Welcome to the city of Amritsar, the capital of Punjab, a region in North West India, the home of the Sikh Religion and its Golden Temple, and witness one of the most improbable ceremonies in India, the Wagah Border, with Indian and Pakistan soldiers confronting each other.
Amritsar is also the hometown of the turbans and curved knives, the stylish beard, and mustaches, where a modern car crosses a horse carriage in the streets, where the street food, the culinary pride of India, is bursting, flaming and smelling so delicious in every corner.
This religious capital of Punjab, also feted as the Jewel of Punjab, is a significant pilgrimage place for the Sikhs, besides bringing tourists from around the globe, in pursuit of peace, solace, and Nirvana.
The city boasts of its various temples and shrines dedicated mainly to the Sikh culture and commercial activities entirely oriented to tourism selling items like rugs, handloom fabrics, and handicrafts.
Since the first contact with the Punjabi people, you will be able to notice how naturally friendly they are, always willing to help you, without wanting nothing back.
Even in some everyday actions, like bargaining a rickshaw, they won’t push the price too high. But still, you have to bargain like in any part of India.
- A Brief History of Amritsar
- The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar in 1919
- Visit the City of Amritsar with City on Pedals
- Best Things to Do in Amritsar, India
- The Golden Temple
- The Jallianwala Bagh Memorial
- Wagah Border – Lowering the Flags Ceremony in the Border Between India and Pakistan
- The Sikh Parliament Akal Takht
- The Durgiyana Temple
- Qila Mubarak, The Bathinda Fort
- The Harike Wetland
- Pul Kajari
- The Tarn Taran
- Walking the Streets in the Old City of Amritsar
- Amritsar at Evening/Night
- Places to Stay in Amritsar
- Best Time to Visit Amritsar
- How to Reach Amritsar
- How many days should you spend in Amritsar
A Brief History of Amritsar
The early history of Amritsar highlights the Greek influence on the region around 326 B.C when the area fell under the control of Alexander. With the defeat of the Greeks, the Mauryas annexed Amritsar, making it part of their Empire.
From the 4th century to the sixth Century Amritsar was connected with the history of the Gupta Empire, following by a brief period of rule by the Shahi Dynasty, under the control of Sultan Mahmud from Ghazni.
Since the Sixteenth Century, the story of Amritsar starts to appear as connected with the Sikh Guru and their teachings.
Sikh Guru Ram Das and his heir Guru Arjan Dev constructed a temple around a little pool with healing powers, from where the name Amritsar was born. Slowly with more and more people settling around the temple, the city grew.
Through years Amritsar suffered different historical developments and the worst moments during India’s Freedom Movement.
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar in 1919
During the British Raj, in response to the escalation in protests, Amritsar was placed under martial law and handed over to British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, who banned all meetings and gatherings within the city.
On Apr 13th, 1919, the day of the Sikh Baisakhi festival, millions of people came to Amritsar from the surrounding villages to visit the city’s traditional fairs.
Many of those people were unaware of Dyer’s latest prohibition of public assemblies, convened at Jallianwala Bagh, where a nationalist demonstration was being held.
Dyer’s troops surrounded the park and without warning opened fire on the audience, killing several hundred and wounding more than a thousand.
Dyer, in a subsequent investigation, admitted ordering the attack for its moral effect, so his troops continue the deadly barrage until all their artillery became drained.
British governments later removed him from his post. The massacre stirred nationalist emotions across India and had a profound impact on one of the movement’s leaders, Mohandas Gandhi (known as Mahatma Gandhi).
During World War I, Gandhi had actively supported the British in the hope of winning a partial autonomy for India, but after the Amritsar Massacre, he became convinced that India should accept nothing less than complete independence.
To accomplish this end, Gandhi began organizing his first campaign of mass civil disobedience against Britain’s oppressive rule.
Visit the City of Amritsar with City on Pedals
Created with the intention of providing a different experience in Amritsar, City On Pedals, it began by creating bicycle tours through the city with locations, taking tourists to the most emblematic places, but also other lesser known sites.
With them, you can get a unique experience, go to very local restaurants that only those who live there know, and see the city from another perspective, without needing to resort to rickshaws.
More recently City on Pedals has associated their new hostel, where they create a relaxed atmosphere and a meeting point with other tourists, traveling around the city.
Whether traveling alone or accompanied, this is the best way to get to know the city of Amritsar by bicycle, in the company of local people.
Visit the website of City On Pedals and book your tour through Amritsar, with the guarantee that you will know the city like no other tourist that passes by.
Best Things to Do in Amritsar, India
Believers, regardless of caste, their faith, and gender, travel to Amritsar in search of bliss and become amazed by the beliefs of the Sikhs towards their faith and nature.
The main highlights in Amritsar are the obvious Golden Temple and the Wagah Border celebration. However many tourists miss the opportunity to visit other great places in this Punjabi city.
Places like the Sikh Akal Takht Parliament, Durgiyana Temple, and a few other attractions such as Bathinda Fort, Harike Wetland or Pul Kajari, situated nearby Amritsar, offering a sufficient number of options for travelers.
The Golden Temple
Despite all the things to see in the city, the Golden Temple is the biggest draw for tourists visiting Amritsar.
Also known as Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple is among the top tourist attractions in the Punjab region and the most important place for the Sikh community.
The temple pool is believed to be the focus behind the founding and naming when the 4th Guru named the city Amritsar which means the pool of the nectar of immortality.
For this reason, many pilgrims travel to Amritsar, not only to pay his respect, but also to clean their sins off in the pool of the Golden Temple.
The Jallianwala Bagh Memorial
The Public Garden is situated inside the complex of the Golden Temple and covers an area of 6.5 acres. Its main meaning is in the Jallianwala Bagh memorial that is located here.
Established in 1951, the Jallianwala Bagh it’s a memorial that represents the massacre that took place in April thirteen 1919, during the British Raj, when the occupying British Forces raided against the Sikh people, during a peaceful celebration in the occasion of the Punjabi New Year.
The precise location of the Jalianwala Bagh is the public ground where the British Army did the act of massacre.
As you step into the narrow passageway leading to the Jallianwala Bagh, the first thing you notice is a stone plaque, saying “This is the place where the bullets were fired from, April 13, 1919”, marking a bloody day in the history of Indian independence.
Hundreds of innocent Indians who participated in the meeting in the Bagh were killed by British troops as ordered by General Dyer.
Today, an eternal flame burns at the entry, in honor of the martyrs. Seeing the well wherein many jumped to escape the bullets, well branded on the walls, will send shivers down your spine.
There’s a big memorial tower, and the Bagh’s museum preserves pictures of the incident.
Wagah Border – Lowering the Flags Ceremony in the Border Between India and Pakistan
Wagah Border is among the most visit areas in the surroundings of Amritsar, and one of the most incredible experiences among all the tourists in all India.
Located in the road border crossing between Pakistan and India, 30 km from Amritsar, in a stadium divided into two parts, the Indian and Pakistan.
Tourists travel to this place, in India or Pakistan side, to witness this daily encounter between both armies, in the solemn moment of lowering the flags and closing the border.
Of all the scenery you will encounter, there is the effusive party on the Indian side, contrasting with a more controlled celebration on the Pakistan side, in addition to the ridiculous expressions of confrontation on the face of the soldiers as they face their mirror soldier of the opposite country with the same expressions).
Everything seems a little surreal, especially knowing the problems between the two countries. Still, this celebration demonstrates a particular approach, as well as raising the spectacular levels of the event.
It is just one of those places and happenings that must be witnessed at least once in life.
The Sikh Parliament Akal Takht
Akal Takhat is the most noteworthy political foundation of the Sikhs. “Akal” signifies “The Ageless One” – another term for God. “Takhat” signifies “position of royalty” in Persian.
The Akal Takhat is a magnificent building that sits specifically in front of the brilliant Sanctuary in Amritsar, the Golden Temple.
The Akal Takhat was established by Master Hargobind on June 15, 1606 (now celebrated on 2 July) and was built up as the place from which the otherworldly and fleeting worries of the Sikh people group could be followed up on.
It remained as an image of political defense against the Mughal Heads in the XVII and XVIII century.
The Jathedar of the Akal Takhat is the most astounding representative of the Sikh Panth and is intended to be a profound pioneer without control or impact from any outside, politically roused sources.
The Durgiyana Temple
A Significant Hindu Temple in Amritsar, Durgiana is about one and a half kilometer from the Golden Temple and seems like its replica. Dedicated to Goddess Durga, the temple was built in 1908 by Harsai Mal Kapoor.
Durgiana Mandir is one of the prominent religious spots settled in the Punjab province, built after the Golden Temple. It is also known by different names like Lakshmi Narayan Sanctuary, Durga Tirath, and Sitla Mandir.
This temple, an esteemed place for the Hindus, includes a vibrant gathering of Hindu sacred writings, besides sanctuaries of Lord Hanuman, Mata Shitla, along with Lakshmi Narain.
Like the Golden Temple, the Durgian Mandir is made of marble stone and is installed similarly in the middle of a tank with an overlapped arch and lights on.
Some of the most important Hindu festivals are celebrated here like the Dussehra, Janmashtami, Rama Navami, and Diwali.
Qila Mubarak, The Bathinda Fort
A historic fort (90-110 AD) in the District of Punjab, Qila Mubarak, commonly known as Bathinda Fort is about 160km from the Golden Temple and famous for its strong association with the history of Sultana Razia’s imprisonment.
The Harike Wetland
Harike Wetland otherwise called “Hari-Ke-Pattan,” with the Harike Lake in its more profound peace, is the most significant wetland (4100 ha) in northern India in the outskirt of the Punjab state in India.
The rich biodiversity of the wetland assumes an essential part in keeping up the valuable hydrological adjust in the catchment with its tremendous centralization of the transient fauna of a vast diversity of species.
Wetland has a critical impact, in what concerns the hydrology angle, creating a water system and drinking water supplies to provide the states of Punjab and Rajasthan.
The rich biodiversity of the wetland includes a broad diversity of turtles, snakes, and 200 types of birds that visit the wetland during winter periods like the tufted duck, yellow-crowned woodpecker, yellow-eyed pigeon, water cock, hawk, diving duck and much more.
Harike’s closest train station locates in the town of Makhu (Ferozepur), around 10 km distance.
Dhanoe Kalan is a village located just before Atari, on the way to the Wagha border, at a distance of about 34 km from Amritsar and was the place where the Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to stay.
Pul Kanjari is a bridge that crosses a channel in the village of Dhanoe Kalan. Its name originates after the creation of this bridge, by order of the Maharaja, so that its artist of the court, called “Moran”, could cross, coming from an adjacent city, Makhanpura, to act in the Illustrious Court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
In one such visit, while crossing the channel, Moran lost her silver shoes offered to her by the Maharaja. Baffled over the misfortune, she declined to go to the court of Maharaja.
When Maharaja knew, he created the bridge so that she could cross it safely.
The Tarn Taran
Located at a distance of about 22 km from the Golden Temple, Tarn Taran is a Sikh pilgrimage site in the Tarn Taran district in the Punjab region.
It’s a human-made riverine, a lacustrine wetland that spreads across the three district of Punjab namely Amritsar, Ferozepur along with Kapurthala.
Dedicated to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab who freed a central part of Punjab in the shackles of the Mughals, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum is found in Lawrence Road, Company Bagh of Amritsar.
Walking the Streets in the Old City of Amritsar
Like every single other city in Punjab, Amritsar clamors with a blend of infectious vitality, beautiful scene and the otherworldly vibe that quiets down the day by day stretch.
The city has a light climate appropriate from its strong neighborly individuals, rich mustard fields, bright bazaars and its lively celebrations.
The roads are a crazy mix of modern cars and transport never seen before as if you suddenly entered a new era, where the present and the past mix in one place at the same time.
You can see horses pulling huge quantities of goods with the Punjabi man up there at the top, sometimes even elephants passing by in the distance, along with modern cars or even men in a suitcase with turbans.
Eventually, if you are fortunate enough to see elephants on the streets, it will probably be because there is some celebration and their owners, wealthy men from Amritsar, have brought them to the streets.
Crossing the streets is not an easy task, but you must keep calm and wait. As in many places in Asia, crossing streets is an art. The art of not stopping, going slowly, watchful, and pass between cars and motorcycles.
At night, the city has almost no light, except near the Golden Temple or, if you are far from that area, only the cars that cross you, rickshaws or motorbikes will illuminate the streets for a brief moment.
Walking at night in Amritsar is not dangerous and it is even too quiet. Except for the dogs you may find to store your stores and, if you are not careful, they may even be aggressive.
Amritsar has a very cinematographic environment, with people wearing turbans, related to the Sikh religion. But they are not very common turbans.
Although they wear turbans for the Sikh religion, they also use as a fashion piece, with many color options, different types of ornaments, such as the Kirpan, a typical Punjabi sword.
Some people who do not know the Sikh religion or had been in countries like India can easily relate this whole scene to movies with exotic scenes, such as snake charmers or battles in the deserts. But in Amritsar, you won’t see more than regular people, doing ordinary things like washing cars, shopping, selling fruit, etc.
Still, you will inevitability fall in love with this scenario.
The best thing you’ll find on the streets of Amritsar is the fantastic natural juices made fresh by mobile vendors or in their stores. They are everywhere, and sometimes, with a trailer, just drifting through the streets, until you pause and try one of those delicious juices.
They only produce natural juices, using sugar cane, passion fruit, tangerine, beets and many other flavors. You can try a pure juice with a single fruit or a mixture of them. Try beetroot with sugar cane and some lime. Delicious.
Another motivation to visit Amritsar during the festive-filled bubbling seasons is the luck of the day to enjoy the delicious food of Punjabi, perhaps the best in all of India, and shake your leg to the pounding Bhangra beats.
The city is also renowned for its amazing Punjabi cuisine, the most appreciated in all India. To try it, Amritsar is the right place.
The best way to experience the typical food is to follow the scent of food on the streets, or rather hire a rickshaw driver and ask him where you can try a good Punjabi street food. Drivers are usually friendly and helpful. Almost certainly that they will suggest good sites.
The best way to try it is to follow the food aroma on the streets or better yet, hire a Rickshaw driver and ask them for o good Punjabi street food, and they will take you there.
In general street food in Amritsar might not be the most healthy, but you should not be scared to try it once in a while. The food there is simply fantastic, well worth the risk.
Amritsar at Evening/Night
Visiting Amritsar during evening time and night is an experience completely different from the daily tour, like listening to the songs being sung in the Golden Temple, while the sun is down, the Temple even more Golden, and a calm relaxing mood around the lake.
The Rani Ka Bagh Market is a superb place to be in amid nighttimes and evenings. You will discover stores that offer different types of items such as socks and other clothes and fabrics and some good restaurants where you can dine.
This market is a decent place to get to know the reality of the Punjabis and comprehends their way of life.
Walking around the Dharam Singh Market, on the premises of the Golden Temple, will make you feel like you are on a square in some European city, with an imposing architecture, and a reddish color, typical from the Indian ancient constructions.
Dealing at the Chor Bazar is one of the essential activities in Amritsar around evening time. A few customers get a kick from consulting with the businesspeople, and this place gives that sort of satisfaction.
At night, walking the streets of Amritsar may seem dangerous as it is very dark almost everywhere, except for the immediate surroundings of the Golden Temple.
While walking on the dark streets, and felling the refreshing air of this city, just be careful of the dogs, that are there securing some shop or private house.
Places to Stay in Amritsar
Amritsar offers an extensive choice of accommodations to stay with options vary from deluxe to intermediate stage and low-budget hotels.
If you are looking for a low budget solution, then Jugaadu’s Hostel is your best choice. There you will find a relaxed, very friendly and confident atmosphere. It is a perfect place to meet other travelers and perhaps see the city with new, momentary friends.
Located around 15m walking from the Golden Temple, Jugaadu’s Hostel is the best choice in Amritsar for solo travelers.
Tourist Guesthouse is also a perfect low-budget choice in Amritsar. Around 30m walking to the Golden Temple, this guesthouse has simple clean but basic rooms. During winter, expect freezing rooms, but with warm blankets. Wifi is available in all Guesthouse, but in upper chambers, the signal can be weak.
Hotel Sita Niwas, a ten-minute walk from the temple, is another low budget solution to stay in Amritsar.
You may also stay in the Golden Temple Complex that provides free accommodation for pilgrims and offers elementary facilities. As long as you can observe the Golden Temple, it is strictly forbidden to drink alcohol or smoke.
The mid-range hotels in Amritsar include options such as Royal Castle which is only 15 minute from the Golden Temple, Hotel Indus that is right in front of the temple, Sarovar Regency in Bazaar Mai Sewan, near Golden Temple.
If you are looking for a more comfortable stay, try WelcomHeritage Ranjits Svaasa which is located on Mall Road and is just 3 km from the Golden Temple.
This place provides a comfortable and luxurious stay in its Rai Bahadur Suites, Svaasa Suites and Svaasa Penthouse.
Best Time to Visit Amritsar
Winter (Nov – Mar)- The minimum temperature in those times is 4ºC while the maximum reaches 18ºC, being January the coldest month of the season.
During winter it is the best time to visit Amritsar despite the cold. It has fewer tourists and you can find accommodation far below its normal price. Don’t forget to take warm clothes.
Summer (Apr to Jun) – The summer season is very hot, and the temperature reaches up to 49ºC. Travelers usually avoid this season due to the scorching heat.
Monsoon Season (Jul to Oct) – The city experiences mild to heavy rain during this season. The moderate climate makes the weather cool and pleasant.
Events / Festivals in Amritsar
Guru Nanak Jayanti: It is the most famous festival in Amritsar which is celebrated in October/November. The city becomes more lively at this time, and one can enjoy to the fullest with the Bhangra dances, along with other cultural activities.
Lohri: January is famous for the Lohri festival which is held with lots of excitement and spectacle. Lohri is celebrated with a bonfire, marking the end of the winter season and is celebrated by consuming roasted corn or sugarcane pulps from the last harvest.
How to Reach Amritsar
By Air – Amritsar International Airport (ATQ) offers domestic and international flights, making it easier for anyone planning to stay in the city.
With regular flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh or Jammu, the city is also associated with other significant destinations in the country.
The Raja Sansi Universal Air Terminal is at a distance of 15 km and a 20-30 minute drive to the downtown area where the Golden Temple is located.
By Train – Amritsar Railway Station (ASR) is a vital railway station that connects to large urban areas of India through daily journeys to cities like Delhi, Haridwar, and others.
Trains can be reserved online, on the station or, most helpfully, at the little reserving office in the Golden Temple Complex.
It is prudent to book your trip as soon as you arrive in Amritsar, or even earlier, if you know the correct date on which you will leave, as it is common for trains to be crowded early in the morning, especially during festive times.
Get around – A auto-rickshaw from the train station to the sanctuary should cost around Rs 40, while a cycle-rickshaw will be cheaper, costing around Rs 20-25. There are also free transfers from the station to the Sri Harmandir Sahib shrine, but these are often fully booked.
How many days should you spend in Amritsar
With such a vibrant city with many amazing things to do and see, you should save at least 3 days to stay in Amritsar.
As soon as you arrive at the Golden Temple, you will feel mesmerized by such a vision, and you will want to watch all the important moments that take place there, which can take a whole day.
Then, to attend the Wagah Border Ceremony, it will take at least an entire afternoon. If you want to see the other places in Amritsar and nearby regions, you will need at least another day.
But don’t forget to stay there one day, just feeling the city, and get to know it better.