Why don’t more foreigners visit the city of Amritsar during their travels around India? This is a question that I have yet to understand as, in my opinion, this one city, which is located some 450 kilometers (270 miles) northwest of Delhi, close to the border with Pakistan, offers an experience that is difficult to match anywhere else in the country.
Once in Amritsar, just walk through the main entrance of the Golden Temple – the holiest temple for the Sikh religion – and try not to be blown away by the structure before you. And try not to be blown away by the beautiful mix of colors all around you as well, by the traditional music being played over the entire complex and by the happy and friendly Indians strolling along the marble walkway that surrounds the main temple, locals who are typically from the countryside and who have rarely, if ever, seen a foreigner.
These locals will ask to take photos with you, their children will shake your hand, conversations will be had and smiles will constantly be exchanged. You will feel like a celebrity and you won’t want the experience to come to an end.
Luckily, you can spend hours inside the Golden Temple without ever getting bored of the unique atmosphere, the nonstop interactions and the awe-inspiring golden shrine that sticks out into the middle of the man-made lake. You can even eat a free meal at the langar (pilgrimage dining hall) and you can also spend a night or two at one of the temple’s gurdwaras (pilgrim guesthouses).
The temple is open twenty-four hours per day and part of the highlight is seeing the complex in different shades of light and with different crowds inside, which range from thousands upon thousands of pilgrims filling up the interior to just a handful of people sitting around enjoying the peace and quiet in the late night and early morning hours.
Despite being a little out of the way when compared to other destinations in India, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything but positive stories from travelers who do make the trip to Amritsar. And that is why I have visited this destination myself on almost all of my trips to India over the years and why I made sure to include this city on my current Welcome to India tour itinerary as well.
It’s also why I encourage you to make the trip to Amritsar and the Golden Temple during your own Indian adventure, whenever that trip may be!
Have you been to Amritsar? How was your experience? If you haven’t been, what do you think?