Amritsar Travel Guide

A Guide To Exploring Amritsar

There are some cities that are so simple, so serene that you find yourself wanting to keep going back. A city that has been at the forefront of India’s freedom struggle, a city that suffered a lot from the inevitable partition that followed. A city that stands resolutely strong today as a sign of peace, serenity, and most importantly, teaches about being in the service of others. This city is none other than the unassuming city of Amritsar.

Amritsar, Golden temple

Amritsar is home to the holiest site in Sikhism, The Gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, more famously known as The Golden Temple. It’s also the closest city to the Wagah Border, which attracts Indian and international tourists in droves thanks to the very entertaining beating retreat ceremony at the border at sunset. There’s a lot more to this city, and this Amritsar travel guide will help you get acquainted with the city before you plan a vacation here.

History And Culture Of Amritsar

Amritsar isn’t a particularly ancient city; it was founded around the 16th century by Guru Ram Das by inviting traders from nearby areas to settle on this land. His successor, Guru Arjan Dev, built the Harmandir Sahib in Amrit Sarovar (as Amritsar was known back then). After writing the Guru Granth Sahib, he installed the holy book in the temple.

Amritsar, Golden Temple, Harmandir Sahib

Throughout history, Sikhs have been known for their valor and were a formidable force against the Mughals. But in 1840, the city of Amritsar was taken over by the British. Structures including the railway station building and the Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara are all remnants of the British Era in Amritsar.

While The Golden Temple is the most important site in Amritsar, the city has more to offer. The Jallianwala Bagh located just around the corner from The Golden Temple is a historic garden preserved in memory of the peaceful protestors wounded and killed in one of the bloodiest massacres in history.

Peaceful protestors who were protesting against the British regime were opened fire upon without warning by the Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, the main gates were closed off and fleeing civilians were shot at till there was no ammunition left. The massacre was carried out to punish the Indians and the imposed curfew in Amritsar after the massacre meant that a lot of wounded civilians would succumb to their injuries later.

Amritsar

While The Golden Temple is the most important site in Amritsar, the city has more to offer. The Jallianwala Bagh located just around the corner from The Golden Temple is a historic garden preserved in memory of the peaceful protestors wounded and killed in one of the bloodiest massacres in history.

Peaceful protestors who were protesting against the British Regime were opened fire on without warning by the Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, the main gates were closed off and fleeing civilians were shot at till there was no ammunition left. The massacre was carried out to punish the Indians and the imposed curfew in Amritsar after the massacre meant that a lot of wounded civilians would succumb to their injuries later.

The Jallianwala Bagh retells the events of that fateful day and serves as a reminder of a horrible atrocity that must never be committed again. We definitely recommend you visit this during your time in Amritsar.

Amritsar, Golden Temple

Amritsar has a lot of Sikhs visiting the Golden Temple as a part of their pilgrimage, but it’s not just Sikh devouts that the temple leaves a lasting impression on. The Golden temple gets more visitors than the Taj Mahal in a day, and while it’s equally as spectacular as the Taj, what moves visitors to the Golden Temple is something else altogether.

Amritsar, Golden Temple

The Golden Temple is primarily a place of worship and is one of the most serene places of worship you will visit, it’s beautiful during the day and in its glorious best at night. Prayers, the calmness of the pond within the complex of the temple, and the simplicity of the people around you is sure to move you in more ways than one.

One of the foundations of Sikhism is to serve society, and the Golden Temple is a beacon of service for humanity. The temple has a langar (which is a 24-hour open kitchen). A langar is present in every Gurdwara, the idea is to feed meals to everyone without any discrimination. The langar, just like the Gurdwara, runs completely on volunteerism, by people wanting to do their bit in serving others.

The feeling of being one and breaking bread with people from different walks of life being served by volunteers who are doing their bit in service is a surreal experience. The Golden Temple is a great leveler. Your accomplishments in the outside world mean nothing inside the four walls of this complex. The volunteer serving you food at the Gurdwara could be the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company, a fellow student, or even a non-Sikh. The Gurdwara accepts service and donation from everyone, nothing is forced, everybody is accepted at the Gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, a temple that is golden in every sense of the word.

Food In Amritsar

The culture of Amritsar is one that is a culture of food-loving, festival-celebrating people. The food in Amritsar is absolutely delicious, the kulchas are amazing and the city boasts of some truly amazing North Indian food – both veg and non-veg. You can’t go wrong with the Amritsari kulcha, rajma chawal, chole kulcha, and dal makhani as the go-to options for vegetarians. The Amritsari fish, mutton tikka, butter chicken, and tandoori chicken are well-liked by the non-veg fare-loving locals and tourists alike.

How To Travel To Amritsar

Being the capital city of Punjab, you won’t have trouble getting to Amritsar. Here are the different ways you can do so: 

Getting To Amritsar By Air

Amritsar has an international airport not too far from the city center, The Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport. Amritsar is well connected by air to most major Indian cities. You can also fly internationally to places like London, Toronto, and Dubai from Amritsar.

Getting To Amritsar By Train

Amritsar Junction Railway Station enjoys great connectivity across India. There are many options from cities like Delhi, Jaipur, and Chandigarh. Amritsar also has very decent rail connectivity with cities like Mumbai and Jammu, which makes traveling to Amritsar by a train a very plausible option.

Getting To Amritsar By Road

Local state transport buses in Amritsar can be used to get to places like Dharamshala and Rishikesh (we don’t recommend taking the local bus to Rishikesh). For other cities in North India like Delhi, Dehradun, Shimla, and Jammu, there are plenty of local and private bus service providers, making it a comfortable ride.

Also read: Traveling To Dharamshala – The Dharamshala Travel Guide

Best Time To Visit Amritsar

The best time to visit Amritsar is definitely in the winter months, anytime from October onwards up until April is a very pleasant time to visit the city. If you can time your visit around the harvest festival of Baisakhi in January, do so! The vibe around the city is great around Baisakhi as Punjab is primarily an agricultural state, which makes it a great time to partake in the celebrations. While Amritsar gets a decent monsoon season and can definitely be considered during that time, the best time to visit is during the winter months.

Amritsar, Gobindgarh Fort

Getting Around Amritsar

If you’re staying close to The Golden Temple, most places to visit are at a comfortable walking distance. Should you be staying a bit further away, you may have to take a rickshaw to commute around which isn’t difficult to find at all, don’t forget to negotiate! For a visit to Wagah, we recommend hiring a cab as it’s the best and the most convenient way of planning the Wagah border excursion.

For hotels in Amritsar, check out Unstumbled’s curated list of the best hotels!

Amritsar, Golden temple

Breaking Stereotypes About Amritsar

“Amritsar is just the Golden Temple.”

While the Gurdwara and the city are synonymous with each other, Amritsar as a city has a lot more to offer after participating in the Langar Seva at Golden Temple and basking in the tranquility of the temple.

Head out to explore the historic city of Amritsar and you won’t be disappointed. The city is full of historic statues and sites and while you can choose to chart them on your own, you could also be a part of a hop-on hop-off tour.

Amritsar is also the ultimate destination for a foodie, there’s plenty of options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians and you just cannot get enough of the Amritsari kulcha.

For those who want their dose of shopping, the Hall Bazaar in Amritsar, the oldest market in Amritsar is a great place to shop at.

Go Check Out

The Golden Temple

The Gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, covered with pure gold is the holiest site in Sikhism. The Guru Granth Sahib, which is the holiest book in Sikhism, is placed here. The Golden Temple is known to receive over 100,000 visitors every single day.

The temple is also famous for its langar which is an all-day meal service, absolutely free of cost and is available to everyone without any discrimination. You could choose to donate or volunteer (seva) and help in cooking the food or cleaning dishes at the temple as part of your service to the community.

Jallianwala Bagh

A historic garden, which was the site of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in which over 1000 peaceful protestors were shot dead ruthlessly, stands today as a garden and a memorial site for the martyrs of the freedom struggle.

Wagah Border

The famous border front shared with Pakistan is a must-visit. The Wagah-Attari Border Retreat Ceremony is an exciting affair where soldiers from each side perform elaborate marches and moves that symbolize their nations’ rivalry and respect towards each other, and are spurred on by the audience on both sides. The atmosphere is similar to watching a game in a stadium, the only difference being that both sides and everybody involved goes home a winner!

FAQs

How Many Days Are Enough For Amritsar?

2 days would be sufficient for you to explore Amritsar and visit all the major attractions.

What Can I Do In 2 Days In Amritsar?

Day 1 – Visit the major attractions of the city, including the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Hall Bazaar, and Guru Ke Mahal.

Day 2 – You can explore the city and the streets, and in the evening, visit the Wagah Border to witness the Wagah-Attari Border Retreat Ceremony.

Is Amritsar Safe For Tourists?

Amritsar is in general a safe city for tourists (including females). But all the same, we’d advise you against exploring isolated streets, especially after dark.

Is Ola Or Uber Available In Amritsar?

Yes, cab services like Ola and Uber are available in Amritsar.

Which Hill Station Is Near To Amritsar?

Amritsar doesn’t have any hill stations in its immediate vicinity, but if you’re willing to travel a bit, consider visiting Thaneek Pura (160 km), Bakloh (180 km), Dharamshala (201 km), and Dalhousie (202 km).

Is There Any Ticket For Wagah Border?

No, you don’t need to buy a ticket to visit the Wagah Border and watch the Border Retreat Ceremony. But that means you’ll have to reach early to get the best seats!

Can You Drink Alcohol In Amritsar?

You can drink alcohol in Amritsar, but in the areas surrounding the Golden Temple, it’s forbidden.

Which Is The Best Time To Visit Golden Temple?

If you’d like to avoid the crowds altogether, consider visiting around 4:30 am or around 9:30 pm. Visiting around 6:30 pm means you’ll have to deal with crowds, but that’s the time of the evening aarti which is also worth witnessing.

Is There Any Dress Code For Golden Temple?

You’re not to wear shorts, sleeveless shirts or shoes in the Golden Temple. The most important rule is that both men and women are required to cover their heads with a scarf.

How Far Is Wagah Border From Amritsar?

Wagah Border is about 30 km away from Amritsar. You can hire private cabs that ply to and fro. We recommend that you leave early from Amritsar to get the best seats to watch the Border Retreat Ceremony.

Places you can combine Amritsar with