Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Ram Das, Amritsar is home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the spectacular Golden Temple, one of India's most serene and humbling sights.
With its Golden Palace and a name that derives from the pool that surrounds the temple and translates as ‘holy pool of nectar’, a trip to Amritsar is a journey into the heart of the exotic Indian subcontinent. Fly to Amritsar with Qatar Airways and you’ll discover a vibrant, shimmering oasis, filled with exquisite architecture and bustling markets.
The most obvious ‘must visit’ location for any trip to Amritsar has to be the Golden Palace. This vast complex is quite literally, golden, but is a sum of many parts. The walkway towards the temple gives you that first, stunning view of the palace, and you’ll enter the main complex itself through the distinctly Victorian main entrance or Ghanta Ghar". The Harmandir Sahib is the Golden Temple itself, while the vast pool that surrounds it is known as the Amrit Sarovar, and gives its name to the city.
Other attractions that should be added to any itinerary during a trip to Amritsar include the labyrinthine tunnels that make up the remarkable Mata temple. The Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Ram Bagh Park is now a museum with an eclectic collection that ranges from weapons and coins through to some exquisite works of art and miniatures. Jallianwala Bagh, reached through a gatehouse on the road to the Golden Temple, this poignant park commemorates the 1500 Indians killed or wounded when a British officer ordered his soldiers to shoot on unarmed protesters in 1919.
Dance and theatre are integral parts of life in this part of India, so there are often festivals, events and displays throughout the year. These are invariably brash, bright and colourful, and expect to be encouraged to join in with the dancing! For more sedate leisure activities, some of the larger hotels have their own spa and wellness centres.
For something that is unique to this region, jump in a taxi and head around 30km out of Amritsar to the Wagah border point between India and Pakistan. Here every evening you’ll witness one of the most rumbustious and wonderfully brash ceremonies, when the border between the two countries is closed for the night with much pomp and circumstance! A short cultural display by bhangra dancers is put on for the crowd’s entertainment, before the main event takes place. It’s a unique experience, and unlike anything else you’ll encounter during your trip to Amritsar.
Free meals are handed out to all visitors to the Golden temple, but there is a donation box should you wish to make a contribution (be sure not to leave anything on your plate as wasted food is frowned upon). Look out for restaurants that specialise in authentic Punjabi food during your trip to Amritsar include known as dhaba. Dishes to try include kulcha (Punjabi-style parathas with herbs, potato and pomegranate seeds), and Daal Makhni. Don't forget to try a glass of Lassi after a meal. This is a yoghurt curd drink and is a true taste of the region.
There are plenty of options for non-meat eaters. Some of the best vegetarian options are Channa – Battura, Mutter Paneer, Rajma, Kadhi and Paneer Bhurji.
While there are plenty of standard shopping opportunities in the city, if you travel to Amritsar then it’s worth checking out the unique handicrafts available here, in particular Phulkaari. This is a type of embroidery that is particular to the Punjab and parts of Pakistan. It’s literal translation is “flower making”, and you will see examples of it everywhere. It adorns everything from head scarves to shawls and sarees. The best examples are in the Hall Bazaar and Kapra market. Hand-embroidered ones can be pricey and are very popular during festivals. Be prepared to bargain, especially in Kapra market.
Flights to Amritsar with Qatar Airways arrive at Doha and then connect on to the main airport for the region, Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport, which is approximately 11km from the city centre.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Amritsar please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
Voltage: 230 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type C / D
Language: Hindi / English
International dialing code: +91
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