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Amritsar is a commercial and cultural hub in the northern Indian state of Punjab. Spirituality runs deep in this town, where the Golden Temple, the Sikhs’ principal place of worship and one of India’s iconic landmarks, can be found. Book a flight to Amritsar with Qatar Airways and discover a city filled with rustic charm, exquisite architecture and bustling markets.
During your trip to Amritsar, you’ll be acquainted with a four-centuries-old city steeped in tradition. The city’s name derives from the pool that surrounds the temple and translates as “holy pool of nectar”. And with fabled sights such as the Golden Palace, a trip to Amritsar is a journey into the heart of the exotic Indian subcontinent.
Amritsar’s culture, spirituality, food and history blend together to create a unique sensory experience, from the Golden Palace and Temple to the Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Ram Bagh Park.
The most obvious must-visit location when you travel to Amritsar is the Golden Palace and Temple complex. Parts of the buildings are, gilded with gold, giving them their names. The walkway towards the complex is thoughtfully designed to give you an awe-inspiring first view of its star attractions.
You can enter the complex through the distinctly Victorian main gateway or by the Ghanta Ghar. The Golden Temple is known locally as Harmandir Sahib, while the vast pool surrounding it is the Amrit Sarovar, after which the city is named.
Other attractions that you should consider adding to your itinerary are the labyrinthine tunnels making up the remarkable Mata Temple. The Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Ram Bagh Park is also a museum. It displays an eclectic collection ranging from weapons and coins, through to exquisite works of art and miniatures.
Dance and theatre are integral parts of life in the northern region of India. So, during your stay in Amritsar, you’ll be treated to several festivals, events and performances, each of which are held all year round. These are invariably colourful, and you can expect to be encouraged to join in with the dancing. For more sedate leisure activities, some of the larger hotels have their own spas and wellness centres.
For an experience that is unique to the region, jump in a taxi and head approximately 30km from Amritsar, to the Wagah border point between India and Pakistan. Every evening, the border attracts thousands of spectators for the ceremonial closing of the gates, and lowering of the Indian and Pakistani flags. This a flamboyant affair complete with theatrics and chants. A short cultural display by traditional bhangra dancers is put on for the crowd’s entertainment, before the main event takes place. It’s unlike anything else you’ll experience during your trip to Amritsar.
Complimentary 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.
While in Amritsar, look out for casual restaurants, known as dhaba, that specialise in serving authentic Punjabi food. Dishes to try include kulcha (Punjabi-style parathas with herbs, potato and pomegranate seeds), and daal makhni. Also, after a meal, don't forget to sample a glass of lassi, a yoghurt curd drink, which reflects the true taste of the region.
There are plenty of options for non-meat eaters as well. Some of the best vegetarian options are channa-battura, mutter paneer, rajma, kadhi and paneer bhurji.
While there are plenty of contemporary shopping opportunities in Amritsar, it is still worth checking out the region’s authentic handicrafts, particularly phulkaari. This is a type of embroidery native to Punjab and parts of Pakistan. Its literal translation is “flower-making”, and you will see samples of it everywhere.
Phulkaari adorns everything from head scarves to shawls and sarees. Some of the best phulkaari crafts can be found in the Hall Bazaar and Kapra Market. Hand-embroidered pieces can be pricey and are very popular during festivals. Be prepared to bargain, especially in Kapra Market.
Essential facts about Amritsar
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip