18 tips for visiting the Taj Mahal

Described by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore as “a teardrop on the face of eternity”, the Taj Mahal is undoubtedly the zenith of Mughal architecture. Volumes have been written on its perfection, and its image adorns countless glossy brochures and guidebooks; nonetheless, reality never fails to overwhelm you as soon as you step through the gates. To get the most out of the ancient site, follow these tips.

1. Learn about Taj Mahal history

Though its layout follows a distinctly Islamic theme, representing Paradise, it is above all a monument to romantic love. Shah Jahan built the Taj to enshrine the body of his favourite wife, Arjumand Bann Begum, better known by her official palace title, Mumtaz Mahal (“Chosen One of the Palace”). She died shortly after giving birth to her fourteenth child in 1631.

The emperor was devastated by her death, and set out to create an unsurpassed monument to her memory – its name, “Taj Mahal”, is an informal version of Mumtaz Mahal.

Taj Mahal and Agra © Shutterstock

Taj Mahal seen from Agra © Shutterstock

2. Choose the best time to visit Taj Majal

The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is during the winter months, from October to March. The weather during this period is pleasant with mild temperatures.

During winter, average temperatures range from around 8°C to 25°C (46°F to 77°F), providing a comfortable environment for sightseeing. The days are usually sunny and clear, allowing for excellent visibility of the Taj Mahal's stunning architecture.

Winter also coincides with various festivals and events in Agra like Taj Mahotsav, a ten-day cultural extravaganza that takes place in February and showcases traditional arts, crafts, music, and dance performances.

It's best to avoid visiting the Taj Mahal during the summer months (April to June) as temperatures can soar to extreme levels, often exceeding 40°C (104°F). The scorching heat and high humidity can make sightseeing uncomfortable.

During the monsoon season (July to September), Agra experiences heavy rainfall. While the city and the Taj Mahal can have a unique charm during this time, the downpours can disrupt outdoor activities, and the monument may be partially covered for preservation purposes.

Learn more about best time to visit India.

Yamuna River and Taj Mahal in Agra, India © Shutterstock

Yamuna river and Taj Mahal © Shutterstock

3. Get the sunset views of Taj Mahal...

The Taj is at its most alluring in the relative quiet of early morning, shrouded in mist and bathed with a soft red glow. Few words can do it justice. The towering minarets and magnificent dome evoke awe and reverence as the sun bounces off its walls. It is also advisable to arrive early in the morning - an hour before the sunrise open - to avoid crowds and long queues.

As its vast marble surfaces fall into shadow or reflect the sun, its colour changes from soft grey and yellow to pearly cream and dazzling white. This play of light is an important decorative device, symbolically implying the presence of Allah, who is never represented in physical form. To really appreciate it fully, you’d have to stick around from dawn until dusk.

Purchase your entrance tickets in advance to avoid any last-minute hassles. This will give you enough time to pass through the security checks and find a prime spot to witness the sunrise.

4. ...or see it by moonlight

It’s possible to see the Taj by moonlight on the night of the full moon itself and on the two days before and after.

Four hundred visitors are admitted per night (in batches of fifty between 8pm and midnight, but not on Fridays or during Ramadan).

Tickets (₹750 [₹510]) have to be purchased a day in advance from the ASI office, 22 The Mall. If a viewing is cancelled, you get a refund.

5. Check the opening hours

The Taj Mahal is open daily except on Fridays, when it is closed for prayers. The gates open at sunrise and close at sunset.

6. Buy the tickets at the south gate (or online)

Normal entrance to the Taj Mahal costs ₹1300 (₹250 Indians – ₹50 without access to the main mausoleum – and ₹740 SAARC nationals). Children below 15 years go for free.

Tickets are valid for one entrance and a maximum stay of three hours. It also gives tax-free entry to other sites if used on the same day, giving ₹50 off the admission fee at Agra Fort, and ₹10 off at Sikandra, Itimad-ud-Daulah and Fatehpur Sikri.

Ticket queues are longest at the west gate and shortest at the south gate. The east gate ticket office is 500m down the road, by the Shilpgram crafts village.

7. Understand the entry rules, security checkpoints and bag restrictions

You are not allowed to enter with food (and none is available inside). Foreigners are given a free bottle of water and a pair of shoe covers on entry.

To ensure the safety of visitors and the preservation of the monument, there are security checkpoints at the entrances. It is recommended to carry minimal belongings to expedite the security process. Expect to go through a metal detector and have your bags checked.

Large bags and backpacks are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal complex at all - it is best to carry a small bag or purse to hold essential items like your wallet, phone, camera, and water bottle. If you have larger bags or luggage, you may need to store them in the designated cloakroom facilities located near the entrance gates.

It's always a good idea to check the latest regulations beforehand to avoid any inconvenience.

8. Dress respectfully

Wear modest attire that covers your shoulders, chest, and legs. Both men and women should avoid wearing sleeveless tops, tank tops, or revealing clothing.

The Taj Mahal is considered a place of cultural and historical significance in India, and adhering to appropriate dress code guidelines shows respect for the site and its traditions.

You will need to wear your shoe covers to enter the Taj itself.

9. Learn how to get to the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is located in Uttar Pradesh, about 4 hours north of Delhi. This is the most populated state in India. That means there are a lot of options to get there.

By plane

Agra Airport, also known as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Airport, is the nearest airport to the Taj Mahal.

The nearest major international airport is the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

By train

Agra is well-connected by train to major cities in India. The main railway station is Agra Cantt Railway Station, which is served by numerous trains from different parts of the country.

Several trains, including superfast and express trains, operate between Agra and major cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, and Kolkata.

By bus

Agra has a well-developed road network, and you can reach the city by bus from various nearby destinations.

The Idgah Bus Stand in Agra is the main bus terminal, and it operates both state-run and private buses.

Taj Mahal garden © Shutterstock

Taj Mahal garden © Shutterstock

10. Hire a local guide for a more enriching experience

Hiring a local guide at the Taj Mahal enhances your experience, providing historical and cultural insights. They can bring the monument to life with in-depth information on its architecture, construction, and symbolism.

This can be especially helpful as you cannot take a guidebook inside the site.

Do note, though, that some guides may try to take you to see either the local stonemasons or carpet makers nearby following your visit. This is usually to buy something, so feel free to politely and firmly decline.

Check our list of India travel experts.

Aerial view of Taj Mahal complex © Shutterstock

Aerial view of Taj Mahal complex © Shutterstock

11. Explore the whole Taj Mahal Complex

The Taj Mahal complex divides into few sections covered below.

Take in the Chowk-i-Jilo Khana

The south, east and west entrances all lead into the Chowk-i-Jilo Khana forecourt.

The main entrance into the complex, an arched gateway topped with delicate domes and adorned with Koranic verses and inlaid floral designs, stands at the northern edge of Chowk-i-Jilo Khana, directly aligned with the Taj, but shielding it from the view of those who wait outside.

Check the charbagh

Once through the gateway from the Chowk-i-Jilo Khana, you’ll see the Taj itself at the end of the huge charbagh (literally “four gardens”).

Dissected into four quadrants by waterways (usually dry), it evokes the Koranic description of Paradise, where rivers flow with water, milk, wine and honey.

Introduced by Babur from Central Asia, charbaghs remained fashionable throughout the Mughal era.

Unlike other Mughal mausoleums such as Akbar’s and Humayun’s, the Taj isn’t at the centre of the charbagh, but at the northern end, presumably to exploit its riverside setting.

The Taj

At the far end of the charbagh, steps lead up to the high-square marble platform on which the mausoleum itself sits, each corner marked by a tall, tapering minaret.

To the west of the tomb is a domed red-sandstone mosque and to the east a replica jawab, put there to complete the architectural symmetry of the complex – it cannot be used as a mosque as it faces away from Mecca.

The Taj is essentially square in shape, with pointed arches cut into its sides and topped with a huge central dome that rises for over 55m, its height accentuated by a crowning brass spire almost 17m high.

On approach, the tomb looms ever larger and grander, but not until you are close do you appreciate both its sheer size and the extraordinarily fine detail of relief carving, highlighted by floral patterns of precious stones.

Arabic verses praising the glory of Paradise fringe the archways, proportioned exactly so that each letter appears to be the same size when viewed from the ground.

Take in the museum

The Taj’s museum, in the enclosure’s western wall, features exquisite miniature paintings, two marble pillars believed to have come from the fort and portraits of Mughal rulers including Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.

Also of interest are its architectural drawings of the Taj and examples of pietra dura stone inlay work.

Admiring the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh park in Agra © Shutterstock

Admiring the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh park in Agra © Shutterstock

12. Examine the Taj Mahal's exterior

The south face of the tomb is the main entrance to the interior: a high octagonal chamber whose weirdly echoing interior is flushed with pale light.

A marble screen, decorated with precious stones and cut so finely that it seems almost translucent, protects the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal in the centre.

It is perfectly aligned with the doorway and the distant gateway into the Chowk-i-Jilo Khana, and that of Shah Jahan crammed in next to it – the only object which breaks the perfect symmetry of the entire complex.

The inlay work on the marble tombs is the finest in Agra, and no pains were spared in perfecting it – some of the petals and leaves are made of up to sixty separate stone fragments.

Ninety-nine names of Allah adorn the top of Mumtaz’s tomb, and set into Shah Jahan’s is a pen box, the hallmark of a male ruler.

These cenotaphs, in accordance with Mughal tradition, are only representations of the real coffins, which lie in the same positions in a crypt below.

13. Understand the architectural marvels and symbolism

The Taj Mahal is a remarkable example of Mughal architecture, showcasing a fusion of Persian, Islamic, and Indian styles. It is renowned for its perfect blend of various architectural elements, such as domes, arches, minarets, and intricate ornamentation.

The entire complex, including the gardens, reflecting pool, and main mausoleum, is symmetrically aligned along a central axis, creating a visually stunning sight. One of the most striking features of the Taj Mahal is its central dome, a large white marble structure with a pinnacle called the Kalash at its top.

This dome represents the celestial dome and symbolizes a heavenly abode. The four minarets standing at the corners of the Taj Mahal serve not only as decorative elements but also fulfill a functional purpose by providing support and stability to the main structure, particularly during earthquakes.

Additionally, they contribute to the monument's elegance and verticality. The Taj Mahal is adorned with intricate calligraphy and ornamentation, with Quranic verses beautifully inscribed on entrance arches and throughout the complex.

Floral motifs, geometric patterns, and delicate inlay work using semi-precious stones further enhance the marble surfaces, adding intricate details to the overall magnificence of the monument.s.

Unique architectural details of Taj Mahal © Shutterstock

Unique architectural details of Taj Mahal © Shutterstock

14. Visit the mausoleum

Entry to the actual mausoleum of the Taj Mahal is limited to a specific number of visitors at a time to ensure preservation and safety.

Visitors are typically allowed to enter in small groups, and a separate ticket or pass may be required in addition to the general admission ticket.

Before entering the mausoleum, you will be required to remove your footwear as a mark of respect.

Shoe covers may be provided to protect the marble floors and maintain cleanliness.

It's advisable to wear socks or carry a pair of clean socks with you for comfort.

Inside the mausoleum, there is a central chamber that houses the tombs of Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

However, the actual graves are located at a lower level and are not accessible to the public. Visitors can view the replicas of the tombs from a distance.

15. Avoid the crowds

Majority of the people visit the Taj Mahal on weekends, so try and visit during the week.

Choosing to visit during the off-peak season, which is generally from April to September, can also mean reduced crowds.

Try and book your tickets online ahead of your visit and arrive at the south gate, which has the shortest queues.

Also consider exploring other areas of the Taj Mahal complex, such as the gardens and surrounding structures, before entering the main mausoleum.


Taj Mahal overcrowded © Shutterstock

16. Check how to capture the best photos and angles

Consider visiting during the golden hours, which are shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the soft, warm light enhances the Taj Mahal's beauty. Avoid midday when the harsh sunlight can create strong shadows.

Be aware that the Taj Mahal attracts a large number of visitors, and it may take time to find the right moments and angles for your photographs. Be patient, wait for crowds to disperse, and be respectful of others' experiences while capturing your shots.

Best view points

The Taj Mahal is renowned for its symmetrical design and this mirrored effect can create powerful and visually appealing images.

It is rich in intricate details and craftsmanship and the Diana Bench – located on the southern side – is a popular spot for photographers. This is where Princess Diana famously had her photo taken but it’s a great spot for getting in the entire dome.

The raised platforms along the reflecting pool also offer excellent viewpoints.

Sunrise views of the Taj Mahal

For sunrise photos, find out the exact time of sunrise on the day of your visit and plan to arrive at least an hour before that. This will allow you to secure a good spot and witness the gradual transformation of light.

The Eastern Gate entrance is the recommended entry point for sunrise visits as it opens early specifically for this purpose. This gate provides direct access to the main mausoleum area and ensures a shorter walk to the prime viewing spots.

17. Explore nearby attractions: Agra Fort, Mehtab Bagh, and other noteworthy sites

Agra Fort

Located just a short distance from the Taj Mahal is Agra Fort.

The high red-sandstone ramparts of this fabulous fort dominates a bend in the Yamuna River 2km northwest of the Taj Mahal.

Akbar laid the foundations of this majestic citadel, built between 1565 and 1573 in the form of a half-moon, on the remains of earlier Rajput fortifications.

The structure developed as the seat and stronghold of the Mughal Empire for successive generations: Akbar commissioned the walls and gates, his grandson, Shah Jahan, had most of the principal buildings erected, and Aurangzeb, the last great emperor, was responsible for the ramparts.

The curved sandstone bastions reach a height of over 20m and stretch for around two and a half kilometres, punctuated by a sequence of massive gates (although only the Amar Singh Pol is currently open to visitors).


Agra Fort, India © Shutterstock

Mehtab Bagh (the moonlight garden)

Situated across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, Mehtab Bagh is a beautiful garden complex known as the Moonlight Garden.

It is an excellent spot for photographers, especially during sunset as the Taj Mahal glows in the evening light.

Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb

Also nearby is Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb, often referred to as the Baby Taj.

Built in the 17th century, This splendid mausoleum showcases exquisite marble inlay work and it is considered a precursor to the Taj Mahal.

The tomb is set in beautiful gardens and provides a serene and less crowded experience compared to the Taj Mahal.

18. Check out the best places to stay around Tah Mahal

From flea-ridden ratholes to royal suites with Taj Mahal views, Agra has no shortage of places to stay. Here’s where to sleep.

Taj Ganj

One of the best areas is Taj Ganj, located right next to the Taj Mahal itself. It is the closest area where you can stay, and it provides a range of hotels, guesthouses, and budget accommodations.

Fatehabad Road

A short distance away from the Taj Mahal, Fatehabad Road is renowned for its upscale hotels and luxury resorts, many offering Taj Mahal views from their rooms or rooftop restaurants.

Sadar Bazaar

Located approximately 3 km from the Taj Mahal, Sadar Bazaar offers a range of budget accommodations, including hostels.

Find out the best ways to get to India.

Tips for visiting Taj Mahal - summary

Allocate enough time in your itinerary to fully explore the Taj Mahal.

Your ticket allows you to be onsite for up to three hours but there is much to see and appreciate.

Engaging a knowledgeable local guide can greatly enhance your understanding and appreciation of the Taj Mahal.

They can provide valuable insights and highlight important architectural and historical details that you might otherwise miss.

Consider visiting the Taj Mahal during sunrise or sunset for the best angles.

These times of the day offer breathtaking lighting conditions and a serene ambiance, adding a magical touch to your experience.

Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 22.06.2023

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