you from Delhi to Agra and back. Services like this also come with a set waiting time so you’ll have enough time to explore the grounds.
It would cost about INR 6000 for hiring a car and driver for a one day trip to Agra and back to Delhi.
It’s around 3,5 hours driving from Delhi to Agra so make sure to leave between 1am and 2am to arrive before the entrance gates open.
The best method for finding a car is to ask at your hotel or accommodations. Not only will the driver pick you up directly from the hotel, but they can also arrange all of the travel details so you don’t have to worry.
If you want to get an early start, the best option is the 12002 New Delhi Habibganj Shatabdi Express which has one only stop and runs every day. It departs in New Delhi Railway Station at 6am and arrives at Agra at 7.57am.
You won’t be in time for sunrise but you’ll still be there early enough to enjoy a full day trip to Agra.
Traveling by bus in India sure is the cheapest way to get around but also the slowest way. You can check all of the busses available here.
When searching for a bus to travel from Delhi to Agra you might want to search for a Deluxe version cause standard busses tend to be overcrowded, overheated, and stop at multiple cities along the route.
Search for a bus that either arrives in the early morning so you have plenty of time to explore the Taj Mahal and Agra!
BY PRIVATE TOUR
If you don’t want to arrange everything by yourself you can also book a private tour! This will include a private transfer from Delhi to Agra and back and other highlights such as:
- Watching the sunrise over the Taj Mahal followed by a guided tour inside the monument.
- Explore the impressive walled exteriors and inner paradise of the Agra Red Fort with a private guide
- Look inside the romantic temple to Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan
Where to stay in Delhi
- Taj Palace – A luxurious 5-star hotel in the centre of New Delhi.
- The Lodhi – A member of the Leading hotels of the World.
- Maidens Hotel New Delhi – Get the celebrity treatment and worldclass service! Built in 1903, Maidens Hotel showcases 19th century colonial charm and architecture.
- Hotel Milan Dx – A newly renovated 3-star hotel with very clean rooms.
- HOTEL MGH – Every rooms comes with AC and a terrace.
- Green Lotus Residency Dwarka – Green Lotus Residency Dwarka provides accommodations with a restaurant and free WiFi as well as free private parking for guests who drive.
Taj Mahal Visit Guide for 2021
- Opening hours – Open every day from sunrise to sunset, except on Friday.
- Entrance Fee – INR 1100 + INR 200 to see the main mausoleum.
Tickets can only be bought 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.
- There are exclusive ticket counters for foreigners at both the East and West gates.
- Included in your foreigner ticket are:
- Shoe covers: you need these to enter the mausoleum
- Water bottle: you’ll definitely need this cause it can get incredibly hot
- A tourist guide map of Agra
- Battery bus and golf cart services to go through the park
- Drone cameras and tripods are strictly prohibited inside the Taj Mahal.
- Bring your ticket and ID with you.
- Make sure to bring extra cash so you’ll be able to reach all of the best photography viewpoints (more on that later).
- Vehicles aren’t allowed within 500 meters of the Taj Mahal because of pollution.
- Unfortunately scammers are widely spread around the Taj Mahal and as soon as you arrive you’ll be pestered with men trying to sell you cheap tickets or shorter waiting lines. Do not engage and just walk to the entrance to avoid being scammed.
- There’s no real dress code for the Taj Mahal but it’s best to dress conservatively. If your main focus is photography I would opt for a bright coloured dress or you can always buy a local dress or sari like we did.
WHAT NOT TO BRING TO THE TAJ MAHAL
Try to bring as little as possible with you when you’re visiting the Taj Mahal. I only carried a small purse and had my camera around my neck.
Your bag will be inspected before entering and besides your wallet and phone you pretty much can’t take anything with you.
Some items that are not allowed inside are: cigarettes, a lighter, a phone charger, a portable charger, earphones, an iPad and any food or drinks besides the water bottel that you’vre received.
Funny story – I had a tampon in my purse when visiting and the male guard inspecting my purse didn’t recognise what it was. He took it out and, thinking it was some kind of candy, tried to take a bite of it. And no, I am not kidding…
If you can put your money and ID somewhere safe and tucked away I would advise to do so. To have your purse checked you have to get into a separate line and you’ll loose precious time to have the Taj Mahal almost all to yourself.
Definitely don’t bring a big backpack with you cause you’ll have to leave it in a locker at the entrance.
Where to take the best photos of the Taj Mahal
1. WEST GATE
The West Gate is the less crowded gate during sunrise cause most of the tourists will arrive through the East Gate. Ask your driver to drop you off to the closest point and go from there.
From here you’ll see the sun rising up from behind the Taj Mahal and when I was there people couldn’t enter this section of the property immediately coming from another gate. It was the perfect opportunity to take tons of photos and I didn’t use Photoshop to remove people in any of them!
For those not knowing which side is the West Gate, it’s on the left if the river is behind the Taj Mahal.
2. REFLECTION POOL
This is the most famous and most known photography spot of the Taj Mahal! But it’s also the most crowded one so one thing you’ll definitely need to take a stunning photo here is a lot of patience!
It also doesn’t matter what time of day you arrive cause this will always be the most crowded place.
For the following viewpoints you have to go back outside of the Taj Mahal complex. Make sure you’ve visited the main mausoleum first and that you’ve taken all the photos you wanted inside. Once you walk outside the main gates again you can’t enter anymore with your ticket!
3. MEHTAB BAGH
Mehtab Bagh, also known as the Moonlight Garden is a beautiful photography viewpoint on the Northern side of the Taj Mahal. The entrance fee is INR 250 and it’s open until sunset.
Do know that an unsightly barbed wire fence has been erected beside the river to stop tourists from wandering along it. But besides that it is still worth visiting cause there will be way less people here compared to inside the complex.
4. FROM THE YAMUNA RIVER
You’ve probably seen this photo before, taken from a little row boat and the Taj Mahal with both its gate glistening in the background. I will explain to you exactly how you can get a photo like this.
After visiting the main mausoleum and the Taj Mahal complex go back outside through the East Gate. On your left you’ll see a small lane that goes down to the river and it’s here that you’ll find a couple of fishermen. Of course like with anything in India, nothing comes for free and to go onto the Yamuna river by row boat you’ll have to pay a small fee. If I remember correctly I think we paid INR 100 for 2 persons but this was in 2018 so I am not entirely sure how much they charge now since it’s not an official tour.
One of the locals will tell you to get onto the boat and they will row up and down the river banks so you’ll have plenty of time to take photos. He even was so kind to take a couple of photos of me and my friend together!
5. FROM THE WATCHTOWER
You can reach this small watchtower by heading east from the East Gate and turn right at the first fork in the road. It’s located across a sandy field and technically it’s private property, but the government appoints an official that you must pay INR 50 for entry.
This is the perfect photography spot to take photos during sunset of the Taj Mahal.
After exploring the Taj Mahal and its surrounding grounds it’s time to either head back to Delhi or you can also pay a visit to Agra fort. During our visit I opted to head back cause I was starting to feel sick and I slept the entire car ride back to our hotel.
On the positive side this also gives me a good reason to return some day!
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