Nankana Sahib, Pakistan, is the birthplace of Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak. I’ve been twice, so in this guide, I will cover how to travel there and how to visit all the Gurudwaras associated with the Guru’s life.
Where is Nankana Sahib?
Nankana Sahib is a small city with a population of ~80,000, located 78km or a 1.5 hours drive from Lahore in the Punjab region of Pakistan.
It is named after the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak, who was born in the city and first began preaching there.
What is Nankana Sahib known for?
Nankana Sahib is one of the most sacred cities for Sikhs. Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak, was born there and spent his early life there.
The city features 6 impressive Gurudwaras (Sikh places of worship) all related to different parts of the Guru’s life.
Who can travel to Nankana Sahib?
Can foreign nationals travel to Nankana Sahib?
Non-Indian passport holders can easily travel to Pakistan by applying for a visa-in-your-inbox. Most people receive their approval to travel within just a few hours.
According to the Nankana Sahib police officer in the above vlog, the protection of foreign tourists is their responsibility. However, I don’t think there’s any rule like that in Nankana Sahib. The only places that require you to travel with a security guard in Pakistan are, as far as I know, southern Punjab (below Multan) and Balochistan.
Can Indian citizens travel to Nankana Sahib?
Indian citizens living permanently in India cannot simply apply for a pilgrim visa on their own. They need:
- Letter from the Jatha leader of the respective society/group in India giving details of the applicants and the purpose of the visit.
- Letter of invitation from host/organisers in Pakistan.
So as far as I can tell, Sikh societies in India & Pakistan together organise pilgrim tours to different Sikh sights each year.
So for an Indian citizen to travel to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, you’ll need to find a Sikh society/group that’s organising a pilgrimage.
You can try to contact the Pakistan High Commission if you’re really stuck and can’t find a tour group. I’ve heard that politely pleading your case and the importance of the trip can help.
Don’t forget that you also have the much easier option of visiting Kartarpur Sahib.
Can overseas Indians (NRIs) travel to Nankana Sahib?
Where to stay in Nankana Sahib
The only hotel I know for foreigners in Nankana Sahib is Hotel One.
It features enormous rooms and a breakfast to match (Rs. 9,999 PKR per night).
Beware of booking a cheaper hotel because they may not be able to accept foreign guests, so check before booking.
Are foreign credit cards accepted in Nankana Sahib?
Foreign credit cards often don’t work in small towns like Nankana Sahib, so make sure you have cash. For example, Hotel One does not accept foreign credit cards.
Finding an ATM that will accept foreign debit cards is also very difficult. It took me many tries to find a cash machine that worked. If you find yourself in this situation, visit the main banking street opposite Gurudwara Mal Ji Sahib.
Where to eat in Nankana Sahib?
There are many dhabas (restaurants) dotted around Nankana Sahib and along its main road. Most are serving chole (chickpeas), daal gosht (lentils with meat), and rogni naan (a very rich buttery bread). There’s no shortage of chaiwalas making typically strong tea too.
Pure vegetarian food may be a little hard to find because even vegetarian dishes in Pakistan can contain meat stock. But Gurudwara Janam Asthan and Gurudwara Mal Ji Sahib both serve shudh shakahari khana (pure-veg. food).
New Golden Hotel
New Golden Hotel is a dhaba next to the railway station serving traditional Pakistani Punjabi food like chickpeas, lentils, fresh bread, and chai.
Chicky Chicks, on the main road near Hotel One, serve great pizza and burgers.
Ravi Seafood Restaurant
Ravi Seafood Restaurant, directly opposite Chicky Chicks, serves fresh grilled fish coated in spices, capsicum, onion, and tomato, and served with bread. It’s absolutely delicious.
General tips for travelling in Nankana Sahib
While Janam Asthan is very well managed and visited by many people every day, the other five gurudwaras are not.
I’ll detail the issues I had in the following sections about each Gurudwara, so please read it carefully so you know how to deal with any problems that may arise.
Walking tour map of Nankana Sahib’s Gurudwaras
This map will give you an idea of the locations of the main Gurudwaras in Nankana Sahib. They’re all within walking distance.
How to visit Gurudwara Janam Asthan
Gurudwara Janam Asthan is incredible. You will feel something special in the air there. It’s also a stunning location that’s great for taking a group picture near the sarovar (sacred pond) during your pilgrimage.
To enter, you will have to go through security and if you’re a foreigner your passport details and driver’s number plate will be logged. Then you’re free to enter and explore the massive Gurudwara.
Langar is always available at Janam Asthan and Mal Ji Sahib, but don’t expect to find it at the other Gurudwaras as they seem to be less frequently visited.
During my two visits, the sarovar was only full at Gurudwara Janam Asthan.
DSLR cameras are not permitted. Mobiles are allowed.
How to visit Gurudwara Mal Ji Sahib
Langar is available here, and it’s special because behind the Gurudwara, they have their own little farm where the food for langar comes from!
When I went, langar consisted of shalgam (turnip) curry a very fresh raw salad, roti, and dudh patti chai (tea made with only milk, sugar, and tea leaves).
How to visit Gurudwara Kiara Sahib
It’s hidden behind a huge blue gate off the main road. There’s no sign for it.
Open the door on the gate and go through. You’ll be greeted by Police and just explain you’re there to visit. Hopefully, they’ll be a sevadar (volunteer) there to show you around.
How to visit Gurudwara Patti Sahib
You may face issues with the Police guard while trying to enter because there might not be anyone inside to host you.
If this happens, go across the road to Gurudwara Bal Lila Sahib and ask someone to help you enter.
How to visit Gurudwara Tambu Sahib
Tambu Sahib is the most difficult to visit. The security at the gate will ask you to go to Janam Asthan and get permission from the big boss. I did that and entered. I think it’s so difficult because they’re busy building a new Gurudwara there.
How to visit Gurudwara Bal Lila Sahib
The Gurudwara is open and easy to enter. Police there may check your passport and log your entry. Then a sevadar will greet you and show you around.
Got some tips about travelling to Nankana Sahib or just want to say thanks for the guide? Leave a comment.