In March 2013 I was sent by my company to Hyderabad (India) for 3 weeks. Since Hyderabad is not a very interesting place to see from a touristic perspective I decided to go on a weekend trip to one of the most famous Indian tourist destination i.e. Taj Mahal. The trip was rather spontaneous and we did not have time to learn much about our travel destinations, so please excuse my comments if you find them stupid 🙂
The advantage of Hyderabad is that it’s located in the middle of India, so you can reach most of other regions by 2h airplane journey. The amount of internal flights and airlines is also pretty decent. Taj Mahal is located in the Agra city, with the closest larger airport being New Delhi. To get there I chose the following AirIndia flights:
As always, for more details see My Sky Map.
Both flights seemed very short – probably because I was enjoying Bollywood movies 🙂 Aircrafts on domestic routes all have screens for each passenger with limited selection of movies.
The easiest way to get from the New Delhi airport to the city is by the orange metro line with trains running every 15 minutes. Trains are almost empty and very clean. By the way – be prepared for constant security checks when entering public building e.g. metro stations. I can imagine this can be very annoying, especially if you are in hurry.
Upon our arrival to New Delhi metro station we decided to take a look around before we go to specific tourist attractions. The first impression of the city was rather bad. The New Delhi metro station is located close to the Railway station and it is a pretty busy area. The first thing we noticed was terrible smell. This combined with high temperatures was very unpleasant for us, so we decided to hop on metro and go to Chandni Chowk, which is part of the Old Delhi.
Chandni Chowk is a huge street market, where you can find local people selling everything that you can imagine. There are separate sectors for different types of goods e.g. spices or jewellery. The market is very busy and there is lot of people, with majority of them being locals. You can either walk around (or rather go with the flow of the crowd) or hire a cycle rickshaw to drive you around. We tried both. I was truly amazed by the ability of our rickshaw driver to fit in the smallest available space or simply create some in the crowd when there seemed to be none.
A very interesting place to see at Chandni Chowk is Gurudwara i.e. a kind of a temple for followers of Sikh religion. We discovered it by accident, looking for a good spot to make pictures. Obviously you need to leave your shoes at the entrance and the climb a few stairs. On top of the stairs you will meet a group of guardians (???), who are actually quite friendly, and happy to be photographed for a small fee of course 😉
The most interesting part of Gurudwara was a big kitchen, where volunteers cook meals for poor pilgrims. All visitors can support them in a quite specific way. By the entrance to the temple you can make a donation and then you get a bowl of pudding. Inside the building there is a guy with a spoon, who takes your bowl and puts half of your pudding to a big pot. The content of that pot will later on be shared, and you can eat your half from your bowl. At least this is how I understood it works 😉
After Chandni Chowk we went to the Red Fort, which is located nearby. The fort is quite big and looks impressive from the outside. From the inside is not that spectacular though, so you can easily skip it if you are short in time. Especially if you plan to Agra, where there is another Red Fort, but much more interesting.
The Red Fort walk made us tired so we decided to grab something to eat in the newer part of the city. We went to Rajiv Chowk, which is a huge roundabout in the middle of New Delhi. It seems like a trendy place to be for local people, with many shops and malls and a huge garden in the middle. From our perspective not really interesting though.
Our last attraction in Delhi was the Lotus Temple. It is shaped like a lotus flower and looks very nice from a distance. Unfortunately we did not have time to go inside, especially that there was a long queue of pilgrims waiting to get in.
Around 8:30PM we met our taxi driver, whom we had rent for 24h and started our 5h drive to Agra. We were told that this should take 3h, especially that there is a new motorway connecting Delhi and Agra, but the reality was not that great.
Agra & Taj Mahal
We arrived to our hotel in Agra around 1:30AM and immediately went to bed. The hotel was very basic but located right at the western gate of Taj Mahal. The plan was to be first people at the entrance, so we can avoid the crowd and see the sunrise. This meant only 3.5h of sleep for us.
The next morning we woke up at 5AM, tired but excited. We headed straight to the ticket office and waited in line until 6AM, when it opened. Then another 20 minutes at the gate and we were in. We walked fast to the best spot (where 2 water lanes are crossing), so we could enjoy almost empty space for a longer while. The view was breath taking.
Small digression: being Polish I’m a bit sceptical about everything so I was not expecting to be amazed by the Taj. Especially that I prefer visiting natural wonders rather the ones creates by humans. However, when I saw it for the first time I had to admit I was impressed! It is so… Majestic! A must see in India.
The nice thing about location of Taj Mahal is that it’s visible from almost every part of Agra. Wherever you go the Taj is somewhere at the horizon to spot.
The other attraction in Agra is Agra Red Fort. It seems that a lot of cities in India have some forts to visits, most of them being Red 😉 If I had to choose this one was the best from all forts I’ve seen so far.
After the fort we headed back to New Delhi to catch out return flight. Overall I’m very happy with that trip. The highlight was obviously the Taj Mahal, but to feel the vibe of other Indian cities was also very interesting.
If you are interested in India make sure to read our photo story from the Holi Festival in Hyderabad.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me
- Taj Mahal is open for visitors daily from sunrise till sunset. On Fridays it’s closed for visitors.
- Have a mosquito repellent with you, as there is a lot of them in the morning in Agra.
- I’ve heard rumors that unless you come to the Taj Mahal very early in the morning (like we did) you will have to spent several hours in the queue to the entrance. From what I saw it’s not true – we were leaving around 9AM when and there was NOBODY at the southern gate.
- A very useful tutorial on photographing the Taj Mahal can be found here. As you can see I’m not a great photographer, but a lot of information there is useful for all tourists.
In general, travelling in India is quite cheap. Their currency is Indian Rupee (INR). 100 INR is around 2 USD.
- One-way ticket for the express metro from the New Delhi airport to the city center – 150 INR
- Comfortable taxi (for max 6 people) for 24h and 500km limit with the driver – 5000 INR
- Entrance to both Red Forts – 250 INR for tourist, 5 INR for locals 😉
- Entrance to the Taj Mahal – 750 INR
- Very basic hotel right room with 2 beds, AC and bathroom – 1100 INR
You may also be interested in my Holi celebration in Hyderabad.