The Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza are the most popular of the Seven Wonders of the World and common bucket list items. Both of these great monuments are spectacular in their own way. The Taj Mahal is known for its beauty and the story of its creation and the pyramids are known for their sheer size and surrounding mythology.
Find out more about the major differences between traveling to the Taj Mahal and Great Pyramids including the cost of your trip, the best time to go, and how to view each one without the crowds.
|Travel Aspect||Taj Mahal||The Great Pyramids|
|Why are they special?||The Taj is a representation of Indian culture and the beauty of Mughal architecture. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal.||The pyramids are what is left of an incredible ancient civilization and are surrounded by Egyptian mythology and legends. We still don’t know how they were built.|
|Location||Agra: An industrial city that is around 3 hours outside of Delhi.||Giza: An industrial city that is only 1 hour outside of Cairo.|
|Architecture||Took 20 years and 20,000 workers to build this perfectly symmetrical garden tomb. The architecture is more focused on beauty and wanting people to take in the intricate details. The walls are inlaid with semi-precious stones.||Each pyramid took around 20 years and 100,000 workers to build. Some stones are so heavy that modern equipment couldn’t move them into place. Meant to be closed off from the world and was not necessarily built for beauty.|
|History and Legends||The construction of the Taj began in 1632. This is the first and possibly only grand Islamic tomb built for a woman.||The pyramids are thought to have been built around 4500 years ago but could be older. They are believed to be the tombs of pharaohs.|
|Cost of a Trip||7-day tour of India: $1300||7-day tour of Egypt: $2000|
|Typical Itineraries||Delhi, Agra, Jaipur||Cairo, Luxor, Aswan|
|Nearby Attractions||Agra Fort, Baby Taj, Fatehpur Sikri||The Sphinx, the Solar Boat Museum, the Egyptian Museum|
|Best Time to Visit||November to February
Avoid: June, July, and August (Monsoons)
|October to April
Avoid: March and May (Dust Storms)
The Two World Wonders
The Taj Mahal and Great Pyramids are two of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and while these two World Wonders have a lot in common, they were created by entirely different civilizations during different ages of humanity.
The Taj Mahal—Built of out of Love and Desire for Beauty
The Taj Mahal was built during the Mughal rule of India (1526-1707) by Emperor Shah Jahan who presided over the empire during its golden age. Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. This is why the monument is often said to be "the world's greatest testament of love".
The Taj Mahal is built entirely out of white marble that was brought to Agra with 10,000 elephants. The walls of this beautiful Mughal tomb are said to reflect the feelings of Shah Jahan during his time spent with Mumtaz Mahal from the soft yellow of sunrise to the bright orange of sunset and deep blue of night.
The structure of the Taj Mahal is meant to represent heavenly beauty with its perfect symmetry and surrounding gardens and reflecting pools. Most visitors to this monument are stunned by the intricate details of the tomb and semi-precious stones decorating the walls.
The Great Pyramids—Relics of an Ancient Civilization
The Great Pyramids are the oldest and most visited travel destinations in history. Most archaeologists believe that many of the Great Pyramids were built within a few generations of each other all around 2600 BC.
Although there are quite a few pyramids located near Cairo, the Pyramids of Giza are the most famous. At this site, there are three separate pyramids that were built around 4,500 years ago and are a part of the ancient Memphis necropolis.
Each pyramid was built using around 2 million giant stones weighing 3 tons each. How the stones were put in place in such a specific order to make a perfect pyramid complete with inside passages and tombs is still yet to be explained by modern science.
Many stories claim that the pyramids were once filled with an array of priceless treasures including gold and jewels of all kinds. But today, they stand mostly empty as a testament to the incredible building power and strength of ancient Egypt.
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Location—Both are near major rivers and large cities
As far as location goes, the Great Pyramids may have the Taj Mahal beat. While the pyramids are located right next to the sprawling and industrial suburbs of Giza, they are much easier to get to than the Taj Mahal which requires a train ride or 3-hour drive.
The Taj Mahal in Agra
The Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra which was once the capital of the Mughal empire before it was moved to Delhi.
The Taj Mahal sits on the eastern side of the city on the banks of the Yamuna river. The Yamuna is one of the holiest rivers in Hinduism and is a tributary of the Ganges. Although the builders of the Taj were Muslim, the location was meant to respect the beliefs of both Hindu and Muslim afterlife.
The Great Pyramids in Giza near Cairo
The Great Pyramids are located on a plateau near the Nile River and the suburbs of Giza and Cairo.
The location of the pyramids was carefully chosen by the pharaohs to be on the west side of the Nile so that the sun would set behind them. In ancient Egyptian culture, it was believed that the west side represented the dead while the east represented the living.
It is believed that the Nile used to run along the edges of the Giza Plateau so close to the pyramids that boats could pass right by them. Today, the Nile is located around 9 kilometers (5 miles) from the pyramids as the course of the river has changed over the last 4000 years.
Architecture—How the pyramids were built is still a mystery while there is more known about the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal and Great Pyramids are both tombs but were built by completely different cultures. The one major difference between the two is that while the Taj Mahal was built to be viewed and appreciated for its magnificent beauty both inside and out, it is clear from the narrow unadorned passageways inside the pyramids that they were meant to be sealed and closed off from the outside world.
The Taj Mahal and its Beauty
The Taj Mahal is the best example of Mughal architecture which is a combination of Persian and Indian styles. The marble walls of the Taj are inlaid with 28 different semi-precious stones including jade, crystal, amethyst, and turquoise that were brought from far away countries.
The construction of the Taj Mahal is said to have taken 20 years and 20,000 workers from India, Persia, Europe, and the Ottoman Empire. The central dome of the Taj Mahal stands at 73 meters (240 feet) tall and is surrounded by four minarets.
The minarets were built to lean slightly forward so that in the event of an earthquake they would fall away from the main building. The slight lean also gives the optical illusion that they are taller than they really are.
The Great Pyramids and their Impossibility
Much less is known about the construction of the Great Pyramids and there are still many mysteries surrounding how these incredible structures were built and why. Most archaeologists believe that the pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs, although no bodies of pharaohs have ever been found inside.
The Main Pyramid of Giza is 146 meters (479 feet) tall and the base is around 230 meters (754 feet) wide. Each pyramid is made with over 2 million blocks of stone some of which are so large and heavy that they would be impossible to place even with modern technology.
The construction of the main Pyramid of Giza is thought to have taken 100,000 men and 20 years to complete. Although the pyramids are all the color of sandstone today, it is believed that they were originally cased in other materials. The Great Pyramid is thought to have once been white and encased in limestone.
History and Legends—There are more mysteries and legends about the pyramids
Both of these incredible monuments have interesting histories and legends surrounding them. We know more about the history of the Taj which is focused on the love story between Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. The history of the pyramids is still being studied and is commonly argued about by historians and archaeologists.
The Taj Mahal and the Black Taj
The construction of the Taj Mahal started in 1632 after the death of Mumtaz Mahal who was the favorite wife of then Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Taj Mahal is the world's most beautiful Mughal mausoleum and one of the first and grandest ever built for a woman.
While the story of this monument centers on love, there was a lot of tragedy involved in its construction. The son of Shah Jahan and the next in line for the throne, Aurangzeb, overthrew his father in a bid for power after the Taj was built. Shah Jahan was then imprisoned in the nearby Agra Fort with views of the Taj in the distance.
After Shah Jahan's death, he was buried next to his wife in the Taj Mahal. It is clear that Shah Jahan's cenotaph and grave were added to the Taj later because they are both off-center disrupting the perfect symmetry so carefully upheld in the rest of the complex.
This has given rise to the legend that Shah Jahan was never meant to be buried next to Mumtaz Mahal, but had planned to build a second structure identical to the Taj made from black marble. According to the stories, once he was overthrown whatever construction had begun on the Black Taj was destroyed.
Another legend surrounding the Taj Mahal centers on the treatment of the artisans and builders. There's a common rumor that once the construction of the monument was complete, Shah Jahan ordered his guards to cut off the hands of all the workers who helped build it so they could never build anything like it again.
This legend is widely considered to be untrue by historians.
Related readings that you may like:
- The history of the Taj Mahal and its love story
- What's inside the Taj Mahal?
- 20 interesting facts about the Taj Mahal
The Great Pyramids and their Builders
Most archaeologists believe that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built around 4500 years ago, but considering that we don't know much about history before 500 BC it is possible that the pyramids are even older.
There are three main pyramids at Giza, the Great Pyramid of Giza is thought to have been completed around 2560 BC and once stood at 481 feet tall making it the world's tallest manmade structure for 3,800 years. This pyramid was built to be the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu and was once full of treasure that was eventually looted by later pharaohs.
The second-tallest pyramid at Giza is the Pyramid of Khafre which was built as a tomb for Khufu's son. The third pyramid is the smallest and most recent. This pyramid appears to have been incomplete and is thought to have originally been planned as a tomb for Menkaure but the construction was stopped after his death and was never finished.
There are thousands of legends and myths surrounding the Great Pyramids from stories of alien builders to the idea that they were not tombs but places of spiritual healing. While most of these legends are commonly known to be untrue, there is one persistent legend that was widely believed until recently.
Most people today believe that the pyramids were built by Hebrew slaves who were forced to do this back-breaking work for the benefit of the cruel Egyptian elite. This legend, however, is likely untrue as we now know that the pyramids were built long before the Hebrew people existed.
A recent discovery of a worker's burial site has also provided evidence that the workers were paid artisans and builders, not slaves.
Cost of the Trip—India is Often More Affordable
While it is less expensive to enter the Great Pyramids than it is to enter the Taj Mahal complex, a trip to Egypt often costs more than a trip to India.
Entering the Taj Mahal costs 1,100 rupees (15 USD) which is more expensive than the general admission ticket to the Great Pyramids of Giza at 60 Egyptian pounds (3.80 USD). However, the Taj only has one ticket whereas if you'd like to enter any of the pyramids you will need to buy separate tickets.
Entering the Great Pyramid costs 100 pounds (6.30 USD), the Pyramid of Khafre entrance fee is 30 pounds (2 USD), and the Pyramid of Menkaura entrance fee is 25 pounds (1.50 USD).
Even though entrance tickets are more affordable for the pyramids, a trip to India that includes 4 or 5-star hotels, a private car, and private guides often costs less than a similar trip in Egypt. Prices for 7-day tours of India are likely to start around 1,300 USD per person whereas a similar trip to Egypt will be around 2,000 USD per person.
Typical Itineraries—Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur or Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan
Another important factor in which World Wonder a traveler should visit is what else they can see and do in each respective country.
Best India Itinerary
A visit to the Taj Mahal in India normally involves landing in the capital city of Delhi where travelers can see historic colonial buildings, bustling markets, and Mughal structures like the Red Fort and Jama Masjid.
After Delhi, travelers head to Agra via train or private car. Once in Agra, we recommend seeing the Taj Mahal twice. Once at the actual site and once from the nearby Mehtab Bagh gardens at sunset.
After Agra, most travelers head to Jaipur which is also called the Pink City because many of the old buildings in the city center are painted dusty pink. In Jaipur, travelers can check out the Amber Fort, explore markets, see the beautiful Palace of Wind, and take a cooking class.
Travelers who have more time can also visit the city of Jodhpur or Pushkar.
Best Egypt Itinerary
A visit to the Great Pyramids normally includes stops in Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. Most travelers will land in Cairo and can choose to stay in either Cairo or Giza. Staying in Cairo offers access to more attractions such as the Egyptian Museum, but staying in Giza offers travelers pyramid views from their hotel.
After Cairo and Giza, most travelers fly or drive to Luxor which is the gateway to some of Egypt's most incredible historic sites. Here travelers can see the Temple of Luxor and the Valley of Kings and Queens. From Luxor, the best way to see the other monuments of Egypt is by taking a cruise down the Nile to Aswan.
On the Nile cruise, you'll see Egyptian monuments like Esna, Edfu, and Kom Ombo. Travelers who have more time can also visit the city of Alexandria.
Nearby Attractions—What else is there to do in Agra and Cairo?
Both Agra and Cairo are large cities that aren't necessarily beautiful but have plenty of interesting things to do.
Contact us to tailor make an unique India or Egypt tour for you.
What to do in Agra
Although Agra sometimes gets a bad rap from travelers, there are plenty of things to do in this once Mughal capital besides visiting the Taj Mahal. Some of the most popular things to do include visiting the Agra Fort and Baby Taj. The Agra Fort is a large rampart where Shah Jahan was held prisoner and the Baby Taj, officially called the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah, is the mausoleum that inspired the Taj Mahal.
In Agra, you can also stay at a 5-star resort, view the Taj from a rooftop restaurant, visit the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri, or explore local villages.
Contact our India tour consultant for the essential guide to visit Agra .
What to do in Cairo
As the capital of Egypt, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Cairo. The first must-see stop in the city is the Egyptian museum where travelers can take a private tour from an Egyptologist. Guests can also check out the Museum of Islamic Art and the Al Azhar Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in the city.
Cairo is also full of interesting bazaars like Khan Al Khalili with its tiny lanes and medieval layout. There are also many pyramids located around Cairo besides those at Giza.
How to Get There—Takes more time to get to the Taj Mahal
For travelers who are short on time, it will be easier to visit the Great Pyramids. Not only are the Pyramids closer to the capital but there are also more direct flights from Europe and the United States to Cairo. India is sometimes difficult to reach and flights often require a layover in the Middle East or Asia.
Getting to the Taj Mahal
When visiting the Taj Mahal, travelers need to first fly into Delhi and then spend at least a day there. Agra is around 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Delhi making it about a 2.5-hour drive.
There are multiple trains every day from Delhi to Agra lasting around 2 hours. It's also possible to fly, but nonstop flights aren't common so most journeys by plane take around 4 hours with one layover.
We recommend taking a private car from Delhi to Agra because it allows for more comfort than a train and is quicker than flying. Traveling by private car also allows guests to stop at interesting monuments like Fatehpur Sikri on the way.
Related Readings about Taj Mahal:
Getting to the Great Pyramids
On the other hand, it's much easier to reach the Great Pyramids from Cairo and travelers only need to spend one day in the city to recoup from the flight before heading to see this world wonder. The city of Giza is only about an hour's drive from Cairo and guests can choose to stay in Cairo and see the pyramids on a day trip then return to Cairo to continue exploring.
The best way to get to the pyramids from Cairo is to take a private car, however, it is also possible to take a taxi, public bus, or coach bus. We recommend private cars because they take travelers to the real entrance of the pyramids, unlike taxis and buses that drop guests off near the touts who bombard anyone within range with offers of camel rides and souvenirs.
Best Time to Visit—How to get the best weather and the smallest crowds
Because India and Egypt are both hot countries with large deserts, the best time to visit the Taj Mahal and Great Pyramids is often in the winter months when the weather is cooler and much more pleasant for travelers.
Best Time to Visit the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal can be visited any time of year, but the best time to see it is during the cool season (November to February). During this time, the weather in India is the most comfortable and travelers will be able to spend more time outside at monuments.
It's best to avoid the monsoon season (June to August) when visiting the Taj Mahal because rains are often unpredictable and the hot humid weather can be unpleasant.
Winter is the peak tourism season in India. So if you visit at this time, you can expect large crowds at the monument. To avoid the crowds you can visit the Taj in the early morning around sunrise. You can also visit during the hot season (March to May) or the post-monsoon season (September to October).
Best Time to Visit the Great Pyramids
The best time to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza is during the fall, winter, or spring (October to April). If you want to avoid peak season and get more affordable travel, you can visit in December or January. It's best to avoid visiting Egypt in summer because the temperatures are uncomfortably high.
March and May should also be avoided because the country experiences khamsin winds that cause major dust storms. These dust storms are not only inconvenient but also restrict visibility.
The Great Pyramids are usually quite busy in the morning and get especially crowded around 9:30 am when the tour buses show up. To avoid the crowds, you can visit very early in the morning or in the evening. The Great Pyramids are most crowded on Fridays and Saturdays when locals have time off and head to the pyramids for a visit.
Visit the Taj Mahal and Great Pyramids with Asia Highlights
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