If you’re headed to the Taj Mahal, you’re probably wondering whether it’s worth booking a tour. And the resounding answer is a big, fat yes- a tour guide is full of fascinating history of India’s beloved Wonder of the World and offers so much more. Here’s everything you need to know about booking the best Taj Mahal tours, including the 10 best tours and why going with a tour guide is worth it.
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Best Taj Mahal Tours
The Taj Mahal, located in the city of Agra in Northern India, is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the planet. So, unsurprisingly, you have a number of guided tour options to choose from when you’re visiting the Taj Mahal.
Below, I’m breaking down the best tours into three categories:
- Day-trips from New Delhi: Many travelers just visit the Taj Mahal as a day-trip from the colorful and chaotic city of New Delhi, the closest large city and international airport to Agra.
- Tours from Agra: There’s plenty of tours departing directly from Agra. This option is perfect for you if you’re already in the city or prefer to figure out your own transportation to Agra.
- Multi-day Golden Triangle Tours: New Delhi and Agra make up two-thirds of what is commonly referred to as the “Golden Triangle”, a popular tourist route through Northern India that goes from New Delhi to Agra to the city of Jaipur to the west and, finally, back to New Delhi again. Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan, known for its Pink City, which is the old part of the city that’s full of ornate and colorful palaces and other jaw-dropping architecture. On a Golden Triangle tour, you’ll be taken to the highlights of all of the cities, including, of course, the Taj Mahal.
All of the tours to the Taj Mahal share a lot of similarities.
Most of them provide transportation from your hotel (either in New Delhi or Agra) and include stops at two of Agra’s other famous sites, Agra Fort, an impressive red sandstone fort, built in the 16th century, and the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula, a marble mausoleum for an Indian dignitary that’s more better known by its nickname, the “Baby Taj” (I’ve noted below if the tour in question does not make these extra stops).
Despite these similarities, the tours are also quite different- from where you’ll physically be starting, how you’ll be transported, to what you can expect on your tour.
Best Taj Mahal Tours as Day-Trips from New Delhi
On these day-trips from New Delhi, you’ll be picked up at the airport or your hotel, transported (either via a private car or a train) to Agra and the Taj Mahal, and shown around the grounds by a knowledgeable guide.
Some examples of the best Taj Mahal tours from New Delhi include:
If getting fantastic shots of the Taj Mahal at sunrise is your number one priority, this is the tour for you. You’ll be promptly whisked away from your hotel of choice in New Delhi via car and make it in time for sunrise at the Taj. While some tours actually charge you for your guide to take photos of you, it’s included in this tour- and they’re, like, super good photographers!
Beyond upping your social media game, there’s a lot of other things to love about this tour- the guides seem to know how to offer the perfect mix of allowing you time to explore on your own, while providing detailed and engaging information about the different stops along the tour.
This tour includes private car transportation to and from Agra and your fearless guide around the sites in Agra. While this tour is branded as a sunrise and sunset tour of Agra from New Delhi, it’s entirely customizable, including whether you want to catch sunrise at the Taj, explore other sites in the city, like Agra Market, or even stay overnight here.
Beyond the total flexibility of this tour, the guides are incredibly knowledgeable and are super helpful at showing you the best photo spots in the Taj Mahal!
The only thing that I’d caution with this tour is that the guides sometimes stop at marble or rug stores in Agra, where you may feel pressured to make a purchase. That definitely isn’t uncommon for these kinds of tours (as I’ll note on the few of the ones recommended below), but if you’re not into that life (like me!), I would explicitly ask up front that you not be taken to any kind of souvenir stores.
This tour includes private car roundtrip transportation from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal, plus you’ll get a tasty buffet lunch at a five-star hotel to fuel up for your exploration of Agra.
The professional guides are packed with interesting stories and myths about the Taj and provide the tours at exactly the pace you’re looking for (i.e., you won’t be rushed, which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine). It’s worth noting that this tour is also fairly customizable- just reach out to the company after booking!
While the car rides in the other tour options are generally more comfortable, taking the train is definitely more of an experience (which is kind of what you’re in India for, right?). So consider this option, where a driver will pick you up at your hotel in New Delhi, help you find the right high-speed train (and even the right seat!) on your train to Agra. Upon your arrival in the city, you’ll be met by your friendly guides and taken to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and The Baby Taj.
What stands out about this tour option is how enthusiastic the guides are- it’s clear they’re passionate about the history and stories behind these incredible buildings.
Best Taj Mahal Tours from Agra
These tours include private transportation to and from your hotel or the train station in Agra and around to the site themselves, as well as being shown around the buildings by your guide. Some examples of the best Taj Mahal tours from Agra include:
While the guides here are knowledgeable and good photographers (seems to be the norm, right?), they’re actually pretty funny, as well and are happy to build in extra stops around the city that might interest you (like, for example, trying petha, a type of candy made out of a gourd that originates from Agra).
On this tour, you’ll be with a local tour guide that not only knows all about theTaj Mahal, but about Agra as well.
Because this tour is local to Agra, you’ll definitely get to experience a bit more than what you would with just a day trip from New Delhi. For example, this itinerary includes ending the day at Mehtab Bagh, a stunning garden behind the Taj, where you can watch as the sunset casts a pinky golden glow on the white marble structure.
If you’re looking for a sunrise tour departing from Agra, this one is the perfect choice.
The tour guides are so funny and knowledgeable and I like that this tour is a bit different than most of the others. For example, this tour includes lunch at a local restaurant (as opposed to most tours, which typically stop at a hotel for lunch) and instead of visiting the Baby Taj, takes you to Fatehpur Sikri, an elegant and perfectly preserved ghost town from the 16th century.
The only thing I’d note: similar to some of the other tours, a few of the guides may take you to a marble- and gem-carving shop, where you’ll be presented with (frankly, overpriced) souvenirs. I know some folks love souvenirs (and it is an awesome way to boost the local economy), but if you’re not particularly into it, I’d suggest just asking the tour company to skip it ahead of time.
Best Golden Triangle Tours that Include the Taj Mahal
If you have a handful of days in northern India, I’d definitely recommend going on a Golden Triangle tour—it’s kind of like getting a pu pu platter of the best of Northern India.
Just be sure to take a close look at each of the itineraries and what’s included and not included in each of the tours so you book the right trip for you!
Some of the best examples of these Golden Triangle tours include:
On this tour of the Golden Triangle, you’ll have approximately one full day each to explore the best sights in New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. You’ll see the Taj Mahal at sunrise on Day 2 of your journey along a two-hour guided tour, before you’re whisked off to see the Agra Fort and the Baby Taj as well.
This tour is very well-organized and coordinated and packs in a TON, with just a few days. That being said, like all of the other Golden Triangle tours, you’re going to have less time at each of the sites, including the Taj, than if you were to take a tour that’s more specifically focused on one city or sight.
This tour includes private transportation, nightly hotel accommodations at five-star hotels (if you choose that option), and breakfast every day. It does not include the cost of lunch, dinner, your entrance fees to the various monuments (which is estimated to cost about $60 per person), and gratuities. Still, costing approximately $350 USD per person for 4-days with a private driver, private guides, and five star accommodations? Seems like quite the deal to me—and a no-brainer for those that don’t like to do any planning.
If you have even less time to dedicate to the Golden Triangle, this tour would be my pick, with a well-organized itinerary, knowledgeable tour guides, and excellent communication before and throughout the trip.
Similar to the last tour, you’ll stop at the Taj Mahal at sunrise on Day 2 of this tour- the guides with this company are so knowledgeable that it feels like you’re on some kind of insider tour! Plus, the company is super flexible and happy to adjust the itineraries in each of the cities to fit your interests and make sure you pack in as many adventures (that interests you!) as you can.
If you book the option with a 5-star hotel, you’ll get pretty much everything included with this tour, with the exception of lunch and any gratuities you want to give. So you’ll get breakfast and dinner, 5-star lodging for two nights, the entrance fees to all of the monuments, and your own private driver and tour guides for the duration of your tour. For just $384 per person if you choose the 5-star hotel option, you get a lot of bang for your buck on this tour!
Another excellent option if you’ve got three days to explore the Golden Triangle, with a well-curated itinerary, professional and knowledgeable guides, and flexibility to meet your interests. Yet again, you’ll hit the Taj Mahal at sunrise on Day 2, with guides that are bursting with stories of the Taj Mahal and happy to take photos of you along the way.
As noted with a few other tours above, some of the guides will take you to market or souvenir shops where you may feel pressured to purchase something, so feel free to reach out to the friendly owner of the company after booking if you’d prefer to avoid these and your itinerary will be adjusted accordingly.
If you select the 5-star accommodation option, you’ll get two nights of lodging, breakfast two of the days, all entrance fees to the various monuments you’ll be visiting, and a private driver and guides throughout your tour for a grand total of around $384 USD per person. The tour does not include lunch or dinner or any gratuities.
Should You Get a Tour to the Taj Mahal?
Are you still wondering if a Taj Mahal tour is the right choice for you? Here’s five reasons I’d recommend going with a tour guide.
1. You’ll get interesting historical information and stories that provide context about the Taj Mahal that you’d otherwise never learn.
So the Taj Mahal is a stunning building with gorgeous grounds… but if you don’t have the historical and cultural context behind it, it’s kind of hard to appreciate it beyond just that.
This is really hands-down the most compelling reason to go with a tour guide to the Taj Mahal- there’s SO much to know about this structure, from its romantic (yet morbid) inception to the urban legends that swirl around its construction (for example, its creator, Shah Jahan, is purported to have cut off the hands of all 20,000 workers that constructed the mausoleum) and how it was changed under the rule of the British Empire.
There is practically zero educational signage around the grounds so that you can go on a “self-guided tour” while you’re visiting. So going with a tour guide will make your visit to the Taj Mahal SO much more meaningful and will elevate your time here from a glorified photo shoot to getting a much deeper appreciation and understanding of India of today and the past.
2. Tour guides make navigating the Taj Mahall feel a bit more manageable.
Listen, I loved my time in India, but after visiting dozens of countries, I can say, without a doubt, that India is the most overwhelming place I’ve been. There’ll likely be sights, smells, and sounds you’ve never experienced before, there’ll be lots of aggressive hawkers trying to peddle services to you, and, if you decidedly look like a foreigner, you will be stared at like you accidentally forgot to put your pants on for the day.
Traveling with a tour guide can ameliorate that, though- they’re a warm, friendly face to help you navigate this loud and chaotic world, and peddlers will generally leave you alone if you’re already with a guide. For example, when Justin and I wandered around the Taj Mahal without a tour guide, we were shaken down by a security guard on the monument’s grounds for a tip—I can assure you that would not have happened if we were with a tour guide.
3. You’ll get to learn about the Taj Mahal, Agra, and India from a local.
There’s plenty of guide books or audio tours that will enable you to learn more about the Taj, but, in reality, most of these so-called guides will not be written by locals. Wouldn’t you rather learn about Agra and India from someone who actually grew up and lives there?
Going on a Taj Mahal tour means you’ll not only be learning about the complex from someone who lives in the area, but you’ll also get extra insider tips that no guide book will be able to tell you, like the best restaurants in town to what it’s really like living in the city.
4. Tour guides know all the best spots to get photos.
I mean, your visit to the Taj Mahal shouldn’t just be a glorified photo shoot or whatever, but let’s be real—you definitely want some awesome shots if you’re going all the way to the Taj Mahal, right?
Your guide will know the Taj Mahal grounds like the back of their hand and will be able to give you helpful pointers (and probably will even be your cameraman!) to get some killer shots.
Tip: As alluded to above, some tours charge extra for taking souvenir photos while you’re at the Taj, so if you’re a solo traveler or another kind of traveler that wants a dual photographer/tour guide during your visit, be sure to read the exclusions when you’re booking your tour so you’re not sacked with unexpected extra costs.
5. You’ll be supporting a local.
I mentioned above that India can be a bit overwhelming and part of that is the abject poverty you’ll see on the streets of New Delhi, Agra, and all around India. Booking an occasional tour may not be a big deal to you, but it can make a HUGE difference in someone else’s life.
Whenever I visit a country that’s more on the socioeconomically disadvantaged end of the spectrum, I try to pump as much money as I can afford into the local economy. Not only do I walk away having awesome experiences, from trying local restaurants to, yep, going on cool tours, but you’re making someone else’s life a bit better too. Win-win!
Frequently Asked Questions about the Taj Mahal
Where is the Taj Mahal located?
As mentioned above, the Taj Mahal is located in Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. The largest city near Agra is New Delhi, which is about four hours by train or about three hours by bus to Agra (give or take- transit in India is definitely on the slow and unpredictable side!).
New Delhi is home to Indira Gandhi International Airport, with direct flights to over 140 cities in over 40 countries, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, receiving well over 10 million visitors every year. It’s definitely worth spending a couple days exploring this colorful, chaotic city as well!
What is the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal is a tomb and memorial built by Shah Jahan, a Mugal emperor, in 1631 for his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth with the couple’s 14th child. The complex took a whopping 22 years to build and would’ve cost approximately $850 million USD, adjusted for today’s currency.
While Shah Jahan was lauded by his subjects, in part, for his love of beautiful art and opulent architecture, his YOLO taste also ultimately led to his downfall. His son was tired of Shah Jahan’s extravagant spending and, when the emperor fell ill shortly after the Taj’s completion, he was quickly overthrown by his son. Shah Jahan spent the rest of his days imprisoned in the Agra Fort, overlooking the nearby Taj Mahal.
He was eventually buried next to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal, in a secret room directly below the mausoleum that tourists visit today.
How do I get from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal?
If you just want to not think about getting from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal, the easiest way is to book one of the tours from New Delhi, suggested above.
Alternatively, you can get from New Delhi to Agra on your own and coordinate your visit from there.
- There’s a train that runs from Delhi to Agra over 100 times a week that can take anywhere from two and a half to four hours. This is how my husband, Justin, and I got from New Delhi to Agra and it was super simple and quite affordable, just $16 for the two of us. You can book your tickets here.
- There’s usually more than a dozen buses running between the two cities on any given day, which also usually take between two and four hours and cost between $5-$15 USD, depending on the class of bus you book. You can get your ticket here.
- If you’re looking for a real adventure and are up for driving a car in India, you can rent a car, and drive along the Yamuna Expressway, which directly links the two cities. It’ll take about three hours and cost about $10 in tolls, but I would seriously recommend against trying to drive in India. Driving in India is INTENSE- like, imagine Vin Diesel putting the pedal to the metal while playing chicken with another car- and then multiply that by pretty much everyone on the road.
But if you’re cool white-knuckling the steering wheel and defying death all around Northern Indian, it certainly would be an interesting way to see the country!
Once you’ve arrived in Agra, it’s pretty easy and affordable to get around town. Either your hotel can call you a rickshaw or, alternatively, if you’re in a touristy area, a bevy of rickshaws will just kind of appear as soon as you exit a building (trust me- it’s that travel magic).
Hopefully, you have a better idea of which one of the Taj Mahal tours you want to go on during your time in Northern India. Do you have any questions about visiting the Taj Mahal? Let me know in the comments below!