1. You can see the Taj Mahal from the roof of many nearby hotels. Many of them have conveniently placed (overpriced) restaurants on their rooftops. I got my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal while having lunch on my hotel’s roof.
2. At the main entrance, the Taj Mahal ticket office is not next to the Taj Mahal. As I was walking towards the Taj Mahal’s south gate, I ran into the Aussies I’d met at the train station in Varanasi. They asked me if I’d gotten a ticket. When I said no, they told me to turn around. The ticket office was not only behind me, but beyond my hotel. Make sure you have a ticket before you get to the entrance to avoid delays.
Two men taking the “I’m grabbing the tip of the Taj Mahal!” photo.
Me taking the obligatory “Yes, I was really there!” photo.
3. Be prepared for paparazzi. Most of the tourists at the Taj Mahal are Indian. If you look very non-Indian, people will ask to take a picture with you every ten minutes or so. Between me and the two blonde Australians I was hanging out with, we took pictures with dozens of Indian people. I often turned around to find someone taking a picture of me on their cell phone camera and one man even asked me if I could shake his son’s hand.
Colorfully dressed women and children waiting in line to go inside the Taj Mahal.
It’s hard to pick just one favorite photo of the many pictures I took at the Taj Mahal, but I think this is it.
4. Yes, you should go. Amongst frequent travelers, I hear the Taj Mahal catch a lot of flack for being overrated. Sure, there are more impressive monuments in India and beyond, but the Taj Mahal is truly beautiful and worth seeing. Much of its beauty is encompassed in its details — the smoothness and precision of the marble bricks, the floral design, the symmetry that’s fantastically skewed by a change in perspective and offers so many ways to view it…
5. You don’t have to go first thing in the morning. Most guidebooks and information you find online tell you that you should go to the Taj Mahal at sunrise for the ultimate experience. I wanted to visit it at sunrise, but with my train getting into Agra seven hours late, that was not possible. But I thought sunset was a fantastic time to be there and I imagine it’s equally as beautiful as sunrise — as long as you are prepared to deal with the congestion.
If you get there at sunrise, the heat and the crowds will grow as your day goes on. At sunset, the crowds eventually begin to disperse, the monument looks more beautiful than your first glimpse of it, the chaos of the experience fades, and it’s a wonderfully quiet way to end the day.
One last glimpse of the Taj Mahal as the light fades.