With its roots firmly grounded in agriculture, Punjab is amongst India's most culturally vibrant states. Occupying a prominent position in the north of the country, close to the capital, New Delhi, its people are known for their larger than life nature that reflects through Punjab's distinct art, dance, architecture, and lust for living. Physically strong, passionate about food and drink, and deeply religious, Punjabi's are often the heart of any get-together. As a result, their state is a land of wonders that attracts travelers from across the globe with its diverse sights and sounds.
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Exciting Places to Visit Across Punjab, India
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From a tourist standpoint, be it from the rest of India or the world, Amritsar is the leading destination to visit in Punjab. The city's significance lies in its religious, historical, and culinary heritage. The most important place to visit in Amritsar, and possibly the entire state, is the Golden Temple. Known also as Harmandir Sahib, it is the primary site of worship in Sikhism. The temple was initially built in 1604 but gained its present-day avatar in the early 1800s when rebuilt using marble and copper with gold foil covering. Open to all visitors, spending some time in the Golden Temple complex is a must, irrespective of your religious beliefs.
A quick five-minute walk from the Golden Temple is Jallianwala Bagh, a stark reminder of India's struggle against the British. A memorial situated in an enclosed garden where hundreds of Indians were massacred on April 13, 1919, it pays homage to the many lives lost in the perusal of India's freedom. A walk through the museum and the park, where there is a preserved wall with bullet holes, is an emotional experience for many.
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A modern planned city, designed by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana. Among the popular sightseeing options in Chandigarh are its modern structures, the Capitol Complex, Open Hand Monument, and the Government Museum and Art Gallery. The city is also known for its green spaces, especially the Garden of Fragrance, M.C. Zoological Park, and National Cactus and Succulent Botanical Gardens.
However, the most novel excursion in Chandigarh is the Rock Garden. An expansive and beautiful landscape, spread over 40 acres, it comprises of sculptures made with discarded items and recycled ceramics, waterfalls, and wide-open spaces to spend a day out with the family. Known as Nek Chand's Rock Garden, it first came into existence when a government official secretly started building it in 1957. Other activities on and near the complex include the Doll Museum and boating in Sukhna Lake.
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India and Pakistan are perpetually in the news for all the wrong reasons. Still, a visit to Wagah Border, situated 28 kilometers from Amritsar, makes for a lively and entertaining half-day trip. Every evening, army personnel from both sides put on a loud, colorful, patriotic, and cheerful retreat signifying the closing of the gates that mark the physical boundaries of the often-warring countries.
A favorite with tourists, it is essential that you reach Wagah Border a good hour or so before the start of the ceremony, which typically commences around 4 or 5 in the evening, to get seats nearer to the action. The "act" itself is full of music, showmanship, and a sense of pride and valor that is both commendable and fun to watch for the young and old.
Half an hour away from the city of Ludhiana is Kila Raipur. On most days, it is a quaint Punjabi village with a laidback appeal that photographers and admirers of the quiet life will find alluring. However, for three days towards the end of January, thousands of people arrive here to witness the spectacle that is the "Rural Olympics."
Started in 1933, the Kila Raipur Sports Festival is the coming together of villagers from across the state to partake in several rural-themed events. From ox-cart racing and tractor pulling to kabaddi, acrobatics, truck loading and unloading, cycling, and sprints, the eagerly awaited annual festival is an exclusive gathering where visitors can enjoy genuinely rustic sporting action. Although it is possible to visit Kila Raipur on a day-trip from Amritsar, to appreciate the full force of the festival, it is worth staying in Ludhiana for its duration.
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Kapurthala is an underrated destination in Punjab with a rich and royal past. A princely state under the British, the city is now famously known as the "Paris of Punjab" for its extravagant French-inspired architecture and gardens. Amongst the best places to visit in Kapurthala is Jagatjit Palace. Built-in Indo-gothic style, and taking inspiration from the Versailles Palace, it was at one time the home of Kapurthala's Maharaja. Another imposing building in the center of the city is Jagatjit Club, with its towering columns that showcase traditional Greek architectural style.
If looking to spend a day out in the open, Kapurthala is home to Kanjli Wetlands, an excellent spot for birdwatching or having a family picnic. However, no trip to Kapurthala is complete without spending some time in Shalimar Gardens, the heart of the city where you will find locals and tourists at all times of the day, walking, eating, sitting, playing, and admiring the beauty of the royal cenotaphs that dot this complex.
Pushpa Gujral Science City
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While there are reminders of the past spread throughout Punjab, Pushpa Gujral Science City highlights the modernity of the state and its passion for technology and science. A short drive away from Jalandhar, this is the must-visit family tourist spot of Punjab.
Large dinosaur models, exhibitions covering various themes in social sciences, plenty of photo-ops, earthquake and flight simulators, 3D theatre, and a laser show; there are more than enough activities at the science city to keep children and adults occupied for an entire day.
Excellent connectivity and good roads make Punjab the perfect tourist destination for a car trip. Traveling by road further allows visitors to see the state's smaller towns where life is calmer and unpretentious. In fact, a great experience to have in Punjab is to spend a few nights in a village. It is here that, on a good day, vacationers can sleep under the stars, eat freshly prepared rotis, take a walk through sunflower fields, and enjoy a few precious moments away from the hurry of everyday city living.