The crowning site-seeing highlight to most people’s India trips is definitely the Taj Mahal. The opulent beauty is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Here’s what it was like visiting the Taj Mahal as a girl alone.
I got into Agra from Varanasi the evening before I was going to see the Taj Mahal. My hostel helped me arrange to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise the next morning. India’s sun is direct and very hot, even in late October, so sunrise seemed the way to go.
I got up at 4:30 AM to go stand in line with the other tourists. Even at that hour, there were a lot of people in line. There were tour groups and families and exhausted travelers from all over the world.
I made a mistake though, I treated the queue as though it were a waiting line in any other country.
The doors opened and in no time I was lost in the ensuing chaos while everyone else pushed past and got in before me. Even if they joined the back of the line much later.
To get in for sunrise you need to be assertive! Don’t politely treat this as if you’re lining up for a bus in London. London is thousands of miles and teatimes away.
THIS IS INDIA.
Lines are not respected and the lady (yes, ladies do this) who charges to the front to get her seat at sunrise will have it.
The lady who doesn’t (me) will not.
There are a hundred awesome views of the Taj Mahal but there’s only one that most tourists want is the iconic one that’s the one above with the Taj looking all bright and symmetrical.
Many, many photos you see will make it look like the people in the center of the photo are in fact, the only tourists at the Taj Mahal.
I’m here to report that NEVER happens. It’s a lucky shot they waited hours and hours to get it. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want a similar photo, be prepared to be patient. Maybe pack some snacks.
I was visiting the Taj Mahal as a girl alone with just an iPhone for photos, this wasn’t a big priority to me, but I understand that it’s a really valuable part of the memory for lots of people.
If you want that shot, there are a few ways to do it:
The Taj Mahal opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes around 30 minutes before sunset so you have some time to figure it out.
I think the only person who probably authentically had the view to herself and her 30-40 photographers, was Princess Diana back in 1992.
Here’s what it’s actually like…
I’m happy to report the Taj Mahal absolutely lives up to its name. The outside is, of course, the iconic beauty you’d expect, but the inside is what blew me away.
It’s built from marble and the intricate designs you see surrounding the tomb that cover every inch from floor to ceiling of the cavernous room are meticulously cut stones that are made to fit precisely into the marble.
The craftsmanship is other worldly.
Unfortunately, the interior is sacred so you can’t take photos, but the designs inlaid in marble were intricate works of art. Here are some legally taken photos.
Just when I had pushed through the lines and crowds and missed sunset and was totally baffled by India, it turns around and shows me such incredible beauty I’m shocked again.
This place is intense.
Who are these people?
I have no idea.
People here like to get photos with western tourists so it’s dangerous to stand still for too long at tourist traps. If you do, you run the risk of becoming a model in multiple family photos.
Mothers just hand over their babies and tell the other children to crowd around for photos. At first, I was charmed by this and said yes. But once you say yes to one family, they all gather around!
I’ll admit, I kind of enjoyed it. When you’re traveling alone, you spend a lot of time being the odd one out. It was kind of awesome to have families come and include you and just be so happy you’ll take a picture of them.
See? India does it again.
Just when you think this place is pure chaos, it shows you pure love.
I was awed. You can expect crowds and the ever-frustrating processes of India but it is amazing. And visiting the Taj Mahal as a girl alone? Well, I think it might actually be better that way.