Visit the Taj Mahal in India 🇮🇳: a complete guide to prepare your trip
What is the Taj Mahal ? Located in Agra in northern India, it’s a huge white marble funeral mausoleum built between 1631 and 1648 on the orders of Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, who died giving birth to his fourteenth child. It’s built on a pink sandstone base and surrounded by a garden with canals and fountains.
It’s about a hundred meters wide and 56 meters high, and encrusted with semi-precious stones. Passages from the Koran are also inscribed on it, which are not necessarily visible from afar.
The Taj-Mahal is the most visited place in India.
- Where is the Taj Mahal located in India?
- How to get to the Taj Mahal?
- Where to sleep near the Taj Mahal?
- How much does it cost to enter the Taj Mahal? Can you go inside the Taj Mahal?
- How long to visit the Taj Mahal?
- What is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal?
- Some tips for visiting the Taj Mahal
- The history of the Taj Mahal and some interesting facts
- The best spots to photograph the Taj Mahal
- Verdict & useful links
In which city is the taj mahal located? The Taj Mahal is located a few kilometres from the centre of the city of Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, about 200 km from Delhi. It was built on the banks of the Yamuna River, a tributary of the Ganges, at the southern end of the city. In addition to giving it a picturesque appearance, the river was used for water needs during the construction and development of the Taj Mahal gardens.
Agra is an important tourist destination not only because of the Taj Mahal, but also because of two other famous buildings of the Mughal era: the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
See the location of the Taj Mahal on Google Map:
Let’s see how to get to Agra (please leave a comment if some info need to be updated):
Plane ✈️: about an hour’s flight from Delhi via Kingfisher Airlines and Air India Regional, both of which make up the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tourist triangle. This is not the cheapest option, and expect delays on flights.
Train 🚉: Many trains connect Agra from the country’s major cities, but if you go there in December-January the journey may be very long due to reduced visibility. Indeed in this period Agra and Delhi are covered by fog and trains must run slowly for more safety, but in normal times the train takes between 2h and 5h. From New Delhi the two best trains are the Bhopal Shatabdi Express and the Taj Express.
The main station is called Agra Cantt and is located southwest of the Taj and Agra Fort. From the station you can take a taxi or rickshaw to a hotel (150 rupees/50 rupees).
If you are arriving from the east of the country you may arrive at Agra Fort Station.
Bus 🚌: about 4 to 5 hours from Delhi, with two bus stations in Agra: Idgah Bus Stand and ISBT (inter state bus terminal).
To get around Agra you will have to negotiate with taxi and rickshaw drivers, and they may also take you to their cousin’s workshop to buy carpets or something else because they earn a commission, so tell them that you are not interested in shopping.
If you are several people the most economical is to rent a taxi by the day by agreeing BEFORE on the TOTAL price and the places where you want to go.
You will find plenty of guesthouses and other hotels near the Taj Mahal, for all prices. The most expensive ones offer a view of the Taj Mahal, but make sure your hotel has a view of it. If your hotel does not have internet you can find internet cafes in Agra without any problem.
⚠️ Be very careful with monkeys that hang around Agra and don’t hesitate to sneak into rooms and steal things (be careful if you have a plastic bag on the street).
In general, the cheapest hotels near the Taj are of poor quality (dirty, no hot water…). It’s up to you to see where you prefer to stay according to your feeling and opinions on Booking. Anyway, you will spend more time on the rooftops spying on what is happening at street level and admiring the Taj Mahal in the distance than in your room.
TOP 3 BEST HOTELS NEAR THE TAJ MAHAL
These are the best rated hotels on Booking, according to your budget, and all with a view of the Taj Mahal and WIFI:
👉 Low budget: Zigzag Hostel Agra (nice staff, very good comments, rooftop with view on the Taj, great to meet other travellers)
👉 Average budget: Aman Homestay (super nice staff, terrace overlooking the Taj, located 15min walk, quiet area)
👉 Luxe / Very confortable: The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra (extremely expensive but really exceptional setting, swimming pool, great service)
For eating, there are plenty of restaurants, either in the guesthouse where you stay or next door, and prices increase more or less depending on the view of the Taj. Go where there are people.
☕️ The terrace of the Saniya Palace Hotel offers a great view of the Taj Mahal, and you can sit there for a coffee.
The entrance fee to the Taj-Mahal costs 1100 Rupees and only gives the right to one entrance, if you leave and want to re-enter you will have to pay back the entrance ticket. Yes, it’s possible to go inside the mausoleum but it costs +200 rupees more.
It’s also possible to visit the Taj-Mahal during the full moon, but the visit lasts only half an hour, between 8:30 p.m. and midnight, and you must book your ticket one day in advance. Groups are limited to a maximum of 50 people.
You can also hire an official guide for a half-day tour of the Taj-Mahal and Agra Fort, but unless you know one that has been recommended, avoid taking a guide: there are many scammers who pretend to be such when they do not have certification. They will offer you their services for a low price but will probably want to take you to buy carpets from their cousin after the visit. Some may tell you that the guide service is included in the entrance fee, which is not true. In short, visit the Taj Mahal at your own pace.
If you speak English, you can download the CaptivaTour Travel audioguide on your phone, or audiocompass.
You can also rent audio guides in English next to the ticket offices at the entrance to the Taj and Fort Agra. Apparently it’s worth it.
Plan two or three days on site (no more) with a day to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise and sunset (if you want to take beautiful pictures), as well as a day to visit the Agra Fort and surroundings. The visit of the Taj takes a maximum of one or two hours (don’t forget that it’s closed to visitors on Fridays!).
Honestly, it’s not worth spending too much time in Agra if your main objective is to see the Taj Mahal. The city is dirty and unattractive, and the landscape around the Taj Mahal looks like a foul swamp.
Here are more places to visit in Agra:
- Agra fort, the other main attraction and built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar. It’s also part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
- The abandoned fort of Emperor Akbar, Fatehpūr Sikrī, located 35km from Agra, also a UNESCO site.
- The tomb of Emperor Akbar, Sikandra, 13 km from Agra Fort.
- Swāmī Bāgh Samādhi, under construction for more than 100 years.
- The opening hours of the Taj Mahal are from sunrise to sunset every day except Friday (prayer day at the mosque). The exact times therefore change throughout the year. It is best to go there early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the influx of tourists and the heat.
- If you go there between September and April you will avoid the hot summer weather which can rise to 45°c.
- It’s better to ask your hotel what time the sun rises to avoid having to wait several hours in the dark unnecessarily.
- In winter (December-February) don’t bother getting up early to see the sun rise because there is a lot of fog in the morning. You may also feel cold in some guesthouses and hotels, especially when it’s very humid.
- Basically, the best time to visit the Taj Mahal is September/November and late February/March.
- If you absolutely want to see the Taj Mahal without almost any tourists, try to arrive at the gates of the Taj Mahal as soon as possible (1 hour before sunrise).
- The East and West doors open 30 minutes before sunrise and close 30 minutes before sunset.
- Here’s a tip I read on an American travel blog: if you are lazy to get up, apparently the crowd dissipates around 10am-11am. But I wouldn’t bet too much on it unless you’re having a really hard time waking up.
- Tickets can be purchased either directly in front of the doors or on the internet. You can also buy them the day before to save time.
- Your bags will be scanned and you will be searched. Men and women each have separate lines.
- You will be given shoe covers and a bottle of water with your entrance ticket, which you must keep to enter the grave.
- Plan the exact change so as not to waste time!
- The East gate is the most convenient because the queue is shorter, and the West gate is the busiest.
- ⚠️ You won’t be able to enter with a bag so leave your things at the hotel and just take your camera. There are lockers by the counters where you can leave your bag but they are small, so it’s better to leave everything at the hotel.
- Apart from your phone and a camera, you can’t take anything with you inside the Taj Mahal: It’s forbidden to bring food, cigarettes and lighter, chewing gum, drone, motorcycle helmet, pens, books… the list is long.
- It’s forbidden to make noise and take pictures inside the mausoleum.
- The Taj mahal is closed on Fridays (but I repeat).
- ⚠️ Camera tripods are prohibited (even small gorillapods)
- What to wear to visit the Taj Mahal? Dress modestly: remember that this is a tomb, with mosques located inside the site.
Here’s an interesting video to watch on Youtube (How to see the Taj Mahal for free):
It’s worthwhile to learn about the history of the Taj Mahal, when and why it was built, before visiting it. Here are some interesting facts to know before you go:
- What does Taj Mahal mean? Its name means “Crown of the Palaces” in Hindi.
- How long did it take to build the Taj Mahal? It was built between 1631 and 1648 (it took 17 years to build it). The mosque, guest house and main entrance to the south, as well as the outer courtyard and its cloisters, were later added and completed in 1653.
- Who built Taj Mahal? It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, who reigned from 1628 to 1658. (see his wikipedia page)
- Why was the Taj Mahal built? It was built in memory of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to his 14th child (!).
- It’s entirely built with the finest quality marble from Rajasthan in India, China, Sri Lanka, Arabia, Tibet and Afghanistan.
- How big is the Taj Mahal? The site is 580 x 305m. It’s 58.60m wide and 73m high. It’s placed on a 95.16m marble base. Each minaret is 43m high. The dome is 17.70m in diameter for an arc height of 24.4m.
- Its architecture is a fusion of Persian, Islamic and Central Asian styles.
- 1100 elephants were used to transport the materials needed for its construction, and 22000 workers worked to build it.
- It’s said that the experienced craftsmen and workers who designed the Taj had their hands cut off so as not to start such a work again (of course!).
- The four minarets at each corner of the Taj-Mahal are 40 metres high and are divided into three parts with a balcony at the top.
- They are built to collapse on the outside in the event of an earthquake.
- Pollution, due in particular to the 1700 factories around Agra, is causing the Taj-Mahal to turn increasingly yellow.
- Depending on the time of day and also according to the moonlight it appears in different colors.
- It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
- A second black marble Taj-Mahal was to be built opposite it, but its construction was cancelled because of the wars between the emperor and his sons.
- It’s visited by about 3 to 4 million people per year, including 200,000 from various countries.
- The Taj-Mahal was built on the banks of the Yamuna River.
- Geologists believe that the Taj-Mahal is “sinking” because of its not strong enough foundations.
- Some historians believe that it was an Italian, Geronimo Veroneo, who designed the Taj-Mahal and not the architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
- The construction of the Taj-Mahal cost 32 million rupees at the time, or about one billion euros today.
- Many precious stones were torn from the walls during the wars and looting but also by the British during the Indian rebellion in 1857.
It’s possible to admire the Taj-Mahal from several places to have a different point of view:
- On the other side of the Yamuna River, no need to pay! the best thing is to go there at sunset.
- From the heights of Agra fort (you need to have a good zoom)
- Opposite the fort of Agra is the “Paradise Park“, on the way to the riverside you have a great viewpoint to take pictures of the Taj Mahal with the sunrise (go there by rickshaw).
- From Hathi Ghat: quite difficult to find, it’s a very muddy field but from where we have a great view of the Taj with the first rays of the sun just behind. Only for the most determined! Ask a rickshaw driver to take you there and bring a pair of spare shoes.
- From Dussehra (or Dashehara) Ghat, on the banks of the Yamuna River. It’s the ideal place for sunset. When you are facing the east entrance of the Taj Mahal, turn right and follow Dashehara Ghat Road. A short ten-minute walk will take you to the riverside.
- From the river itself: pay a boatman to take you for a ride on the Yamuna River. You will find them in Dashehara Ghat.
- At sunset, from the Moonlight Garden (or Mehtab Bagh Garden) behind the Taj Mahal: take a rickshaw to get there (30 min). The entrance is charged and tripods are prohibited but we have a great location to photograph the Taj Mahal. Ideally, go there on Fridays when the Taj Mahal is closed.
- From a hot air balloon: in November of each year is held the Taj Balloon Festival, a relatively recent event. Be sure to check availability but apparently it’s really worth it.
- From the inside of the red buildings located on the sides (one of them is a mosque), you can take beautiful pictures with the Taj Mahal that appears in the frame of the openings.
- Finally, the best, from the cafés and hotels located on the roofs of the buildings around the Taj Mahal. The terrace of the Saniya Palace Hotel offers a clear view, and you can go there for coffee and enjoy the view.
SOME TIPS TO TAKE GOOD PICTURES OF THE TAJ MAHAL:
- Remember to bring a wide-angle lens, to capture the entire monument.
- Try to arrive before the opening, to have as few people as possible on your photos, especially if you want to have a shot of the Taj Mahal seen from the front without tourists.
- Take a polarizing filter: mist is almost always present around the Taj Mahal.
- Be patient: the place is very often full of tourists and you won’t be alone in wanting to take the perfect picture… stay zen!
- Use puddles and garden ponds to play with the reflections of the Taj Mahal.
- Take advantage of the fact that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays to explore the surroundings and find interesting views.
- The light changes all the time! Within a few seconds, the color of the Taj Mahal can change, take this into account and be patient to enjoy good light.
- If you visit the Taj Mahal in the morning, the ideal place is to go east to enjoy the sunlight that illuminates the monument.
- Zoom in on the details: seen from close up, the Taj Mahal marble is covered with superb calligraphy and very complex patterns that deserve a photo.
- ⚠️ Drones are strictly prohibited within the Taj Mahal, including within 500 meters of the Taj Mahal, and you may have problems with the police if you fly your aircraft nearby (those who were arrested had to write a letter of apology, among others…). Jammers will probably be used very soon to avoid curious drone pilots.
✅ A magnificent building (from far and near)
✅ Several sites to see in Agra, not just the Taj-Mahal.
❌ Agra: monkeys, reelers, pollution, dirt, noise…
❌ The landscape around the Taj: dirty, ugly and depressing
❌ The climate in December-January, not ideal for taking pictures (mist) and it’s cold and humid.
❌ Tons and tons of tourists.
The symbol of India, it’s a pity that it’s located in such an ugly and unattractive landscape. To be honest, this is not the most important place I saw during my trip to India (I prefer Hampi, or Ajanta and Ellora). It’s beautiful, but not really interesting to visit. Yes, I am a jaded traveller. It’s up to you to make up your mind and decide if he deserves his title of “new wonder of the world”.