In India’s Punjab state, this lively city is the home of Sikhism’s holiest shrine, glorious temples, animated bazaars and an extraordinary border ceremony.
Centuries-old monuments, shopping, delicious cuisine and festivals make Amritsar one of Punjab’s most appealing cities. Amritsar is named for Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar), the sacred pool of the Golden Temple, the city’s centrepiece attraction. This magnificent temple is the Sikh’s holiest site, a fascinating mix of spiritual serenity and architectural grandeur. Learn about Sikhism at the Central Sikh Museum and dine with pilgrims at Guru-Ka-Langar dining hall.
The Golden Temple dominates Amritsar’s old city, a maze-like historic district filled with colourful temples and energetic bazaars. Don’t miss the Durgiana Temple and Mata Lal Devi Mandir. Hathi Gate and Lahori Gate are two of 12 gates marking the ancient city wall. Relive infamous events of the 1919 Jallianwala Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh memorial garden.
Sidestep cyclists and rickshaws as you explore teeming streets in the old city’s shopping quarters. Browse for handicrafts at Hall Bazar and gold and silver ornaments at Guru Bazar. Find stores packed with pashminas, saris and suits at Katra Jaimal Singh Market and Shastri Market. Sample traditional Punjabi cuisine from street vendors and dhabas (snack bars). Chicken tandoori and kulcha (stuffed flatbread) are local specialties.
Take an auto-rickshaw or cycle rickshaw to Amritsar’s modern northern district. Here restaurants, malls and entertainment centres line wide boulevards such as Lawrence Road and Mall Road. Relax amid the pristine Rambagh Gardens and spot displays of Sikh artefacts at Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama.
Be sure to visit Attari for the flamboyant Indian-Pakistan border-closing and changing-of-the-guard ceremony. It’s about a 40-minute drive from the city centre; minibuses depart regularly. Alternatively, experience Punjab’s fun-loving culture at extravagant festivals. April’s Vaisakhi is a harvest celebration accompanied with Bhangra music and dance.
Fly to Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport or catch a train to Amritsar Junction station. Visit the area year-round; however, expect extreme temperatures and monsoonal rain from June to September. The city is a great base for exploring destinations in India’s northern reaches, including Dharamsala and Ladakh.