Perhaps the world’s most extravagant declaration of love, the Taj Mahal is unquestionably one of the most iconic landmarks on earth, and for good reason. The behemoth white marble mausoleum, built in 1648 by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, took more than 20,000 workers 17 years to complete. Every surface of the iridescent marble is covered in delicate calligraphy inlaid with black marble and intricately carved flowers bejeweled with lapis lazuli, carnelian, coral, turquoise and jasper. If you’re traveling to this bucket-list monument for the first time, here are a few dos and don’ts to make the most of your visit.
DO arrive before the gates open. Most of the tour buses pull in around 9am, so you’ll avoid the crowds and the heat while getting the chance to watch as the marble turns from a soft pink to white as the sun rises.
DO use the services of an official guide or take a Taj Mahal tour from a reputable operator. A knowledgeable guide with a good grasp of English will enhance your experience exponentially by providing some contextual history and pointing out some of the building’s detail.
DO bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a pair of socks, especially if you’re visiting on a summer afternoon. The average high in April, May and June is usually above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). You’ll have to remove your shoes to climb the steps up to the main mausoleum, and that white marble gets hot.
DO take a Taj Mahal full moon viewing tour on the day before, on and after a full moon along with a daytime visit.
DO cross the Yamuna River for a view of the Taj Mahal from the other side. You won’t have to battle the crowds and you can take a few tourist-free pictures.
DON’T bring large bags, tripods, food or cell phones. While you can leave prohibited items at the coat check, you’ll save yourself time by leaving unnecessary items at your hotel.
DON’T wear revealing clothing. The monument is a religious site, and besides drawing unwanted attention, you’ll not be allowed inside the mausoleum and mosques with bare shoulders and legs.
DON’T lose your cool. The Taj Mahal’s three entrance gates are often swarming with beggars and touts. The experience can be overwhelming, but it will be easier (and safer) if you keep a hand on your personal belongings and a calm, collected head on your shoulders.
DON’T stay in Agra for more than a day. The city is loud and crowded, and the hotels and restaurants near the Taj Mahal aren’t the cleanest. If you plan to spend a night in the area, stay in the suburbs.