Tips on how to avoid the crowds at Taj Mahal

The executive director of Indian travel specialists Banyan Tours, Lucy Davison has spent 16 years in India (including three in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve) and has visited the Taj Mahal countless times. She says it never disappoints. See banyantours.com

STEP ONE

The Taj Mahal presents a dichotomy regarding the best time to view. It looks best at sunset and it's least crowded at sunrise, but is equally as beautiful at both times. So, with only a night in Agra, we suggest a visit to Itmud-id-Daula (the "Baby Taj") followed by Agra Fort and then sunset in the Mehtab Bagh, which is the Mughal-style Moonlight gardens across the Yamuna River, looking across to the Taj Mahal. Then, get up super early the next morning and be among the very first walking into the Taj Mahal when it opens 30 minutes before sunrise – it's worth it.

STEP TWO

One should ideally try and see the two buildings either side of the Taj as well – the mosque and the Assembly Hall. These are quite beautiful in their own right and get overshadowed only because the Taj is there. They're never crowded.

STEP THREE

A recently changed ticketing system means less people are now allowed on the terrace of the mausoleum. The earliest birds in the morning (which we highly recommend) can have it almost to themselves for a few minutes. Full moon visits to the Taj Mahal are allowed for five nights (two nights before and two nights after the full moon – except Fridays). Tickets are sold on first come/first served basis for a 30-minute viewing tour only, as one is not allowed beyond the entry platform.

STEP FOUR

In the peak winter months – late December into mid-January – the fog that rises from the Yamuna River can affect the views at sunrise, but a good guide will help plan your timing and remind you to wear socks, because the marble is very cold at that time. The fog does not put visitors off, in fact, there's something mystical about it.

STEP FIVE

The Oberoi Amarvilas has a view of the Taj Mahal from every bedroom (and even some bathrooms), and the Tajview, Agra's rooftop bar, Sky Deck, has a view of the Taj Mahal.

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