Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das, Amritsar is home to the spectacular Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine and one of India’s most serene and humbling sights. The same cannot be said for the hyperactive streets surrounding the temple, but they’re a delight to walk through for a sensory overload of sights, sounds and smells.
For an awe-inspiring experience, visit Amritsar’s stunning Golden Temple, the holiest place of worship for Sikhs the world over. Open 24 hours a day, the massive golden palace rising out of a man-made lake is a truly impressive sight to behold and it’ll be tough to stop snapping photos from every angle. Take a dip in the holy Sarovar (holy pond) and explore the site, visited by millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. Note that inside the temple, it’s mandatory to cover your head at all times. The temple welcomes everyone, regardless of cast, creed, or race. If you have time and you’re hungry, don’t miss a meal at the langar, the largest free community kitchen in the world, which feeds upwards of 100,000 people a day. The kitchen is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The only road border crossing between India and Pakistan, Wagah, lies between Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan. This is the place to come to witness the Wagah Border Ceremony, which involves the lowering of the flags on both sides of the border. Also referred to as the beating retreat border ceremony, the highly choreographed ritual involves music, coordinated movements, and lots of pomp and circumstance. The ceremony takes place every evening before sunset and lasts about 45 minutes.
Get your history fix by exploring Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum, a museum dedicated to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, otherwise known as the “Lion of Punjab.” Maharaja Ranjit Singh founded the Sikh empire and the museum is well worth a visit for anyone interested in learning about Sikh culture and history. What is now the museum was originally the summer palace of the Maharaja and houses many of his belongings, including weapons, coins, armour, and paintings. One of the main attractions here is an impressive panorama that depicts the Maharaja’s major battles.
Since one of the best parts of travel is often getting the chance to try new food, we suggest adding eating a lot to your Amritsar itinerary. No matter where you go in India you’re likely to find some pretty amazing food, but each state and even city or town have their own delicacies. In the case of Amritsar, one of the delicious things they’re famous for are their kulchas (butter-soaked bread baked in a tandoor and often stuffed with potatoes). Try one out (and then probably get a few more) at All India Famous and Kulcha Land. Just note that the former often runs out of kulchas by 2pm or so.