The Golden Temple is one of the most amazing places I've ever visited in my life. I remember I arrived in the night to its entrance and when I crossed its doors and walk down its stairs hearing the music and watching the incredible temple surrounded by water I stayed staring at it speechless.
I visited the Golden Temple as part of the schedule of a volunteer project in which I participated (you can read more about my project's experience in the post How to participate in the volunteer project “The Himalayan Beauty” in India). As a team, we were staying in Dharamsala so we went to the temple during a weekend. Let me share with you how to get there, which is the temple's history and main characteristics, and other recommendations on what to do during your visit.
1. How to get to The Golden Temple
The temple is located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India (near the Pakistan border).
As I mentioned before, I was in Dharamsala before going to the Golden Temple so as a team we rented a minivan which took us there. Depending on the place you are located, you will have several options to get there, but I'll explain how to get there from New Delhi because most probably you'll find yourself visiting the capital of India if you travel there. The websites www.makemytrip.com and www.rome2rio.com are good options to plan your trip, you can go:
- By airplane: it takes around 1 hr. to fly from Delhi (DEL) to Amritsar (ATQ). A one-way ticket price varies across the year from $35 to $160 USD, and when you get to the airport in Amritsar you'll need to take a taxi that will take you to the Golden Temple in about 15 min. for $4 - $6 USD.
- By train: it takes around 6 hrs. to take a train from New Delhi (NDLS) to Amritsar Junction (ASR). Prices vary between $13 to $20 USD and you can book your tickets on the IRCTC website.
- By bus: it takes around 8.5 hrs. to travel by bus from Delhi to Amritsar for $9 - $13 USD and the Golden Temple is 2.2 km away from the bus station. You can book your tickets in Red Bus.
- By car: it takes around 6.5 hrs. to travel by car from Delhi to the Golden Temple. You can rent a car in Rentalcars website.
2. Opening hours and fees
The Golden Temple is opened every day of the year 24/7, you can even stay to sleep on the floor (I know it sounds weird but let me tell you my experience sleeping on the floor in the next paragraphs!). Just beware that the Hari Mandir closing ceremony takes place at 11 pm and the sanctum (the temple) is reopened at 2 am. You can see the schedule here.
FREE! You don't have to pay any fee to enter. In fact, the temple brings a lot of hospitality to all its visitors. Any person that enters the temple will receive food and water and can also stay to sleep as mentioned before.
You can find more information about the Golden Temple on the official site.
3. History and main characteristics
- History: was founded in 1577 by the 4th Sikh guru.
- Food: the Golden Temple has the world's largest kitchen serving up to 100,000 people every day for free. You enter a big room where people sit in line and receive plates, then glasses, then food, then water and when people finish eating and leave, lots of other people coordinate to clean the floor and make a human chain to clean the dishes.
- A place to stay to sleep: the Golden Temple receives thousands of people to sleep and accepts people from any religion, color, age or gender. We were a group of nine people from all around the world, we took our own space and kept an eye on our stuff and on each other. That was the first time I slept on the floor but surprisingly I spent a good night (till the cleaners woke us up to clean the floor). The good part is that I woke up to see my friends and have a great time.
- Rules: upon entering the premises you have to remove your shoes and wash your feet in a pool of water provided. Also, your full body must be covered (no shorts), and you have to wear a head covering (there are head scarves for visitors at the entrance that you return when you leave).
- Food: if you are not in the mood for eating traditional vegan Indian food you can also find fast food as McDonalds and Subway outside the temple.
- Clothing: it's super hot! wear something light and don't bring a lot of luggage.
- Souvenirs: take some time to walk through the city, it's full of nice buildings and stores with souvenirs.
You can watch the following video I took inside the temple to understand the mysticism of the place and its atmosphere!