One of the most awesome things about being in India is the ability to easily coordinate domestic travel. Sure, it might take three plane rides and a four-hour drive through the middle of nowhere to reach most destinations, but wow is it amazing to be experiencing all that this beautiful country has to offer!!
My dream trip since we’ve arrived was the Taj Mahal. I grew up as a kid seeing it on TV, paintings, magazines, and imagined it with a fairytale sort of wonderment, the regal, white marble against a cornflower blue sky. I wanted to see if the magic would still be there as I had pictured it in my mind.
Since Delhi is only a two-hour direct flight from our town, and the Taj Mahal is only a three-hour drive from Delhi, we decided we could probably see most of the major Delhi tourist sites and the Taj Mahal over a weekend without Marc having to take any vacation days from work. He’s really trying to save them for our summer trip to the US.
Organizing the trip was incredibly easy. I made a reservation at Devna, a lovely boutique hotel located in a leafy, quiet neighborhood nearby India Gate, then asked if they would be able to organize a car with a driver for the entirety of our vacation, including airport pick up/drop off, sightseeing in Delhi, and transport to/from Agra. Since it was a short trip, anything we could do to limit the amount of time figuring out logistics was worth it.
We arrived in Delhi late on Friday and went straight to the hotel so we could get up early in the morning and begin our tour of the city. Since Saturday is still considered a working day, we didn’t have much of an issue with traffic. We saw India Gate first, drove around to see the Secretariat building and the President’s House (well, the front gate, anyway), spent some time checking out Hamayun’s tomb, and then stopped for lunch before heading out to Agra. We chose The Garden Restaurant in Lodi Garden, which we found to have excellent food and a lush, green space that was the perfect backdrop for relaxing and enjoying our meal.
The drive to Agra was ideal, and I would even go so far as to say it was one of the highlights of the trip. The new Yamuna Expressway is an absolute gem, first of all. Smooth asphalt, clearly marked signs, guardrails, rest stops, modern and efficient tollbooths, reflective lane dividers…it’s an absolute marvel. The countryside to Agra is also pretty, with small brick factories, farms, and villages dotting the bucolic landscape of trees and fields.
We seemed to be following (or driving into) a cold front and arrived at Agra, where it was struggling to get past 65F and had started raining. The city was dirty and unremarkable, and the streets were small and congested; a far cry from the sparkly new highway on which we’d just arrived. It seemed as if our sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal would not be as grand as we thought.
The weather remained awful and by sunrise it was pelting us with rain and a chilly wind that went straight to my bones. As soon as we entered the grounds of the Taj Mahal, however, it didn’t seem to matter much. I brought an outfit so we could take our picture in front of the Taj Mahal (yes, for real) and changed back into my bummy clothes immediately afterward.
We walked with the guide, who was also arranged by our hotel, and learned as much as we could about the building and the legend of the Taj Mahal from his perspective. It’s a fascinating story that’s as complicated as the tomb itself, and definitely worth reading about. You’ll find that if you start digging there are as many different stories about the true identity and history of the Taj Mahal as there are inlayed flowers in the structure (that’s a lot).
We decided to skip the Red Fort because the weather deteriorated throughout the morning and opted to get an early start on our drive back to the airport. We were home by dinner, and happy to have had the chance to see the ethereal Taj Mahal, at long last.