It has graced the pages of books for centuries but nothing quite prepares you for seeing the Taj Mahal for the very first time. The ultimate symbol of eternal love, this is one of India’s most memorable and emotive sights.
Heartbroken after the death of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, during the birth of their 14th child, Shah Jahan set about building the world’s most beautiful monument in her honour. It took a workforce of more than 20,000 men 22 years to build, painstakingly making sure every slab of marble, precious stone and stroke of calligraphy was perfect.
The Taj Mahal sits on the banks of the holy Yamuna River within 42 acres of beautiful gardens. The domed mausoleum sits 52m above the river bank, surrounded by minarets on all four sides. It is flanked by a mosque and a guest house, both made from red sandstone and mirror images of each other.
As the light changes, so too does the colour of the Taj Mahal. One of the best times to visit is in the early hours when it is bathed in the ethereal glow of the morning light. As the sun rises, the marble changes from a soft golden hue to dazzling white, and as evening draws in, its character changes once again.
The inside is no less beautiful with precious stones, intricate carvings and ornate inscriptions of the Koran. Mumtaz Khan’s grave is housed in the burial chamber alongside Shah Jahan, who was brought to rest by her side on his death.
There is no denying that the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is one of the main reasons people visit Agra. However, it’s well worth lingering to explore the city’s magnificent fort that lies just 3km to the west.
When to go
The best time to visit is between October and March. September and April are considered the shoulder months when it is very hot in the middle of the day but mornings and late afternoons are lovely. From the end of December until the middle of January, mornings and evenings can be foggy and nights cold, but during the day the weather is great for sightseeing.
What to do
- Visit the impossibly beautiful Taj Mahal. It is at its most magical at sunrise and sunset. There are also fewer people at these times so you can enjoy a much more intimate experience.
- Admire the Taj Mahal from across the Yamuna River, its reflection shimmering in the water
- Take a walking tour through the nearby villages for a glimpse into life in rural India
- Explore Agra Fort
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