Generally speaking it’s best to focus on destinations before specific attractions. But the Taj Mahal in Agra, India is one of just a handful of man-made structures that essentially functions as its own destinations. It’s right up there with the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids, and the Eiffel Tower in this respect – except that, with no disrespect to Agra, it doesn’t exactly have Paris or Cairo surrounding it! These are some of the highlights some travelers experience visiting the Taj Mahal.
Legendary Photo Ops
You should never travel anywhere exclusively for a photo op, but the Taj Mahal makes for one of the most famous backdrops anywhere in the world. In fact (without any definitive stats on the matter to prove it), it may be second only to Machu Picchu. An article on how millennials are reshaping travel, which is actually a pretty interesting read, made note of the fact that every time one goes online, one encounters pictures of 20-somethings posing on Machu Picchu. It’s almost like a rite of passage and, again, the Taj Mahal is close behind. Whether you simply pose smiling with the incredible tomb at your back, or you go the traditional route of making it look like you’re pinching its spires between your fingertips, it’s a photo you’ll always treasure.
There’s actually a lot of debate about where the fictional kingdom in Aladdin is meant to be. Currently there’s a bit of a controversy about Disney casting a non-Arab actress to play Jasmine in a new remake, as many assume Agrabah is Arabian. Similarly, a video game online called “Genie’s Touch,” which is unofficially based on the old animated Disney movie, says the game’s designs are “based on a Middle Eastern theme.” The game’s slot icons and background certainly resemble those from the film. That said, however, the same look resembles the Taj Mahal perhaps more than any other actual structure. That, plus the fact that the Taj Mahal is in Agra, make a pretty compelling case! If you grew up loving Disney, you might enjoy the simple fact that you’re basically touring the real life Sultan’s palace.
One thing that’s terrific about Agra is that it has enough traditional Indian cuisine to satisfy just about any traveler who comes to see the Taj Mahal. Popular restaurnats include Dasaprakash, Pinch of Spice, and Shankar Ji, among others, and at any of them you can find authentic Indian flavors and preparations. Particularly at a destination where the primary goal is sightseeing – spending a lot of time walking and hanging out outside – it’s nice to know that there are great options if you work up an appetite.
One attraction quite close to the Taj Mahal that isn’t always mentioned until you’re actually there is Mehtab Bagh, also known as the Moonlight Gardens. Said to be the last of 11 gardens that once lined the river, organized by Emperor Babur, Mehtab Bagh now serves as a sort of oasis for tourists. These aren’t the lushest gardens you’ll find in the world, but they’re peaceful, separated from the main throngs, and give you a unique and different view of the Taj Mahal in the distance. If you’re making the trip, you should absolutely check this area out.
Finally, there’s the actual tour, which of course is the primary highlight. The Taj Mahal is striking from a distance and perfect for photos (or for stoking the imagination of your inner Disney fan). But seeing it up close in a guided tour is an absolute must. There just might not be a more spectacular or interesting building in the entire world.
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