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Authored by Anna Phipps

My first, eagerly anticipated, glimpse of the famous building was actually from over the rooftops of Agra shortly after sunrise, where, in the early morning mist it almost blends, unassumingly, into the sky.

The Taj Mahal, Mughal Muslim monument, is undoubtedly one of the Seven wonders of India, created by built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 as a memorial his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died in childbirth.

I had high expectations for ‘the most beautiful building in the world’, and the Taj Mahal exceeded these from start to finish.

taj mahal over agra

The view of the Taj Mahal over Agra.

The impressive 30m red sandstone gateway could be an attraction in its own right with creamy coloured detailing inscribed with intricate flower details and Arabic scrolls. The amber hues of the gateway contrast and enhance the white of the Taj beautifully.

In the misty early morning light I catch my first glimpse of the most beautiful building in the world, the arched gateway creates a perfectly positioned, stunningly symmetrical frame of the white dome of the Taj as it seems to rise ethereally and dreamily out of the mist to take my breath away.

Stepping out from under the arch way, the whole magnificence of the Taj becomes apparent as the grand, lush gardens, fountains and waterways stretch out in front, mirroring the symmetry and reflecting the Taj in the background as it leads us up to the gleaming, white domed, perfectly symmetrical Taj Mahal.

Gleaming from every angle.

Gleaming from every angle.

The Taj looks fantastic from every angle, both from a distance and close up. The level of detailing on the Taj is the perfect balance of intricate details that don’t distract from the grandeur and overall spectacle as you see it gleaming in the sun from a distance.

Only up close do you notice the subtle different shades of marble, inlaid with precious stones as small creamy marble relief flower freezes surround the building and Arabic calligraphic scroll and zigzag patterns surround the symmetrical archways. All the details are an exercise in perfect symmetry and beauty.

The Taj is cleverly placed on a raised platform at the end of the ornamental gardens so the backdrop is only sky. The misty early morning light makes it even more dreamy and heaven like, indeed the main central dome is supposed to represent the vault of heaven, and the four decorative minarets finish off the scene beautifully.

The side of the Taj Mahal

The side of the Taj Mahal

The red Mughal gateway and identical red sandstone Mosques at either side of the Taj Mahal contrast to bring out the gleaming white domes of the Taj in even more magnificence.

Admittedly, inside was a bit of an anti climax. Inside the mausoleum mainly consists of a dark room with 2 cenotaphs or tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, that are actually fake as the real tombs are under the building closed off to the public.

A hexagonal shaped screen, with elaborately carved marble flower detailing and precious stones, surrounds the cenotaphs. Combined with the crowds and very low light it was near impossible to actually see the tombs or anything much really inside the building.

Did the Taj Mahal live up to the hype?

Back outside the Taj looked somewhat different as the semi translucent marble started to glow in the mid day sun and the white of the building contrasted against the clear bright blue skies beyond.

Sari clad women and photo crazy Chinese and western tourists crawled over the grounds and swarmed around the impressive and imposing building like scurrying ants.

Taj Mahal Anna Phipps -m-001

Taj Mahal – Anna Phipps

As the crowds grew I took my cue to leave but I was beyond glad that I made the effort to come early as my first glance through the archway with the Taj mingling, ethereally in the early morning mist took my breath away.

This moment alone exceeded all my expectations! It is a truly majestic building, probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but make sure you go early to avoid the crowds spoiling the magic.

Read Next: India: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Anna Phipps is a writer, dreamer and travel addict from England.

Believing a life of regret was more scary than the open road she left the UK in Dec 2012 and her blog brings places, cultures and iconic sights to life aiming to inspire and help you to also Stop Dreaming, Start Living, Go Gallivanting!


  1. Even though I’m not a fan of crowded touristy places this is one those must-see destinations in India. Excellent photos Anna!

    • Thanks! You’re right – often the tourist traps can be a let down but you can’t miss the Taj Mahal – it deserves the hype and is justifiably fabulous!

  2. Great photos Anna, you picked a stunning day to visit! I loved the Taj Mahal, however unfortunately the morning I visited with my friends it was so foggy that we couldn’t see a few metres in front of us, let alone the Taj itself! It was so disappointing. Luckily I had some extra time in Delhi a few days later so took a day trip and the weather was much better that day – phew! I agree the Taj deserves the hype (and the price tag!).

    • I’m so glad you had the opportunity to head back – glad to be hearing from so many people that the Taj deserves the hype – I had wondered about the crowds detracting from the magic, but will definitely make the trip now…and hope for a sunny day!

      Thanks Christie!

  3. Good to know that your visit to Taj was fruitful and you enjoyed the visit. I have been there many times and willing to go again and again. I wonder how you got those clean shots,, must have taken a lot of efforts.

    • How fantastic that you have been fortunate enough to visit many times! I image the charm never fades!

      I believe Anna was there early in the morning which may have helped with getting clean shots and better photography :)

  4. Very cool, glad it lived up to the hype! My fear for seeing amazing places like the Taj Mahal are that they are so over run with tourists it ruins the experience (kind of like Niagara Falls)! Happy that the beauty of the Taj Mahal overpowers the tourists for the most part.

    • My fear is always the same as yours – and sadly this was the case at Machu Picchu earlier on in the year – so I’m very glad that the Taj overpowers the tourists.

      Can’t wait to visit myself!

  5. Nice article Anna. Despite disliking India immensely during our stay, one of the shining lights of our visit was to the Taj Mahal. It truly is one of the, if not the most beautiful building in the world. It’s spectacular from the outside, but like you we were very disappointed with the inside. For such an amazing building to have anything that could bring it down is disappointing, but I’m glad we went to India just to see the Taj Mahal.

    • I would love to get to India myself, and would definitely be scheduling a stop at the Taj. I’ve amended my expectations to not be too excited for the inside though since that seems to be a common experience.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the Taj despite not enjoying the rest of your stay. I’ve definitely heard mixed reviews on travel to India so am interested to finally get there for myself.

  6. Loved the Taj Mahal so much, I went twice! The way it crops up out of the town that surrounds it has always intrigued me as well. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • So glad you enjoyed your time at the Taj! I can’t wait to travel here myself, so I’m really glad to hear everyone has had a positive experience overall!

  7. Welcome to India Anna

    • From the sounds of it she is having a wonderful time :)

  8. Beautiful photos. I visited the Taj over 15 years ago and I still think it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. However, I agree that seeing a site early is always worth it. Sometimes, I build a place up so much in my head that when I get there and it’s overrun with people, I feel a little let down because it’s so crowded and I can’t really enjoy anything.

    • I definitely sympathize with you on building a location up in your head and then being let down by the reality of a crowded tourist destination. That was Yellowstone for us earlier in the year, though granted we were the idiots who traveled during school break!

      So I think when we do get to the Taj it will be early in the morning as everyone has mentioned – it obviously largely depends on when to go!

  9. I’ve been to India a few times but never to the Taj. I always thought it was more hype than reality but looks like your post says otherwise:) Time to change travel plans on my next trip there and get a visit into the Taj. What a beautiful structure with so much meaning & history – great pics!

    • I’m so glad you will consider visiting the Taj now Vishnu – I can’t wait to get there myself, though like you I had thought it would have been more hype than reality. I’m glad we were both wrong!

  10. Beautiful photos! It is definitely an impressive work or architecture and culture!

    • Agreed! One of the most beautiful in the world!

  11. It definitely deserves the hype. There’s a special atmosphere connected to this place and I really love how it represents one of the most romatic love stories of our time.

    • I know the vague gist about how he built it as a shrine to his wife’s memory, however I have o go back through and read the actual story. Especially before I head here for myself!

      So glad you enjoyed your time here.

  12. No other historical monument in India provides such an architectural beauty & intricate craftsmanship. on seeing it first time it soothed my heart & tranquillized my soul. taj, as truly said “it is dream in the marble”.

    • I’m so glad to hear you had a wonderful experience Tanveer :)

  13. So beautiful. Great photos Anna. I am glad it lived up to all the hype. The Taj Mahal has been on our list for a long time. We will get there one day. I know we will love it as much as you. magnificent building and such a lovely story behind it.

    • Im so glad to hear you’re planning a trip – maybe I’ll bump into you there when Mike and I manage our visit!

      Wishing you a wonderful trip to India whenever you manage to make it happen – happy new year Lesh!

  14. The Beaches of India and visiting The Taj Mahal are very high on My Bucket List! I always try to visit popular sites early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Your beautiful photos just make me want to visit even more! Thanks for sharing!

    • So glad to hear Rob! I hope you manage a trip to India soon – make 2015 your year!

  15. It’s absolutely stunning! We love India, but we haven’t had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful tribute yet; we certainly have it in our sights for future trips though. Lovely photos =)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post! Sounds like an excellent reason to plan a return trip to India! Happy and safe travels :)

  16. I think you have shared your wonderful experience with Taj Mahal – World’s Beauty,although this is a crowded place i love to visit this place because i believe that this is a sign of love.I visited this place when i was studying college but after seeing your pic i think i need to book a ticket to Agra.

    • I hope you manage another trip – it truly does seem like a place you could just keep going back to. Though definitely a good tip to travel int he early morning to avoid those crowds you mention!

      Happy travels!

  17. The Taj Mahal met and exceed my expectations. It’ hard to describe in words what you actually see and feel when you’re there in person.

    • So glad to hear Wayne! I can’t wait to get there myself, I’m honestly holding low expectations for it to be a disappointment re crowded by tourists so then hopefully I can be completely blown off my feet, lol I now employ a reverse psychology re expectations after having been let down by destinations I was super hyped to visit :)

  18. Definitely Taj Mahal is a gem of India’s architecture and monuments. And we would strongly suggest the government to take care of its beauty and to make it live up for many more years. Between your pic is wonderful and you wearing Indian wear already depicts the awesomeness of being in India!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Akalya!

  19. Great write up and wonderful images. Looks like had a good time.

    • Thanks Hruday – glad you enjoyed the post :)

  20. Really amazing blog keep it up

    • Glad you’re enjoying it Melvin! Thanks for stopping by :)

  21. Nice information you have shared with related to Taj Mahal, I would like to share my experience. The Taj Mahal is one of the most spectacular buildings we’ve ever witnessed. Often times famous tourist attractions don’t live up to the hype, but the Taj Mahal certainly made a lasting impression on us.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Steven, glad to hear it lived up to the hype for you :)

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