We arrived in Delhi to incredible humid heat, crowds, and thick dust. June is the low season to visit the Taj Mahal, and the front end of monsoon season, but we barely saw rain at all. Our driver was waiting with a huge smile, and the boys immediately gave him the title of ‘our favorite driver’ when they saw his van loaded with Indian snacks, chips, and cold waters. His name was Jess, and he immediately let us know that other guides would take us places to buy items and get kickbacks from our purchases, but he wasn’t like that and just ‘wanted us to get the best deals’.
Seemed a little fishy, But if you expect that as part of the whole India experience, it feels more humorous than insulting. We drove the new highway from Delhi to Agra (which wasn’t built 10 years ago on our last visit), and approximately 4 hours later we were pulling into our hotel. It was quite a juxtaposition after arriving from serene and peaceful Bhutan, so we were eager to enjoy the air conditioning. We ate the most amazing food in a local restaurant: Curry, biryani, dal, sag aloo, garlic naan, and cold Kingfisher beers.
After dinner we discovered a fortune teller in our hotel lobby. Super fun except the lobby was completely empty, and it was rather awkward as he stared longingly at us, (or perhaps at our wallets, I’m not really sure.) Julian pulled me towards the fortune-teller and asked him to read my fortune. It’d be rude not to at that point, so I held out my hand. The fortune teller took a long thoughtful look at my hand, as though really straining to get a good reading, and dramatically told me that I have great health. I didn’t want to ruin his mojo and ask if the whole cancer thing was just a bad dream! I thanked him profusely and gave him his tip.
We woke the next morning at 4.45am to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise. The Taj Mahal is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic buildings in the world, is one of the wonders of the world, and was built by emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved favorite wife who died during childbirth.
Things have changed significantly from our visit ten years ago, when we had to take a horse to the entrance. We drove to the sleek ticket office, our guide purchased tickets, and we took an electric cart to the east entrance (cars and buses are strictly prohibited from coming within 500 meters of the Taj Mahal to prevent exhaust fumes further tarnishing the exterior).
The east entrance is for foreigners and opens half an hour before the west entrance for Indians. We cleared the new security unit, and at 5.30am when the gates opened, we experienced our magical first view of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal’s exquisite beauty and intricate details are beyond words and can only be truly appreciated by witnessing it in person.
A tour guide is highly recommended when you visit the Taj Mahal. Awe-struck by its beauty and grandeur, we were grateful to be shown the intricate details and craftsmanship of this magical place, and we were moved by the love story that inspired its creation.
During our visit to the Taj Mahal, we were awed to learn that the building’s remarkable symmetry is not just limited to its overall structure but extends to every intricate detail. From the four minarets flanking the main tomb to the decorative jewels on the walls, and the symmetrical placement of the gardens, water channels, and reflecting pool. Every single part of the Taj Mahal appears perfectly balanced and harmonious. This precision in design and construction is a testament to the extraordinary craftsmanship of the skilled artisans who built this magnificent wonder of the world.
We soaked in this dedication of true love. It was spectacular from every angle, and as the sun rose we enjoyed the most magical views as the lights bounced off the buildings.
We visited during low season and it was still incredibly crowded. There seemed to be a more streamlined tourist operation that there was 10 years ago, and we couldn’t help but feel this magical Wonder of the World now resembled more of a tourist attraction than a sacred mausoleum.
After soaking in the final images, we returned to our hotel for breakfast. We spent the rest of the day visiting the Baby Taj, (which was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal), and Agra Fort; a historic fortress in hat served as the residence of the Mughal emperors for generations.
Agra fort was built primarily as a military structure, but Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace. Ironically it later became his prison for eight years after his son seized power and sent him to exile, where he spent his last years staring at his beloved Taj Mahal from his prison window.
After basking in the magnificence of Agra’s rich history and culture, we returned to our hotel to recharge for the next leg of our journey. We took the time to reflect on the sights and sounds that had captured our hearts and minds during our time in this fascinating city. If visiting the Taj Mahal is on your travel list, I’d suggest going sooner rather than later since things are definitely changing, and becoming more commercialized.
I’m a travel and health writer, digital and brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two active boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.