Punjab On a BudgetPunjab is a state of northwestern India, its name roughly translating to "the land of five rivers." Like much of India, Punjab is thriving with culture evident in its royal palaces, historic monuments, shrines, temples, and more.
SightsThe Golden Temple (also known as Harmandir Sahib) in the holy city of Amritsar is a must-see on any visit to Punjab. The complex is the main attraction of the city and the most important religious place to the Sikhs, always full of thousands of pilgrims from all over India. Visitors are required to cover their head and remove their shoes as they explore the holy place. Just as beautiful at night, the temple is lit up after dark, reflected in the glimmering waters in the pool below.
In Chandigarh, the Rock Garden is perhaps one of the city's most unique attractions. It was created by Nek Chand who started his little garden in 1957 illegally until it was discovered in 1975 where it had already grown to about 12 acres of interconnected courtyards filled with hundreds of pottery-covered sculptures. From here, rather than being demolished the garden was turned into a public space and has today grown to encompass 25 acres. The Rock Garden is complete with 2000 statues, waterfalls, and amphitheaters. The sculptures are all made out of scraps and other repurposed materials with objects like bottles, glasses, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks, electrical waste, broken pipes, and more.
Other attractions worth visiting include the grand royal palaces of Patiala and Faridkot, ancient forts and temples in Pathankot and Bathinda, as well as other archaeological sites, temples, palaces, monuments, and museums to be found in most of the major cities.
RegionsChandigarh is the capital city of Punjab. As India's first planned city, it is very distinct from the rest of the country with impressive modern architecture placed against a backdrop of the Shivalik Hills. Some of the best known attractions of Chandigarh include its rock and sculpture garden, rose garden, and Sukhna Lake. Amritsar is another bustling city, a holy city of the Sikh religion named "holy pool of nectar" for the pool around the base of the Golden Temple complex. The city is also a hub of transportation for those flying into Punjab. Other important destinations include Patiala known for its Royal Punjabi Palaces and monuments, Faridkot also known for its palaces, Pathankot for its forts and temples, and Bathinda which is well-connected by train to many other cities (including New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad, amongst others).
ActivitiesMost people who visit Punjab are interested in its culture, ancient civilizations, spirituality, and history. Sikhism and Hinduism are among the two main religions, which have contributed much to the past of Punjab, evident in its architecture and way of life. Some visitors journey to the region on pilgrimage, while others stay to admire the beauty of the temples and palaces. In the cities, markets and bazaars are also great places to get lost in the bargaining culture of Punjab. While the cities offer a range of museums, monuments, and activities thriving with culture, the smaller villages are just as impressive with insight into traditional everyday life of local peoples.
Food and DiningPunjabi cuisine largely consists of both vegetarian and meat dishes full of rich, buttery flavors with a minimal use of spices. Due to Hindu religious beliefs, beef is a banned item which is neither consumed nor sold in Punjab, so most meat dishes consist of lamb or chicken. Many of these are served with rice, basmati rice being the indigenous variety of Punjab. Breads like naan, chapatti, and paratha are also commonly served with meals. As far as regional specialties go, some popular items include things like sarson da saag, tandoori chicken, shami kebab, and makki di roti. Sarson ka saag is a popular vegetable dish in the Punjab regions of India and made from mustard leaves (sarson) and spices. Tandoori chicken is usually prepared roasted with yogurt and spices, taking its name from the cylindrical clay over called a tandoor in which it is traditionally cooked. Shami kebab is composed of a small patty of minced or ground meat with ground chickpeas, egg, and spices, while makki di roti is a kind of unleavened corn bread. Freshwater fish is also an important part of Punjabi cuisine, as Punjab is known as the land of five rivers.
TransportationBy plane, the holy city of Amritsar has an International airport called Raja Sansi International Airport (a.k.a. Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport). It is located about 11 kilometers northwest of the city center, and operates 11 domestic and 7 international flights. The airport also serves neighboring areas of Punjab, Western districts of Himachal Pradesh, and Southern districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
By train, India has one of the longest rail networks in the world. Operations are run by Indian Railways with stations located at just about every major destination. There are more than 80 stations throughout the state of Punjab.