A Guide to Seeing Sunrise at Taj Mahal
There’s little doubt that if you’re in India, you will plan on visiting the country’s most iconic landmark, the spectacular Taj Mahal. Having visited the attraction during sunrise and sunset (on two separate occasions), we believe that sunrise at Taj Mahal should not be missed!
Here’s all you need to know about seeing sunrise at Taj Mahal, including timings and entry fees, as well as some tips for making your sunrise at Taj Mahal visit as smooth as possible!
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What is the Taj Mahal?
Let’s start off with a short explanation which you will find useful during your visit to see sunrise at Taj Mahal. The iconic monument is actually a mausoleum built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to contain the remains of his favourite wife (the second out of many) who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. The Taj Mahal is built in white marble set with gemstones, all of which promote its grandeur.
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, a few hours away from Delhi, and can be visited at any time of day from sunrise until sunset from its East and West gates except on Fridays, when it is closed. The South gate opens later and closes earlier.
It is also possible to visit the Taj Mahal at night for 5 nights a month during the full moon, between the hours of 8.30pm to 12.30am, but there’s a cap on the number of people allowed in. Only 400 people, in batches of around 50, are let in on one single night, and each batch can only stay in the complex for around 30 minutes.
Getting to Agra from Delhi
There are several ways of getting to Agra from Delhi with the most convenient one being a private transfer by car. Since we are budget travelers, we preferred taking the train which runs the route very frequently. Buses are also available.
Our preference fell on the train, simply because it would be our first train experience in India and we were curious to see what traveling on sleeper class would be like. It turned out that the train was easy to book on the IRCTC website, since we had managed to sort out an account with them prior to our departure from home (a process which sometimes takes very long and doesn’t work for many people). If you’re looking at an easier way of booking the train, be sure to use 12Go Asia’s very easy booking system – it allows the use of foreign credit cards too!
The three-hour journey on sleeper class was so much better than we had heard it would be, relatively uncrowded, with only a few people in our carriage! This was possibly due to the fact that many people tend to spend only one night in Agra and so decide to take an earlier train to give them more time to see the sights. Since we had planned on seeing sunrise at Taj Mahal the following day, the 9am (or so) train suited us just fine! The cost of getting to Agra from Delhi by train on sleeper class was of Rs170 (about €2.00) each.
Sunrise at Taj Mahal
So here’s what you need to do to watch sunrise at Taj Mahal. First you need to get to either the West or the East Gate of the Taj Mahal at around 5.30am. We decided to go to the West Gate, which apparently is less busy at sunrise, due to the fact that most foreigners prefer the East Gate (closer to the resorts). We were there at 5am, when it was still pitch dark, and we were almost the first people there. A tuktuk to the West Gate cost Rs130 (about €1.50) using Ola (that’s not a cheap rate but expect charges to be higher in the early hours of the morning!).
The ticket booth at the West Gate was already open and the tickets cost Rs1100 (about €13) each. Indian nationals pay a lower price of course. Apparently, the tickets can also be bought from this website but we have no experience in buying them online ourselves. Alternatively, you can also book admission tickets from Viator at a small surcharge. Since we were practically first in line to watch sunrise at Taj Mahal, the process took no time at all.
We had read online that the West Gate caters mostly to Indians, and because there are separate queues for purchase of tickets discriminating between Indians and foreigners, getting through this gate would be quicker. We found that there was no queue at all and the same person was selling tickets to Indian nationals and foreigners. Perhaps the situation would have been different had we arrived there later.
As soon as the gates opened, we were checked, and our bags were examined too. Lighters, knives, cigarettes, electronics (except for camera) and food are prohibited within the complex. It would be wise not to get any along as they will be taken away. Tripods cannot be taken in either (refer to our tips below).
The first view of the majestic monument bathed in soft, early morning light, is truly spectacular. People were only just trickling in from the West Gate at this time of day, so we had enough time and space to appreciate the beauty of sunrise at Taj Mahal without being disturbed too much.
Tips to see Sunrise at Taj Mahal
- Get there early – the early bird catches the worm! We were at the ticket office at around 5am and we were some of the first people to get in.
- A water bottle and shoe covers are included in the price of your ticket. Don’t take much else, except of course for your camera. Lighters, cigarettes and a long list of other things are not allowed. Just bring the essentials with you.
- We were told there would be separate queues for male locals, male foreigners, female locals and female foreigners. There were few people so there were only two queues actually – locals and foreigners. We suspect that the number of people and queues increase as the day progresses.
- Drones are strictly prohibited (thankfully). The official government site lists the following as prohibited too: arms, ammunition, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, liquor, eatables (Toffees), head phones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except camera), tripods.
- No photography is allowed inside the main mausoleum.
- The local eateries outside the West Gate are very affordable if you’re looking for a breakfast place after your visit to see sunrise at Taj Mahal!
- The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
Other things to do in Agra
Whilst you are in town, keep in mind that Agra is not just about the Taj Mahal. Although many people just check in to the Taj for a quick visit and take off to continue their travels, we do believe that Agra is worth more than that.
Here are two other major sites you should definitely visit during your stay in Agra:
The Baby Taj (Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah)
This smaller monument is a lot less crowded than the Taj Mahal, and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Agra. Like the Taj Mahal, this building is also a mausoleum, though much smaller than its more famous counterpart. It was actually built before construction of the Taj Mahal had even commenced. You can visit the Baby Taj right after seeing sunrise at Taj Mahal!
One of the largest and most beautiful forts in the region – be sure to put Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on your list of things to see in India! The fort contains beautiful palaces and large halls, as well as other areas of interest. If you’re lucky, you can get a clear view of the Taj Mahal from the fort too! The fort is built in red sandstone brought over from Rajasthan, and white marble, making it a fine example of Mughal architecture.
Where to stay in Agra
The city is home to a wide range of accommodation options and your choice of accommodation mostly depends on your budget. We booked a room at Hotel Castle View which was incredibly clean, spacious and affordable! Although it is a short walk from the center, we highly recommend this budget hotel to anyone staying in Agra.
If you would like to stay at a more upmarket hotel, The Taj Vilas would be a good option.
Where to eat in Agra
There are plenty of restaurants in the town of Agra, but if you’re looking for an affordable place with great service, we would recommend Good Vibes Café. If you’re feeling hungry after a day of sightseeing, you might be pleased to know that this place serves huge portions of tasty food!
Tours to see Sunrise at Taj Mahal
We enjoyed exploring Agra independently, however if you prefer taking an organized tour, to see sunrise at the Taj Mahal or combining Agra with other destinations in India check out these tours on Viator!
Day tours to see the Taj Mahal from Delhi
If you are short on time, or can’t be bothered about sunrise at Taj Mahal (your loss really), many day tours are organized straight from Delhi. Prices vary considerably, and it is usually best to book online from sites which can provide feedback. We would recommend you check out what is on offer at Viator.