India Bucket List: Visit the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is the most iconic structure in India, and considered to be a jewel of Muslim art.

41099918964_4a0db3c54f_c// is also one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.41816453451_4f2ccb41c5_cThe Taj Mahal is actually a mausoleum that was constructed by a 17th century Mughal emperor, as the final resting place for his favorite wife. 27948357088_d3239a6b50_cHis wife’s tomb is at the heart of this 42-acre complex, set amidst a verdant, royal garden, home to many parakeets, macaques and plumeria trees. 27948357008_c007ed07d3_c40918230305_e59b0500cd_c40918230325_de13265dc5_c40918230345_d963b25dd9_c40918230365_2243123d26_c41774956742_50f5296521_cArchitecturally speaking, the Taj Mahal is made of white marble. It took 22 years, one billion dollars, and over 20,000 laborers, painters, stone cutters, and artists to build it! 😮27948404018_c449d428f4_cIt’s even said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Aladdin. 40921926355_b0ce4e01c9_zAt the top of the tomb is a magnificent dome, and is surrounded by four minaret towers as well. 41099918854_e7e1ab1549_c27948357038_df36b2a37b_c27948404158_a0dc337d46_cThe exterior is decorated with either calligraphy or plant motifs.27948404078_4db2627961_c27948357068_1ce12324fa_c26949002437_a8e7f3f151_c27948357188_74e783b9fc_c26949002297_08c13dacbc_c26949002527_d34454a4c8_c26949002357_673d3651b4_c

Did you know?

The Taj Mahal sits next to the Yamuna River, and the structure is actually cracking at an alarming rate due to its submerged wooden foundations, which are apparently rotting. 27948404108_418130d3e0_c

Plan your visit:

I recommend visiting the Taj Mahal at sunrise. The ticket counter opens up an hour beforehand, and the gate opens up 30 minutes before sunrise.

40918252495_2870f76745_cTickets cost 1,000 rupees (15 USD) for foreigners. With your ticket, you also get a free bottle of water and shoe covers, which you must wear when you enter both the mosque and mausoleum.26948849617_f6a7a64197_cVisitors also undergo a very thorough security scan, and there are many items which are prohibited. Personally, they confiscated my bag of chips and a random plastic bag I had, and made me store them in a locker.

40918252455_98ce928a23_cI visited the Taj Mahal with a Romanian girl I met at my hostel who was also on her own. 27948304408_be227d771a_cEven at this early hour, there were plenty of other tourists visiting the site too.

41774956812_3ea02f24ee_cI did manage to get a few solo shots in front of the Taj Mahal, but I think as the day went on, this would be nearly impossible, considering as many as 70,000 people visit this site each day! 😮


The Taj Mahal has an easy-to-read complex map, which makes exploration on your own a possibility, although there are guides for hire there as well.
40918230385_76a17ff3d9_cOverall, this place definitely lived up to the hype and I would highly recommend adding it to anyone’s travel bucket list! 😉
40918230405_284a159e8a_cAfter visiting the Taj Mahal, it was only 8 AM, so we walked back to town to figure out some others things to do.40918252395_29d6697323_c40918252375_2ed76f6203_c
What else to do in Agra?
I’ll be honest, Agra is not the most picturesque city to visit.26950987667_837e3b68b0_c26950987637_b82c498449_c26950957227_e28a44c7e7_c26950987757_90f1b869b1_c26950987827_a780c70699_cIt makes sense that many people come here as a day trip to see the Taj Mahal and leave. :/26950957477_4eb5e53cb8_c26950957267_304a6b7ae4_c26950957347_eba651a061_c26950987707_82d179f12a_c

I will say though, that if you do have some time to spare, I would recommend visiting the cafe, Sheroes’ Hangout.

Sheroes’ Hangout

26950957407_f7c8a2b7d3_cThe cafe is actually a social project, to support women who have been victims of an acid attack. These women are SHE-HEROES, hence the name Sheroes. 😀

26951027047_7d8de5d638_cThe place has become a safe haven for survivors to communicate and empower themselves by learning service skills. They serve a full menu of food and drinks, and you pay as much as you’d like. Your donation helps to rehabilitate these survivors, and finance their business as well.

curried dal with rice, peas, and paneer cheese

Getting there:

My journey from Delhi to Agra was an adventure in itself. First, I had to get from my hostel to the railway station at 5:30 AM. Basically I looked up the metro times and it said on the website they opened at 5 AM. I even double-checked with my hostel. Sure enough, they were closed at 5 AM. As I stood there with my three large bags on the street in the night trying to figure out what to do, I started talking with an Indian guy smoking a cigarette. He seemed nice enough. I asked him about metro times, and he said it was around 6:15 AM, which would make me miss my train. I figured I had to take a tuk-tuk then, and asked him how much he would pay, so I didn’t get screwed over on the rate. He started to ask me where I was from, and I was in no mood to have a conversation. I said, I just need to get to the railway station. I started to cross the road and look for a tuk-tuk, but he stopped me and offered to give me a ride on his motorcycle. I asked how much, and he said, you are a guest here, I don’t want anything. With that I got on the back of his bike with my three bags. His friend actually tried to get on as well, but I didn’t see that happening unless he sat on someone’s shoulders. Finally adjusted, he turned on the engine and took off…in the wrong direction. I told him we needed to go the other way, and he said, actually I need to stop somewhere and ask how to get there. I said, no you don’t. I have google maps and started to direct him toward the station. He asked me lots of random questions like if I had a boyfriend and if I had a tattoo. I really didn’t mind chatting as long as we got to the station OK. When we finally arrived I took a photo with him and he gave me a kiss on my hand. I had survived so far. Hah! 😛41774771482_a5d8f79789_cFrom there I had to figure out which platform to wait on for my train. Of course, there was no board with the platforms listed. I asked two different workers who told me two different platforms, which was comforting. Hah! Finally, this woman, who noticed I looked frustrated, asked if I needed help. I told her my train number and she simply found my platform on this app called, Where is my Train. So crazy! It seems like you really need a smart phone here, or you will definitely be out of the loop. She directed me to lucky platform number 13, and I was finally on my way to Agra. 😉26948893757_0653661342_c
27952695858_fc84de6a90_zThe train was not too bad, since there were fans and windows to let in a cool breeze. The place became a madhouse at one point though, with people crammed in the aisles standing and I seemed to be the only foreigner in sight, which made me the focus of everyone’s gaze. Hah! Nobody checked my ticket either.

the spacious train car before a mad rush people came on

The train actually took an hour longer than projected, but at least we had finally arrived in Agra. From there, I had to take a tuk-tuk to my hostel. Luckily, there is a government-operated stand, which avoids the hassle of haggling for a price with the driver. The 30-minute journey cost 150 rupees, or about 2.25 USD.
26948893847_ff2f695f03_cMy tuk-tuk driver was Bobby. He bought his tuk-tuk for seven thousand dollars, and has rave reviews on TripAdvisor for his kind and honest service.26948893747_ca11be51b7_c
40918130725_3816e1ba1b_cHe even has this booklet where visitors can leave comments about their journey with him. 🙂41816402461_f11af9ccb2_c


While in Agra I stayed at Bedweiser Backpackers Hostel. The staff was friendly and the WiFi was fast, but the bathrooms were super gross.26951026977_2de68f9511_cCost: 5 USD/ night

Anyway, that wraps up my time in Agra. Up next I’ll be heading to Varanasi. Stay tuned to hear all about it! Until then! 😀

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