While the resplendent Golden temple might be reason enough to visit the holy city of Amritsar, we’ve mapped out the best way to cover the city in 48 hours that include Guru Nanak’s birthday. Along with the temple festivities, there’s over two days of sightseeing as well. This article tells you how to maximise your experience.
Arrive a day early to immerse yourself in the celebratory vibe of the city and then reserve the main day to visit the Golden Temple and the places around it.
Arrive in the morning in Amritsar and book in to a hotel that’s a little away from the Golden temple, so you may get a breather from the energetic crowds that are bound to throng the old city. We recommend Hotel Comfort Inn that is a short drive away from the Golden Temple.
Leave early so you can visit Pul Kanjri, one of the most unique and less visited monuments near the Wagah border. This world heritage site – as declared by UNESCO – is remnant of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s fascination with a dancer called Moran, who used to travel between Lahore and Amritsar. The pale brown brick structure and its neat lines are a relief from the chaos of the city.
Be sure to get a taste of cross-border love at Sarhad, one of Amritsar’s most unique restaurants. The restaurant bridges more than just a gastronomic gap since it imports all the recipes and spices from Lahore, and most consider this to be a symbol of unity in the border town. From Lahori truck art, furniture to even non-alcoholic beer, Sarhad sets the tone for doing away with differences between India and Pakistan.
Let the early evening introduce you to the festive spirit around the old city, with a first look at the decked up golden temple. The streets are abuzz with visitors by this time and a simple walk through the city’s streets will help you understand its history better. The Amritsar Heritage Walk takes you on a short but informative tour of Amritsar’s thriving food, architecture and historic aspects, while you walk in the criss-crossing narrow streets close to the Golden temple. While you roam the walled city, strains of the Akhand Path can be heard from the Golden Temple; this starts 48 hours before Gurpurab and goes on without stopping.
After the walk, you’ll be just in time for the Sound and Light show at the Jallianwala Bagh that lies in the heart of the old city, a short walk from the Golden Temple. The heart wrenching story of the massacre is worth the poignant hour spent. You can later lighten your mood with a hearty lassi and dinner at some of the oldest restaurants in this area. Close the day early to wake up at the break of dawn next morning.
The town stirs into action as early as 3:00am on Gurpurab, when long queues snake in an organised way around the temple to watch the Granth Sahib being carried from its resting place to the main temple sanctum. A sombre procession marks the birthday celebrations of the saint as hypnotic hymns and songs surround the already peaceful environs. Since this is a special day, catching a glimpse of the Granth Sahib takes longer than usual. Expect to stay here for a few hours. Tea and breakfast is served at the communal lunch hall. The white marble floored Golden Temple is dotted with devotees from around the world, all immersed in prayer.
Keep the afternoon to rest and eat at the hotel itself, so you can catch up on lost sleep from the morning.
Use this evening to visit the Golden Temple again to see it bathed in the evening light, and a number of people hanging around the marble corridors, singing songs in praise of the saint. The time spent here is extremely therapeutic. Many people take a dip in the cool water that surrounds the temple. Queues continue to meander inside the sanctum and the kada parshad is dished out in dollops outside. Sitting on the steps of the temple is a great way of soaking it all in.
Post dinner, leave via the overnight train from Amritsar.