India Unexplored: Architecture and Spirituality at Amritsar

With the history of the Sikhs, architecture, and the city’s status as a hotbed of Punjabi culture, Amritsar is a place where travelers can delve deeper.

Amritsar is hardly an obscure India destination – certainly not for the million people who call the city home. But between the history of the Sikhs, extraordinary architecture, and the city’s status as a hotbed of Punjabi culture, Amritsar is becoming a place where travelers can delve a little deeper.

ABOVE: Golden Temple at night.

The city is said to have begun with the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das, in the late 16th century, and still today the city is steeped in the heritage of its founding. Important for travelers is Amritsar’s most popular sight: Harmandir Sahib, more popularly known as the Golden Temple. An open house temple to both men and women of all faiths, this is the most sacred pilgrimage site to all Sikhs, a gurdwara with a history that reaches back to 1577. The Sikhs have long eschewed the caste system and are noted for feeding the thousands of pilgrims who travel here.

Other must-see sights in Amritsar include Durgiana Temple, Akal Takht, and timeless works that have endured the city’s tumultuous past. However, one of the most fascinating cultural sights sits just outside of Amritsar at Wahga Gate: the famed border between India and Pakistan, where visitors can watch the curious spectacle of the Wagha border ceremony.

ABOVE: Feeding inside the Golden Temple.

Colorful, elaborate, and fascinating, every evening two hours before sunset visitors can witness a show of one of the most intense political rivalries in Asia, ending in a coordinated lowering of each nation’s flag.

It is at this meeting of worlds that Amritsar finds itself, a growing travel destination at the crux of Punjabi culture, heritage, and cuisine.

ABOVE: Wagha Gate ceremony.

“As the home of the Sikh religion, it is extremely spiritual and every Sikh person wants to do a pilgrimage there at some point in their lives. The city is famous for the golden temple but in fact there is so much more and many gorgeous temples,” says Remote Lands CEO and co-founder. “There is a huge kitchen and dining rooms and every day they serve free food to something like 100,000 people. All work is done by volunteers and I volunteered myself making and serving the food. It is all a very moving experience and I am so impressed with the Sikhs who are so kind and generous to everyone and unlike the rest of India do not have a caste system.”

Where to Stay

Without doubt the finest accommodation in Amritsar is the Taj Swarna. The ultra-luxe traveler may want to avail themselves of the Presidential Suite, featuring a city view, 173 square meters of space, and a private balcony.

Fine diners will find much to enjoy at the Grand Trunk, which enjoys a multi-cuisine menu and is an ideal place to try some signature Amritsar flavors; single malts and signature cocktails can be had nearby at The Peg. For lovers of Chinese cuisine, the al fresco dining at The Chinese Room is sure to delight.

Be it dining, wellness at the Jiva Spa, or wandering around Punjab, travelers are unlikely to find anything approaching the Taj Swarna in Amritsar. This hotel lives up to the Taj brand quality, with elegant traditional design and five-star service.