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A timeless beauty and extraordinary architectural feat, the simple fact about the Taj Mahal is that it is the unmissable stop on India’s Golden Triangle route. Millions of visitors each year flock to the city of Agra to get a glimpse of the world wonder. In addition to seeing the Taj Mahal up close and getting that iconic shot, several other nearby places also make excellent viewing spots. Each of the places offers unique angles to appreciate the mausoleum at different times of the day. Read on to see the places that offer the best views of the Taj Mahal!
See the Best Views of the Taj Mahal From Here
A short history of the Taj Mahal
In 1632, a Mughal emperor by the name of Shah Jahan comissioned the Taj Mahal for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died following the birth of their 14th child. She was the emperor’s favourite consort, trusted confidant and compassionate adviser. She was also said to be a philanthropist and campaginer for the poor. Beloved and beautiful as she was, the grief-stricken emperor envisioned a mausoleum so remarkable so as to befit her qualities.
The tomb took 22 years for construction and involved over 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants. Drawing inspirations from notable Mughal masterpieces such as Humayun’s Tomb, Jama Masjid and Itmad-ud-Daula, the Taj Mahal is a representation of Paradise on earth. Entering through the arched gate, it is a perfectly framed beauty as it comes into focus.
The best views inside the Taj Mahal
What catches the eyes of the onlookers is the thoughtful and marvellous engineering behind the tomb. From afar, the Taj Mahal stands majestically on the horizon, yet appears small when up close. This optical illusion is due to the zigzagging patterns embedded in the marble columns. As you take steps back, the Taj Mahal becomes bigger again until it fills the entire frame of the arch.
Another feature is the intricate embellishments on the white marble. The colourful details are made from precious stones around the world. With no expenses spared, the elaborate designs showcase incredible craftsmanship. Furthermore, they honour Mumtaz Mahal’s status as the exalted one of the palace. Not to be outdone by the gleaming stones, the marble also takes on an array of colours throughout the day. In the morning, the monument is a pale apparition. It awakens with the soft gold of the first glimpse of the sun. Then as the day comes to an end, the brilliant sheen of the ivory transitions to a dazzling iridescence under the moonlight.
How to get there
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, a city in Uttar Pradesh, about 200km from Delhi. A network of trains, buses and flights connect Agra with cities throughout India. From the country’s capital, Delhi, the best option is with the Gatimaan Express train, which takes you to Agra in under 2 hours. You can also hire a private driver from Delhi to Agra if you are keen to move on after visiting the Taj Mahal. Since the Taj is Agra’s main attraction, many tourists opt to do a day trip or stay in Agra for only one night.
To preserve the Taj Mahal, the area around the monument is designated as a pollution-free zone. Luckily, once in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a leisurely 20-minute walk away. You can also catch an electric bus or golf cart to take you to the main entrance.
The busiest entrance is the East Gate. Foreign visitors pay Rs 1300 (Rs 1100 for entry, plus Rs 200 for entering the mausoleum). As always, there is a Rs 50 discount when purchasing online or at the counter with a credit card. Note that certain items such as tripod (selfie stick is ok) and even notebook need to be kept at the cloakroom.
The Taj Mahal is CLOSED on Fridays. The monument is open 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset.
Best Views of the Taj Mahal
Overlooking the Taj from a short distance away, Agra Fort builds up the anticipation, like a beautiful prelude, to seeing the Taj Mahal in person. This is where one begins to get a sense of the unwavering love Shah Jahan had for his wife.
Agra Fort served as the main residence for the Mughal royalty when Agra was the capital city. Behind the fortified walls were barracks, gardens and palaces sporting different colours and styles for the string of emperors that took up residence here. One of its most renowned residents, Shah Jahan, also added his signature touch, the white marble, to a number of buildings. This included Musamman Burj, a marble tower inlaid with precious stones, not unlike the Taj Mahal.
Following a serious illness, Shah Jahan was dethroned by his son and confined to live out the remainder of his life at Agra Fort. Even on his deathbed, he lay in the tower, looking across the river at the Taj Mahal. At death, he was at last interred at the Taj, next to his beloved wife. The view and distance from the fort speak for the emperor’s longing, until they were finally united in death.
Mehtab Bagh, sitting directly opposite from the Taj, offers an unobstructed view with a lesser crowd. It is considered one of the best views of the Taj Mahal, though I’ll be honest, it didn’t exactly live up to my expectations in terms of a sunset view.
Mehtab Bagh was once known as the Moonlight Garden, a square garden complex with lush vegetation, beautiful walkways, 25 fountains and a pavillion. Perfectly aligned with the Taj Mahal, this was where Shah Jahan loved to spend his time gazing.
It is hard to imagine the garden’s former glory. Since its excavation in the 1990s, not much has been restored except for rows of shrubs and flowerbeds. At sunset, flocks of birds dotted the sky, but the epic sunset was way off to the side, casting instead a warm shadow where the Taj stands.
A roundtrip with an autorickshaw should cost around Rs 200, including the wait time.
Rooftops in Agra
It is quite neat to see the signature white dome poke out from the clusters of buildings that make up the cityscape. So this is the everyday view of the Taj. This is what the locals see out of the corner of their eyes when they come out to hang their laundry.
In Agra, many restaurants, cafes and hostels have rooftop patios that offer a panoramic view of the Taj Mahal. Occasionally, monkeys climbing over the roofs add an Alladin vibe to the sight. This photo was taken at the Madpackers Hostel Agra, which offers a simple, no-frills breakfast alongside the view. On the same street, you’ll be able to find tons of other rooftop options.
Taj Nature Walk
Taj Nature Walk is a short distance on foot from the tomb’s East Gate. The reserve forest is a good place to cool off after a visit to the Taj Mahal. Over time, urbanization and pollution have caused the marble at the Taj to age. Fortunately, the rich biodiversity inside the nature walk helps to offset the pollution. Dozens of species of wildlife surround the site as you take in some of the best views of the Taj Mahal.
Just before the East Gate, if you turn immediately to the right, you will come across a fork. And if you keep on walking until you reach the river, you will see why this makes the prime spot to view the mausoleum. The viewpoint shows the Taj Mahal in its full glory, especially at sunrise and sunset. The reflection in the water is also simply stunning. And if you ask around, you may be one of the lucky ones to view the Taj Mahal from a boat.
A sunset boat ride at the Taj Mahal sounds like a magical experience and the best in terms of views and value. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a hit-and-miss. The river is very polluted, and boat rides are actually not permitted. Your best bet is to ask the locals nearby if they offer such services. Man vs Globe has written a comprehensive guide about this.
Sadly, we didn’t get to experience the boat ride. At the fork, we were stopped by a guard who told us the area was closed due to an incident involving the death of a tourist the previous day… Others have also commented that the area is only accessible to locals.
The tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, better known as the Baby Taj, is in fact one of the historical monuments that inspired the designs of the Taj Mahal.
The Baby Taj is situated on the Yamuna bank. You can see it from the Ambedkar Bridge, on the way to Metab Bagh. Like the Taj Mahal, the Baby Taj is also a mausoleum, honouring none other than Mumtaz Mahal’s grandfather, Mirzā Ghiyās Beg.
The Baby Taj is small in size but rich in detail. The square tomb is ornate with beautiful stoneworks and set on a red sandstone platform, earning it another nickname, the jewel box. It is the very first tomb in India built using white marble and became a blueprint for the Taj Mahal in later years.
If you happen to be in town when the Taj Mahal isn’t open, or you simply can’t get enough of the exquisite designs, the Baby Taj would make for a pretty comparable experience.