Exploring Punjab’s Vibrant Gem: Best things to do in Amritsar (2 Day Itinerary)

Last Updated on December 20, 2023 by Christine Kaaloa

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Best things to do in Amritsar in 48 hours (Pic: Lassi seller)


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Was this India too? I was overcome with a warm and romantic feeling of relief…

Amritsar held a lovely, well-maintained, proud distinction over other Indian cities I’d been to… layers cleaner too! Well-paved roads, an organized city layout and the stunning jewel of the GoldenTemple. In this post I’ll share the best things to do in Amritsar in 48 hours…

Coming from the hill stations of Dharamsala and McLeodganj

As I sat in the back of a Toto car humming yoga chants to myself, I watch Dharamsala’s plush mountain valleys transform into arid Punjabi farmland, Bhangra beats and turban-coiffed Sikhs on motorbikes.

A month-long escape in the Himalayan hill stations exposed me to a calmer, greener and fresher India. Friendlier and more relaxed too!  Having found a safe cocoon in Dharamsala with my new yoga family, I didn’t want to leave, so when my friends invited me to visit Amritsar, I gratefully accepted. I was leaving behind my Indo-Tibetan community, my yoga teacher friends, my bout with Delhi Belly and was returning to “India” again.  I knew I had to be on my toes. I’d for sure be dealing with harassing touts, potential scams, dodging dust pollution, noise and the scent of public urinals. India has a frenetic energy about it, which can overwhelm.

Within six hours, we arrived in the proud city of Amritsar.

Read Guide to Planning your first Trip  in India

What are physical attributes of being Sikh?

I once had a Sikh driver -Khul- who told me there were certain physical and superficial attributes by which you could notice a Sikh person. Most people think that being Sikh is just about wearing a turban, but it gets down to their faith and beliefs. Sikhs were once known as one of India’s fierce warriors. Sikh men aren’t allowed to cut their hair or use a razor to shave. It is a symbol of their faith and of God’s perfection. They must comb it twice with a special comb (Kanga) and tie it in a knot at the top. Although times are changing and many youths cut their hair, due to social pressures to conform, etc…

This is not a deep dive into Sikhism, but I thought this was interesting. Originally, to be considered Sikh you must follow the Five K’s (here’s what Wikipedia says):

  1. Kesh – uncut hair
  2. Kanga – a wooden comb
  3. Kara – a metal bracelet.
  4. Kachera – a specific style of cotton underwear
  5. Kirpan– a strapped curved sword
    sikh driver kul, what is sikh
    sikh driver kul

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Best things to do in Amritsar in 48 hours

Day 1

1. The Golden Temple (aka Harmandir Sahib)

Annually, the Golden Temple competes with the Taj Mahal in tourism, attracting pilgrims from all over the world. Ever since I’d seen a photo of the Golden Temple hanging in a small hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant in Hawaii, I wanted to see it. Moreso than the Taj Mahal. Its stunning golden beauty that illuminates both, night and day and it is there to elevate everyone. It’s not just lovely architecture to admire and do selfies with, but it is there to inspire, give hope, give meaning.

Surrounded by water but connected to land by a bridge, you can spend hours listening to the chants over loudspeaker as pilgrims come to take a dip in the waters.  There are restaurants and  hotels near the Golden Temple. The temple also offers free food to visitors, so you can eat there.

Tip: Take a private guided tour or a two day city tour there so you learn more about the Sikh practices and Punjabi community

If you’re adventurous, you can board at the temple amongst devotees from all over the country. The temple houses a few hotels and dorm accommodations at the temple.

Tip: The dorms are not for the faint of heart, but for the hardcore backpacker. They looked crowded and a little… grotty.  But it’s definitely a version of an ashram if you were there to explore spirituality.

Tip: Arrive at the Golden Temple either early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds and soak in its tranquil ambiance.

Read : Pilgrimmage to Amritsar’s Golden Jewel

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What to do and see in Amritsar in 36 hours: Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar’s Golden temple

2. Experience langar

Langar is a communal meal that is taken at a Sikh temple like the Golden Temple. Sikhism is very welcoming to any person in need of nourishment, despite religion, status or caste. They welcome anyone to freely partake in their communal meal at their kitchen.

You are also welcome to volunteer at their kitchen- cleaning dishes, helping prepare meals, serving, meals. You are also allowed to volunteer in other temple maintenance duties. Thus, Sikh temples are very clean and orderly as their volunteers help maintain the temple grounds, sweeping stairways, polishing water faucets, etc… Although Sikhs are historically known to be great warriors, Sikhism seems to be a very compassionate faith.

Langar experience: Eating at the temple
Langar experience: Eating at the temple

3. Jallianwala Bagh

A short walk from the Golden Temple is Jallianwala Bagh, a poignant reminder of India’s struggle for freedom. Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden with lots of greenery, but what makes it special is its history. Back in 1919, during the time when India was under British rule, a terrible event called the Amritsar massacre happened here. Many innocent people were killed by British soldiers, and it’s a sad but important part of India’s history. Today, Jallianwala Bagh is like a memorial to remember those who lost their lives and to understand the importance of freedom and peace. While it may not be the happiest place to visit, it can help us learn about the past and appreciate the importance of respecting human rights and valuing peace.

Operating hours: 6:30 am to 7:30 pm.  Admission: Free.

4. Partition Museum

Gain insight into the history of the partition of India at the Partition Museum, located within the Town Hall. The Partition Museum tells the story of a significant event in India’s history called the Partition. In 1947, India was divided into two separate countries, India and Pakistan. This separation led to a lot of changes, and many families were affected. At the museum, you’ll see real-life stories, pictures, and belongings of the people who went through this challenging time. It’s like stepping back in time and understanding how people lived during those days.

Operating hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (Closed on Mondays) Admission: INR 250 for foreigners.

5. Mata temple

By far, one of the craziest and most unique temples I’ve been to in all of India -aside from Bikaner’s Karni Mata Rat Temple–  is the Mata temple. This is a MUST if you’re in Amritsar! If the Golden temple were your first choice, this should be your second. It was by far my favorite thing to do in Amritsar.

This “labyrinth” temple is devoted to the Hindu female saint, Lali Devi.  If you’re a woman looking to get pregnant, this is where you’d want to pay your respects.

When you walk through this temple it’s like taking a journey through different houses and god and goddess sectors. You will walk up and down staircases, duck through low arches, wind through corridors and wade through a pool of water (yes, crazy!) It’s a bit of a maze, but it is sure to keep you entertained all the way.

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6. Shri Durgiana temple

Durga is the mother of all goddesses and the Shri Durgiana temple is dedicated to her. The temple is a mere 20 minute walk from the Golden Temple and as a sister neighbor, it resembles the Golden Temple. The temple is set in the middle of a large pool of water and is quite beautiful.

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A one year old boy gets his ritual and blessing

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7. Receive holy blessings

Many temples you visit, offer some type of blessing from priests. Sometimes, you’re expect to donate a small fee, sometimes, it’s for free.  Either way, doesn’t hurt to get a little extra luck from the HIindu gods. In some cases you’ll get a red tikka dot on your forehead and a prassad (or Indian sweet). But I think this blessing I got of head tie and flower lei is more of a Punjabi blessing!

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.Read Essential packing list for your trip to India

Day 2

8. India-Pakistan Wagah Border Ceremony

Bold, strong, colorful,… and slightly crazy. You have to see it to believe it and when you do, you’ll be glad you went for the chuckle.

If you know a bit of India’s history, you know they have a fierce rivalry with Pakistan.  Each day, there’s a ceremony at the India-Pakistan border (Wagah border ceremony), when India and Pakistan open their gates, lower their flags, give a brusque handshake and retreat as stolid enemies.  But in reality, it’s like a showdown, with a lot of Fosse kicks (Bob Fosse would be so proud), aggressive stand-offs, stomps and abrupt thumbing as each side shows off their greatest countdown to sunset.

Tip: When visiting the Wagah Border, carry valid identification and reach at least 1-2 hours before the ceremony starts to avoid traffic delays. Take a guided tour to learn more about the spectacle and importance.

Here is the version of the Wagah Border Ceremony from the Pakistan side.

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9.  Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum

Delve into history at the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum, which showcases artifacts, paintings, and memorabilia from the life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab.

Operating hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Closed on Mondays), Admission: INR 250 for foreigners.

What to Eat in Amritsar

10. Do your own Amritsar Food Walk

 Explore the city’s culinary delights on a food walk through the bustling streets of Amritsar. There are street food vendors selling lime soda drinks, to jelebis, to peanut snacks on the streets of Amritsar. Picking up snacks along the way is always highly advised. But you want to be safe too. Read tips for eating street food and not get sick! Always make sure the food is prepared before you. Make sure the food is cooked before you and is hot and not sitting out. If it’s been out for a while, with flies buzzing around it, it’s best to avoid

Traditional Punjabi dishes to try: Amritsari Kulcha (below), Chole Bhature, Lassi, and the Phirni for dessert. Read Decoding Indian food

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IMG 3770Jalebi maker

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Amritsari Kulcha. leavened bread from the Punjabi cookbooks.  You can eat them with chickpea curry.  Photo: Creative Commons


How to Get Around in Amritsar

Auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, and app-based cab services like Ola and Uber ride share apps are readily available for short distances. Taxis can be hired for longer journeys. Public buses also offer an economical way to get around.

Getting to Amritsar

From Delhi, by train, Amritsar Shatabdi will get you there in six hours.  You can also take an overnight bus, but it will take around 10 hours. You can book your train or bus easily online  or book through an Indian agent. You can also do so through 12GoAsia (whom I used in Thailand):

Powered by 12Go Asia system


Where to Stay in Amritsar

Check out Hotels near the Golden Temple


Amritsar’s Golden Temple (see blog info)

Backpacker’s Nest is a super affordable and welcoming hostel where you can meet fellow travelers. It’s perfectly located 700 meter walk from Golden Temple and the city’s main market.


Hotel Hong Kong Inn is a boutique hotel that’ll make you feel like you’re in the heart of India! It’s just a stone’s throw away from the Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh.

Luxury Hotels in Amritsar

Taj Swarna Amritsar The Taj has had a reputation over the years as a top-notch Indian hotel brand. Taj Swarna Amritsar is a luxurious retreat in the heart of Amritsar and yet a bit further in walking distance than the other hotels on this list. Golden Temple is 5.5km away. But it’s still got a great location and it’s the Taj!


What are your best things to do in Amritsar in 48 hours?


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