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Weekend getaways: Punjab.

Summary: Find peace at the magnet of Amritsar, Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple, and then move to its other attraction-food.

Food and heritage: Amritsar

Where: About 230 km from Chandigarh.

What: Find peace at the magnet of Amritsar, Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple, and then move to its other attraction-food.

How: Drive out four hours from Chandigarh.

Why: With apologies to a certain Bard, if food be your music of life eat on in Amritsar. Lawrence Road is the 'food street' of this gastronomy capital. Stop here at: Kanhaiya Sweets (breakfast of halwa-poori and gur da karah), Surjit Food Plaza (tandoori chicken and mutton tikka), Makhan Fish (lightly fried sole fish served with kulcha). In between, spare time for Jalianwala Bagh and its much-improved museum as also for the Wagah retreat ceremony.

Good to know Must try: Don't skip a visit to Maqbool Road, for mutton curry at Prakash 'Meet' Shop, have your fill of Amritsar's best stuffed kulcha at Famous dhaba, local street-speciality of bhijje kulche at Pappi Chholewala in Green Avenue, and for lassi head to Regent Talkies. Experience: The prabhat pheri or the night palki ceremony at the Golden Temple. Must see: The laudable exposition of Punjab's most famous maharaja at Ranjit Singh Panorama-Ram Bagh; the 145-year-old Town Hall when illuminated, and the ruins of Sarai Amanat Khan, once a notable serai on the GT Road, dating back to Sher Shah Suri. Stay: Ranjit's Svaasa, heritage hotel with a spa. Rs. 6,000 for 2; www.svaasa.com

Heritage and shopping: Patiala

Where: About 70 km from Chandigarh.

What: A laidback city, this is also the culture capital of Punjab. It's been ruled by kings and queens and a monarchial air still hangs about the city. It has brilliant heritage to boast over and a city tour will showcase myriad frames of royal splendour that continue to sparkle.

How: About an hour's drive from Chandigarh through scenic countryside.

Why: There's lots on offer: history food and places of worship, but almost everyone will vote for it being a paradise for ethnic shopping. From jewellery to juttis, phulkari to Patialashahi salwars, the bling and swish will make your eyes goggle and purse lighter. The place to head to is the Walled City or the labyrinth of lanes around the majestic Qila Mubarak, the city's defining heritage structure.

Good to know Day trip: The historic circuit of Nabha-Sirhind-Malerkotla is a day trip from Patiala. The region is dotted with palaces, gurudwaras, forts and dargahs. Incidentally, this area was once considered the 'Frontier of Hind' or 'Sir-e-Hind' which became the Sirhind town and has now been rechristened Fatehgarh Sahib. Must-do: The proverbial Patiala peg (90 ml of dark rum or whiskey) at any of the bars in Patiala. Stay: The Baradari Palace, a charming hotel. Rs. 3,500 for 2; www.neemranahotels.com

Spiritual: Anandpur Sahib

Where: About 85 km from Chandigarh.

What: Time spent in this serene holy town exploring history and spirituality.

How: Driving is the best option. It's off NH 21 (Chandigarh-Manali highway), the detour to Anandpur Sahib is 10 km short of Kiratpur Sahib.

Why: Besides the sacred trail, the newest draw in town is Virasat-e-Khalsa or the Heritage Memorial Complex. Inaugurated recently after much delay, it's a grand-scale museum celebrating Sikh history and is a must-visit. What's made this destination additionally attractive are activities such as night safari, ziplining, rock-climbing as well as the Kikar Lodge (See stay).

Good to know Day trip: Bharatgarh Fort (www.bharatgarhfort.com), 20 km short of Anandpur Sahib, is a 1783 AD private fort in rare original shape. A section of this property has recently been converted into a heritage homestay. Season: Plan a trip during Hola Mohalla (March), an annual event dating back 400 years, where Sikhs display mock warfare and military drills. Organised a day after Holi, a classic image of contemporary Hola Mohalla is, in other words, executing difficult manoeuvres and daredevilry on horseback. Communication: There is practically no network in the region; only local Reliance numbers work. Stay: The Kikar Lodge in nearby Ropar. Rs. 6,500 for 2; www.thekikarlodge.com

Farmstay: Deep Roots, Morinda

Where: About 25 km from Chandigarh.

What: A farmstay at Ranjitpura village in Morinda will prove to be a weekend amidst the tranquil setting of a mango orchard, its air filled with bird calls and the manicured gardens being a stage for peacocks to showcase their beauty and at times treat you to a spontaneous dance performance.

How: Driving is the best option. A drive from Chandigarh is less than an hour.

Why: Though a modern farm, at Deep Roots you can try your hand at traditional farming activities from sowing to vegetable picking to milking cows. Enjoy the feeling of being a 'weekend landlord' by overseeing the fields as you ride a tractor.

Good to know Tip: On this stretch, in winter, you'll come across sheds off the highway preparing gur or jaggery. It's a treat to watch sugarcane juice being boiled in large cauldrons and within a while turning into sticky lava that solidifies into gur to be served generously to all onlookers, and these are quite a few along the main highway. Buy gur by the kilos directly from the source that will last you the cold season and maybe some more. Activity: Hone your skills in Punjabi khaana by attending cooking demonstrations at Deep Roots during the winter season. No, not just sarson ka saag... the saga of Punjabi cuisine suggests far more. Stay: The Deep Roots Retreat: Rs. 4,250 for 2 including meals; www.deeprootsretreat.com

Reproduced From India Today Travel Plus. Copyright 2012. LMIL. All rights reserved.

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Publication:India Today Travel Plus
Date:Jul 1, 2012
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