Tie a scarf over your head, take off your shoes, and enter the most holy of Sikh shrines at the magnificent Golden Temple. Known officially as the Harmandir Sahib, the temple is covered in gold, precious gems, and exquisite artwork, and is constantly buzzing with devotees from across the country. Whether you visit in the daytime to pay homage at the altar, or come by at dusk to see the temple lit up and reflected in the calm lake waters around it, there is no doubt that Amritsar's most prized jewel will take your breath away.
Just outside the city lies the Wagah Border. This is the only road crossing between India and Pakistan and you should plan a sunset trip here to witness the elaborate border ceremony. A poignant marker of India's freedom movement can be found at Jallianwalla Bagh, where over 1,500 non-violent protesters were killed by British troops in 1919.
Even as it continues to establish itself as an economic hub, the city remains an important religious and cultural centre and you can enjoy the best of both as you travel back and forth through the city's old neighbourhoods and its modern ones packed with trendy hotels, bars, and designer stores.
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Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport (ATQ), formerly known as Raj Sansi International Airport, is located 11 kilometres from the city centre. Domestic and international airlines with flights to Amritsar include Jet Airways, Air India, BMI, Qatar Airways, and Uzbekistan Airlines.
From Canada, most Amritsar flights depart from Toronto with stopovers in Europe, the Middle East, or Delhi.
Winter temperatures in Amritsar range between -4°C and 18°C and this is when cheap flights to Amritsar are hard to find. The cold season is when the city hosts its most popular religious festivals — Guru Nanak Jayanti in October/November and Lohri in January. Amritsar flights also fill up quickly in April during the Baisakhi festival.
Airline tickets are much cheaper in the summertime but with temperatures going up to nearly 50°C, this is the not the best time to visit if you're not used to extreme temperatures. Booking flights in the monsoon season will get you cheaper fares as well as cool weather, but you'll need to watch out for sudden showers.
Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport (ATQ) is one of Punjab's smaller airports and has a limited number of ground transportation options to the city. Passengers should visit the Airports Authority of India website for additional information on travelling from ATQ.
Airport Shuttle: Since the majority of visitors on Amritsar flights are here to visit the city's famous shrine, a regular coach service operates to and from the Golden Temple and is absolutely free of charge. Departure points are located outside the arrivals area and no advance bookings are required.
Hotel Shuttle: Several private companies operate shared-ride and exclusive shuttle services to the city centre as well as regional destinations in the states of Kansas and Missouri. Fares vary depending on the type of service and vehicle you choose, as well as which company you travel with. On average, a one-way trip to downtown Kansas City will cost you approximately $32 USD for a shared-ride service and about $60 USD for a private vehicle of up to six passengers.
Taxi: Prepaid cabs are available from outside the airport terminal and a one-way fare to the city centre will cost you less than $4 CAD. However, if you are heading straight to the Golden Temple, it is best to use the free shuttle service.
Car Rental: Car rental counters are available at the arrivals terminal and can be booked in advance or after your flight lands. Although Amritsar is not a very large city, it is still better to take a taxi or hotel shuttle if this is your first visit.
Other: Chauffeured car and private taxi services are also available from the airport. Fares vary depending on your destination and the operator you choose to travel with so it is advisable to use these only if you know your way around the city.