10 of the best - Man-made icons
1. The Taj Mahal, India
The ‘WOW’ factor: Described by Rabindranath Tagore as a ‘teardrop on the face of eternity’, it is just so spectacularly beautiful that you cannot fail to be moved by it. It is a memorial to Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. She died in childbirth. Several important texts of the Qur’an decorate its walls and the marble blocks are inlaid with jewels. Of course, taking memorable photographs of this phenomenal site is essential and doing so in the reflecting pool is a must.
Did you know?: The emperor’s wife’s tomb is placed in the centre of the structure and her husband was laid alongside her, their faces turned towards Mecca. The emperor described the Taj Mahal, which means ‘crown of palaces’, as a place of sanctuary, where sinners might come to be pardoned in the face of the ‘creator’s’ glory. The plinth and tomb took around 12 years to complete, while the rest of the complex took a further decade. Due to the declining levels of the Yamuna River alongside, it is feared that the Taj Mahal might be in danger of collapse, as cracks have started to appear in its substructure.
Experience: Golden Triangle is an eight-day tour, organised by Intrepid Travel, which costs from £495 (exc. flights) and takes in the sights of the pink-walled city of Jaipur, the chaotic charm of Old Delhi and the Red Fort at Agra. The price includes hotel accommodation and one night spent in a heritage homestay, some meals, excursions and entrance fees, as well as the services of a local tour leader. (www.intrepidtravel.com -0844 499 8487)
A member of the Leading Hotels of the World Group, both the Taj Palace and the Taj Mahal Hotels in New Delhi, can provide high-end accommodation (www.tajhotels.com) and some special offers are available around the time of Diwali celebrations, or the nearby Indian F1 Grand Prix. Flights to New Delhi are available from several UK airports, from £424 return.
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