The Taj Mahal – one of the seven wonders of the world. This stunning monument features on every traveler’s bucket list, no matter where in the world they are from. And rightfully so – the beauty of the Taj is unparalleled to anything else I’ve seen. Nothing in the world prepares you for the first time you see the Taj Mahal in person. She is breathtakingly beautiful, standing there tall and proud, her white marble glistening in the sunlight, while silently reminding us of the power of love.
Though beautiful and magical, a visit to the Taj Mahal can be an extremely daunting experience owing to how crowded it can get. No matter what day of the week you’re visiting, or what time of the day, there really is no ‘off season’ when you’re visiting the Taj. Which is why it’s important to plan your visit beforehand, and also keep certain pointers in mind while you’re there for that perfect Taj Mahal experience. Here are some tips and tricks from my recent visit to the Taj, stuff that I wish someone had told me earlier –
Sunrise or Sunset?
While the Taj Mahal is open all through the day, I’d strongly advise queuing up early to avoid the throngs of people that decide to stroll in later through the day. The Taj opens up 30 minutes before sunrise, which is usually around 5.30 am and that’s the perfect time to head there. The sun rises over the marble structure, bathing it in it’s light, leaving behind a pink hue on the monument; a sight like this is something you won’t forget in a long, long time.
You can witness a similar sight at sunset as well, but it can get pretty crowded around that time making it impossible to get a single decent shot without someone photobombing you. (Plus, temperatures soar during the latter half of the day.) Sunrise is the best time to stroll around the gardens, click that perfect reflection shot of the Taj in the water, and take in all of her beauty. Reserve the sunset time for a visit to Mahtab Baug. (More about that in the next paragraph.)
Even though we landed up the entrance by 5.45am, the long lines for tickets and security checks slowed us down considerably. They don’t allow cars beyond a certain point, and from there you have to make your way by foot, by horse cart or by cycle rickshaw. So keep all these points in mind.
Mahtab Baug is a Must Do
You must cross the Yamuna river to reach this unassuming, pretty garden which is packed with tourists at any given point in the day. Mahtab Baug offers the best view of the posterior facade of the monument and the Yamuna river flowing besides. Legend has it that Shahjahan developed this garden with the intention of creating a space from where he could view the Taj and mourn over the loss of his loved one. It is also where he supposedly wanted to build the black Taj – a self dedicated mausoleum – before he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb. Lucky for us, Mahtab Baug still exists many years later, and is relatively well maintained.
We were surprised by the crowds here as we thought this place was not that frequented by tourists. A lot of people plan their Taj visit like we did – Taj Mahal by sunrise, viewing the sunset over the Taj from Mahtab Baug, so ensure you land up here early to grab a spot on the viewing wall right in front of the monument.
The Red Mosques for that Perfect Shot
You landed up bright and early for that perfect Taj picture, only to find out that hundred other tourists had the same idea as you. Fret not, because the two red mosques on either side of the Taj Mahal are your best friends. Most tourists make their may to the main mausoleum and ignore the mosques on either sides. The doorways of both mosques serve as the perfect frame to capture the beauty of the Taj within.
The mosque on the right was teeming with monkeys and bird droppings, so we headed to the one on the left hand side. The sun was making it’s way high above our heads at that point, and we ended up getting some beautiful shots through the mosque’s red sandstone archways.
Taj By Night
I was unable to experience this first hand unfortunately, but the Taj by night viewing came strongly recommended by a few. The Taj is open by night for five days a month – on the full moon night and two nights before and after the full moon. The official Taj Mahal website run by the government lists out the days on which the Taj Mahal will be open at night. You can read more here and if you’re planning a trip to Agra it may make sense to plan around these dates. I cannot even begin to imagine how beautiful the monument would look at night, basking under the light of a full moon.
To guide or not to guide
The Taj Mahal is one of the most popular tourist spots in the world, and therefore is thronging with tour guides. If you decide to go in for one, ensure that you check their credibility as there are tons of fake guides prancing around. We’d read up on the structure beforehand and therefore decided not to take a tour guide. I find that guides generally rush you through the entire tour, leaving no time for you to soak in the experience at your own pace, or to take your own time for that perfect Insta worthy shot! I’d recommend walking around the Taj by yourself at first, getting the pictures out of the way, and then following it up with a tour guide if you’re keen to learn some more.
(This post is no way sponsored or associated with Agra Tourism in any way. As always, the views are unbiased and entirely the author’s own. All images posted here are the author’s property, and not to be circulated without prior permission.)