It's one of the new 7 Wonders of the World so make sure you make the most of your trip to this breathtaking, iconic monument. Here are some helpful tips ...
So, first the history bit ....
The Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1632 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife. It took over twenty years to complete and is the ultimate declaration of love. If the Emperor built it today (in 2020), it would cost him 70 billion rupees (over 700 million British pounds). He must have really loved her.
Today, the Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 'new' 7 wonders of the world. The other 6 wonders (in case you were wondering) are the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza (Mexico), Machu Picchu (Peru), Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), Petra (Jordan) and The Colosseum (Rome). We have another 4 to go ...
If I'm honest although our main reason to go to India was for seeing tigers in the wild, it would have been remiss of us not to visit the Taj Mahal whilst we were there.
The nearest city is Agra, but the Taj Mahal is still a bit out of the way and you need to get transport there. If you've limited time, or don't have transport, then I'd recommend joining a tour. It also means that you usually walk to the front of the queue for that all-important security check.
What time of day should you visit the Taj Mahal?
Early! Before the heat and before the crowds. Plus, there's something rather marvellous being there just after the sun has come up.
Snacks and sweets - don't even think about it
This is a sacred place. It's a wonder of the world. There's no point taking a packet of Wrigleys or some Werther's Originals. Your bags get searched at a strict security point (the bigger the bag the longer the search). I just took a very small bag (enough for a little money, that all-important hand sanitiser and some tissues for toilet trips).
Remember your water
Like everywhere in India, make sure you drink bottled water (and check the seal). Remember that scene in the film Slumdog Millionaire where the kids are filling bottles of water from the hose and sealing with super glue? Well, I have it from a very reliable source that this can happen.
You can be out in the sun for a good couple of hours, so remember to stay hydrated!
What goes in must come out
By that, we mean toilets! Visiting the loo in India is something of an experience with some facilities resembling the toilet in Trainspotting (apologies for all the film references). There are a number of toilets at the Taj Mahal. If I was you, go to the ones at the very far corner (so with you back to the Taj Mahal, head to the opposite right hand corner). Typically, they're less busy, less smelly, you get toilet tissue and there are some Western toilets (so no major squatting required).
Get used to being a celeb for a day!
This is a very popular place for families. They travel across India and across the world to see this very beautiful monument. But, some families have never seen a 'Western' face before, so they like to have group photos taken with you. This all adds to the fun, excitement and happy atmosphere of the place.
You are what you wear
When visiting the Taj Mahal, we'd recommend that you wear a bright colour for photographs (see my blue ensemble from Primark above!). A bright colour offers good contrast against the majestic marble. Wearing white or cream and you'll just blend into the background. But, remember to wear respectful clothes in India. No bare shoulders and cover your knees.
It may be all peaceful and calm when you're inside the grounds but as soon as you step away from the Taj Mahal expect your senses to be tested to the max. There'll be noise, car horns, street hawkers, souvenir shops and more Taj Mahal snowglobes than you can shake a stick at. But as you'd expect given the location, the souvenirs are priced accordingly, so expect to pay double than elsewhere in India.
Anyway, this is a fascinating, spell-binding place. You're sure to be so enamoured with it's majesty, beauty and mystic. You'll love it.