Amritsar, historically also known as Ramdaspur and colloquially as Ambarsar, is the second-most populous city in the Indian state of Punjab. It is also the centre of Sikhism and the site of the Sikhs’ principal place of worship—the Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple. Amritsar was founded in 1577 by Ram Das, fourth Guru of the Sikhs, on a site granted by the Mughal emperor Akbar.

Popular places to visit in Amritsar:

The Golden Temple

The definitive top attraction in Amritsar is the Golden Temple, a two-story structure covered in real gold and surrounded by a 5.1-meter-deep manmade lake. But not merely a tourist site, this legendary religious shrine is one of the most sacred places in the world for Sikhs, many of whom make a pilgrimage to the temple at least once in their lifetimes. The Golden Temple is an inspiring place, and one that you can get personally involved with, if you wish. You can volunteer at the Golden Temple Kitchen, and bond with locals as you prepare lunch.

Wagah Border Ceremony

A 31-kilometer drive west from the city center of Amritsar will take you to the border of Pakistan, where a curious border-closing ceremony takes place at sunset every afternoon. Full of pomp and circumstance, the Beating Retreat Ceremony involves an ostentatious display of goose-stepping guards from the Indian Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers saluting each other, lowering and folding their flags, and closing the gates at the border.

Jallianwala Bagh

Tucked behind the Golden Temple, tourists will find another important site in Amritsar: Jallianwala Bagh. The public garden memorializes the estimated 1,500 people who were killed or injured when British soldiers were ordered to fire on peaceful protesters who were demanding the release of imprisoned leaders of the Indian Independence Movement in 1919. You can still see bullet holes in the walls that hundreds of victims hid behind in attempt to dodge the gunfire. The memorial site's Martyrs' Gallery displays the portraits of important figures of Indian independence. You can also check out a humbling exhibition on the victims and see an eternal flame.