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The Taj Mahal has every historic accolade you can think of: It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a (new) wonder of the world. It’s widely considered one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the world. It tops most travelers’ bucket lists. The Taj Mahal is so much more than a beautiful facade, or one of travel’s most coveted photo ops. The Taj Mahal is an architectural and cultural feat for India, an enormous source of the country’s tourism, and according to local lore, a remarkable love story.
The building of the Taj Mahal was orchestrated by Shah Jahan, who became the power of the Mughal Empire in 1628. Three years later, his wife, Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. When she passed, she supposedly made her husband promise to build her the most impressive mausoleum the world had ever seen. Of course, this is folklore and many of the world’s great architectural wonders start with a story of how an emperor set out to build the most exquisite tomb, house of worship, museum, or palace in the world.
Whether Shah Jahan’s wife implored him to erect a great mausoleum for her or not, it’s documented in history that Shah Jahan recruited architects from India, Turkey, and Iraq to start working on the Taj Mahal in 1631. It took 17 years, and by 1648, the Taj Mahal stood in Agra along the Jamuna River. In addition to the classic three marble domes, the Taj Mahal has four minarets, two sandstone buildings on either side, beautiful gardens, and a reflection pool.
How to Get to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is in Agra—in the Indian state Uttar Pradesh about 125 miles from Delhi. You can easily take the train from Delhi to Agra. From New Delhi Station, you can take the Shatabdi Express to Agra Cantt (Cantonment Railway Station). Or you can take Gatimaan Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin (in Delhi) to Agra Cantt. Gatimaan is slightly faster and slightly more expensive. You can book tickets here.
If you prefer not to take the train, hiring a car and driver is relatively easy. Hiring a car will take about three hours—typically cars take the Yamuna Expressway from Delhi to Agra.
When to Visit the Taj Mahal
First off, the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. Every other day, it’s open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Once a month, for the two nights before the full moon, the night of the full moon, and the two nights following, the Taj Mahal is open for evening visits. Should you have the opportunity to see the Taj during the full moon, take it. However, keep in mind that evening viewing isn’t an option during Ramadan.
Dress Code for the Taj Mahal
There is no dress code technically enforced at the Taj Mahal. However, wearing t-shirts rather than tank tops and longer pants or skirts as opposed to shorts could still be a smart choice. In general, if it’s not an inconvenience to wear an outfit that covers your shoulders and knees (for all genders) to the Taj Mahal, it is often preferred.
Buying Tickets for the Taj Mahal
For Indians, cashless entry is 45 rupees, and if paying in cash, it costs 50 rupees. For non-Indian citizens, it costs 1,100 rupees (cashless) and 1,050 with cash. The exchange rate is, of course, constantly in flux, but as of December 2019, one U.S. dollar was equivalent to about 70 rupees. So the 1,100 entry fee is about $15.
You can buy tickets at the Taj Mahal entrance or online. However, you cannot buy them at other monuments close by, which was previously an option.
Where to Enter the Taj Mahal
There are three entryways to the Taj Mahal: the east gate, west gate, and south gate. In general, the east and west gates tend to be preferable. The south gate doesn’t open until 8 a.m. The east and west gate can both get rather crowded, especially at popular times like sunrise. Nonetheless, the east gate is closest to the best international hotels in the area, and the west gate is a convenient spot to buy tickets.