Taj East Gate Road, Near Taj Mahal, Paktola, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
With over 70,000 people wandering through the majestic gardens and opulent interiors of the Taj Mahal a day, seeing the seventh wonder of the world can often feel like a herculean task. We’re talking crowded quarters, an abundance of selfie-sticks just waiting to accidently hit you in the face, as well as Instagram photos guaranteed to include you along with thousands of strangers also attempting to get that same ‘namaste’ shot. But we have a little secret: a peaceful visit to the Taj Mahal is possible, that is if you know when to go. But there is one *tiny* catch--it involves a 5:00 a.m. wakeup call.
If you’re willing to skip the sleep, the early wake-up call will grant you access to one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. Trust me, I recently forced myself out of bed during a stay at Oberoi Amarvilas (where the beds are very comfortable, might I add) to rise with the sun and line up at the entrance of the Taj by 5:10 a.m. Of course, this was made much easier thanks to Amarvilas proximity to the iconic monument (it’s only 600 meters away), with the hotel offering a complimentary golf cart drop off and pick up to and from the Taj. Insider tip: At sunrise, they even pack guests to-go cups of coffee!
Photography: Nomad Luxuries
Having visited the Taj at both sunrise and sunset, I can’t stress what a difference a dusk visit makes to the experience. For starters, as you may have read, the Taj changes colors at different times of day, which means in the morning hours the mausoleum has an enchanting pinkish hue (whereas in the evening it’s more of a translucent blue). There are no superlatives to describe what an astounding sense of peace one feels as morning rays of sunshine reflect off the nearly perfectly symmetrical masterpiece. It’s a seriously humbling experience.
Photography: Juli Fajardo | Jack Morris
Once you’ve seen the Taj from a distance, you’ll have the chance to go inside and appreciate the incredible details of this architectural masterpiece. Although you are not allowed to bring a camera inside, you can wander the perimeter of the cenotaphs honoring Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan which are enclosed in an eight-sided chamber ornamented with pietra dura (an inlay with semi-precious stones) and incredible marble lattice screen. It’s dark, narrow, and hot inside the Taj, so the chance to experience this before a crowd (and the smell of thousands of unwashed bare feet) descends is key.
Photography: Annie Spratt
My final piece of advice, no matter what time you decide to visit the Taj, familiarize yourself with the history. Before I arrived to India I was unfamiliar with the context of the monument, which as the story goes, that Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the incredible mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth. The Taj is said to represent his eternal love for Mumtaz, and both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal are buried beneath the Taj’s exquisite marble facade. Once I had a bit more context there was just something so touching about sitting in the gardens, created by Shah Jahan as a representation of Paradise, hearing the birds chirp and reflecting on this incredible love story. It was like a morning meditation of sorts.
Ready to trek the Taj Mahal? Turn it into an bucket list trip with The Restorative 15 Day Itinerary For Your Spiritual Journey Through India →