Amritsar, historically also known as Rāmdāspur and colloquially as Ambarsar, is a city in north-western India in the Indian state of Punjab. It is situated near Pakistan and the Wagah border. Being the home of the picturesque Golden Temple, It is a popular religious and spiritual destination. It is also very well known for its local food and subsequently various food trails that tourists can cover to get a glimpse into Amritsari food. Amritsar has been witness to some of the most historical events around Partition and houses the Jallianwala bagh too. It is also the birth place of eminent personalities like guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru of Sikhs and of course contemporary celebrities like Kapil Sharma, Chef Vikas Khanna to name a few. 🙂
A lot of people indulge in shopping in Amritsar for local handwoven Phulkari (embroidery technique from Punjab) dupattas and suits or Punjabi Vadi, Paapad & Achar. Hence Amritsar in short – combines all the attractions of a tourist destination. Spiritualism, Diplomacy between two countries, History, Food, Shopping – what more can one ask for.
So when Vistara Airlines offered to fly me down to Amritsar for an all expense paid trip , I was quite excited. I was to spend 48 hours in Amritsar and cover all possible things that can be done in Amritsar in 2 days. Amritsar is well equipped with world class hotels. Vistara Airlines had made arrangements for our stay at Taj Swarna – a brand new property, not too far from the airport. After a welcome ceremony & quick hi-tea, we rested for a bit in our nice well equipped rooms. In the evening we had a diya lighting ritual. After dinner where the entire group interacted with each other, we awaited the Amritsar itinerary to follow in the next 2 days.
Here are a few things you can do in Amritsar in 48 hours.
Visit the Golden Temple
The main attraction of Amritsar, the magnificent, soothing and calming Golden Temple, is always full of tourists at all times. You can visit it any time but the best times to visit are early morning and late night. Both offer different glimpses of the temple – one of the day and one of the night. The road leading to Golden temple has now become pedestrian only and that area looks pretty much like that in a world class city! Cobble stone paths, fancy lamposts, with flower baskets! Uniform colours, patterns and name plates on all shops .. and VERY clean. Before visiting the Golden temple, keep in mind the fact that your head has to be covered at all times. So one needs to carry a scarf/stole or handkerchief with one. It is also mandatory to take off shoes AND socks both, dip your feet in a pool of water and then walk in to the Golden temple.
Once in, you can get into the queue to visit the sanctum sanctorum. If you reach early enough, you may even get a spot to SIT inside for as long as you wish. People can be usually seen meditating there or just reveling in the very tangible calming effect of the place . I did the darshan through the VIP line, thanks to arrangements made by Vistara Airlines. On exiting one can have Kada Prasad. If you carry an extra box with you, you can get some extra helpings. It is worth the effort.
Over a 100,000 visitors are fed every day at the Golden temple. You can be one of them, or you can help in one of the tasks involved with serving food to such visitors.
Volunteers making rotis for visitors
Visit the Jalianwala Bagh
Right outside the Golden temple are various places of interest. One of them is the Jalianwala Bagh which witnessed one of the most horrific massacres that human kind has seen. It is now a memorial with a garden. One can see bullet holes in walls there as well as the well in to which many people jumped to escape firing. A solemn place but one worth visiting.
Memorial at Jalianwala Bagh
Walk along Heritage Street
This is the same road that leads to both Jalianwla Bagh as well as the Golden temple. It also has some other smaller temples as well. The place houses various shops for Phulkari, footwear, eatables as well sumptuous street food.
Walk along heritage street
Shopping at Amritsar
You can visit markets like Hall Gate and Katra Jaimal Singh for punjabi juttis and stunning phulkari dupattas.
Eating out at Amritsar
Amritsar is one of India’s top most food destinations! One must visit the iconic Bharawan da Dhaba, opposite Town Hall, Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner (Basant Nagar, 21 A, Near Madaan Hospital, Majitha Road). Also try Pal da Dhaba (Hathi Gate) near Golden temple or Kesar da Dhaba. The heritage street outside Golden temple also houses a number of eateries to give you a taste of the local cuisine right after the temple visit. You can also visit Surjit Food Plaza which is popular with celebrities from all over the world. Kachoris, Samosas, Matthi, Firni, Kheer, Jalebi, Amritsari fish tikka, Amritsari kulcha, chur chur naan, sarson da saag, makki di roti, various kinds of lassi to top everything up, and a whole lot more can be indulged in.
witness the Beating Retreat at the Attari–Wagah border
Leave for the Wagah border well in time to reach there by 3:30pm to get good seats. There is a long walk after a point where vehicles are not allowed any further. You can not carry any bags to the border. Anything you carry has to be in your hands. After security check, you can grab seats at a vantage point to get a good glimpse of the fanfare and the ceremony. I had access to VIP seats thanks to my hosts – Taj Swarna & Vistara Airlines. The parade is held with much fanfare on both sides of the border. Patriotic songs are played interspersed by slogans like “Bharat mata kee jai“, “Jai Hind” and “Vande Mataram“ on our side of course. BSF soldiers from India & their counterparts on the other side, put on a display that tries to show them outdoing each other at every step. However beyond the ceremony, the same people are amiable and exchange sweets on important festivals. Thanks to my hosts, I got access to a part of the border where I could stand within a few inches of the border! A Pakistani ranger and an Indian counterpart stand within 3 feet of each other guarding their respective sections. Beyond this spot, only green fields can be seen, reminding one that borders are ONLY man made. I was jealous of the birds flying across both countries and even stray dogs crossing borders casually throughout the time I was there! It was quite amusing to see how humans have imposed these restrictions on themselves.
Dog crossing from India to Pakistan
Beating the retreat at Wagah border
Beating the retreat at Wagah border
Beating the retreat
Places to Stay in Amritsar
There are a lot of world class hotels that provide comfortable accommodation in Amritsar, not too far off from all the attractions. I stayed at Taj Swarna since they were my hosts for this trip. My stay was very comfortable and the staff very amiable.
The lovely Taj Swarna
Now that you know what all can be done in Amritsar in 48 hours, what are you waiting for? Book a flight & your stay at a hotel and get going!