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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Sightseeing & Culture’

Touring the Sistine Chapel in Rome

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The Sistine Chapel is probably the single most impressive, influential and famous art-filled room in the whole world.  Intended to be the private chapel of a pope, the whole world now comes to worship at this altar of artistic creativity.  It also serves as the election room of new popes.

Sistine ChapelThe building and the painting of the Sistine Chapel was completed in three major phases.  The first was the building and wall painting phase.  Commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV (of the della Rovere family) it took about eight years (1475 to 1483) to complete.  It was consecrated and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on 15th August 1483.  The architect was Baccio Pontelli and the construction was supervised by Giovannino de'Dolci.

In 1481, while the chapel was still being constructed, Pope Sixtus IV brought in several great Florentine artists to paint the walls.  They were Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Piero di Cosimo, Rosselli, Luca Signorelli, Pinturicchio and Bartolomeo della Gatta.  They took only eleven months to complete their commission.

The walls are divided into three horizontal sections.  The uppermost comprises of pilasters that support the vault.  The middle section (or order) tells two stories from the bible.  The left wall relates the life of Moses while the right wall tells the life of Christ.  At ceremonial occasions the lowest portions of the side walls are covered with a series of tapestries depicting events from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. These were designed by Raphael and woven in 1515-19 at Brussels.

There are six windows on the long walls.  Between each window is a niche with painted images of the first popes – Peter to Marcellus – who were all martyred.  A beautiful and delicately carved marble screen, with an inset wooden door, divides the presbytery from the nave.  The screen is the work of three sculptors – Mino da Fiesole, Andrea Bregno and Giovanni Dalmata.  The screen used to divide the chapel into two equal parts but was moved making the presbytery much larger.  The floor is a marble mosaic beautiful in workmanship and design.

The second phase saw the introduction of Michelangelo.  In 1508 Pope Julius II (a ‘nephew’ of Sixtus IV) wanted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel repainted.  The ceiling was originally frescoed by Piero Matteo d'Amelia with a star-spangled sky in 1481.

He had originally called upon Raphael (a passionate enemy of Michelangelo) to take up the project but he refused.  Instead he suggested Michelangelo’s name in an attempt to discredit him knowing Michelangelo was a sculptor and not a painter.  Raphael created one of art history’s greatest gaffes.

Michelangelo worked on the ceiling from 1508 to 1512.  What he created has become a beacon of art throughout the world.  He demonstrated control and understanding of detail, proportion, colour, texture, form and an unmatched originality that has illuminated the world – let alone art.  He brought perfection to reality.  The Sistine Chapel is a display of one man’s incredible creative genius.

The pope wanted paintings of the 12 Apostles.  Michelangelo dismissed the idea as a “poor thing”.  Thank heavens for his courage and ‘artistic licence and integrity’ or we would not have the most amazing works in the history of Western art.  Instead what Michelangelo painted were stories from the Book of Genesis – from the Creation to the story of Noah.

This phase of Michelangelo’s work included the incomparable and stunningly daring fresco, the Creation of Adam.  Michelangelo’s portrayal of God as a muscular figure with long white hair and big white beard is the one many of us, today, picture him to be.  In earlier works God was represented only as a hand reaching down through the clouds.

The near touching of God and Adam’s hands is one of the most replicated, parodied and iconic images of the world.  It also goes against the common perception of God breathing life into Adam.  Michelangelo also shows Adam with a ‘navel.’  Other departures are the serpent in Eden depicted with a woman’s head; the forbidden fruit is a fig and not the commonly accepted ‘apple.’

To paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo built his own platform, extending over half the chapel area.  It allowed him to stand upright (Sorry! He did not paint it on his back).  However, it denied him the possibility of viewing his work from the floor.  Despite that he painted huge scale figures from a distance of only a few inches.

Twenty-eight years later Michelangelo was back.  This time it was Pope Clement VII who commissioned him.  Shortly after Pope Clement died and was succeed by Pope Paul III who pushed the artist to quickly finish the fresco.  In this phase Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment on the altar wall – the largest fresco of the century.  He started work in 1535 and finished it in 1541.

Winding staircase in the Sistine ChapelEven if Michelangelo had not created what he did in the Sistine Chapel, it would still be a room filled with an extraordinary collection of masterpieces.  From this single room emanates more creativity, beauty and inspiration (artistic and religious) than any other collection of art anywhere.

Despite its amazing fame there is nothing outstanding about the Sistine Chapel’s architectural features.  Its dimensions are based on that of the Temple of Solomon as detailed in the Old Testament.  It is 40.93 metres long, 13.41 metres wide and 20.70 metres high.  The roof is barrel-vaulted.  The exterior is a remarkably bare brick-walled edifice with no ostentatious embellishments, sculptures or carvings.  There is no grand entrance door.  Entrance to the Sistine Chapel can only be made from within the Papal Palace.

Visitors today are blessed because what they view is the restored and cleaned frescos, which took about 30 (1965 to 1994) years to accomplish.

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Pflasterspektakel Festival 2013, Austria

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Pflasterspektakel Festival

The Pflasterspektakel (pavement spectacle in German) is a very popular street art festival celebrated annually in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. It is truly a world-leading art festival with participants coming from more than 30 countries.

The festival is a 3-days event that takes place every second half of July – with artists performing at around 40 locations throughout the city of Linz – around the mains square and the Landstraße. Only in case of rain does the event move to the old city hall and other indoor locations.

In its very first year in 1987, about 150 musicians took part. Today, there are more than 400 different acts, coming from all over the world.

Features of the street festival

The event starts with an opening ceremony on a Thursday at 4 p.m.; and at 2 p.m. on the following Friday and Saturday until midnight. Partying and other informal activities carry on into the morning hours.

The main features of this festival include musical acts, juggling, acrobatics, pantomime, magic shows, improvisational theatre, clownery, fire dancing, painting, puppet shows, samba parades, theatre in caravans, wooden marionettes etc.

It also has various small parades and a variety of events and programmes for children.

Sponsorship and Donations

The event is funded by the municipality along with Radio Oberösterreich, local newspapers, and a bank.

The artists derive their main income from the visitors’ donations; except for their travel costs, accommodation, breakfast, and 25 Euros of cash for their expenses per day. So make sure you donate generously so that we can keep this unique event alive for the future generations to enjoy.

This year’s event will make its 27th festival edition; and will take place from the 18th to 20th July 2013.

 

Image credit: Gnal

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Saint Simeon Monastery Tour

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St Simeon Monastery

The Saint Simeon Monastery is now an abandoned site that is located on the west bank of the Aswan. It is a remarkable collection of ancient buildings that sit in the middle of nowhere. The stone and mud-brick of the surviving walls and buildings blend in with the surrounding dramatic landscape.

The Saint Simeon Monastery is known locally as Anba Hatre and the Arabic name for the saint is Deir Anba Sim’an. The best way (and the generally accepted mode) to get there is on the back of a camel, which takes about 25 minutes. Slogging it out on foot is unadvisable because of the heat and the effort of trudging through the sand.

The monastery is named after a fourth century ascetic who, the legend goes, on the day of his wedding witnessed a passing funeral procession. Inspired by this chance encounter, he decided not to lose his virginity. He thereupon undertook a frugal and abstinent lifestyle and removed himself to Anba Hatre. He was just eighteen and I wonder what his ditched bride thought of those decisions.  

Whether the monastery dates from his time is still unclear but by the sixth and seventh centuries there was an established settlement as evidenced by some remarkably well-preserved wall paintings on the rock caves from that time. More additions and building took place in the first part of the eleventh century.

It became one of the largest Coptic Monasteries in Egypt housing over a thousand inhabitants. However, by the end of the thirteenth century it was abandoned and the reasons have never been properly determined. Despite some depredations and raids by various marauders much of the structures still remain remarkably intact.

The archetypal domed Christian church and tower is the best architectural example of its type. There are a large number of tombstones and rock cells with stone beds for the monks.  There are numerous living and working quarters and walled lookout towers. The lower levels are marked by covered arched walkways acting as ventilation systems making for a cool environment.

In addition there are pottery and brick making kilns providing insights into Aswan techniques. A small number of wall paintings survive from the eleventh and twelfth centuries with evidence of even older paintings that behind them.

Your tour of the Saint Simeon Monastery (Anba Hatre) usually lasts for about two hours. It is time well spent yet too short to fully appreciate the long, colourful and still barely understood history of the place. The peace, quiet and lovely views of the river do give you some inkling why the monastery was a great place to meditate, study the scriptures and look for the meaning to life…
 

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10 Facts about Bastille Day and its Celebration

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Bastille Day

Bastille Day —celebrated on 14 July—is a special day for France as it symbolises the beginning of democracy and freedom of the people. It is the French National day and is called La Fete Nationale in French.

The Bastille is a medieval fortress and prison in Paris. On July 14, 1789, an outraged group of Parisians stormed the Bastille. This was a pivotal event of the French Revolution—marking the beginning of the end of the French Royalty and the beginning of the modern republic.

Events and Tradition
The day is celebrated with military parades, fireworks, festivals, communal meals, parties and dances.  It also includes large picnics and musical performances.

Although every city, town and village throughout the country celebrates the day, the largest celebration is in Paris, where a parade marches past the famous Champs Elysées, in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests. At the end of the parade the French President and many foreign ambassadors wait and greet the military.

The day then ends in style with an awe-inspiring fireworks display at the country’s most iconic landmark – the Eiffel Tower.

10 Facts about Bastille Day
1. Bastille comes from the French word bastide, which means stronghold. It was formally known as the Bastille Saint-Antoine.

2. As the opening victory in the revolution, the storming of the Bastille is today celebrated as a national holiday.

3. The French National Anthem called la Marseillaise is a revolutionary song.

4. France's tricolour flag (blue, red and white) was introduced during the Revolution. The three colours represent the ideals of the French people – Liberte Egalite Fraternite (liberty, equality and fraternity) for all citizens.

5. There were only 7 prisoners at the Bastille when the people of Paris stormed on July 14th, 1789.

6. The Man in the Iron Mask was a Bastille prisoner from 1698 to 1703.

7. The famous philosopher and writer, Voltaire, and The Marquis de Sade were also prisoners of the Bastille.

8.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a large Bastille Day celebration downtown that lasts four days. They even have a 43 foot tall replica of the Eiffel Tower! Other US cities famous for their celebrations of this day include New Orleans, New York, and Chicago.

9. The famous bicycle race —the Tour de France—takes place during Bastille Day.

10. The Key to the Bastille was presented to George Washington in 1790. It was built by Charles V between 1370 and 1383.


Happy Bastille Day!
 

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San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain

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San Fermin

The fiesta of San Fermin is a deeply-rooted celebration —held from 6 to 14 July every year—in the city of Pamplona, Spain. It is celebrated in honour of Saint Fermine, patron of Navarra, and is locally known as Sanfermines.

The festival is a celebration of many traditional and folkloric events including the most popular encierro, or 'the running of the bulls'. Its events and worldwide fame, along with its attraction of a vast number of visitors from around the world are closely related to the description in Ernest Hemingway’s book, The Sun Also Rises.

The rave-up basically is about the consumption of large quantities of alcoholic beverages (sangria), music, bullfighting and partying.

The ceremonial process

The San fermin Festival starts at noon on 6 July each year and is marked by setting off the pyrotechnic chupinazo – a ceremonial rocket or the explosion of rocket from the balcony of the city hall at midday.

From the 7th to the 14th, the encierro – letting loose the bulls through some of the streets of the old part of the city take place when the clock on the church of San Cernin strikes 8 o'clock in the morning. From then on risk and excitement go hand in hand with high spirits and non-stop fun.

Running with the bulls is free but extreme caution must be exercised as it is an extremely risky sport, even considered male-only tradition. It has had 15 deaths since 1925 and most insurance don’t cover it – so you may only participate at your own risk.

The fiesta carries on with clear broth chocolate (caldico), long doughnuts (churros), the ceremonial giants (Gigantes), the aperitif and the fireworks at night; which then give way to all-night partying.

The dress code for the festival is red and white. And so for the next nine days, the streets turn into a celebration — of friendship, music, non-stop partying and open-air dances to the rhythm of the charangas and the peñas.

Tickets for the bullfight can cost anything from 25 to 70 Euros.

Closing

On the final day, i.e 14 July, thousands of people once again gather in the Town Hall Square with lighted candles and singing "Pobre de mí" (Poor me), to send off the Sanfermines until the next year.

Although most tourists know the festival as ‘The Running of the Bulls’, it is actually the party atmosphere, the celebration of life and the overall experience of the full-on Spanish fiesta that makes visiting Pamplona during San Fermin such an exciting and memorable one.

Have you booked your tickets yet?

Image credit: Rufino Lasaosa

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White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia

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White nights - View of Neva river and raised Palace Bridge

St. Petersburg – the city that never sets. At least not in the summer.

Being located in one of the world’s most northern cities, it means that the city never really gets dark during the months of June and July. You can walk about between 10pm to 5am without ever needing a street light! Talk about an ideal setting for romantic outings! No other European city can rival this experience of walking along the banks of the rivers and canals in broad daylight, no matter what time of the day it is!

White Nights Festival
During this season of the midnight sun, St. Petersburg annually hosts one of the greatest art festivals in the world to honour a rare event: the White Nights (or Belye nochi as the Russians call it). The festival – organised by the Saint Petersburg City Administration – starts at Mariinsky Theatre in May and ends in July (usually from the 2nd half of May till the 2nd half of July); although some performances connected to the festival take place before and after the official dates.

The White Nights Festival starts with the awesome production of “Stars of the White Nights” – a series of several classical ballet, opera and orchestral performances, and music events that include performances by Russian dancers, singers, musicians and actors. There are famous international guest stars too! By day, locals revel in the heat and the outdoors and by twilight or light-washed night, the concerts and partying come to life.

Features of the Festival
There are several features of the festival; with Scarlet Sails being the high point of the White Nights revelry. Scarlet Sails includes spectacular fireworks, concerts, and massive water show. This tradition eventually evolves to being the most popular public annual event that celebrates the end of school year or freedom from “schools and rules”.  

Another prominent feature of the White Nights Festivals is the carnivals that take place in the Peterhof suburb of St. Petersburg where actors dressed in period costumes – times from Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.

Conclusion
So you can see there’s certainly no better time to visit St. Petersburg than during the festival. But be warned though; due to its popularity, tickets are always almost sold out in advance. If you are lucky enough to get tickets on the spot after your arrival, then be prepared to pay an exorbitant amount!

While staying for the whole Festival is a bit impractical, you won’t regret partaking in a few of the events that encapsulate the best of the best performances. Being part of Russia’s biggest celebration will definitely be one of your major highs – an experience to experience!
 

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Travelling in Prague by Bike

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Prague Bike Tour

Prague or Praha is one gorgeous city. It is one of Europe’s oldest and most attractive cities.  While many of its landmarks and architectural highlights have yet to become household names, their splendour and beauty are on par with some of their better known cousins.

One of the most interesting ways to see the “city of hundred spires” and its surroundings is by travelling around on a bike. With about 93 kilometres of bicycle trails, the whole city is yours to pedal around. Prague is a very bicycle friendly city, which makes it the ideal mode of sightseeing.

The variety and number of bike trails means that you will get great views, interesting and different perspectives and great accessibility to the marvellous sights of Prague. It is also a quick and convenient mode of getting around and gives you the freedom others don’t.

It is really easy to hire a bicycle and also relatively inexpensive. There are plenty of bike rental shops in Prague. They are generally found in and around the tourist hotspots and information centres. Hiring a bike can cost you between CZK 200 to CZK 500 a day. The price varies depending on the type and sophistication of the bike you want.

To make cycling more popular and encourage people to use this form of transportation bikes can be transported, free of charge, on the metro, ferries and (at specified times) on trams.  Cycles are also transported for free on PID trains. The Czech Railways also offer a bike rental option at select train stations.

You can travel in Prague and its immediate surroundings on a bike by yourself – armed with a map of course. You can pick up good maps from the Information Centres. These maps have colour-coded routes that take you to all the different tourist sites and landmarks in Prague.  They are an excellent reference resource and guide.

The other option is to join up with a guided tour – and there are many operators. The organised tours are not very much more expensive than just hiring a bike. The main advantages to the guided tours are you save a lot of time getting around; you get to see highlights via the easiest routes and avoid many strenuous uphill tracks.

Whichever choice you make or however many days you travel in Prague on a bicycle be sure to take in the famous and interesting sites of this lovely city. Here is a list for you to consider.

•    Municipal House & Powder Gate
•    Estate & National Theatre
•    The Dancing House & Panoramic River Views of Prague
•    Mala Strana or 'Lesser Town'
•    Wenceslas Square
•    John Lennon Wall
•    Kampa Park
•    Charles Bridge
•    Rudolfinum
•    Josefov
•    Astronomical Clock & Old Town
•    Prague Castle
•    Letna Park
•    Along the Vltava River
•    Royal Gardens
•    Petrin Park
•    Jewish Quarter
 

Image credit: Opu Pet

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Macau Travel Guide

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Macau

Macau’s skyline is spectacular! The myriad glittering commercial skyscrapers and glittering residential towers are like a futuristic sci-fi movie setting. At night the place turns into a modern fairy-tale land. However, little Macau is not all lights, steel and glass. There are lovely twisty cobbled-stone streets, old churches, colonial-style villas, temples and great eating places and cuisine. The first European community in China, Macau has a couple of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Some highlights of Macau’s sightseeing attractions are:

Historic Centre of Macau:  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 because of a “meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West.” The Centre is an attractive and unique mixture of Chinese and Portuguese cultures that includes monuments, streets, churches and temples.

One of the most outstanding examples is the ruins of St. Paul’s Church. These remnants are a collection of 16th century buildings that made up St. Pauls College and Cathedral. The detail on stone carvings and sculptures are remarkable for their beauty and intricacy. Other excellent specimens include the churches of St. Augustine, St. Lawrence and St. Joseph.

The statue of Kum Iam, dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy is a bronze statue, 66 feet (20 m) tall. Then there is the elegant A-Ma temple built in 1488 to honour Matsu, the Goddess of sailors and fishermen. Another lovely section is the charming cobblestone streets and quaint buildings shops leading in and out of Senado Square.

Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Centre: Standing at 1,109 feet (338 metres) the Tower was modelled on Auckland, New Zealand’s Sky Tower. It has an observation deck, restaurant, theatres and shopping malls.  One can also do a Bungee jump from the Tower. It is also the world’s second highest commercial skyjump.

Casinos: Probably the biggest attraction, Macau’s casinos draw in the visitors from mainland China in their droves. Gambling is the largest revenue earner for this special administrative region (50% of the economy).The region has 33 casinos, which operate under government franchise. The three largest and most well known are The Venetian Macau, Casino Lisboa and the MGM Macau.

Grand Prix Circuit: You could stroll through some sections of the twisting and winding road route that makes up the famous and historic Macau Grand Prix. Known as the Guia Circuit, it is the site of one of the world’s oldest events on the racing calendar.

Eating: You cannot visit Macau without sampling some its cuisine. The region has evolved some unique dishes and locally specialised preparations that are a treat. The eating options range from the wide selection of street side eateries and take-away to the more formal restaurants. Whatever the choice, the food is really finger-licking delicious.

Macau is a small enclave but it has a world of experiences and sensations to offer to the visitor.
 

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Things to see at the Alhambra

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Gardens of The Alhambra
The Alhambra is a beautiful collection of buildings and gardens. Its location is one of rare natural beauty that commands a view of the city and plains of Granada. It remains the most perfect example of Moorish art.
 
The Palace is made up of numerous beautiful courtyards, fountains and buildings that served as living quarters for monarchs. The shady tree-lined walks, abundant streams and fountains are blended with extraordinary architecture and embellishments.

Broadly speaking, the Alhambra is composed of three parts:  The Royal Palace, The Gardens of Generalife and the fortress of Alcazaba.

The Royal Palace, the most famous building of the complex, consists of the Mexuar – enclosing the striking Golden Room – where the sultans conducted every day business.  The Serallo, which served as a reception area and its very attractive Patio of Myrtles and its view of the Comares Tower, and the intriguing Lions' Court. The Hall of the Ambassadors is the largest and finest room in the palace, where King Fernando discussed Columbus’ attempt to find the sea route to India. The Palacios Nazaries is the high point of the palace. It has ensured that the entire edifice is one of the finest Islamic architectural compositions in Europe.

The inspiration for The Gardens of Generalife is supposed to be the Koranic description of Paradise. Running water and plenty of shaded areas together with all sorts of plants reminded the rulers of Granada of their past in the hot deserts of Africa. A 700 year old cypress tree shades The Patio of the Cypresses. The Walk of the Cascades consists of a superb piece of hydraulic engineering that has water flowing along a shaded staircase. The ticketed areas are basically the 'garden palace', but huge sections of the garden are free and don't require tickets. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous with all kind of herbs, roses and myriad scented plants and flowers growing. Water is a key theme.

The fortress of Alcazaba (the Citadel) is the oldest part of the Alhambra and consists of the impressive Torre de la Vela (watchtower).

The massive, if out of harmony, Carlos V Palace (Palacio de Carlos V) was built by destroying an original wing of the Alhambra. The building is of the Renaissance style and was built after the Reconquista (reconquest) by the Christians.

Overall this tour is a treat for gardeners: the designs are fantastic; the symmetrical Arab features have been copied around the world.

Tickets:  Are strictly limited, so booking in advance is highly recommended.

Night Visits:  Entry from 20:00 to 21:30 from November to February, 22:00 to 23:30 at all other times. Price: 12€
 

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Sightseeing in Amritsar

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Golden Temple
From a historical, architectural and religious perspective, there is plenty to see and admire in Amritsar. Two themes dominate this city’s cultural and historical landscape – war and the Sikh religion. Amritsar has a glorious history but it is of violence and spirituality. In this city, they do not seem at odds.

A vast majority of the monuments in the city are dedicated to religious events and incidents.  Many a religious shrine is a memorial to heroes and martyrs of various conflicts with the Afghans, Mughals and the British. The city is inextricably linked with Sikh religious and political history.

On another level it is also a hub of tourism in Punjab. Its commercial activities include light engineering, producing superb carpets and handicrafts. It is also a fabric manufacturing and farm producing centre.

The highlights of Amritsar’s sightseeing attractions include among others:

Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib)
Inevitably this is the first and most visited site in Amritsar. The sheer beauty of the structure, its silvery holy water tank and marble walkways is worth every minute spent. The building is three storeys high with the first floor white marble. The upper two are gold plated and topped off with a dome shaped like an inverted lotus.

Akal Takht
Right next door to the Golden Temple is the Akal Takht, which is the temporal seat of the Sikh governing body. The Sikh Holy Book or the Adi Granth is housed on the ground floor and taken out in procession every morning to the Harmandir Sahib and returned at night.

Jubbi Trees
There are three ancient jujube (ber) trees within the precincts of the Golden Temple. Older than the temple there are stories attached to each of them and have individual names – Lachi Ber, Ber Baba Buddha Ji and Dukh Bhanjani Ber.

Wagah Border
Not strictly in Amritsar city, the Attari-Wagah Border post is 28 kilometres away. It is the border between India and Pakistan.There is a daily routine colourful flag-hoisting and lowering ceremony.  A barely suppressed aggressive and dramatic changing of the guard by army personnel of both countries adds plenty of interest to the proceedings.  

Jalianwala Bagh
An enclosed park, accessible only by a narrow lane, it is the site of the mass killing of Indians by General Dyer in 1919.  It contains the memorial and Martyrs’ Gallery, which is open every day from 9am to 5pm. The bullet-ridden walls stand as testimony of that gruesome day.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum
A little distance from Amritsar’s main railway station are the Ram Bagh Gardens. They enclose the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Palace, which has been turned into a museum. There is a rather interesting bathing tank installed by a French General.

Durgiana Temple
Modelled on the nearby Golden Temple this massive 16th century Hindu temple is dedicated to the goddess Durga. The goddess Lakshmi and god Narayan are also worshipped. The temple sits in the middle of a lake.

The Old City
Amritsar’s Old city area is a revelation and a treat!  Its narrow streets date back to the 17th century with nothing having changed very much. It is divided into ‘katras’ or independently run units. Trades and crafts practised for centuries are still handed down from generation to generation. Entire streets with rows of shops are given to specialised trading and selling just one particular product. Some of the items are gold jewellery, steel and brass utensils, papads, Indian jams, pickles, dried mango slices, dry fruits and glass bangles.

There are more things and places to see in Amritsar. Take a walk around and discover your own particular gems.
 

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