Of all the ruined forts in Punjab, Bathinda’s Govindgarh is the mightiest and most impressive. It’s also the oldest, dating way back to the 7th century, although rebuilt in its current red-brick form during the 12th century. It’s an enormous structure, located bang in the middle of the city, and an unexpected highlight of a visit to this region. The fort’s 36m-tall, 6m-thick walls tower over the old city bazaars and – best of all – can be freely explored.
Unlike other ancient forts in the region, Govindgarh has two gurdwaras and is thus always open to the public. Besides visiting the gurdwaras themselves, you can wander the lawned gardens within the walls and even climb up to a spot on the ramparts for magnificent views of the city. Don’t miss walking around the outside of the fort to the western face, where the immense walls are at their most impressive, towering above dhobi-wallahs (clothes washers) and cotton-loomers working on the dusty streets below.
To get to the fort, turn left out of the bus station, take the first left then keep walking straight through the bazaar for about 700m.