Here's Why Punjab Should Be On Your Holiday Bucket List

From splendid architecture to gorgeous landscapes, fantastic food, layers upon layers of history, and a vibrant art and culture scene, theres much to experience in the state
Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar
Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar

Punjab, the Land of the Five Rivers, is rich in immersive travel experiences, from heritage monuments to beautiful landscapes, sumptuous food, colourful bazaars, and more. Here are five trails to explore when you are in Punjab, including experiences of art and architecture, food, history, and religion. There's something for every whim and every kind of traveller.


With divine gurudwaras, contemporary cities, and intricate palaces, Punjab is a delight for those who find architectural history interesting. You can trace the richness of overlapping cultures in places that are a great introduction to the region or a microcosm of it. A wander through its cities reveals glimpses of the past. Here are a few things you must not miss.

The town of Kapurthala is dotted with little gems, none more so than its mini-Versailles, the Jagatjit Palace. Modelled on the palace of Louis XIV, it was commissioned in the early part of the 20th century by the flamboyant Francophile Maharaja Jagatjit Singh, who perhaps

imagined himself Punjab's own Sun King. Anandpur Sahib, the holy heartland of Sikhs, has the stunning Virasat-e-Khalsa. Also known as the Khalsa Heritage Complex, this architectural marvel is spread over 100 acres and is built in the shape of hands folded in prayer. Built to celebrate over 500 years of Sikhism's rich heritage, this building complex draws deeply from religious and regional architecture to create a striking sandstone monument replete with dramatic bridges, collonaded walkways, monumental arches, and tranquil reflecting pools.

The Partition Museum is the world's first museum on the Partition of India and Pakistan. Located in Amritsar, it is a space filled with memories and objects donated by families affected by Partition. It wishes to be known as a People's Museum, narrating the Independence movement and its aftermath via the people's experience.

While in Amritsar, also the historic Gobindgarh Fort, first erected in the 1760s by local chief Gujar Singh Bhangi, was restored in the early 19th century by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was under the authority of the army for a long period until being opened to the public in 2017 following significant renovations.

Said to be the oldest surviving fort of India, the formidable Qila Mubarak in Bathinda was built between 90-110 CE by Raja Dab of the Kushana dynasty. It has been the site of many a battle. According to legend, it was Emperor Kanishka who chose this site for fortifications. Around the 11th century CE, Mahmud of Ghazni captured the fort. It's also associated with Prithviraj Chauhan and Mohammed Ghori. The 30-metre-high fort includes 32 bastions, nine of which have been damaged over time. In 1835, a gurdwara dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara was established. The Sikh guru is said to have visited the place in 1705, thus endowing it with spiritual significance.

The Bathinda Fort is one of the state's oldest forts. This huge semi-circular bulwark composed of small bricks dates back to the Kushan dynasty's era in AD 90-110. It is also known as the Razia Sultana Fort because it was here that the fabled empress was imprisoned. Guru Gobind Singh visited the fort in 1705, and a gurudwara was built to commemorate his visit.

Patiala's Sheesh Mahal was built as a pleasure compound behind the larger Moti Bagh Palace. The paintings in two of its well-preserved, mirror-worked rooms are of Kangra and Rajasthani qalam, showing Keshav, Surdas, and Bihari's poetic visions. The Sheesh Mahal is now home to a museum, an art gallery, the renowned medal gallery, and the North Zone Cultural Centre.

Khalsa College in Amritsar is a grand historical structure designed by well-known architect Bhai Ram Singh in 1892. The construction began in 1904, and it took seven years to complete the structure. The college is known for its reference library, museum, and gallery, which houses thousands of manuscripts, rare books, portraits, and paintings of great historical significance and value.

The Rambagh Palace in Amritsar, completed in 1818, was Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Amritsar residence. Initially built as Ranjit Singh's summer retreat within an 80-acre Mughal-style charbagh (four gardens), it became known as the "Company Bagh" after the East India Company took over the Sikh Empire in 1849. The Punjab government designated the palace complex as a protected monument in 1997, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) designated it as a national monument in 2004. The palace was opened to the public in February 2022 after fourteen years of conservation work. The museum here has wonderful displays of artefacts and weapons, including swords, daggers, and rifles of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh era.

Pul Kanjri in Amritsar is a historical site situated 35km from Amritsar on the Amritsar-Lahore road, near the villages of Dhanoa Khurd and Dhanoa Kalan on the Wagah border. Built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, this is the place he used to rest at while travelling with his troops. This fortress also contains a bathing pool, a temple, a gurudwara and a mosque.

Patti Qila is a historic Mughal fort built in 1755, located in the old city of Patti near Tarn Taran Sahib, close to the Pakistani border. The fort housed the local police station up-till the year 2003.

The Moorish Mosque in Kapurthala was built as a message for communal harmony by Maharaja Jagatjit Singh and was inaugurated in 1930. The structure overseen by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is beautiful, with a large inner courtyard and cool marble-floored corridors and a large, tree-filled char bagh-style garden out in front.

The 132-year-old Durbar Hall is an Indo-Saracenic monument built by Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. The Durbar Hall was constructed in accordance with Sikh tradition, with elaborate interiors for public ceremonies. The Maharaja also used it to convene his durbar (court). Its construction began in 1882, and it took eight years to finish. The structure was taken over by the government in 1947 and turned into a court and administrative building.

During the Mughal era, many caravansarais were built at regular intervals on the Grand Trunk Road as resting stops for those travelling on the Lahore-Agra journey. One of the noteworthy saris is Sarai Amanat Khan on the Grand Trunk Road in a small village southwest of Amritsar. It was named after Amanat Khan, the calligrapher of the Taj Mahal, who is credited with inscribing verses from the Quran on the Taj Mahal. It is known for stunning carved gateways with glazed tile d&eacutecor and the beautiful baoli attached to a well.


Discover ancient and contemporary religious sites, tracing the wondrous outline of religion and spirituality in Punjab. One of the most visited places in Punjab is the serene Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, in the midst of the holy tank&mdashAmritsar, or Lake of Nectar&mdashthat gives the city its name.

Amritsar evolved around the Golden Temple, and the city is named after the tank by which Guru Ram Dass cited his headquarters. In 2017, the Golden Temple was awarded the 'most visited place of the world' by the World Book of Records (WBR), the London-based organisation cataloguing and verifying world records. The grand shrine is known for its round-the-clock langar or 'free kitchen'.

Anandpur Sahib is a pilgrimage centre revolving around Sikhism. Every one of its winding little streets is home to historic gurudwaras commemorating emotive events in the evolution of the Khalsa. Of the five fortress-gurudwaras built by Guru Gobind Rai in 1688, Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib is the most important and also the best preserved. Some of the old fortifications still survive, although the modern Gurudwara complex sprawls much further. This is where the guru performed the first baptism ritual on Baisakhi day in 1699. This is a huge complex, and you can easily spend half a day exploring the various gurudwaras that are divided between different sects.

Also known as Talwandi Sabo, the Takhat Damdama Sahib in Bathinda is an important Gurudwara complex in Punjab. Its importance stems from its association with Guru Gobind Singh, who arrived here after fleeing the advancing army of Sirhind General Wazir Khan.

The town of Dera Baba Nanak is considered to be one of the most sacred places of the Sikhs. Situated on the banks of river Ravi in Gurdaspur, this ancient town has many significant gurudwaras. Many of its lanes and houses have been preserved since the time of Guru Nanak. The Pakistan border is very close to here one can see the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur.

The Aqsa Mosque, Qadian, Gurdaspur, built in the 19th century by the father of the Ahmadiyya sect founder, demonstrates an eclectic mix of local and traditional Islamic architectural styles. The mosque is extremely significant to the adherents of the faith. The striking white minaret that soars over the mosque and the town are recognised as a symbol of the sect. Visit at night when the mosque and minaret are illuminated by the moonlight.


Punjab's eclectic culture is perceptible in a range of diverse arts and crafts. Don't leave Punjab without a souvenir, something that exemplifies its traditional arts and crafts.


The vibrant and colourful leather shoes of Punjab, known as juttis, are famous. The pure leather ones are handmade because the leather used for this type of shoe is too thick to stitch by commercial machines. These handcrafted shoes are usually decorated with silver or gold threads.


Look for ornamental furniture and wooden products in places such as Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Amritsar, and Bhera. Wood carving here is known for its geometric or floral patterns dating back to the Mughal era. Its inlay work&mdashknown as Debbi&mdashcan be seen on furniture, boxes, screens, bowls, cigarette cases, and chess boards made of Sheesham or black wood. Hoshiarpur is also known for its delicate trellis woodwork, and you can get them made to order to suit your purpose.


Pick up an exquisite piece of phulkari work. Phulkari (literally, 'flower') started out as darning at the back of a damask by either counting the thread or with the help of a thread line. Bagh Phulkari is a type of drape where the entire surface of the cloth is covered with ornamental designs connected to each other in a seamless pattern. A phulkari, where only the edges of the drape are covered with stylised motifs of flowers, fruits, beads, or geometric design, is known as Chope (older women of the house traditionally gifted it to the bride). These are usually stitched with silk or cotton threads. Patiala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Amritsar are the places to shop for phulkari.


There is no home in Punjab that doesn't own a dhurrie&mdashthe simple loom woven thick cotton spread used as a bedcover or a carpet. You can buy these in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Tarn Taran, and Anandpur Sahib during any festive season when artisans come to sell their ware. Or travel to the village of Raja Sansi, not far from Amritsar airport, where you'll find famous Bukhara-style hand-woven carpets. Women have kept the tradition of weaving carpets alive here.


Punjab is also known for exquisite metalwork. If you've had lassi in a traditional mega-sized Punjabi brass tumbler, you'd have noticed the delicate repoussé, piercing, and metal engraving. Besides tumblers, Punjab also makes decorated metal lampshades, metal doors, and engraved panels&mdashthe kind that is seen in Gurudwaras depicting the famous battles from Sikh history.


People who travel to eat say it is a reliable way to be familiar with a culture of a place. Punjabi cuisine is an explosion of flavours, with varied culinary practices that are deeply rooted in the landscape and its people. Culinary memories are frequently the highlight of a journey and link us to a place. And in Amritsar, known as the culinary capital of Punjab, these are found in abundance in the bylanes surrounded by the sights and sounds of everyday life. How can you not love a city that celebrates the divine, and divinely delicious food, in equal measure

A Punjabi dish par excellence is the wonderfully moist Amritsari fish which is marinated in fragrant spices and fried. The kulcha thalis in Amritsar are not to be missed. The delectable kulchas (puffed, fried bread) are topped with freshly churned butter and dipped in a bowl of spicy chole (black gram).

Another famous dish from Punjab is the stuffed paratha. Available in a variety of stuffings (think potatoes, cauliflowers, radish, etc.) and accompanied by fresh curd and a pickle, they make for the perfect meal. Make sure you sample local seasonal delicacies such as sarson ka saag (mustard greens) with makki ki roti (maise bread).

Punjab's love for dairy is apparent in every meal you have here, whether it is the divine kheer, the bowl of creamy curd, the freshly made white butter and ghee you have with your paratha, or the soft paneer (cottage cheese). And, of course, the frothy lassi that you round off your meals with.


The many hues of Punjab are reflected in its many festivals. Some of the major festivals that give an idea of the cultural diversity of the state are

Hola Mohalla

Langars in every home and people living in trucks and on the roads&mdashthat's the scene in Anandpur Sahib on Holi. And the reason is the famed three-day festival of Holla Mohalla. Established by the 10th guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, on 22 February 1701, this was a day of sporting for the holy warriors, called the Nihang Dals. Their fight was against the tyrannical Mughals. Celebrating this the dals celebrate this day with a showmanship of martial arts and horsemanship. Sword fighting, tent pegging, archery, and other martial

skills can be seen on the crowded grounds. And there's also a horse polo championship organised by Anandpur Sahib Heritage Foundation.

Bandi Chhor Divas

This festival commemorates the day Guru Hargobind rescued 52 kings from Gwalior Fort, whom Mughal Emperor Jahangir had detained. The day falls in autumn and often coincides with Diwali. It is marked by the lighting of homes and gurdwaras, celebratory marches, and langar (community kitchen).


The festival honours the first crop of the year's harvest. According to the calendar used by Sikhs, Baisakhi is also regarded as the first day of the New Year.


Lohri marks the conclusion of a severely cold winter, and its celebration is a way for Punjab to welcome longer and warmer days. The community festival sees people dance and sing around bonfires.

Cover photo credit Shutterstock 

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