The Taj Mahal has long been on my bucket list and I can honestly say it exceeded all my expectations.
We visited in October 2018 and stayed in Agra. We travelled independently and booked a driver through our hotel. We were picked up at 6am and driven through the city to the East Gate. The driver dropped us off outside a posh hotel and we walked the rest of the way. The street smelt of burning cow poo and we passed stray dogs, monkeys and cows picking at the rubbish. One cow took a particular shine to my husband and gave him a nuzzle, to the amusement of other people making their way to the Taj Mahal.
We were offered a guided tour several times on the way to the ticket booth but declined. We paid 1,100 (£11.38) rupees to get in. We were given covers for our feet and a bottle of water before heading to the main entrance, where there were separate queues for men and women. The queue for women was far longer than the one for men – my husband more or less walked through, while it took me about half an hour.
We then walked through a majestic gate and the Taj Mahal came into sight. It’s difficult to describe why it’s so magical, but it certainly has something to do with the light and the way it is reflected on the marble. It was quite simply breath-taking, and photos don’t do it justice. There were quite a lot of visitors there, but not enough to detract from the beauty of the building. We were pestered a bit by touts wanting to take our photograph, but they were mostly around the entrance and left us alone once we walked into the complex.
The closer you got to the Taj Mahal, the more majestic it appeared: the serene pools reflecting the buildings, the birds swirling around the domes and the miranets. You forgot about the people around you – the building was just mesmerising. Even though it was early morning, it was still quite hot and hazy. There were, as you would expect, lots of people taking photographs and selfies, particularly around the Princess Diana bench. You could get exactly the same view from an adjacent bench which wasn’t nearly as busy!
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, so you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. The interior was not nearly as impressive as the exterior and people were ignoring the signs to be silent. It felt that we were pushed around the interior very quickly and didn’t really get chance to take it in. It was much more fun to walk around the grounds and view the Taj from the outside.
We spent a couple of hours there before heading off to the Agra Fort and the ‘Baby Taj’. It’s certainly one of the best travel experiences I have had, and the most beautiful and awe-inspiring building I have ever seen.