Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal – Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal – Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

You need 3 things to be a good driver in Delhi.

Naveem glances in the rear-view mirror to make sure I’m listening.

“One,” he says, pointing his finger to the ceiling, “a good horn. Two, good brakes. And three, good luck!”

We giggle as he continues to push his way through more than 5 rows of traffic where the road markings show there should be 3.

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

In safe hands with Naveem at the wheel

I was nervous about travelling India on my own. I was keen to explore a little of India independently and get some extra time at the Taj Mahal before joining a blog trip, but fearing the crowds and traffic I’d read were common in Delhi didn’t want to leave the logistics to the last minute. Luckily G Adventures had just the itinerary for me.

The Agra Independent Adventure is designed for travellers, exactly like me, who want a trusted driver and tour guide to take them to the Taj Mahal from Delhi. The 3-day tour, which includes 2 nights accommodation, can be booked as a group or solo, and it makes visiting the Taj Mahal completely stress-free.

Traffic in Delhi India

The traffic in Delhi is on another level

Naveem, of the road safety jokes, was my private driver and companion for the full 3 days. He made me laugh at the crazy Indian roads as we left the airport and was teaching me mathematics tricks by the time we left Agra.

My first afternoon I was left to settle in and explore on my own and then the next morning Naveem arrived to take me to my first activity. Although this tour is primarily about Agra, a City Walk is included in Delhi with a G Adventures supported charity.

This City Walk is not your usual walking tour though, as it is hosted by a former street kid who talks candidly about life on the streets in Delhi. My host was Junaid who lived in New Delhi train station, rag picking and stealing from the age of 6, and you can’t help but be blown away by his story. His rehabilitation and new career as a tour guide are thanks to Salaam Balaak Trust, and you can read all about their work with Junaid and other children like him in this post.

Salaam Baalak City Walk Delhi

City Walk is a Delhi walking tour with a difference

G Adventures Delhi City Walk

Junaid shows us around the streets he lived on as a kid

Usually on this tour you then make your way to Agra ready for a sunrise tour to the Taj Mahal the following morning. But my sunrise Taj visit would have fallen on a Friday, when the Taj Mahal is closed for prayers, so instead Naveem put his foot down to get me there for sunset.

Once we’d left the clogged streets of the city the freeway was empty and the almost 4-hour drive to Agra passed quickly as Naveem and I discussed everything from marriage to religion and the speedily-passing scenery.

Exploring Delhi with G Adventures

The chaotically beautiful streets of Old Delhi

Waiting for us in Agra was Pramod, a ministry approved tour guide, who would be accompanying me at all the sites on my itinerary. He sorted out my tickets for the Taj (entry fees are included) and began to tell me the story of the Taj Mahal as we stood just outside its rather grand entrance.

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

The grand entrance to the Taj Mahal known as Great Gate

Commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1632 as a tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is known as the world’s greatest monument to love and took 16 years to finish. Not often mentioned in the guide books is that the Shah had three wives (as was common for the Mughal Emperors) but Mumtaz was the only one he loved. (So the story goes.)

During Mumtaz’s 19 year marriage to the Shah she bore him 14 children, only 7 of whom lived to adulthood, and she died giving birth to the last of them on the battlefield. Her dying wish was to have a magnificent burial place to symbolise their love and the Shah certainly spared no expense on the marble monument encrusted with semi-precious stones that he built for her.

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

First breath-taking glimpse of the Taj Mahal

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

No wonder it’s one of the 7 New World Wonders

Seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time is an unforgettable moment. As Pramod filled me in on the backstory I grew even giddier about walking through the main gate. He pointed out details in the architecture I would never have noticed and then finally we were ready to go in.

It left me breathless.

As we’d switched the itinerary and were visiting close to sunset the Taj Mahal was a lot busier than it would be for others on this trip. I honestly hardly noticed. Seeing the hundreds of tiny heads peering up at this New World Wonder only made it seem even more incredulous.

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

The Taj Mahal attracts approx 8 million visitors per year

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

Getting the token tourist shot on the bench made famous by Princess Diana

Tips for visiting and taking photos of the Taj Mahal

Pramod’s favourite photo spot, taken from inside the Taj with him peeking out through the marble

Pramod wasn’t about to let anyone ruin my photos anyway. He took my camera for most of the tour, snapping the angles he loved the best and insisting I get a token tourist shot on the ‘Princess Diana’ bench.

Slowly we made our way towards the tomb, marvelling at the perfect symmetry of the complex and how good the marble looked for its 370-odd years.

Tips for visiting & taking photos at the Taj Mahal

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

Getting up close to examine the semi-precious stones inlaid in the marble

Tips for taking photos of the Taj Mahal

Photography is not allowed in the main mausoleum

Going inside the mausoleum itself was the only disappointing part of the visit. Although tourists and locals are made to queue up separately (there were hundreds of local visitors weaving around the monument’s base) at the entrance the two queues merge into one and you essentially get squished through the door and shuffle your way around the tombs. In the darkness, I could just make out the tombs of Mumtaz and the Shah (who was later buried with her, thus throwing off the symmetry) before the horrible acoustics and whistles of security got too much and I hurried out the exit.

Private Tour Of The Taj Mahal - Delhi & Agra With G Adventures Part 1

The 4 pillars surrounding the Taj Mahal tilt outwards so that if the ground were to move they wouldn’t fall on the tomb.

Claustrophobic tomb experiences aside, visiting the Taj Mahal was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Through a cloudy sky the last of the day’s sun popped out to turn the pillars pink and that was our signal to leave.

Bucket list gets a big fat tick.

Click here for Part 2 of this tour review where we explore Agra beyond the Taj Mahal.

The Agra Independent Adventure starts from $499 per person for 2 travellers. Accommodation (in very clean & comfortable 3 to 4 star hotels), transport, entry fees & guides are included, meals and tips are extra. I travelled as a guest of G Adventures, all opinions are my own.

Read also:

Tips for visiting and photographing the Taj Mahal

Hope for the street kids in India – a Delhi City Walk with a difference

Best places to visit in Agra after the Taj Mahal

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10 Comments

  1. February 24, 2018 / 12:58 am

    What a detaile read. And how fabulous was your guide!

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      February 24, 2018 / 4:54 am

      He was super! It was great having an expert/photographer all to myself!

  2. March 2, 2018 / 10:32 am

    Wow looks amazing! I’d love to go there.

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      March 3, 2018 / 1:01 am

      It was a dream come true – totally lived up to expectations too!

  3. March 2, 2018 / 11:43 am

    Just looking at the traffic gave me instant anxiety ! Wow, what a mess but I suppose that it is so worth it to be able to see that beautiful monument. 🙂

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      March 3, 2018 / 1:03 am

      Totally. There is hardly any traffic in Agra and you can avoid the congested parts of Delhi altogether if you’d rather just head there. I quite enjoyed getting amongst the chaotic streets though – it’s so far removed from the road rules at home!

  4. March 2, 2018 / 7:05 pm

    Wow, just wow! I’d so love to visit some day. xx

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      March 3, 2018 / 1:04 am

      It honestly surpassed my expectations. Totally worthy of the bucket list!

  5. March 14, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    Great post, captures the experience so well. I was there last year and my guide did the exact same thing with my camera, he turned out to be a better photographer than me to be honest!

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      March 14, 2018 / 11:03 pm

      So sweet isn’t it. There’s quite a few duds of me but I think I shall have to keep them for the comedy factor!

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