Agra, the home to the Taj Mahal, and one of the highlights during our trip to Northern India. In general, there are two perfect moments to visit the Taj: early morning at sunrise and late in the afternoon at sunset. During these hours, it’s not too hot and not too busy. We decided to go for the early morning. This turned out to be a great decision, because it was a magical morning.! In this blog post, I will show you what to expect when visiting the Taj Mahal at sunrise and I will share a few practical tips.
06.30 am: already made two stupid mistakes
Sunrise at the Taj Mahal meant getting up in the dark. Our alarm went off at 5.45. You might think that this is way too early, but it was actually a good thing. We made two stupid mistakes that morning. The first one was not informing our homestay that we were going out so early. Subsequently, the gate was still locked, and climbing it was not an option because of the spikes. We rattled the door and luckily the guard on the other side woke up and opened the fence. Our second mistake was thinking that we could buy a ticket at the East gate itself. Not the case my friend. The East gate has a seperate ticket office, located 1 kilometer from the entrance at the Shilgram parking lot. That meant we had to walk from the gate back to the ticket office.
prepare yourself for some HASSLE and stress
At 06.15 am we arrived at the ticket office and though it was closed there was already a huge line of tourists waiting. The ticket office opens 30 minutes before sunrise. As soon as the offices opened their windows, people got nervous. Everyone was in a hurry, because it was already getting light. The drivers of the cycle rickshaws use this as an opportunity to earn some money and bring people fast to the gate. However, there is actually no need to rush to the gate, because the East gate only opens at 07.00 am.
07.00 am: the East gate opens
When we arrived at the gate, there was already a huge line of people waiting. Officially the East gate opened at 07.00 am, but in reality it could be later. Please note that the rules for bags are quite strict: backpacks and big bags are not allowed inside. You are better off leaving your bag at your hotel. I only brought what I needed in my hand: my camera, my phone, the exact amount of money for the tickets, and my passport. After a security check, a lot of tourists sprinted to the gates of the Taj Mahal. However, we decided to take it easy. The sun was already up and that Taj Mahal is not going anywhere. What did worry us though was the thick morning fog. Were we actually going to see the Taj Mahal?
07.30 am: a foggy start at the Taj Mahal
After entering through the gigantic gate of Darwaza-i-Rauza we made our way into the gardens of the Taj Mahal. Vaguely we saw the shape of the Taj Mahal. The white domes were covered in a thick layer of fog. It left us a bit disappointed. Was this the famous sunrise at the Taj Mahal? We hardly saw the building! Instead, we decided to walk around for a bit in the gardens of Mughal charbagh (quadrilateral Persian gardens). I could not stop taking photos, even without a clear view on the Taj Mahal the place was pretty. Luckily for us, with every step we took the view on the Taj Mahal was getting more and more clear.
Three Popular photo spots
There are three popular photo spots: immediately after the Darwaza-i-Rauza, from the Princess Diana Bench, and from the start of the last pond before the Taj Mahal. The second spot is where Princess Diana sat when she visited the Taj Mahal in 1992. I really liked the third spot in front of the last pond. From here I took the photo in the header: pretty great, right?
08.00 am: visiting the monument of love
I actually always thought that the Taj Mahal was a palace, but it is not. It is a grave monument. The background story of the Taj Mahal is a tale of a love heartbreak. The Islamic Mughal emperor Shah Jahan married at age 20 with his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. Together they had 14 children, but at the last childbirth Mumtaz died in 1631. According to the stories, this broke the heart of Shah Jahan. A year later Shah Jahan started building a mausoleum for his beloved wife: the Taj Mahal was born. He wanted it to be a masterpiece, and you could say that he got what he wanted. The Taj Mahal is the largest mausoleum of the world and it was named one of the seven New World Wonders of the world in 2007. In India, the Taj Mahal is known as the ultimate declaration of love.
Spot the Taj Mahal secret (I did not see it)
The Taj Mahal is standing on an increased marble plateau and is flanked by four minarets and two buildings. On one side there is a mosque and on the other side there is an exact replica, both built in an identical red sandstone style. They say – I did not notice this at all – that the four minarets are not entirely standing straight. They lean a bit outward. This is not a construction error but there is a reason for this: in case of an earthquake the minarets will not fall on the mausoleum.
08.30 am: the golden moment
After taking a quick look inside the Taj Mahal, I must say that I liked the exterior more than the inside. Luckily for us, the morning fog was starting to clear. The sun was burning its way through the white clouds. This gave the whole scene a magical vibe: the red sky covered with a thin white layer and the Taj Mahal in front of it. It lasted only for 15 minutes, but it was a spectacular moment. 1,5 hours after opening the gate and there it was: the real sunrise at the Taj Mahal.
09.00 am: the sun is up!
The sky cleared up and the sun was starting to shine. The day had started. Finally, I could see the Taj Mahal in full daylight. What a beauty! But this was also the moment a lot more tourists arrived at the Taj Mahal. I saw more and more large tour groups. A perfect time for us to leave. See you next time Taj!
Practical tips for visiting the Taj Mahal
- The entrance fee for foreigners is 1100 rupees per person. It’s 200 rupees extra to visit the mausoleum. You can also buy tickets online.
- There are two entrance gates: west gate and east gate. West gate is often used by tourist groups. The south gate can only be used for exit.
- At the East gate, there is a free electric golf cart going from the ticket office to the gate.
- It is not permitted to take photos inside the main mausoleum of the Taj Mahal.
- Note: the Taj Mahal is closed on Friday for prayer.
- The Taj Mahal is a religious place. Dress appropriately: cover your shoulders and knees.
To check the latest information on entrance fees and opening hours, please visit the official website of the Taj Mahal.
Where to stay in Agra?
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And there you have it, a guide to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. Is the Taj Mahal also on your bucketlist?