Travel Trade Journal
Punjab aims big with heritage and contemporary attractions
Tourism in Punjab today is not only confined to Amritsar and Chandigarh but has spread across the length and breadth of the state. The land has set many milestones in the realm of tourism, ranging from pilgrim and heritage to farm tourism and eco-tourism. Karnesh Sharma, Director, Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Government of Punjab offers a peek at the tourist hotspots and the developmental trends prevailing in the state tourism sector.
Best known as the “Land of Serenity”, Punjab is one of the few states that form the starting point of India from the Indo-Pakistan border and is steeped in a plethora of traditions and heritage. The state is not only famed for Amritsar’s Durbar Sahib but has a wide array of exciting destinations for pilgrims, heritage lovers and connoisseurs of food.
Karnesh Sharma explained, “We have homestays, 11 tented accommodations and 47 farm stays in the state. There are six wetland sites declared as Ramsar sites such as Nangal wetland, Harike wetland in the district of Ferozepur, Kanjli in Kapurthala, Keshopur in Gurdaspur, Ropar and Beas Conservation Reserve in the state. The former princely state of Kapurthala has emerged as a heritage city. Our upcoming project is the Anandpur Sahib-Naina Devi ropeway project that is going on in full swing. The ropeway project intends to connect pilgrims visiting the highly revered Anandpur Sahib, regarded as the birthplace of Khalsa with Naina Devi shrine in Himachal Pradesh. Pathankot has emerged as a miniature Goa for travellers. The state government has allotted `100 crore for aggressive marketing of tourist destinations in the state in the current year.”
The department of tourism has developed seven popular tourist circuits with Chandigarh and Amritsar as the take-off points. These include Chandigarh-Patiala-Fatehgarh
Sahib, Chandigarh- Chamkaur Sahib-Anandpur Sahib-Ropar, Amristar-Gurdaspur-Pathankot, Amritsar-Jalandhar- Kapurthala, Amritsar-Harike-Ferozepur, Amritsar-Fatehgarh and the Anglo Sikh War circuit. Sharma further said, “We are consolidating the three significant tourist circuits- Amritsar, Chandigarh and Anandpur Sahib. With an aim of retaining travellers for a long time, we are rolling out tour packages of fourday stays in Amritsar that will motivate travellers to visit the nearby destinations like Jang-e- Azadi, Jallianwala Bagh et al. We are looking forward to coming up with road shows across Indian metros in a month. The most-visited tourist destinations are Amritsar, Roopnagar, Kapurthala and Patiala. With two international airports in Chandigarh and Amritsar each, the land occupies a pride of place in being a highly secured and safe state in the country.”
The land of composite culture is replete with palaces, museums, war memorials, and forts. Sharma added, “The Golden Temple in Amritsar has nearly 1.25 lakh daily visitors, thereby making the destination figure the most visited pilgrim point in the world. We have Asia’s most visited museum- Virasat-e-Khalsa Museum in Anandpur Sahib that provides free entry for travellers. Patiala is replete with magnificent palaces including Sheesh Mahal and Moti Bagh Palace. While Jagatjit Palace and Moorish Mosque are in Kapurthala, Amritsar has Gobindgarh Fort, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Palace, Partition Museum, War Memorial and Museum. At a distance of around 50 km from Amritsar in Kaler is Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath Sthal or Ram Tirath which boasts of a massive temple complex of which Ram Valmiki temple is quite well known. We have planned a historical panorama based on the life of Maharishi Valmiki this year. The newest attraction of Amritsar is Sadda Pind, a living rural museum spread over 12 acres of area, offering an authentic experience of Punjabi culture and the best cuisine of the land. It’s a one-stop destination to soak in the flavours of Punjab.”
Community-based tourism is another major area of focus and the state has 82 bed-and-breakfast units. “Dastane-Shahadat Theme Park at Chamkaur Sahib showcases the entire Sikh history dating back to the times of the birth of Guru Nanak; the sacrifice of the sons of the 10th Guru to the journey of Banda Singh Bahadur that has been inaugurated at Chamkaur Sahib. The project has attracted nearly 60,000 visitors in the first quarter,” further added Sharma.
Other destinations like Shakti Sthal in Jalandhar and Takht-e-Akbari or the Coronation site of Emperor Akbar are frequented by travellers. Takht-e-Akbari is a historical landmark in the district of Gurdaspur. The department of tourism has taken up a slew of renovation works of heritage monuments and age-old buildings like the ancestral home of Lala Lajpat Rai and Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar in Ludhiana.
The state received around 2.5 crore domestic tourists and 3 lakh global visitors last year. “Punjab occupied the tenth slot in terms of domestic tourist arrivals and seventh position in global tourist footfall in 2020. We aim to be in a better position this year,” quipped Sharma.