A love song in stone, one of the architectural wonders of the world, a UNESCO World Heritage site - some say the most beautiful building ever created, the Taj Mahal is quite simply sublime.
Shah Jahan married Arjuman when he was 15 and she was 14, calling her Mumtaz Mahal, 'Jewel of the Palace'. It was a deep and abiding love affair. When she died giving birth to their fourteenth child, he spent a year in isolation, then vowed to build her the most beautiful tomb that had ever been created.
The original intention was that there would be a black version beside it for himself, but the Taj Mahal took 22,000 workers so long to build that he died before the second tomb could be built. He is buried next to his beloved.
The tomb, considered to be the pinnacle of Islamic design, is built of sandstone and marble and inlaid with delicately carved semi-precious stones such as agate and turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, jade and onyx. It is set in formal paradise gardens.
Where is it?
On the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra, a large city about 200 kms (127 miles) south of New Delhi, India. The train journey takes just under 3 hrs.
What is it?
A tomb, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It was built between 1632 and 1648, with the outer courtyard completed in 1653.
Best time to visit?
The best time to visit India is between October and March. If possible, try and visit the Taj Mahal itself a couple of times to see it in different lights - at dawn and dusk, early morning and late afternoon (mid-day light is very flat).
Allow plenty of time to explore, to do the tour inside so the guide can show you the translucent elegance of the precious stones. If possible, cross the river to see it from the far side (the best view of all) and if possible, also try to see the relatively unknown and enchanting Itimad-ut-Daulah, the exquisite tomb of Mumtaz' grandfather that is said to have been the inspiration for the stonework of the Taj Mahal.