The Taj Mahal: wonder of the world, landmark and architectural masterpiece. No building in the world gave us goosebumps like the world famous marble mausoleum in northern India did. The Taj Mahal rises majestically up into the sky. Even the crowds can’t get in the way of its incredible magic.
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is, without a doubt, at sunrise. Believe us: you will never forget seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time at dawn. It doesn’t get any more beautiful than this!
In this travel guide we let you in on everything there is to see on a visit to the Taj Mahal. We also show you everything else there is to experience in Agra and reveal our personal travel tips.
1. Taj Mahal Travel Guide: Info & Useful Tips
What many people don’t know: the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum and not a palace, as it is often called. But what an incredible one! The Taj Mahal was built almost 400 years ago by the then Indian Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, for his late wife. It is said that 20,000 workers were involved in the construction of the monument.
The Taj Mahal embodies architectural perfection. It is made of bright white marble, which shines even in hazy weather. Let’s not forget the sheer perfect harmony of the proportions: the mighty, striking dome is surrounded by four minarets – one of the most famous silhouettes in the world.
How do I get to Agra/the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal is located on the city outskirts of Agra – an otherwise less than spectacular city, located around 200 kilometres south of Delhi. Most people will travel to Agra from Delhi. We can warmly recommend covering this distance by train.
The train ride from Delhi to Agra takes 2 to 3 hours, depending on the train. There are countless connections each day. Our choice fell on the Shatadbi Express (train number 12002). It leaves Delhi from the New Delhi Railway Station early in the morning at 6am and arrives almost 2 hours later at 7:57am in Agra. We thoroughly enjoyed this morning train ride!
It is not so easy to book a ticket from within Europe, because there are not only countless providers, but you often also need an Indian phone number for the booking. Although, you can book without a problem via the provider 12go.asia.
How much time should I allow for the Taj Mahal?
The bad news: visiting the site has been limited for some time now. You are allowed to stay a maximum of three hours in the Taj Mahal area with your ticket. Unfortunately, if you stay longer, you have to pay a fine.
We would stay one or two nights in Agra itself. There are other places worth visiting in Agra, aside from the Taj Mahal, such as the Agra Fort. There are also some worthwhile viewpoints around the Taj Mahal that will give you a new perspective on the world wonder.
Prices & opening times
Entrance: The standard ticket for tourists costs 1,100 Indian rupees. It is 200 Indian rupees in addition to get into the Mausoleum. (You save 50 Indian rupees when you purchase online.)
Opening times: The Taj Mahal opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset. This means the opening times vary a little depending on the time of year. The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays!
Important info for buying a ticket
There are three entrances to the Taj Mahal, although tickets can only currently (as of early 2020) be bought at two of them: the Taj Mahal Western Gate and the Taj Mahal Eastern Gate. The Southern Gate is used exclusively as an exit.
The ticket office at both places (Western and Eastern Gate) opens an hour before sunrise and is open until 45 minutes before sunset. Locals usually use The Western Gate. The travel groups tend to gather at the Eastern Gate, which is why it can be quite busy in the morning.
It is then about a 15 minute walk from both gates to the actual entrance into the main area of the Taj Mahal. Alternatively, you can also travel this stretch in a rickshaw.
There are security checks in front of the actual entrance into the main part of the Taj Mahal. There are separate lines for men and women. We had to wait about another 10 to 15 minutes here before we got inside.
Important info: if you purchase a ticket at the ticket office as soon as the counter opens, you definitely won’t manage to be first inside the main area of the Taj Mahal, because by then a lot of people who already have their tickets will have gathered in front of the security check. You can also purchase your ticket online. Many travellers will have also been given their tickets in advance from their tour operator.
You can book a ticket in advance here: Taj Mahal Online Ticket
FYI: although it is the is the official website, it is not only slow but also confusing. We also heard that booking the ticket often doesn’t work. So simply try your luck.
Travel guide for northern India: our recommendation
Does your trip take you through the Golden Triangle and Rajasthan? Then we have a tip for you: The Lonely Planet Rajasthan, Delhi & Agra is very well laid out and attractively designed. Clear recommendation!
2. Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
If you get in early, you can avoid the crowds at many sights: not at the Taj Mahal! You need to be aware it is practically impossible to photograph the Taj Mahal without people. The morning is one of the most popular times to visit the Taj Mahal.
The good news: We would still definitely recommend you visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, because the light is simply magical! With a bit of luck you can look forward to a bit (not too much) of morning fog and a truly unique, very mystical ambience.
In front of us stands the Taj Mahal, shimmering gold in the morning fog. We have to pause to realise how beautiful it is.
The earlier you come, the better! As we mentioned, the area (not the ticket counter) opens half an hour before sunrise. And some time before this, a line is already forming at the security check. If you really want to be right at the front, you need to buy your ticket online in advance (see info above) and get there as early as possible.
We recommend you don’t stress too much about it. We were far from being the first there and still found the atmosphere breath taking! The crowds also move along quite well – especially in the morning.
3. Other Things to Experience in Agra
The Agra Fort is the next most significant sight in the city, after the Taj Mahal. It is of course fairly overshadowed by the world wonder, but is still very worth the visit. This gigantic sandstone fortress is a little reminiscent of the one in Delhi, but we personally liked it better.
The fort dates back to the 16th century and was once the residence of the Mughal rulers. You stroll through countless parts of the building, courtyards and rooms of sandstone and marble.
The complex is very extensive, so allow enough time. (We recommend at least 1.5 hours.) The view towards the Taj Mahal in the distance is another a highlight you can enjoy from here.
Info for visiting the Agra Fort
Entrance: 600 Indian rupees
Opening times: from sunrise until sunset
This park is located across from the Taj Mahal and , more precisely, is on the other side of the river. We can recommend, above all else, paying a visit at sunset. You get a beautiful view of the sun-lit Taj Mahal from here. The park is not so well-kept, but the view incredible.
Our tip: If you follow the road further along, you will come to a free viewpoint, which is just as great.
Entrance: 300 Indian rupees
4. Eating and Drinking in Agra
Our restaurant tip: Shankara Vegis Restaurant
We had a fantastic meal in this small, family-run restaurant in the centre of Agra. As the name of the restaurant suggests, vegetarian cuisine is served here. All of the dishes we ordered tasted delicious. The prices are very affordable: a thali costs about 150 Indian rupees.
The ambience is simply relaxing and rather authentic. There is an indoor area on the ground level and a rooftop terrace with a somewhat limited view Taj Mahal. The restaurant has been around since the 80s – we would say that speaks to the quality.
Rooftop bar with a view of the Taj Mahal
There is a row of rooftop restaurants from which you can enjoy a great view of the Taj Mahal. Some of these are located close to the south entrance of the Taj Mahal. The quality of the bars and restaurants is rather modest – the view is really the central focus here. The Saniya Palace restaurant is very well-known.
If you are after a luxurious experience, you can pay a visit to the most famous hotel in the city, the Oberoi Amarvilas. As an external guest you can, for example, have breakfast, an evening meal, or just stop by for a drink here. The best tables outside are often reserved for guests, but the view is still fantastic.
5. Our Hotel Tip for Agra
Agra has a lot of really luxurious and expensive hotels. However, our recommendation for you is the family-run Coral Court Homestay. It is located in a quiet residential area, about a 15 minute walk away from the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal.
The homestay is filled with a lot of love for detail. It is a really comfortable atmosphere here, which is mainly due to the warm and helpful hosts.
The rooms have an authentic charm, are well furnished and very clean – which is not always the case in India. The great breakfast spread is also a bonus point. All in all: if you are searching for a cosy, lovingly managed place to stay, you are in the best hands at this homestay!
Disclaimer: Invitation & Affiliate Links
The German tour operator erlebe covered most of the costs while there (accommodation and transport). We paid for the flights and some of the activities ourselves. This travel guide contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something via the links, we will receive a small commission. This will not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
Have you already visited the Taj Mahal? Perhaps even at sunrise? We look forward to hearing about your experiences and additional tips!