Probably the most Significant – recognized Symbol of Indian Architecture is the Taj Mahal , of Agra, Uttar Pradesh State, Central India. The monument was conceived out of the love of the king Shah Jahan for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal . Repeatedly mistaken as a temple or a mosque, Taj Mahal is in fact a Mausoleum, where the remains of Mumtaz Mahal, and the King , are buried , right at the center of the marble building. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
Height: 171 m
Architectural Style: Mughal architecture
Architects: Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, Ustad Isa ( www. wikipedia .com )
Taj Mahal is located at the center of Agra city , in fact, the industry of this city is mainly on tourism revolving around the Heritage Complex. Agra is a fairly smaller city, as compared to Kolkata or Delhi. And being a touristic place, be aware of the overpriced touts and souvenir vendors around the perimeter of the complex. Better buy entrance tickets at legitimate agencies , or at the complex itself.
Entry to Taj Requires a ticket of 750 INR ( 13 USD ) , which can be purchased from the three entranceways to the complex , namely , West Gate , South Gate ( near Taj Ganj and Market ) , and the East Gate ( near shilpgram , the more quiet side of Agra where nice hotels are located ). Any Hotel and Guesthouse in Agra can also assist you with this.
Best Time to Visit : Sunrise, at around 7 am. When tourist crowds are minimal. By 9 am, locals came flocking in.
When Entering Taj, do note that food , beverages, pens, cigarettes, lighters , Video recorder and even tripods are forbidden inside the complex. Still cameras and cellphones are allowed after security check.
The Classy 5 star Hotel of The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra is also worth a visit , which is located within the area of Taj Mahal East Gate and Shilpgram. For an extra Budget, it would be nice to cool down at this hotel for coffee or tea, right after visiting Taj complex.
The Agra Fort , another stunning Landmark of the City .
Entrance Fee : 300 INR ( 5 USD )
Best time to visit : In the afternoon, after Taj Mahal
Other than these two monuments, and the Classy Amarvilla 5 star Hotel, theres nothing else to See in Agra City itself. I actually find the restaurants there very limited and overpriced . And traveling by rickshaw is total rip off. A Two nights stay at this city will suffice.
Where I stayed :
Friends Paying Guesthouse , 10 minutes walk to Taj Mahal East Gate , the quiet side of Agra. Rooms are at around 10 usd for two people . This is already a good deal considering the location of the guesthouse , which is just minutes away from the Taj.
Landmark ( ShilpGram complex , where tickets to Taj Mahal East Gate are sold ) Upon Arriving in Agra, tell your rickshaw to bring you at ShilpGram / Taj Mahal East Gate, and walk to the guesthouse with google map. it is impossible to miss.
Getting To Agra :
5 hours Train From Delhi , or 4 hours Train from Jaipur . ( Agra somewhere almost halfway between the two. ) AC Train Ticket at around 700 INR ( 12 usd ) via the hotel or agency , or cheap sleeper’s ticket at 255 INR (4 usd) via online , which is more difficult to secure.
I do not recommend getting on a day trip bus as it will take much of your time.