The Taj Mahal visit has always been on our bucket list from the very start of our trip. And being one of the wonders of the world, it’s no surprise it’s on a lot of others bucket list too. It wasn’t until we visited that we understood why. This is a place you have to experience to truly understand the beauty.
We had read a lot of negative reviews before we embarked on our trip; lots of queues, pickpocketers, selfie seekers. But rest assured, this is not the case and the Taj Mahal is 100% worth the visit.
Travel to Taj Mahal: Agra
We travelled to Agra from Varanasi by night bus. Not going to lie, it was a 14-hour slog. But with a little help, we managed to have a bumpy sleep. Word of warning, no matter how tired, hungry and disorientated you are, try to avoid taking comfort in a paneer masala curry at the bus station restaurants at 2 AM in the morning. It doesn’t end too well.
In hindsight, we would have travelled by train, but this was very early in our India travel. If you have tried making a reservation for an India trainline online before, you will understand, that it is virtually impossible. It wasn’t until later in our journey we learned that you should use the local travel agents as they can book your trains hassle easily.
It is best to travel by train throughout India, although sometimes flying may be easier, albeit a little more expensive. Avoid the sleeper coaches if you can. India is huge and these are not journeys for the faint-hearted.
History of the Taj Mahal
As well as the splendour of the architecture, the history of the Taj Mahal adds to the magic of this incredible structure. The Taj Mahal was built in memory of the emperor Shah
And boy, is it beautiful. It took 22 years to build and is made purely of marble. In the time it was constructed over 20,000 workers helped build this wonder. It was said that some workers thumbs were cut off afterwards so they couldn’t build another masterpiece like it.
Best time to visit Taj Mahal
Having heard many reports about the Taj Mahal being overly crowded, we decided to set our alarms early. We embarked on a dark adventure to the gates. We arrived at the gates around 5:45 AM to buy our tickets. Take note that the ticket hall is before the entrance. So, ensure to buy your tickets before you reach the entrance gates.
Even though we arrived early, there was still a short queue of keen tourists waiting to enter. However, after a quick security check, we were soon walking in about 15 minutes from reaching the gates.
We arrived just before sunrise. We quickly made our way through the gathering crowds and headed to find the perfect sunrise spot. And was it worth it? Absolutely! What a magical enchanting experience. We found a quiet spot away from the crowds near one of the forts and could sit and watch this sunrise, and watch the tomb turn to colours of pink and amber as dawn broke.
As we were both a little unwell, we left around 8 AM and at this time we must admit the crowds had increased. So, we returned to a safe place and nursed our aching tummy.
Cost / Entrance of Taj Mahal
There is an entrance fee, to help maintain the beautiful structure. This was around £15 per person, for foreign tourist. While this may seem a lot, there have been reports that the price has increased 400 per cent to deter tourists and help overcrowding. There are also two entrances that you can access the Taj Mahal. We had heard that West entrance (the main entrance) is busier than the East entrance. But as we arrived early we can’t comment too much on the validity of this claim.
Where to stay in Agra
We stayed at a hostel on The Taj Road. There are a lot of hostels on this road. There are all about 10 minutes walk from the nearest entrance, so very conveniently located. Can’t say we had an overly enjoyable experience however, the location was pretty decent.
In hindsight, we probably would have bit the bullet and stayed at a hotel or homestay for added comfort. Or alternatively, head onto your next destination after your morning visit to the Taj Mahal.
Don’t spend any more than 24 hours in Agra
It’s sad to say, but unfortunately, we have a few negative times during our stay in Agra. Following our troublesome bus journey, we both became ill. We made the mistake of staying two days in Agra, to recover from the long journey the night before. But again in hindsight, we probably would have left the day that we saw the Taj Mahal.
As we were both ill, we found there weren’t many places in Agra that we could relax and recover. Unfortunately, Agra was one of the less clean places we visited during our time in India. While there have been a lot of efforts made to keep the surrounding areas of the Taj Mahal clean and ‘tourist ready’ the rest of Agra is pretty unclean. But generally, this is to be expected across India.
Because of this, we made our way to the closest hotel. We found The Marriot – to lie down on their sofa, drink tea and recover for the 48 hours we were in Agra. Also, if you have been on the road like we had for a long time, visit the restaurant in the morning for their breakfast buffet. For £9 each we were able to indulge in an all you can eat buffet, with every type of breakfast cuisine you can imagine. We were, of course, both incredibly ill, but tried to ignore this for the sake of the buffet.
We hate sharing anything negative about a place. But to make the most out of your time, make your time in Agra short if possible.