Before planning this trip, I had visited Amritsar once and quite liked the city, there is a sense of calmness despite huge rush of people visiting the place. However during earlier visit I didn’t go inside Golden temple and that was something I really wanted. So the planning begin 🙂
Best way to reach Amritsar from Delhi is Shatabdi, well timed and comfortable. There are many other trains if you cannot get Shatabdi ticket. I don’t see any reason to travel by bus unless all trains have stopped running ;). Also I will not recommend Amritsar visit over weekend if you want to visit Golden Temple, queues will be quite long. If you are a Solo traveler, stay in Hostel, there are cheap nearby and stay is good enough. There are battery rickshaw available everywhere which can help you commute around else you can also walk if you want. Amritsar is known for its food especially Amritsari Kulcha however I will not recommend “Kesar Dhaba” or “Bharawa da Dhaba”, both overcrowded and nothing really for taste. I would say try any local dhaba shop and you will get the flavour. When you visit “Kesar Dhaba”, you are greeted by narrow lanes, then lots of crowd. They will put you on shared tables if you are fine with it otherwise you wait for proper tables. Dal was quite bland and parantha was dripping with ghee, I was totally disappointed. I am sure this place was good once but it has lost it glory for sure.
I loved taking stroll in the night from Townhall road towards Golden temple, traffic will not be much once you cross Town Hall road, you will be greeted with mild breeze, eating joints near partition museums, ice cream vendors, other people walking along or sitting on benches nearby. As you move closer to Golden Temple, the hustle-bustle increases but there is still calmness unless you enter narrow lanes. Golden Temple night view is amazing and highly recommended. I would strongly recommend Partition museum, don’t rush, read the text written and you will get an idea about the extent of tragic events which unfolded.
Best to time visit Golden temple is early evening as its gets late crowd build up. It took me around 1.5 hour to reach the temple sanctum, generally people stand peacefully in queue despite such large crowd however people also try of bypass queue sometimes with genuine reason (having kids or elderly accompanying them) but many people I felt were just trying to bypass queue. If you have kids then try to stay in rightmost queue, sewadars (helpers) will allow kids or people unwell to a separate queue. One thing to remember is that once inside that temple your head must always be covered else people can get very upset or even angry. You can get head scarf at entry which you need to put back at exit else you can also buy from shops outside.
As you come out of Temple sanctum, at the end of exit path, you will get Kadha prasad. It is a religious offering and tastes amazing. After exiting, you can sit around the sarovar (water body around the temple), however please respectful and don’t put feet in sarovar else sewadars will nudge you and ask you to remove feet.
After Golden temple, next on the list was “Beating retreat ceremony at Attari or Wagah border”. Attari/Wagah are same place just that on Indian side its called Attari and on Pakistan side its called Wagah. This is a very popular ceremony and must attend if you are travelling to Amritsar. Ceremony is jointly conducted by security forces on both sides of border. If you are going on weekend then be prepared for very large crowds, long queues and parking mess (I mean it!!). I will not suggest to drive on your own given the parking mess better go for a rental, also there is nothing great about the drive from Amritsar to Attari. If you have elderly/women/children with you then better go early to avoid crowds. Crowd control is very poor and stampede is not a distant possibility over the weekend especially if you have to go to upper stands via stairs. Lower stands might give you a closer view to Indian side however upper stands give you a view of both sides of border. Also they invite women/children to dance while playing songs if you are sitting on lower stands. It can get very hot if its a sunny day, so you will need water. There will be vendors inside selling water/cold drinks.
All said and done, you will forget crowd, parking, heat once the ceremony begins. Atmosphere is electrifying over the weekend, I simply loved it. Due to heat mobile phone may stop functioning properly, so carry multiple phones or have some way to keep it cool. You can checkout playlist around the ceremony: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXPAHNtK4aa2WMiuszpw3ecEPwbVdYD2W
After Amritsar, I headed to Dharamshala/Mcleodganj for the next part of my trip, will be covering that part in my next blog 🙂
If you want to head back to Delhi from Amritsar then again go for Shatabdi train, it leaves around 5pm. You will have a comfortable ride back home !!