Amritsar is a vibrant city located in Punjab, North Western India. With a name that means “Holy Pool of Nectar”, Amritsar is home to the most important place of worship in Sikhism, the Golden Temple.
Arriving in Amritsar after a 10+ hour journey on a local bus from Shimla, James and I were exhausted. We got to our hostel, ordered room service and hit the sack.
The next morning, we were up bright and early – we only had one full day in Amritsar and wanted to make the most of it! Here’s how we spent a full day in this wonderful city in February 2015.
First stop: The Golden Temple
This is an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Amritsar and is the main reason many tourists and Indian nationals visit the city.
We arrived early, hoping to avoid the crowds, but it was still very busy when we got there just after 9am.
The most famous and important Sikh shrine in the world, the Golden Temple was constructed between 1585 and 1604, and is formally called the Harmandir Sahib (The Abode of God). A beautiful, white building encircles the complex, and the temple itself is surrounded by a pool of holy water. It is a peaceful refuge from the chaotic streets outside. Upon entering the temple, it’s like the outside world no longer exists – pilgrims and tourists alike are marvelled by the serenity of this holy place of worship.
Seeing the length of the queue into the Golden Temple itself, (and this was still early in the day!) James and I decided against waiting to go inside, and instead enjoyed a stroll around the outside complex and the surrounding rooms or worship.
- Women and men must keep their arms, legs and heads covered. You can borrow a headscarf free of charge outside the temple.
- You are not allowed to take shoes or bags into the temple, leave them in the storeroom to the left of the building before you enter.
- You can take photos in the outside complex but not inside the Golden Temple itself
Opening hours: 6am to 2am
Address: Golden Temple Road, Amritsar, Punjab, 143006.
How to get there: Auto-rickshaws (like tuk tuks) and taxis are probably the best way to get around the city – they will drop you at the end of the road to the Golden Temple since it is pedestrianised.
Next: The Jallianwala Bagh
A five minute walk from the Golden Temple, the Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden and memorial in memory of the Amristar massacre of 13th April 1919. The experience is informative yet gravely saddening, as plaques and signs around the park illustrate the terror of the events during the British rule.
Very briefly, following a number of political events, British General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to open fire for around 15 minutes on a crowd of innocent, unarmed Indians. The British government confirmed 379 fatalities, but according to one of the Civil Sugeons, the number of deceased is actually closer to 1000. Dyer subsequently enforced the “crawling order”, whereby any Indian wishing to cross a street on which an Englishwoman had been injured, had to do so on all fours.
We solemnly strolled around the site, feeling ashamed of our British roots, but also feeling grateful to learn the unedited version of the horrific events from the Indian point of view.
Opening hours: 6:30am to 7:30pm
Entry Fee: free
How to get there: Walk from the Golden Temple, or take an auto or a taxi.
Further reading: if you want to read up further about the Amritsar massacre, have a look on the below websites (and note the underlying difference in opinion from English sources to Indian sources):
Afternoon: Durgiana Temple
After lunch, we took an auto to the Durgiana Temple, a sacred Hindu place of worship. The architecture strongly resembles that of the Golden Temple and it too is built in the middle of a holy lake. The sheer excellence of the Golden Temple perhaps makes the Durgiana slightly underwhelming, but it is still beautiful in its own right and offers a peaceful stroll around the complex. It was a lot less crowded than the first temple, perhaps because it was under renovation.
Top Tips: As with most temples in India, you’ll need to cover your arms and legs, and leave your shoes in the clock room outside the temple.
Entry fee: Free
Opening hours: 6am – 10pm, 7 days a week
Address: Durgiana Tirath, Near Lohgarh Gate, Amritsar, Punjab, 143006.
How to get there: it’s not far from the Golden Temple so you could easily walk. Failing that, take an auto or taxi. Your driver will be happy to wait for you.
At 2.30pm, we met in the Main Street that leads to the Golden Temple and boarded a ten seater minibus with other native and foreign tourists. There were lots of men standing around this area offering trips to the Pakistan-India border for a reasonable price.* We arrived at around 3.30pm, left our bags in a locker and, armed with our passports, we headed towards the border.
Every evening at around 4.15pm, the Indian and Pakistani border forces take part in the flag-lowering ceremony as the border is closed. Before it starts, dancers perform and invite attendees to join. The ceremony itself involves a lot of marching from the guards, a mock stand off, lowering and raising the flags, and lots of gate-slamming. Thoroughly entertaining!
- I apologise for not having more details about our transport to the Wagah border, unfortunately the driver’s business card and my notebook were stolen along with our passports in Cambodia. I do remember it was not an expensive trip, cheaper than taking a taxi or auto. We paid about 10% of the deposit when we booked earlier in the day, then paid the rest at 2.30pm.
- You are searched twice before entering No Man’s Land so leave any cigarette lighters, bottles of water etc behind.
- Cameras, phones and small purses are allowed.
- Beware of pickpockets
- Foreigners are seated in a separate section to Indians.
- Note: if you’re planning on actually crossing the border into Pakistan, aim to cross before 4pm – preferably as early as possible!
- Remember to take your passport – even if you aren’t entering Pakistan, you’re still technically leaving India!
How to get there: Taxis should cost around 800R, autos around 400R. The cheapest transport is minibus – ask at your hostel/hotel or speak to the hawkers nears the main sights in Amritsar.
- The journey from Amritsar to the Wagah border is 30km and takes about 45 minutes
- Aim to get to the border by 3.30pm absolute latest. Cars and autos have to stop around 1km from the border itself, so you’ll need time to walk to it
- The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes
Entry fee: Free
One thing I really regret from our trip to Amritsar is not going back to the Golden Temple for dinner. Simple dinners are served to pilgrims, tourists and locals alike every evening – meaning the homeless are guaranteed a decent meal. This one’s on the list for next time!
Have you been to India or visited Amritsar? We had an amazing time and I would recommend a visit to anyone. I’d love to hear what you thought of it!
Thanks for reading!
You can read my other posts about India here.