The Seven Wonders Of The World: Taj Mahal
While we may marvel at the beauty in nature and look upon mankind’s encroachment into the natural world with disappointment, we should not forget man’s ability to create monuments that capture that same sublime awe.
Why Do It?
The Taj Mahal is probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone says ‘India’. It need not be the sole reason you go to India, but at the same time, like the other Wonders of the World, it’s something so iconic that you shouldn’t leave without having seen it.
Built in the city of Agra by the Mughul Emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his third and favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal, which was completed in 1653, took about twenty years to finish and is regarded by many to be the finest example of Mughul architecture and craftsmanship in existence. What some people don’t realise is that the domed marble tomb is part of a larger red sandstone complex, which includes extensive gardens and a mosque. The Taj, one of several World Heritage sites in ad around Agra, stands as a spectacular, extravagant remnant of the Mughul Empire at the height of its power.
Make It Happen
The Taj Mahal is right in the middle of Agra, so, conveniently, you probably won’t have to travel far from your hotel or hostel to get there. With any luck, you might even have a view of it from your window. If you aren’t close enough to walk there, cabs cheap the drivers are usually very friendly and accommodating. If you’re in town for a few days, it’s worth getting a driver’s contact details and organising for them to pick you up from where you’re staying, particularly if you plan on heading to the Taj at dawn, which in our opinion is the best time to see it!
Note that the Taj is closed on Fridays to anybody not attending prayers at the mosque.
Where To Stay
Close by! One of the best things about travelling in this part of the world is that accommodation doesn’t set you back much, meaning that hostel beds might only cost a couple of dollars a night and relatively luxurious lodgings can be found well within the average traveller’s reach.
You can get a bed in a hostel dorm at a place like the Big Brother Hostel, which is walking distance from the Taj, for as little as Rs.50 per night, which works out to a little over $1. Spend a bit more and there are a variety of bed and breakfast-type options available, which cost anywhere between $10 and $20. If you’re after a bit more comfort and a bit more privacy, look around online and you’ll find that you can check in to a three or four-star hotel in Agra for a night and have change from $50. You’ve probably been roughing it for most of your trip, so why not treat yourself?
The morning is the best time to see the Taj Mahal in all its glory, and it’s also the best time to avoid the crowds; it can get a bit too packed in the evenings. Be wary of locals offering to guide you around. Some are good but some can be quite unhelpful. As with many other busy, open spaces around the world, make sure you keep an eye on your bags and your pockets, particularly on the way in to buy your ticket.
For a foreign tourist, the Taj Mahal entry fee is Rs.750, about AU$16. This cost includes a 500ml bottle of water and shoe covers, which you’ll need to wear in the white marbled areas around and inside the mausoleum. Hang onto your ticket for small entry fee reductions when visiting the Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar’s Tomb or the Itimad-ud-Daulah on the same day, all of which are also very much worth checking out.
How To Get There
The closest international airport to Agra is in Delhi. Book well in advance and you can get yourself an economy Melbourne-Delhi return flight with Etihad Airways for a touch under $1000.
Agra has its own small airport but we recommend going by rail. No Indian adventure is complete without a ride on the rail system made famous by films like The Darjeeling Limited and Slumdog Millionaire. Because it is conveniently located in between the main train lines between Delhi and Mumbai, and Delhi and Chennai, there are many different rail services that stop in Agra, so it’s easy to reach from most other parts of the country. By rail, it takes two to three hours to get from Delhi to Agra depending upon the service.
If your budget is tight, look into catching a bus. As a general rule of thumb, buses are the cheapest way to get around India.