As part of our India travels, we visited the Taj Mahal on route from Mumbai to Kerala. A must-see attraction in India, and for good reasons!

Built in Agra from 1631 until 1648, the white marble mausoleum was dedicated by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan himself is buried there. Considered a masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture, the Mughal monument is unique thanks to features like the raised tomb, the gardens, the four minarets, the southern gate, and its overall symmetrical design. In addition, the views from the Mosque, one of the outlying buildings of the Tah Mahal, are incredible.

Agra Taj Mahal // Women walking in Taj Mahal gardens

Women walking in Taj Mahal gardens

Some spend ten minutes at the Taj Mahal, just enough time to enter the majestic garden and snap a quick selfie that consecrates their Indian vacations. Nothing wrong with that; everyone enjoys their well-earned time off as they please. In fact, it’s actually good for those like us who will spend four hours on the site. Yes, you read it correctly. Four hours. I am actually even surprised myself. I figured two hours, and we are out. I am unsure how it happened, but we were in by 7 am and off at 11 am. And mostly because I was starving, hot and thirsty.

So you might ask: what did we get to do for four hours at the Taj?

Well, it started early, as we wanted to be on-site to watch the sunrise. And because the earlier you get, the less crowded it will be. A double win-win situation as far as we are concerned. We left our hotel near the entrance and went to pick up our shoe protection. Even though we bought our tickets online, we still needed to go through the office and wait in line as the entrance doors were still closed. Given the popularity and the expected scorching heat of the afternoon, many people head to the Taj Mahal at the earliest possible morning. And trust us, with the people there a few hours later, waiting just before sunrise is worth it.

Agra Taj Mahal // Mausoleum side, minaret and outlying building

Mausoleum side, minaret and outlying building

Being among the first to enter the ground, we had the chance to admire the beauty of the Taj Mahal without much crowd. The sunrise colors and the early morning fog made for a genuinely mystical ambiance, the impressive architecture standing tall. No wonder the Taj Mahal is one of the modern 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

The massive complex is indeed more than the tomb. Some of the time we spent wandering and admiring not only the overall Mughal architecture but also the loveliest of details. Watch for the pietra dura displaying semiprecious stones of varying colors – lapis lazuli, jade, crystal, amethyst, and turquoise stones – all inlaid in the white marble and creating floral patterns, and the beautiful Arabic calligraphy featuring various verses from the Qurʾān. Look through the lace-like marble jali lattice.

In comparison, the tombs themselves don’t have any decoration, one of the several interesting facts about the Taj Mahal.

Agra Taj Mahal // pietra dura flowers

pietra dura flowers

Agra Taj Mahal // Marble Lattice

Marble Lattice

The contrasts of the colors also got our attention. The green cypress trees and plants, the blue of the water canals, the red of the gate and of the Mosque and outlying buildings, and the white of the mausoleum, all against the intense yellow of the blinding sun, make for a striking view.

Agra Taj Mahal // red sandstone Mosque archways

red sandstone Mosque archways

Agra Taj Mahal // turquoise water canal

Turquoise water canal

As we ended our visit to the Taj Mahal, more visitors poured through the entrance gate. While the blue sky had lifted the morning fog, the density of the people wandering around definitely took from our intimate exploration during the hourly hours.

So our pieces of advice are:

  • Book your ticket in advance
  • Go early – and even earlier than that!
  • Take your time
  • Explore beyond the central area
  • Take your time
  • Sit and admire
  • Take your time

No, these repeats are no typos – Take your time for sure, and you will leave with awe in your eyes…

Interested in India? Check out our Camel Trek Adventure in the Thar Desert, explore Pushkar, trek in Ladakh, explore temples in Karnataka, our Kerala road trip, explore Pushkar, visit Chennai, or plan for a longer trip through India.

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