Amritsar is synonymous with the gleam of the Golden Temple. The gilded gurdwara rises over a vast pool of holy water in the heart of the vibrant Punjabi city. However, while the Sri Harmandir Sahib is a must-visit on a luxury tour of north India, it’s not the only place worth visiting while here. From culture to cuisine, these are our favourite things to do in Amritsar.
Attend the Palki ceremony
One of our top seven spiritual experiences in India, the Golden Temple is infused with a very special atmosphere. At no time is this better witnessed than at the pre-dawn Palki ceremony. Accompanied by bugles and devotional singing, the Sikh holy book is carried in a gilded palanquin from the Akal Takht inner chamber, where it has rested for the night, into the main sanctum of the Golden Temple. The procession is repeated in reverse at night. Time your visit to include the Palki ceremony—it is unequivocally the most exhilarating thing to do in Amritsar.
Stay at the Taj Swarna
Luxury is laid on thick at Taj Swarna, whose five stars nearly out-gleam its reverent neighbour. Flanked by a shock of emerald lawns, it’s a cool step back from Amritsar’s bustle. The service is immaculate at Taj Swarna, with yoga classes on the deck to stretch out from a long flight and thoughtful ‘breakfasts to go’ for those wishing to attend the dawn Palki.
Join the langar for lunch
Lunch is served at the Golden Temple—one of the most atmospheric dining experiences you’re likely to enjoy on an Indian holiday. Dishing up approximately 50,000 hot meals every day to worshippers and pilgrims, don’t miss the opportunity to help out in the kitchen. Roll some rotis or chop some onions and then take a seat in the lines for a plate piled high with delicious dhal and rice.
Witness the Wagah Border Ceremony
Wagah is a village that sits on the Radcliffe Line, equidistant from Amritsar and Lahore. Come sunset, the border here between India and Pakistan is closed with the ceremonial lowering of the flag. A daily ritual since 1959, the 45-minute procession is accompanied by a stirring rehearsal of the national anthem.
Soak up the Serenity at Jallianwala Bagh
The site of the 1919 Amritsar massacre, when the British opened fire on a peaceful demonstration, Jallianwala Bagh has a sombre and moving past. This is duly commemorated with an eternal flame, with bullet holes in the walls a harrowing reminder. A stone’s throw from the Golden Temple, this walled garden is one of the more peaceful things to do in Amritsar. Take a moment to soak up the tranquillity on a gentle walk around the lawns.
Tuck into Amritsari fish
Not just famous for its gleaming temple, the city’s culinary offering is crowned with the famed Amritsari fish. These crispy nuggets deep-fried in gram flour batter and spiced with masala are dangerously moreish. Ask anyone: Amritsari fish is the best thing to eat in Amritsar. The famous Kulcha Land is where to find it, alongside some very delicious takes on the flat bread, of course.
Feature images © Taj Hotels; MasterLu/iStock; rchphoto/iStock; semenovp/iStock; saiko3p/iStock; Pavliha/iStock