Agra: Taj Mahal and Red Fort

India | Uttar Pradesh |

The Taj Mahal is so famous worldwide to need no introduction: considered one of the wonders of the world, it is the most visited tourist attraction of whole India for its grandeur and fascinating history. Instead, still in Agra, the Red Fort will amaze visitors with its imposing ramparts and buildings.

TAJ MAHAL AND RED FORT - ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO AGRA

Agra is located in India, in the federal state of Uttar Pradesh, three hours drive from Delhi or five hours from Jaipur (Rajasthan). Although Agra is not actually located in Rajasthan, the city is often included in Rajasthan tours either because located along the main road connecting Delhi to Jaipur, either because the Taj Mahal is an attraction not to be missed during any trip in India. If you are not traveling in India by car and driver, Agra can be reached also by train from both Delhi and Jaipur, there are instead no regular flights operating onto local airport.

Therefore, if your question is "is it possible to visit the Taj Mahal on a tour in Rajasthan?", the answer is absolutely yes, as long as you will travel between Jaipur and Delhi by car (or train) and not by plane. All that you need to do, is just to add an overnight stop in Agra, so you will have enough time to rest and to visit most of the attractions, including Taj Mahal. Obviously this option is possible either at beginning or end of the tour, depending if in Rajasthan you will follow respectively a clockwise or anti-clockwise itinerary.

Of course, Agra and Taj Mahal is a convenient destination for exciting excursions even for those not visiting Rajasthan at all, since the location can be visited also by guided day tours from Delhi, with departure in early in the morning and return late in the evening. The packages offered by local operators are quite flexible, there are also options with overnight stop in Agra, to have longer time for all the other important landmarks. For independent travelers, the excursion from Delhi to Taj Mahal is also possible by train.

Although the Taj Mahal is the best known attraction in Agra, the city offers also the magnificent Red Fort, a complex dating back to the 16th century, which includes massive ramparts and palaces built by marble and red sandstone, in the World Heritage Site list by UNESCO. If you have an hour of extra time, it is also worth visiting the old city of Agra with its Kinari Bazaar, an ancient market full of activities of all kinds. Also noteworthy are the gardens and mausoleums along the banks of Yamuna River, which also offer views of Taj Mahal from a different perspective.

Not far from Agra, an half day tour to Fatehpur Sikri is highly recommended and chosen by most tourists visiting the region.

How long time is necessary to visit Agra? To visit Agra, the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, tourists usually need a minimum of half day, unless you wish to visit Taj Mahal during different time of day, to appreciate changing lights. In such case, an overnight stay in Agra will be necessary.

What is the best time to visit Taj Mahal? Depending on time of year, it may be particularly impressive to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise and sunset because of the warm pastel colors reflected onto marble's surface. The best period to visit Taj Mahal is between October and November or between February and April (on the other hand, during the wet monsoon or in the middle of winter, clouds and fog respectively, could hide the sun and prevent from enjoying beautiful lights).

Beware: the Taj Mahal is closed of Friday.

But now let's see some photos of Taj Mahal and Agra Red Fort taken during our trip in India.

Taj Mahal southern portal
Red sandstone decorated by white marble Door to Taj Mahal

The sightseeing in Agra starts around 9 in the morning, with the main objective of visiting the most famous monument of whole India: the Taj Mahal. To best avoid the crowds, especially large "bus" groups of Indians and foreigners, it is best to plan the visit early in the morning and not during the central hours of the day. Weather conditions permitting (no fog or clouds, conditions usually guaranteed between October-November and March-April, but rare in other periods of the year) visits can be programmed at sunrise, when there are fewer tourists and the marble is illuminated by pastel colors.

I enter the Taj Mahal from southern portal, an imposing red sandstone building, decorated by inlaid white marble panels. Through the central opening appears, like a mirage, the majestic silhouette of Taj Mahal, so candid and powerful, that it does not seem true.

Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is one of the most known and photographed monuments in the world. But despite its shape, more or less present in everyone's imagination, it is difficult to describe the real feel when you find yourself in front of this colossal monument: the Taj Mahal is so majestic, that no photo can communicate its real grandeur.
Portal to Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is high as a 20-storey building and is immersed in a breathtaking setting, surrounded by gardens, pools and fountains that create perfect symmetries. Perhaps not everyone knows this, but the Taj Mahal is actually a mausoleum, or a funeral monument that Emperor Shah Jahan wanted to commemorate his wife Mumtaz Mahal (literally, "the favorite of the palace") married in 1612 and disappeared in 1631 giving birth to the 14th child. The works began in 1632 and ended about twenty years later.
View of Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal rises above a huge basement in white Makrana marble, 7 meters (23 feet) high and with a square shape having sides of 102 meters (334 feet). It is accessed through a corridor and a staircase, after covering the shoes with soft slippers supplied at the ticket counter, to prevent scratches on the floor.

Taj Mahal Taj Mahal basement
Agra Taj Mahal niche
Taj Mahal facade
The main building of Taj Mahal monument consists of a huge square-shaped shrine entirely covered by Makrana marble blocks, with sides of 56 meters (183.68 feet) that correspond exactly to the total height of the structure. The facade has a large central niche 19 meters (62.32 feet) high surrounded by inlays of floral patterns and Koranic inscriptions in black marble. On the sides of the main niche there are smaller niches arranged on 2 floors.
Taj Mahal door
The architecture of the Taj Mahal is symmetrical and there are further access portals on the eastern and western sides.
Taj Mahal bas-reliefs Decorations on Taj Mahal
The bas-reliefs and inlays are absolutely stunning and are located along the entire facade.
Tourists in Taj Mahal
Shadow of the minaret Taj Mahal minaret

At the four corners of the basement, around the shrine, there are as many imposing minarets 44 meters (144,32 feet) high, also covered with slabs of Makrana marble, which cast long shadows on the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal tomb Inside Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal inside photos Taj Mahal marble
Photos of Taj Mahal interior. Inside the Taj Mahal there is a funeral chamber surrounded by screens of marble slabs perforated with incredible skills and inlaid with floral patters obtained by cutting patiently other stones, even precious ones. As usual for Mughal imperial tombs, in the funeral chambers there are just cenotaphs (that we see in these photos), while the real tombs are kept into underground crypts closed to visitors. Taking pictures inside Taj Mahal is officially not permitted, but in some ways tolerated if done without disturbing and without taking selfie.
Taj Mahal inlaid marble
The astonishing inlaid marble, reproducing heart-shaped patterns which decorate the interior of the Taj Mahal and which represent the culmination of Mughal art: to create a single flower petal, up to 60 tiny fragments of stone may be necessary, then assembled with a so incredible precision to seem a single piece.
Yamuna river Yamuna
The northern side of the Taj Mahal overlooks the Yamuna river.
Taj Mahal garden Tropical parrot
The Taj Mahal garden is located between southern portal and mausoleum. Unlike classical Mughal architecture, the main building is not in the center of the garden. The central water channel, instead, divides symmetrically the western and eastern sides of the whole complex.
Red Fort
Among the things to see in Agra, the Red Fort (or Lal Qila), is a complex of buildings not far from Taj Mahal, that must not be missed. The entrance from which visitors enter is called Amar Singh Gate.
Lal Qila Red Fort ramparts
Agra Red Fort dates back to the 16th century and is so called because of sandstone's color used for the buildings.
Akbar door
Akbari Darvaza

After passing the first entrance, beyond the drawbridge, visitors will enjoy a beautiful view on the massive and elegant Akbar Gate (Akbari Darvaza) a portal through the inner circle of walls.

The main courtyard surrounded by several buildings. Not all parts of the Red Fort are open to the public, but 2/3rd of the area is inaccessible because used by Indian army.
Khas Mahal Emperor's private residence
White marble building Tower of the King
The most important and spectacular part of the Red Fort is the complex of palaces known as Khas Mahal (private palace), intended for the leisure time of the emperor and his family. It is accessed through a large garden with a central fountain.
The interior of Khas Mahal, with walls and ceiling finely decorated by bas-reliefs and inlays.
Jahangiri Mahal
Jahangiri palace Courtyard in the Red Fort
Red Fort architecture
The Jahangiri Mahal is a large building that Akbar had built for his son, using red sandstone decorated by inlays of white marble. The large entrance portal leads to a splendid courtyard overlooked by an arcade with finely carved columns and capitals. The buildings are a true sample of the construction techniques used at that times, with pillars and reinforcements supporting ceiling and next floor.

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