Don’t slap me for procrastination, but I’m FINALLY writing about seeing the Taj Mahal during our 2012 India teacher tour. So without further ado, here are 12 things to know about visiting the Taj Mahal: the world’s most famous monument to love, built by emperor Shah Jahan in 1653 in memory of his wife.
1. Contraband. There are all sorts of items you are not allowed to take into the Taj Mahal. Study the sign above and see if you agree that some are more bizarre than others. Motorcycle helmets? Books? Garlands of flowers? What else do you see that surprises you? I can’t even identify some of the prohibited goods!
2. Segregation. You will have a totally different experience at the Taj Mahal depending on whether you purchase a “High Value Ticket” (as all foreign visitors seem to), or a “General Ticket.” This begins from the very moment you walk in the door to the main courtyard: High Value Ticket-holders slide into the yard in minutes, while the General Ticket line stretches for blocks.
3. There is one perfect photo location. Don’t do what I did in the picture above and take a hundred photos before you reach the best background! The ideal photo spot is centered directly in front of the Taj Mahal, with the blue pools stretching behind you, as in the picture below.
4. Easily clear people away. In India there is a person working to do every job imaginable, and in the case of the Taj Mahal, there are men who, for a small tip, will clear away all the annoying people in the background of your photo! It’s totally worth it. Without that man’s help, our photos were basically just our heads peeking above a crowd.
5. Side sights. Don’t neglect the stunning side hallways and smaller buildings surrounding the Taj Mahal. They’re gorgeous, too!
6. Your photos may stink due to smog (or “mist”). Like China, India has some serious air pollution. As a result, it’s hard to even see the Taj Mahal in some of my photos! Be prepared for this to be the case for your pictures. It is worth it to edit the photos afterwards to turn up the clarity and turn down all that white.
7. What’s behind the Taj Mahal? Speaking of “all that white,” I was entranced by the view behind the Taj Mahal: WHITENESS. There’s a river or swamp there, but it was completely shrouded in mist our entire visit. I found it touching that such a famous and well-visited monument has a completely wild “back yard.”
8. The line to get in the actual mausoleum of the Taj Mahal is not as long as you think. See the ridiculous line wrapping around and around the Taj Mahal in the photo below? If you have a “High Value Ticket” (as you likely will), you completely skip that line and go right into the mausoleum, just as you skipped the line to get into the main doors to the courtyard.
9. Footwear. Upon walking into the mausoleum, you will be given little white paper elf boots to protect the ground from your footsies. They look great.
10. Foreigners don’t pay for the bathroom, but Indians do. This was upsetting. See the sign below.
11. Look closely at the walls. I’ve always known the Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, but I wasn’t prepared for how stunning the tiny details all over it would be. Ogle these unbelievable feats of marble inlay.
12. The Taj Mahal completely lives up to the hype. Like the Great Wall of China or the David statue in Italy, there is some trepidation when heading towards a world-famous place. Will it be as great as everyone says? Hands down, the Taj Mahal is awesome. It is utterly worth it, so do what you can to go!
Where to stay in Agra when visiting the Taj Mahal?
- Top ratings go to this hotel (click for details and availability)
- Other good options are the Courtyard Agra and Trident Agra (click for pricing)
- Visitors also have positive experiences at the Ramada and the Doubletree
Happy travels, and do feel free to leave comments with your experiences and questions!