Taj Mahal IndiaSay it with Marble
It’s a classic love story. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love and marries girl. Boy builds girl a monument made entirely of white marble and 28 different types of precious stones that becomes a World Heritage Site. Classic. OK, so we omitted a few downer details, like girl dies and monument is actually a mausoleum. But the moral of the story is that we all express our love differently. Some people buy flowers. Others buy diamond rings. Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal (such a show-off). But hey, if you had $1 billion lying around – the price it would cost today to build the “jewel of India” – you might make the same call. Especially on Valentine’s Day.
Why now: It’s Valentine’s Day, and the Taj Mahal may just be one of the most romantic overtures in the history of the world. Just ask Nico Jackson, who recently popped the question to Pippa Middleton, choosing this locale to lock it down with one of the most eligible ladies in the world. If it isn’t on your Valentine’s Day agenda, the good news is that from November to April, weather is optimal for a visit to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located.
Good for: Couples, friends and families. Single travelers can get a lot of enrichment out of the trip, but make sure you have a solid guide. As one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, a visit to the Taj Mahal makes a strong case for your bucket list.
- Checking into the Oberoi Amarvilas, one of the most iconic hotels in the world, which directly overlooks the monument. There is something deeply moving about standing on your balcony, champagne in hand and getting that first glimpse.
- Waking before dawn to be one of the first people in the door of the Taj Mahal and taking in its overwhelming beauty. You’ve seen it in photos, but nothing beats the experience of walking the long promenade to the main attraction. If you’re lucky, the light mist will subside and the sunrise will light up the monument to create an utterly romantic moment.
- Just the experience of being in India, one of the most fascinating places in the world for seasoned travelers. It’s chaotic, gritty and exhilarating – everything you want in a lifetime experience.
Suggested stay: 2 days
What to know: This is the part of your India trip where you can take a break from the frantic pace of touring, chill for one day and spend the other making your pilgrimage to the Taj. We recommend spending the night in Agra, if only to experience the Oberoi. It’s located directly outside the gates of the monument, and the hotel grounds are an attraction in themselves. Restaurant options are solid; breakfast is a standout with all the puri and dosas you can eat. Shopping at the hotel is top notch, and, surprisingly, won’t break the bank. Gem Palace, the famed jeweler from Jaipur, has a perfectly edited outpost, and the hotel gift shop features gorgeous textiles and pashmina scarves. There’s also a ceramic shop that carries richly colored pillow covers, and a marble store, just in case you want to redecorate your patio back home. (We hear columns are really in right now.) If the Oberoi is booked, the ITC Mughal is a suitable option, and easier on the pocket.
Agra in Style
No matter how seasoned of a traveler you are, India is not a place you want to navigate on your own. To do it right, there’s only one company to plan your trip: Greaves. You know that well-connected friend who always gets a table at the hottest new restaurant during Friends & Family? Who’s been going to the Aeolian Islands for ages on their “boat”? And who, somehow, always scores that first-class upgrade (that is, the rare times they fly commercial)? Well, that’s essentially Greaves. Owned by the Cambata family, which has built generations of high-end connections in India, Greaves will pair you with a society maven to show you best shopping; enlist a university professor to personally take you through the Amber Fort; and hire a culinary expert to introduce you to the kind of street food that won’t leave you on sick bay for the remainder of your trip. Even in Agra, where there’s little to do outside of the Taj Mahal, they’ll get you in with the best marble maker in the country. After all, if it’s good enough for the Taj... well, it’s probably good enough for you. Besides viewing gorgeous marble tabletops and keepsake statuettes, those with their Greaves guide get entrée into the artisan’s personal art collection.
For those who are really short on time, Greaves is the only luxury outfit with their own private plane, and access to government military landing strips, not available to anyone else. So fly in for the morning, and make a day trip out of the Taj Mahal. And as the sun comes up, lean over and whisper in that special someone’s ear that one day, she’ll have a monument of her own. Because on Valentine’s Day, it’s really the thought that counts.