Located in the city of Agra in northern India, the Taj Mahal is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. A trip to India wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal. We only had a short time in India and we wanted to maximize what we saw. Depending on your schedule in India, Agra can be done as a day trip. We visited Agra on the Private Taj Mahal and the Agra fort tour with Viator. The tour combines some of the city’s best attractions without having to spend the night in Agra.
As impressive as the Taj Mahal is, it isn’t the only attraction in Agra. Across the Yamuna river sits an expansive fort with high walls built from red sandstone. The Agra fort has been the city’s main source of protection since the 12th century, but it wasn’t the 1500’s, under Mughal rule, that it became the structure it is today. The Mughal emperors (builders of the Taj Mahal) fortified and expanded the fort on the outside. Inside the walls, they erected elaborate palaces filled with luxurious materials from around the world.
We wandered through the narrow passages of the fort and found our way to some interesting details of the complex. One of my favorite palaces we walked through was the one that overlooked the Taj Mahal. From the towers of the palace, you could see the Taj glowing in the distance. Standing on the balcony, staring over the river to the Taj Mahal, I could almost imagine what it must have been like to be an emperor in the heyday of Agra. After our first glimpses of the iconic structure, it was time for our next stop on our tour of the Taj, lunch.
From the fort, we headed to one of the best viewpoints in the city for lunch. In the heart of the city, there is a rooftop restaurant that overlooks Agra and the Taj Mahal. We had our Indian lunch while staring out at the Taj. We filled up on savory spice-rubbed meats from the grill as a starter. The main course of the afternoon was the traditional Talhi with 5 Indian specialties to try. Each dish had a small portion of savory masala, Paneer makhani, stewed vegetables, dal, and creamy yogurt raita. To finish the meal we had a sweet yogurt dish that had hints of spices and a zesty citrus flavor.
All filled up we headed to the main event of the day, the Taj Mahal. Through the keyhole doorway, we caught our first up-close glimpse of the Taj. The entrance was silhouetted and the beautiful building light up through it. Unlike a handful of other places we have been in the world, the Taj Mahal did not disappoint. It looks just like it does in the postcards. Our guide walked us around the neatly kept gardens and explained the history of the complex. In addition to our guide, we had a professional photographer included as part of our tour.
Traveling as a couple we don’t really have enough photos of ourselves that don’t have an arm in them. So, it was nice to have a pro take some pictures with such an amazing backdrop. He walked us around the entire grounds getting shots with us and the Taj Mahal. After our photo shoot, our photographer left us and we had the rest of the afternoon to explore on our own. We found a nice bench to sit and admire the green gardens and beautiful buildings.
As the sun went down the fountains were turned off in the pools in front of the main building making the water still enough to get some great reflection shots. The crowds also died down later in the afternoon and we had more room to take a couple of great pictures. These last few minutes of the day were some of my favorite from the whole day tour of the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.
After the pinks and purples left the sky and night began to set in, it was time for us to head back to Delhi. As we left we stopped to grab our photos from the photographer. In the short time since we had left him, he made us 5 large prints and a CD full of the images he took from the day. The prints will make a nice reminder of our amazing day trip to the Taj Mahal to hang up in a house… someday.