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Are you looking for places to visit in Amritsar other than the Golden Temple? I have some bad suggestions for you.
Turbans of every color of the rainbow line the streets of the holy city of Amritsar, home to the world-famous Golden Temple.
Known locally as Sri Harimandir Sahib, this site is the holiest gurudwara (temple) of Sikh religious worship. This is because it carries within it the Adi Granth, the sacred scriptures of the Sikh faith.
People from all over the world come here to take a look at and enter this glittering templeabove 100,000 visitors daily.When I finally got there this year, I understood why. It was absolutely amazing.
Aside from this brilliant eye candy, there are many more things to keep you occupied when visiting this incredible yet spiritual city.
Here are the top things to do in Amritsar. I've listed them so you can check them off on the go!
9 Awesome Things to Do in Amritsar
1. Take a walk and listen to the peaceful melodies of the Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is one of the most famous Sikh temples in the world and some say that if you haven't set foot in this place, you haven't visited India.
Well, that's a bold statement, but I'd say you're not wrong. Even though it was built in 1577, it is still beautiful today.
I visited the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi but it was a drop in the ocean compared to the 750kg of pure gold that shone for me!
As I walked the (admittedly hot) marble floors, I felt almost in a trance as I listened to the scriptures.
At any time of the day there are people making live music and singing in the temple. It really sends a kind of satisfaction through your entire body.
Well like I said before100,000 peopleWalk through this temple every day.
So expect big crowds, but surprisingly they aren't as overwhelming as you might think. There you can sit and relax, watch and feed the fish and watch the pilgrims bathe in the holy water.
Top Tip:DO NOT swim or put your feet in the water if you are a woman and/or not on a pilgrimage. There will be people there to stop you anyway if you overstep the mark.
I must admit that I did not go into the temple itself to look at the holy book.
The line was very long and would take at least a few hours to get in.
As soon as I got in line, people pushed me back and I ended up in a corpse sandwich. It was also April and the temperatures were too hot to handle that stuffy crowd!
If you don't want to queue for days I would recommend getting there very early to board.
But for me it was beautiful to walk around the temple grounds and take it all in. The architecture here is really impressive. So take your time and immerse yourself in the Golden Temple.
My top tips for the Golden Temple
As it is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Amritsar and even Punjab, it is good to keep some travel tips in mind before visiting.
- Always cover your head (men and women) when entering the temple. If you don't have a scarf, the temple will provide you with one free of charge. If you don't feel like wearing them, you can buy them outside the temple for about 10 rupees.
- Shoe counters are available for you to hand in your shoes, and you will receive a voucher when you hand them in. Do not miss that!
- The temple floor gets extremely hot in direct sunlight. The temple usually lays out mats and makes it rain, it remains to walk on them. Be careful with the marble floor as it is usually washed making it very slippery.
- So many people flock here every day, so be prepared for long lines! It can take up to three hours to reach the temple itself on a weekend.
- Although this is a place of pilgrimage I was told to beware of pickpockets as there are so many people.
- Ladies, as this is a temple of worship, please remember to dress conservatively at all times. Shorts, revealing dresses and uncovered heads are not permitted inside!
2. Try the free food in the large kitchens
If you're looking for the number one restaurant in Amritsar on Tripadvisor, it's not just any restaurant, it's the popular cuisine at the Golden Temple itself.
The kitchens are run by volunteers and you should see the speed at which the vegetables are being cut, the chapatis made and the dishes washed. It's incredible to see.
The food is not served at a specific time of day, but throughout the day until evening. I highly recommend checking it out and sitting down with all visitors.
did you know that This kitchen produces enough food to feed 100,000 people a day, and it's completely free!
3. Go shopping at the Main Market
There are some fantastic markets around the temples to shop at.
Aside from the typical Golden Temple souvenirs, there are some really nice Punjabi scarves and pashminas and fabrics in all sorts of beautiful patterns.
For myself, I actually bought a little sticky gold temple magnet for the occasion. One day I want to have a fridge full of magnets representing all the places I've been. So this had to be one!
4. Admire the Sikh guards
Wow, these guys are definitely not to be messed with and I've seen so many in and around the temple and outside of the Amritsar compound. They are used here as guardians of the temple and the Sikh faith.
Their turbans, which they wore to represent their devout faith and bravery, came in all sizes and sacred colors and carried the most fearsome spears.
Sikhs are considered a minority in India.
Mainly because, unlike Hindu beliefs, they have no caste system.
Amritsar has a long and troubled history, including Operation Blue Star in the 1980s when members of the Indian Army attacked their own people.
So it's not surprising that there are so many on hand should another attack occur.
5. Watch the flag ceremony at the Wagah border near Pakistan
This was an incredible sight that I would advise all tourists traveling to Amritsar to witness. It lies on the border with Pakistan, about 40 km from Amritsar.
Essentially, it is a flag-raising ceremony where the military on either side of the border meet in the middle and point to the crowd. Military personnel will spin, kick and march to applause.
Click here to read my Wagah Border guide on what to expect
You should start early (around 3pm) to ensure you skip the lines and get a seat.
They start closing the gate when it gets too crowded. I would highly recommend a taxi as the rickshaw ride can take a long time. Unfortunately a fellow passenger I met paid for a tuk tuk but didn't make it.
Every day thousands of people come to witness this ceremony.
There was supposed to be an entrance for foreigners to avoid the crowds, but I couldn't find it. I mean I got a nice human massage along the way. Luckily I managed to find the alien's seating area and had a great view of the show.
It is good to note that India and Pakistan have not always been friendly neighbors. So if there is a conflict, you should not come here.
The government will advise issuing alerts and travel booking agencies and hotels can let you know if anything is going on. Better yet, don't go to Amritsar at all when the fighting is on!
6. Experience the Golden Temple at night
Once you come back from the Wagah frontier ceremony, I would highly recommend going to the Golden Temple at night.
I would even say that the temple looks better at night because of the glow in the night sky and on the holy water.
Although it's busier, it's cooler at this time so the heat is more bearable!
The Golden Temple itself shines like a star and will take your breath away.
7. Visit Sadda Pind
Having been here for 48 hours and having covered most of what Amritsar had to offer I was looking for something else to keep me busy before flying back to Delhi.
So I was recommended to go thereSadda surface, a cultural village just outside of Amritsar (8 km from the Golden Temple).
Well I would say if you don't have the time, skip it.
It's pretty cheesy, but they actually had a really tasty lunch buffet. It's included with your ticket, so you can join in too. But it took me about 60 minutes to be seated inside because it was crowded with tourists.
It is essentially a living museum in the style of a traditional Punjabi village.
So you will learn about Punjabi culture, find homes with model families in how to cook traditional dishes, traditional music, rural culture and much more.
My favorite thing to do was dress up in a traditional Punjabi dress and have my picture taken. There was also free popcorn.
The entry fee was only 650 rupees including lunch!
8. Try the famous Punjabi food in one of the many dhabas
Now if you want to try something outside of the Golden Temple's free kitchens, I would highly recommend one of the many dhaba's in Amritsar.
Punjabi dhaba (restaurants) are popular across India because their food is so delicious.
They suggested me to try Brother's Dhaba which was near the Golden Temple. The food was cheap, the service was fast and it was incredibly delicious! I ordered saag aloo (potato spinach) with a roti. carbohydrates for days.
Most of the restaurants around Amritsar's Golden Temple, including McDonald's there, are strictly vegetarian.
9. Explore the historical spiritual city of Amritsar
Apart from all the sights, the city is actually worth exploring.
The area around the temple is well-kept, clean and car-free, so you won't be overwhelmed by city traffic and the busy streets just outside.
You can see all kinds of statues and historic architecture that really bring to life Amritsar's colorful and complex history.
You can actually do oneHop-on-Hop-off-Tourif you feel like exploring all around Amritsar.
But I ran out of time by then, and I don't think there's a plethora of websites to look at. A full day package costs 1,449 rupees (£16) including lunch and dinner.
If you fly domestic, I flew direct from Delhi to Amritsar which was a smooth one hour flight.
Many airlines offer competitive fares. I chose Air India as the time was convenient, but Jet Airways is another airline that I would highly recommend.
If you fly internationally there are many direct flights from the UK including London Heathrow and Birmingham where there is a large Sikh community.
If you travel overland, Amritsar is very easy to get to from thereMcleodganj (Dharamshala)The tours take place daily. Just visit one of the tourist offices in town and ask for the prices.
Where to stay: Amritsar
There are many places to stay in Amritsar as it is a popular place of pilgrimage.
My personal recommendation would be thisRamada Amritsar(5*), the closest luxury hotel within walking distance to the Golden Temple.
You can even stay at the Golden Temple for free at Sarai Accommodation, which is open to tourists only. But I would say that you won't have much of a chance of sleeping considering that people are in and out of this temple at all hours of the night.
The first long prayer time begins around 4 a.m. More information can be found herelook here. I would highly recommend asking ahead of time and making a reservation if planning to do so.
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