We left Delhi at 8 a.m. in the morning and arrived in Agra eight hours later (see Road from Delhi to Agra). The closer we got to Agra, the more our excitement grew. Taj Mahal, here we come! Will it be as stunning as everyone claims? And yes, I confirm, it was very impressive to see this enormous white marble mausoleum in the horizon for the first time. After dropping our bags at Hotel Kamal, we rushed to Taj Mahal, but the entrance procedure did not go as smoothly as it could have. Our bag contained illegal objects: guide books (!?), a torch and cellular phones, and had to leave them at the entrance (check recent regulations at your hotel). After passing the security check, we arrived in the garden. Suddenly, there we were, with thousands of Indians, some tourists and cameras in every hand. Once in a lifetime experience.
As Internet and guidebooks are full of information about this extraordinary 17th century mausoleum, influenced by Hinduism and Islam, I am not going to go into architecture and history (for example, Eyewitness India guidebook excels in architectural and historical descriptions). So, I will stick to sharing some more photos: Impressive, right?
In our opinion, it was definitely worth arriving before 5 p.m. and wandering around Taj Mahal until the sunset. Highly recommended! Moreover, as you know, the sun is so strong in India that even for photo shoots the evenings are much better. Alternatively, you could also arrive very early in the morning.
The next morning we woke up at the sunrise (5.30 a.m.) and climbed to the roof terrace of our hotel. The famous appearance of Taj Mahal was worth the early wake. In fact, I would recommend either staying at a hotel that has a great view, or finding a roof top you can easily access in the morning. After the morning photo shoot we walked around the Taj Ganj quarter (in the immediate proximity of Taj Mahal), which left us a pleasant impression. Quiet streets, old gates, rustic but charming houses, and friendly people. We had breakfast at the roof terrace of Shanti Lodge near our hotel and decided not to visit the Agra Fort and the Agra city center (that surely are worth visiting!). Next we picked up our bags and paid a rickshaw to take us to meet our driver who was waiting for us outside the center. FYI: cars are not allowed too close to Taj Mahal, so your driver may ask you to take a rickshaw to reach your hotel.
It was 8 a.m. and our day was only starting. Fatehpur Sikri, here we come!
TAJ MAHAL TICKET AND ENTRANCE INFORMATION: To my understanding, tickets can be purchased until 5 p.m., allowing you to stay until the sunset. There are also night viewing tickets available around the full moon, but not on Fridays. However, please note this information is based on our travel memories from March 2008 and on Internet reading, so please check the latest information with your hotel prior to arrival in order to avoid disappointments!
HOTEL KAMAL (http://www.hotelkamal.com/): The hotel was very simple, but we had big windows and hot water. Its location and roof top were big bonuses. However, my quick Tripadvisor browsing shows that recent reviews are not that great. It seems they redid the hotel since our visit and unfortunately there are no prices available on the hotel’s website. So, all I can say is that we were pleased with our stay, but we paid 400 INR ( 4.7€ or 6.5USD). A real bargain!!
EATING IN AGRA: We did not eat particularly well, so cannot recommend anything.
PS This is the fourth post about our trip in Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Bombay in March-April 2008. Previous posts are:
Part 1. Arrival in Delhi: first impressions
Part 2. Eight cities of Delhi
Part 3. Road from Delhi to Agra
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