The Taj Mahal in Agra India is open to visitors from sunrise to sunset. However, five times a month, the Taj Mahal opens its doors at night to a select few, the 400 people who have pre-booked one of the eight available “Moonlight Tours”, so called because they occur solely on the night of full moonlight and the two preceding as well as the two following nights. Fifty people are randomly assigned to each of the eight half-hour tours, which can only be purchased the day before on a first come first serve basis.
It just happens this year (2014) that Valentines’s Day, February 14th, falls on a day of full moonlight in Agra so we were able to plan our India trip in such a way as to be in Agra on that day. I could not think of a better activity on Valentine’s day than a full moonlight tour of the Taj Mahal, can you?
Our guide had purchased our tickets for the Moonlight tour on our behalf, and we found out upon arrival that we had been assigned the 9:30pm to 10pm slot. We might otherwise have been concerned about going out at night in the darkness of Agra but our hotel, the Oberoi Amarvilas, offers the very unique feature of providing drivers with golf carts for door to door service to and from the Taj Mahal. Knowing that the cart and the driver will be waiting at the exit is reassuring.
By the way, another unbeatable reason to stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas is that every room has a direct view of the Taj Mahal, and that is why we had booked a room with a balcony so that we could enjoy this Wonder of the World throughout the day.
A further benefit you might enjoy by staying at the Oberoi Amarvilas would be to wake up to the sight of a large monkey quietly sitting on the railing of your room balcony, as happened to us this morning.
There is a very high level of security around the Taj Mahal. From the moment we entered the grounds of the Taj Mahal until we left, our group of 50 people was at all times escorted front and back by heavily armed soldiers. We had to go through four different security checks before we were allowed to proceed. At the first checkpoint, we found out that nothing (only a slight exaggeration) that we were carrying was allowed for the moonlight tour, no electronics of any kind, no cable or cord, no dangerous pointed objects such as pens or umbrellas, no threatening items like lipstick or cream. Thankfully, our tour guide who was escorting us to and from the tour offered to hold everything we owned until our return. PS In fairness to the security people, we were able to see some of the damage which people had tone to the Taj Mahal with their pointed objects or their markers, so we really did not mind the precautions.
The Moonlight tour is really a viewing tour, as it essentially consists in being allowed to view the Taj Mahal from just inside the Royal Gate for thirty minutes or so. It is one of those times when I wish that I had better photography skills. The mausoleum is not lit at night, except for the one spot of light coming from the bronze lamp, inlaid with silver and gold, which hangs above the tomb of Muntaz Mahal.
The full moon was only visible at times because of the passing clouds. Nevertheless, the thirty minutes flew by too quickly, and we exited just as the next group of 50 lucky people was preparing to enter.
So next time you plan a trip to Agra, check the full moonlight day for your month of travel! Another savvy tip from BonVoyageurs.
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