Punjab, with its fertile farming land, is one of India's most prosperous states. Home to bhangra music and the brotherhood of the Sikh religion, it has a distinctive and lively culture. To get a real taste of Punjab, it's necessary to venture out of the cities to discover the simplicity and charm of rural life. Visit these tourist places in Punjab to experience the best of what the state has to offer.
01 of 08
Amritsar, the spiritual capital of the Sikhs, is a must-visit place due to the exquisite Golden Temple. It attracts pilgrims from all over the world, and looks particularly arresting at night when it’s beautifully lit up with its imposing pure gold dome illuminated. The memorial at Jallianwala Bagh near the Golden Temple is one of India's top historical sites and is also worth seeing. Amritsar is renowned for its street food as well, making a foodie's delight!
02 of 08
The Wagah Border, between India and Pakistan, is a popular side trip from Amritsar. Everyday of the year, just before sunset, a flag lowering ceremony takes place there as the border is closed for the day. It starts with high patriotic spirits from both sides of the border and lasts for about 45 minutes.
03 of 08
Capital city Chandigarh is a modern day planned city that's different to any other in India. It lacks chaos and color but has some interesting attractions. The highlight is the extraordinary 25 acre Fantasy Rock Garden, open daily. Artist Nek Chand used all kinds of urban and industrial waste, as well as local stone, to personally create a multitude of quirky sculptures (including more than 2,000 statues) over 20 years. It's junk art at its finest! Other places to visit include Sukhna Lake (which has paddle boats), the Government Museum and Art Gallery, and a number of parks and gardens. There's a Rose Garden with 1,500 varieties, and a Bougainvillea Garden.
04 of 08
The village of Anandpur Sahib, about 2 hours from Chandigarh near the Himachal Pradesh border, has been an important pilgrimage place for Sikhs for hundreds of years. Known as the "Holy City of Bliss", it was the birth place of the Khalsa (Sikh brotherhood). The historical gurdwaras (temples) are magnificent, along with the surroundings. Anandpur Sahib is flanked by a 17th century fortress, and framed between a towering mountain range and river.
Visit during Baisaki to catch the carnival like celebrations that take place there. However, the most impressive display of Sikh fearlessness can be seen during Hola Mohalla, held during the Holi festival. It's one of the best places to celebrate Holi in India. Instead of throwing colored powder, be prepared for testosterone fueled mock battles featuring sticks, knives, axes and swords. One of the best places to stay is Bharatgarh Fort homestay (yes, it is inside a fort!) about 20 minutes away in Rupnagar.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Patiala is the place to explore the royal Punjab of the past. Once one of India's richest princely states, Patiala offers a glorious insight into the history of 18th and 19th century Punjab, particularly the Malwa region. You'll be greeted by opulent palace buildings, gardens and parks. The main attractions are a temple devoted to Goddess Kali, Moti Bagh Palace (which houses an excellent art gallery) and the imposing 10 acre Qila Mubarak complex with its series of palaces, inner fort, audience hall, and museum. Patiala is also famous for the generous Patiala peg of whiskey, salwar suits with loose pants, pagdi (traditional turban), and paranda (colorful hair decorations for women). Slip-on leather footwear, known as the Patiala jutti, is another hot item. Neemrana's The Baradari Palace is a wonderfully atmospheric and centrally located heritage hotel there.
06 of 08
Punjab has some outstanding boutique farmstays where you can experience rural living (and at the right time of year, even frolic among the yellow mustard fields like in a Bollywood movie). It's possible for guests to participates in farming activities and go for tractor rides. Punjabiyat, about an hour northeast of Amritsar, is a unique tribute to Punjabi culture with four cottages surrounded by fields. Citrus County is set on a sprawling kinnow orchard in Hoshiarpur, about 2 hours east of Amritsar and 2 hours northeast of Chandigarh. It has luxury tents for glamping. Kailash Farm is also popular (and less costly) in Hoshiarpur, and is great for families. Green Acres Haveli and Retreat is conveniently located on the outskirts of Amritsar. Prakriti Farm, about an hour from Chandigarh, is another recommended option with tents and huts.
07 of 08
Located not far from Ludhiana, the small village of Kila Raipur hosts the Rural Olympics every February. This spectacle has earned world-wide recognition. Bullocks, camels, dogs, mules, and other animals competing in highly professional events must be seen to be believed! The adrenaline-pumping bullock cart race is the main attraction. However, the chance to see some really unusual activities, such as men lifting bicycles with their teeth, is the hugest draw card.
08 of 08
Off the Beaten Track: Harike Wetlands
Did you know that Punjab has the largest wetlands in northern India, situated where the Beas and Sutlej rivers meet about two hours south of Amritsar? It hasn't been developed as a tourist destination, so it often falls under the radar of many visitors. However, it's a prominent breeding ground for migratory and resident water fowl, with more than 360 recorded species. Boating isn't possible without special permission but there are trails, accessible by vehicle (drive your own or hire a jeep in Amritsar), that offer fine bird sightings. Entry is free and the Harike Wildlife Office issues permits. November to February is the best time to go. It's an appealing destination for nature lovers looking for peace.