Amritsar On a Budget
SightsThe Golden Temple (also known as Harmandir Sahib) is a must-see on any visit to the holy city of Amritsar. The complex is the main attraction of the city and the most important religious place to the Sikhs, always full of thousands of pilgrims from all over India. Visitors are required to cover their head and remove their shoes as they explore the holy place. Just as beautiful at night, the temple is lit up after dark, reflected in the glimmering waters in the pool below. Some main parts of the complex include the Ghanta Ghar (main entrance gate and clock tower), Amrit Sarovar (pool of water that surrounds and reflects the temple), Harmandir Sahib (the temple itself), Akal Takht (where the highest council of Sikhs sits), and the Central Sikh Museum (which holds a gallery of paintings and guru knick-knacks).
Just a five minute walk from the temple is Jallianwala Bagh - a public garden with a memorial for the 1919 Amritsar massacre where British Indian Army soldiers opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women, and children. A sad but important piece of history, the bullet holes can be seen on the walls and adjoining buildings.
Other attractions include the labyrinth-like Hindu cave temple called Mata Temple, Durgiana Temple, and the Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
NeighborhoodsIn Amritsar, the temple complex marks the center of the old walled city which has narrow streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th century. Amritsar is also a unique example of an introverted planning system with areas called Katras (residential units designed for defense). With distinctive architecture, bustling markets, and plenty of street food to sample it is easy to pass the days away exploring the sights and sounds of Amritsar. The main commercial activities of Amritsar include tourism, carpets and fabrics, farm produce, handicrafts, and other trades.
ActivitiesMany visitors flock to India to experience its lively culture, cuisine, history, and architecture. Amritsar has much to contribute to that goal. While some may choose to explore the sights at their own pace, others who prefer a more guided experience might decide on one of the many tours available in the city. Some of these tours include a village tour which gives insight into traditional ways of life and culture, food tours which open the palette to the local culinary scene, and eco tours on wildlife. There are also plenty of walking tours which take visitors all over the city from heritage sites to bustling bazaars. Wandering the streets of this holy city can be an adventure in itself - a great way to immerse oneself in the local culture and become acquainted with all of its hidden gems.
Food and DiningCuisine in Amritsar follows the Punjabi tradition, which largely consists of both vegetarian and meat dishes full of rich, buttery flavors with a minimal use of spices. Due to Hindu religious beliefs, beef is a banned item which is neither consumed nor sold in Punjab, so most meat dishes consist of lamb or chicken. Many of these are served with rice, basmati rice being the indigenous variety of Punjab. Breads like naan, chapatti, and paratha are also commonly served with meals. As far as regional specialties go, some popular items include things like sarson da saag, tandoori chicken, shami kebab, and makki di roti. Sarson ka saag is a popular vegetable dish in the Punjab regions of India and made from mustard leaves (sarson) and spices. Tandoori chicken is usually prepared roasted with yogurt and spices, taking its name from the cylindrical clay over called a tandoor in which it is traditionally cooked. Shami kebab is composed of a small patty of minced or ground meat with ground chickpeas, egg, and spices, while makki di roti is a kind of unleavened corn bread. There is also a popular yogurt drink called lassi.
TransportationBy plane, the city is served by an international airport called Raja Sansi International Airport (a.k.a. Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport). It is located about 11 kilometers northwest of the city center, and operates 11 domestic and 7 international flights. The airport also serves neighboring areas of Punjab, Western districts of Himachal Pradesh, and Southern districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
By train, India has one of the longest rail networks in the world. Operations are run by Indian Railways with stations located at just about every major destination. Amritsar Junction railway station is the main stop that serves the city. Trains can be booked online, at the train station, or at the small booking office in the Golden Temple Complex.