‘Twas the week before Christmas,

When we chose to fly,

All the way to India,

By way of Dubai;

Three flights, 11 time zones, and an entire calendar day later we arrived in New Delhi, from Denver!  After a brief mix-up with the shuttle services (we weren’t on the pickup list), we were able to grab a transfer to our hotel, shower, and snag a few hours of sleep – neither of us is overly great at sleeping on flights!

This day started early for a “vacation” and even earlier for a “honeymoon!” – but taking time to relax isn’t really our style!

We took the liberty of hiring a driver and guide ahead of time as we like having someone local to speak with and educate us when we travel. Our driver was set to pick us up at 6AM to start the day, but we knew the juice would be worth the squeeze.

Before heading out, we snagged a few baked goods from the hotel breakfast.  Let us just say, breakfast being available at 5:30 in the morning was about the best surprise we could have started this day with! Kudos to the Holiday Inn – New Delhi International Airport for the smorgasbord of options!

Danishes in hand, we met our driver and headed out to witness our 4th Wonder together!

Having been to India a decade earlier, I had an idea of the roughly 3 hour (132 mi / 212 km)  journey ahead of us.  What I wasn’t quite prepared for was what that 3 hour journey looks like during the winter!  In my prior trip, I had traveled during the height of the Indian summer, when the blistering temperatures and jet streams that bring the pending monsoon season makes for hazy days.  I had no idea that the Winter brings its own challenges in that smog and fog combine, creating a suffocating blanket everywhere you look!  There’s no hiding from the facts – you cannot ignore the scent and lightheadedness that comes from simply breathing.


With visibility limited to about three car lengths, our guide navigated the labyrinth of New Delhi like a champion! 

After leaving the city, it’s literally a breath of fresh…er air to see the state of Uttar Pradesh unfold in rolling plains, farmland, and the waning fog/smog.  When we often see photos of India, it’s usually limited to the cityscapes, but this truly is a diverse and beautiful country!



With the sun now fully raised, we arrive in the city of Agra!  While nowhere near the scale of New Delhi, Agra is still a city of nearly 1.6 million people and references to the Taj Mahal start becoming much more rampant in building names and advertisements – this city knows what brings the majority of its tourists!

After picking up our guide, we’re on our final approach to the Taj!


There are three gates to enter the Taj and each has its pros and cons, but one thing will be true regardless – there will be a lot of people.  I entered from the South gate 10 years ago and honestly can’t recall much of a difference in experience outside of there being more vendors at the South Gate.  

One of the beautiful things with having a guide is that he took care of tickets and navigating the crowds.  A second beautiful aspect is he was able to direct me to a safe place to store my tripod, for a few rupees, as they aren’t allowed within the site. Save yourself some time and headache and leave your tripods, drones, etc. behind!


It’s a crazy thought, but up to this point, we still haven’t placed eyes on the Taj itself! 

No worries, you start to get an idea of the scale and grandiosity about 10 steps past the ticket gate.  It’s an odd realization when you first see the dome of the Taj peak into view above the red sandstone perimeter around the gardens.  At first, it doesn’t look real, and not in the “I can’t believe I’m here” sense.  The way the marble contrasts with the blue sky almost makes it look like someone poorly photoshopped it into the background!  This illusion is magnified by the shroud of haze still lingering in the air, giving this monumental structure a sense of coyness.

Accentuating this contrast is the stark difference that is the Main Gate.  Emblazoned with pietra dura (stonework using cut, fit, and highly polished stone to create images), Arabic calligraphy, and surreal symmetry this impressive display of craftmanship certainly whets the appetite for the main course to come! 

After a history presentation from our guide, we enter the gate.  As you move towards the garden, another visual phenomenon takes place as the shadows within the gate focus your gaze on the Taj Mahal, perfectly aligned in the middle of its archway!

Don’t feel bad – like everyone else, you’re probably going to stop and snap a few photos.

As we emerge from the archway, we’re treated with our first look at the main course.  It’s a stark contrast to the grounds outside the walls to see the meticulously manicured lawns, shrubs, and flora before us.  Immediately we’re filled with a sense of ease despite the bustling crowds and endless shutters firing on the cameras surrounding us.  Maybe we’re sappy, but we glanced at each other and could only smile.  Majestic, awesome, wow, humbling…there really aren’t words to say that hasn’t already been said as you initially soak everything in.

Meandering through the pathways of the garden, we continue digesting the history from our guide and snapping more photos as every angle makes the Taj look new again.   

Situated to the West of the Taj is an operating mosque;  to the East is its jawab, which exists solely to provide symmetry to the garden layout.

Encompassing the Taj are four symmetrical minarets.  Each minaret is built at a slight outward slant to allow them to fall away from the tomb itself in the event of an earthquake or other cause.  As we stand in front of the mosque, we quickly realize that even from the side, you’d never know you weren’t looking at the primary entrance to the tomb!  The towering archway and smaller flanking arches once again are mirror images of the view from the front!

It’s worth noting that as you climb the ramps to the actual site from the garden, shoe covers are now required in an effort to preserve the magnificent craftmanship that our feet now grace.  

Having been built for his favorite of six wives, Mumtaz Mahal,  Shah Jahān began the construction of the Taj Mahal in 1632 and construction of the entire complex wouldn’t complete for 22 years!  Some 20,000 workers were involved to complete the endeavor.  As Darcey routinely reminds me from the moment we entered this site, “I know her expectations now!”

I’ve got my work cut out for me because these archways alone are about 4x taller than our house!

As a show of respect, no photos are allowed inside the mausoleum itself.

To help describe what’s inside, we’ll try and paint a picture for you.  The ceilings are as vaulted as the massive archways in the photo above.  Directly in the center is the tomb of Mumtaz.  Situated directly next to the tomb, and serving as the only item not symmetrically placed, is the tomb of Shah Jahān (who was placed here by his son). 

Surrounding these tombs is a barrier of white marble, maintaining a border of the pietra dura seen throughout the building, but enhanced with a magnificent filigree.  We wish we could share a photo of the craftsmanship on display here (a quick internet search can give you an example if you wish). 

We aren’t certain if it’s true, as it was quite noisy with tourists, but the interior design of this mausoleum also has an acoustic effect that will echo a single note exactly 5 times and last 28 seconds.  A quest for another visit perhaps…

Working our way out, we couldn’t help but head to the center of the garden to take the prototypical shot that we all know of this site.  You can’t come all this way and not look at it from this view.  Unfortunately for us, the fountains were on today, so we didn’t get the coveted mirror shot in the pool, but the result is no less fantastic and won’t leave you wanting!

Taj Mahal landscape shot

The Taj Mahal is certainly a sight to behold.  The sheer magnitude of this colossal tribute left us in awe!  The artistry and craftmanship rival anything we’ve had the privilege to lay eyes on.  This is one location that truly did not disappoint. 

The only downside is Darcey has a new standard for our relationship!

Stay curious! See you Around!

-Darcey & Justin