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Family Traveller Editor, Jane Anderson and family take a trip to the Taj Mahal and experiences a very special local homestay
No first visit to Northern India would be complete without seeing the Taj Mahal, the ivory white, marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna River in the city of Agra.
Created by the Mugal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 to house the tomb of his favourite wife, this epic wonder of the world is best seen first thing in the morning as the sun rises.
This is both for the soft light of the new dawn, but also to avoid the crowds. It’s well worth reading up on the romantic history of the Taj Mahal before you get there so that you can tell your kids the story in a way they can relate to.
The sight of the Taj Mahal lives up to all expectations and there are plenty of shady places to sit and contemplate it with your children.
Constructed on a large platform, it has the optical illusion of almost floating. Kids will take delight in trying to get a picture of them pinching the top of the dome, whilst guides take great pride in showing you the seat where Diana sat just before her breakup from Prince Charles.
A visit to the Taj Mahal with kids is made much more pleasant if you can walk there from your accommodation.
And if you want a taste of authentic local life, book into the Coral Tree Homestay, just a 10-minute stroll from the entrance of the Taj Mahal.
This colourful family home owned by well-travelled husband and wife team Gopal and Vandana, with its pretty garden where birds nest reminded me of an Indian version of Anna Madrigal’s San Fran house in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City!
Verandas are painted bright hues with cute sofas, hanging chairs, day beds with applique cushions and macramé wall hangings. There are drums to pick up and play, and intriguing chests to perch on.
The bedrooms aren’t luxurious but’ they’re comfortable and interesting with a sense of style and humour.
Everyone eats together downstairs around the table which is laden with traditional Rajastani dishes made freshly in the house kitchen followed by white pumpkin balls in rosewater and coconut. Dinner table chat inevitably turns to talk of what everyone thought of the Taj Mahal and where everyone has come from and is going on their Indian adventure.
All in all, a memorable and exciting experience for children and adults alike.
Agra can be booked as part of a tour of Northern India with Audley Travel.
A 12-day tailor made itinerary through northern India with Audley Travel including four nights at Me to We’s Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp (all meals and experiences included), one night in Shahpura, two nights in Jaipur, one night in Agra and two nights in Delhi (all B&B) starts from £3,995 per person based on four travelling (2 adults, 2 children), sharing two rooms. Includes private, guided excursions in each destination, international and one domestic flight as well as a private vehicle and driver throughout.
If you’re nervous of travelling to India with kids, book with a tour operator such as Audley who look after you every step of the way yet give you the freedom have genuine experiences and discoveries.
Visit your GP six months before travelling to check up on what immunisations you all need and get them done well in advance of travel.
The best time to go
From October to March after the monsoon and when the desert sun isn’t so intense.