Amritsar is the center of Sikkhism in India, where golden temples shimmer in crowded and lively streets and travelers can experience a unique side of the Punjab region.
Amritsar dates back to the 16th century when a Sikh guru decided that this should be the place for a new city dedicated to worshiping its religion.
Since then, Amritsar has grown into an extensive cultural metropolis and has been at the forefront of national events over the centuries.
Amritsar was near the border with Pakistan and experienced the worst division. Before independence, the city was the scene of protests that worsened under British rule.
There is a lot to see and learn in the city. Here you will find the best tips for planning your trip in Amritsar.
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9 Best Sights in Amritsar, India
There is a lot to do in Amritsar and you will find that the city is an interesting mix of history and modernity that is always visited by pilgrims, tourists and locals.
This is the holiest city in Sikkhism and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit every day.
Since many of the best things to do in Amritsar revolve around the Sikh religious sights, you can always expect things to be busy. However, this is part of the experience.
1. The golden temple
One of the best activities in Amritsar is to visit the Golden Temple. This is the heart of the Sikh religion and an important place of worship and pilgrimage for Sikhs around the world.
The Golden Temple is the heart of Amritsar and the golden walls literally shimmer in the bright Punjab sunlight, while bright lights at night make it always visible.
The temple was built around a sacred lake and dates from the founding of the city in the 16th century when the Sikh Guru ordered the construction of a place of worship for his followers.
The temple was destroyed many times over the centuries when Amritsar was caught between wars and conflicts with Muslims, Hindus and British.
The temple was still the site of the destruction during Operation Blue Star in 1984, when Indira Gandhi, the Indian president, ordered the army to storm the temple when it was used as a base by Sikh fighters.
The temple is always busy with pilgrims and ceremonies, but visitors are always welcome to explore the vast area.
Our most recommended tours of the Golden Temple:
2. Amrit Sarovar
The Amrit Sarovar is the sacred lake that gives the city of Amritsar its name. This hand-dug and water-filled reservoir has long been a place of pilgrimage because Sikhs believe that the water is blessed with healing powers and holy.
Many pilgrims can swim in certain areas of the lake throughout the day or participate in water-related ceremonies.
The Amrit Sarovar is a wonderful place to stroll through busy crowds and get an idea of the city’s cultural and religious importance to Sikhs.
You will also find that some of the best views of the Golden Temple itself can be seen from the water, where the golden reflections can be seen in the lake.
Our top tours from Amrit Sarovar:
3. Akal Takht
The Akal Takht in Amritsar is one of the most important sacred sites in Sikhism. The Akal Takht is part of the entire complex of the Golden Temple and is roughly translated into English as the throne of the immortals.
There are five takhts or thrones in the Sikh religion, all of which are important seats of religious power. The Akal Takht in Amritsar is the most important of these five.
The Akal Takht is located opposite the main entrance of the Golden Temple and was historically known as a place of justice where Sikh gurus could make important decisions.
The building dates from 1606, but was originally just a simple wooden platform. In the course of time it was expanded and converted into a huge, impressive building that is unrecognizable to the first gurus. The last renovation took place after Operation Blue Star in 1984, which destroyed the building.
The Akal Takht is one of the best things to see in Amritsar as it is a strong symbol of local history and religion.
4. Guru Ka Langar
The Guru Ka Langar is a huge dining room located in the Golden Temple. However, this is more than just a canteen, it is a place that illustrates the virtues and qualities on which the Sikh religion is based.
The food here is served to everyone, regardless of your religion or nationality, and it is always busy around the clock to serve vegetarian dishes to the streams of pilgrims traveling from all over the world.
Food is only a donation and you can give as much or as little as you want to enjoy a hearty breakfast, lunch, or dinner with other temple visitors.
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5. Jallianwala Bagh Gardens
Amritsar has always been the center of national events and such an unfortunate part of Indian history took place at Jallianwala Bagh Gardens during British rule in 1919.
Peaceful protesters gathered in the gardens, but British-Indian soldiers opened fire and left hundreds dead. The event called for India’s independence and is now considered a turning point in the country’s history.
The Jallianwala Bagh Gardens are now a peaceful memorial site where many Indians make their own pilgrimage.
Our most recommended tours in Jallianwala Bagh Garde:
6. Partition Museum
Just a few kilometers from the border with Pakistan, the division of India was a monumental event that Amritsar again put at the forefront of national events in the late 1940s.
The division of British India into India and Pakistan resulted in millions of deaths, and this museum tells the often unremarkable story of the significant event.
Our most recommended tours of the Partition Museum:
7th border ceremony in Wagah
A short rickshaw ride from Amritsar takes you to the border from Wagah to Pakistan. This is one of the most enduring, most visible legacies of division and also one of the most iconic border crossings in the world.
Every day, both sides try to excel with their extravagant, loud and extreme border ceremonies, while crowds gather on both sides from the stands to cheer on their own nations.
It’s a bizarre experience like no other border in the world.
Our most recommended tours in Wagah Border:
8. Gobindgarh Fort
The imposing Fort Gobindgarh dates from the 18th century and is one of the most historic activities in Amritsar.
This impressive fortress was used as a military base until recently and has since been converted into a museum that shows the history and culture of the Sikhs and Punjabis.
On the spacious grounds you will find several unique museums and sights that you can explore. These attractions include the treasury of former Sikh rulers, a coin museum, Sikh war exhibitions, colonial bungalows and much more.
9. Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was one of the most important Sikh leaders in local history. A visit to his former palace is definitely one of the best things to do in Amritsar.
Ranjit Singh, also known as Rambagh Palace, spent the summer here in Amritsar. He ruled at the end of the 18th century and founded a Sikh empire that only lasted until the British annexed the Punjab.
He is still highly revered by Sikhs around the world who regard him as a man striving for rights and independence from foreign powers.
Amritsar, India travel tips
How to travel to Amritsar
Amritsar is located in the state of Punjab in northwest India and is one of the last major cities before the border with Pakistan begins.
Amritsar is a busy tourist center and an important place of pilgrimage in the region. As such, Amritsar is well connected to the rest of India so that travelers can easily get into and out of the city.
The international airport has several long-haul flights around the world. However, if you’re flying, most travelers will likely fly via Delhi or Mumbai before making the short jump to Amritsar.
There are regular trains across the country, especially to Delhi, with the fastest express route taking only 6 hours.
The city itself is best explored by rickshaw. You can even hire a private rickshaw driver for the day to get to all the major sights.
However, the city center itself can be chaotic and many streets are restricted to traffic, so sometimes only a walk is possible.
Best time of year to visit Amritsar, India
Amritsar has a hot, semi-arid climate and can be visited all year round.
The only rainfall is usually between July and September, the hottest and wettest season.
The best temperatures are between December and March, but this busy winter period, when the weather is coolest and most comfortable, will also be the high season of tourism.
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