Amritsari kulcha, The Golden Temple, and The Wagah Border – these are the three most common things that pop into your head when one thinks about Amritsar. My 24 hours in Amritsar were power packed with lots of unexpected finds and the expected overwhelming feeling. 24 hours in the city were power packed, find an hourly breakdown below –
Amritsar is well connected by train, road, and flight, you can choose any according to the time you have on your hands. The easiest one is the Amritsar Shatabdi, which starts from New Delhi at 07.20 and reaches Amritsar at 13.45 (which is the one I had opted for). The flight is of course much faster and economical if you book well in advance.
Commuting within the city – The best way to save time commuting is to pre-book a private car to take you places.
We reached the railway station at around 14.00 and straightaway headed to Kesar da dhaba for a hearty lunch. Kesar da dhaba is infamous for butter laden dal, laccha parantha, and stuffed Amritsari kulcha. Each thali comes with choley, raita, achar, salad, a HUGE bowl of makhani dal with a desi ghee and mirchi tadka and your choice of bread. We tried the buttery laccha paranthas and stuffed aloo kulchas. The multi-layered parantha is crispy and laden generously with butter making it a satiating but a very heavy meal.
Stop 2 – Wagah Border
The celebratory ceremony happens each day with thousands and thousands pouring in every day to be a part of it. The ceremony starts at 16.45 during summer and lasts for about 45 minutes. The best way to attend the ceremony is to get passes so that you can sit comfortably. Also, bags are not allowed because of security reasons but you can carry phones and cameras. And you might want to buy some water from within the premise because of the scorching heat. The shouting in unison and the sheer joy of watching much talked about parade in action.
Stop 3 – Punjab State’s War Memorial & Museum
We spotted a huge sword on our way back from the Wagah Border and thought of popping in. The Museum a couple of exhibits showcasing the war history of Punjab, with aircrafts, naval ships and more. They also have an upcoming 7D theatre.
Entry fee – 100INR per person
Stop 4 – Gobindgarh Fort
This is one of the most recent additions to the Amritsar itinerary and is strongly recommended to anybody visiting the city. The newly restored Gobindgarh Fort boasts of the history of Punjab, the wars fought and the story of Maharaj Ranjit Singh. They have a few key highlights – a light and sound show projected on the fort itself, a 7D theatre narrating the story of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a museum with his personal coin collection, the replica of the Kohinoor, rides, food stalls and more. The light and sound show and the 7D theatre is a must, must do, and is sure to leave you enthralled.
Entry fee – They have different packages according to the activities you opt for ranging from 150-600INR
Stop 4 – Golden Temple/ Palki Sahib
After retiring for the night, be sure to start the next day early to catch the absolutely serene ceremony of the establishment of Guru Granth Sahib from Palki Sahib. The chants in unison, the peace of the crack of dawn and the whole place filled with the subtle smell of roses made this one of the most peaceful experiences. We returned again for the darshan and the holy langar. The queues are tiresome and long, so keep an hours window before you actually get inside. And don’t forget to climb up right to the top to the golden gumbad. They also house the world’s biggest kitchen and the volunteers meticulously keep the place running – from old men and women to kids, anybody can go and be a part of this. The Golden Temple also houses a Museum on Sikh history with artefacts and paintings.
Stop 5 – GurdasRam Jalebi Wala
The complex around The Golden Temple has been revamped into a very clean high street. But of course there are some shops that have retained the old world charm. GurdasRam Jalebi Wala is easy to spot with the air around smelling of sweets and desi ghee. We chomped on the delicious, piping hot jalebi.
The complex around The Golden Temple also houses Durgiana Temple, a very old Shanidev Mandir, Rajdhani Chaat wala (open only during evenings) and Brother’s Dhaba.
Stop 6 – Jalianwala Bagh
Walking distance from The Golden Temple is the reminder of the brutality of the British Raj, The Jalianwala Bagh has now been converted into a lush garden by the authorities with a memorial (that you might have seen in the movie, Phillauri) It also still houses the well where many jumped and lost their lives, the bullet marks and now a museum as a tribute to those who lost their lives here.
Stop 7 – Brijwasi Chaat Wala
Located slightly away from the main attractions, this place is worth the drive. The band tikki aka Bun Tikki is the most selling with a crunch flat bun, squashed, crispy aloo tikki, served with a sweet tamarind chutney and mint chutney. Also tried the dahi puri which was stuffed with boiled kale chane , topped with crunchy sev, dahi and lots of messy chutney.
Although the land of Kulchas has many notable meaty joints as well, which sadly I could not try during my short trip but would definitely like to mention Pappi di Hatti as one of the places which I missed on. They serve Bija kulcha – the regular kulcha completely immersed in choley and then topped with chutney and amla. They usually run out of their limited stock after sundown, so be sure to catch them in time. Although, we did chomp their desi Chinese and found it pretty good.
Will plan the next visit in a cooler weather to chop on more buttery kulchas, tikkas and curries.