Sometimes monuments or buildings come with such high expectations that you can’t help feel disappointed when you visit. The Taj Mahal is not one of these places. It was everything I expected and so much more. It was magnificent and I still can’t believe I’ve actually seen it in the flesh.
Agra is a place we were told was not worth visiting, apart from for the Taj Mahal. We were told it was dirty and had nothing else to offer, but to allow us to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise, on our last day, we decided to stay for a couple of nights. As we were there over a Friday, when the Taj is closed, we found other things to do and happily filled our time there, finding a lot about Agra to like.
Most importantly, the Taj Mahal is absolutely magic.
How many times is too many times to see the Taj?
We accidently arrived in Agra on the afternoon of world heritage day which fortunately meant that entry to the Taj Mahal was free. We didn’t intend to visit when we arrived, but why pass up an opportunity to see the Taj for free?
We spent our time gazing up at the majestic masterpiece in complete awe, in between taking photos with every Indian person who was in a 100m vicinity. The Taj Mahal is every bit as amazing as you expect it to be, if not more. It is bigger, more perfect and grander than I every imagined, and as we knew this would only be our first visit, the pressure was off. It was also super hot and extremely busy, so we were glad we had another chance to visit.
We also used this opportunity, as it was free, to visit the main mausoleum. It normally costs 200 extra than the normal ticket, which isn’t much, but actually isn’t really worth much. Whilst the inside is lovely, what you can walk around is small, and the views from the grounds are far more impressive. It’s still worth doing, but we didn’t do it on both visits.
We were lucky enough to stay in a hostel a mere 5 minutes away from the gate to the Taj. This meant that our rooftop had the best view in town and staring at the Taj Mahal for meals and drinks throughout the day was an unbelievable treat. (Why it always looks so much smaller in a photo, I’ll never know.)
All these views and visits to the Taj were just not enough, so we also went up to sunset point to see the magnificent building at golden hour. It is 100% worth doing and it’s almost free – the family at the gate charge you 50 rupees to leave. Our hostel ran a ‘tour’ up there every evening so we took advantage of this. The little viewpoint is picture perfect, framing the Taj, the sunset and the birds gliding across the water. It was so peaceful and we had a blast trying to get good photos, and taking photos of a beautiful lady in a dress that we all wish we had.
So, the answer is, no amount of times is too many to see the Taj Mahal. It is epic from every angle, and whilst in Agra, go all out.
The Taj at Sunrise
The main event for us was the early visit on the very last day of our two week trip. What a perfect way to end our time in India? The sunrise light casts a golden glow over the east side of the building and the coolness in the air allows you to enjoy it’s majesty relaxing around the gardens. The crowds are still there in full force, but somehow that’s okay. It can get tiresome waiting in line for the main photos, but they are worth it, and most of the time we just tried to get away from the crowds to enjoy the building in peace. It is perfect.
It’s very hard not to spam with a million photos, because I took near enough that many. It is honestly, the most incredible building I’ve ever seen. You know the crazy thing? There was a huge gallery of buildings all over India near the entrance to the Taj. I got the feeling that if I could see even 10% of these, I would be just as amazed with each one as I was here at the Taj Mahal. India is INSANE.
The Taj Mahal was not the only thing we managed to squeeze into our time in Agra. As I said, we were there over a Friday, when the Taj is closed, so we took the morning to do a trip out to a very highly recommended city, Fatehpur Sikri. We took a taxi for ease, but you can take a bus, and we spent a couple of hours in this stunning place. Mistakes were made, in that we got talked into having a tour guide who proceeded to drone on at us for 2 hours whilst we followed him around and annoyed him by wanting to actually go and look at things.
Unless you actually want a tour guide DO NOT let them talk you into getting one. It’s hard, believe me. The place is very easy to navigate and we would’ve much preferred to do it on our own, like we have everywhere else. They will tell you about the beggars who won’t leave you alone and about how big it is so you need a tour guide. Well, 1. the beggars will still harass you if you have a tour guide, and, 2. it is very manageable to find your way around and not miss anything.
Apart from our bad experience with a flame-haired tour guide, Fatehpur Sikri really is beautiful. It’s a red stone masterpiece with so many parts to explore and every bit is beautifully designed, carved and preserved. The mosque is just spell-binding, with huge arches at each side and a perfect marble temple in the centre. Yes, you get harassed, but it’s not that bad and you just have to ignore them and be stern (not friendly like you would be in the cities).
For the remainder of our time in Agra we ate, tried and failed to see a light and sound show at Agra Fort and embarked on the familiar challenge of find an ATM that works within a mile radius. (After a 45 minute walk around the neighbourhood, and trying about 10 ATMs, we found one on the building of our hostel.) Agra is a bit of a dump and smells like eggs sometimes, but we found some really nice parts. The park near the fort looked beautiful (but we didn’t go) and the bars, restaurants and cafes near The Bob Marley restaurant were super cool. We loved the area and particularly enjoyed the ‘Good Vibes’ café – the vibes were brilliant and you get a free ice lolly when you leave. Agra’s not so bad and I’m glad we stayed a couple of nights and saw the Taj in so many lights and views.
That’s it for my accounts of our trip to India. We’ve been back for over a week and I miss it more each day. All I want is a minute of constant horns beeping and a mango lassi and it will sort me out. Alas, I will have to wait until I can next make the trip over there.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts, and here they are if you missed any:
Our Rajasthani Roadtrip | The calm and chaos of India’s White City: Udaipur | Exploring Udaipur, celebrating the Mewar Festival and visiting Ranakpur | Finding perfection in India’s beautiful Blue City: Jodhpur | What to expect in Jaipur: it’s loud, it’s crazy and it’s utterly beautiful | Safaris in India’s Tiger Reserve: Ranthambhore National Park
Thanks for reading!
- Taj Mahal Tickets:
- On the gate 1100
- Online 1050
- Extra to see the mausoleum 200
- Sunset Point 50
- Fatehpur Sikri adult ticket 600 (550 if paying by card)
- Tour guide we didn’t want 500 (for 2 people)
- Taxi 1400 (arranged by a guy in a restaurant)