Top Weekend Getaways and Amazing Tourist Destinations Near The Historic City of Amritsar

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Amritsar is deeply linked with Sikhism, and I heard the city has many treasures for travelers.  Not far from the Indo Pakistan Border- this city appealed to me for its spiritual significance too. I always longed to see the historic Jallianwala Bagh garden -where a horrid mass murder took place all those decades back. I totally loved its ancient charm and rich cultural heritage – but there was more in store. Taking advantage of Amritsar’s strategic location in northwestern India, I headed to some of the enticing weekend destinations.  Some of the popular tourist places near Amritsar I covered are located in the neighboring Jammu and Kashmir, while others fall within the territory of Himachal Pradesh.

These are the top tourist destinations near Amritsar that I covered to satisfy the wanderlust in my soul:

Dharamsala

Dharamsala
Dharamsala by Manuel Menal via Flickr

Nearly 200 km from Amritsar, Dharamsala is a beautiful hill station in Himachal Pradesh, and I recommend it as one of the top places to visit near Amritsar. Located in the picturesque and serene Kangra valley, Dharamsala wooed me with its old world charm and mesmerizing natural sightseeing. I think it is among few places in India to experience Buddhism and Tibetan Culture at its best. I relished visiting the famous Namgyal monastery and Tsuglagkhang monastery. The pretty Dal Lake and the magnificent Kangra Fort- only 20 km away-took up another day but the time spent was worth it. Since I was bitten by the shopping bug- I headed to places like Kotwali Bazaar and the Jogibara Road. Of course, I tried the famous honey ginger lemon tea and found it amazing.

Dalhousie

Dalhousie
Dalhousie by Prashant Ram via Flickr

I was planning for visiting a hill station during weekends while visiting Amritsar and found Dalhousie to be a good choice. Almost 200 km from Amritsar, this pretty hill station with pleasant climate and historical charms is located in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba district. I was amazed watching its British era colonial buildings, some of which are quite well preserved. The architectural brilliance of edifices like St. Francis’ Church and St. John’s Church got me hooked. The natural sightseeing abounds in and around Dalhousie, and I was spoilt for choice. The amazing Satsdhara falls brought out the shutterbug in me. I could not Trek to the scenic Dainkund peak but will try it next time. For shopping, the best options are Gandhi Chowk, and I also liked the Tibetan market.

McLeod Ganj

McLeod Ganj
McLeod Ganj by Lisa Tully via Flickr

I have always been curious about Tibetan culture and Heritage but did not get a chance to explore much. That’s why I chose McLeod Ganj- almost 205 km from Amritsar- as my next destination. Rated as one of the top places to visit near Amritsar, McLeod Ganj is the abode of His Holiness Dalai Lama (14th). The quiet and pretty town is replete with Tibetan culture, and I saw plenty of Tibetan monks too. The monasteries surrounding the city add to the mystic ambiance. I had a very peaceful time here. The ancient shrines like the 8th century Masroor temple made me amazed with its North Indian Nagra architecture. I also bought some souvenirs for home at the Tibetan Mini Market and enjoyed strolling the local street markets. 

Khajjiar

Khajjiar
Khajjiar by Anirudh Singh via Flickr

Located close to Dalhousie, Khajjiar is a pretty little town I longed to visit. I had to see why it has earned the tag of being ‘mini-Switzerland of India.’ The blend of green pastures, tranquil lakes, and lush forest will make me fall in love with it at first sight. Apart from the green meadows and lakes, I liked exploring its pretty temples. The place is thronged by trekking and paragliding lovers, as I found out. The adjacent Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary is a must visit, and I also paid a visit to the Khajji Nag temple too.  

Chandigarh

Chandigarh
Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh – Source

Not many people are aware, but Chandigarh was the country’s first planned city, designed by a Swiss-French architect. Now a union territory, Chandigarh has some noteworthy attractions for people seeking a day trip from Amritsar. Upon arrival, I explored the pretty Sukhna Lake and tried the paddleboats too. I recommend you rent a bicycle from adjacent shops if you don’t feel like exploring the lakeshore on foot like me. The amazing rose garden, which is Asia’s biggest rose garden, also left me amazed. At Panchkula, about 8 km away, is a nice 7-acre cactus garden which I visited the next day and the experience was enchanting. 

Palampur

Palampur
Palampur by Raman Sharma via Flickr

A quiet hill town with lush tea gardens and thick pine and deodar forests, Palampur is another popular weekend destination I had in mind. Its tea plantations will be liked by all tourists, but I was absolutely stunned by the city’s lavish Victoria architecture mansions. The majestic Tashi Jong Monastery was a place I loved visiting too. Since I wanted to have a brush with wildlife, I visited the famous Gopalpur zoo.

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