Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |

Odisha (formerly Orissa), an eastern Indian state on the Bay of Bengal, is known for its tribal cultures and its many ancient Hindu temples. Whether you want to feel one with nature or get immersed in the spirit of the divine, soak in some dance and music, or lose yourself on tranquil beaches and within the verdant folds of wildlife sanctuaries, the mosaic called Odisha has something for everyone.

WILDLIFE & BEACHES

1# Chilika Lake

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |Among its rich natural heritage, Chilika lake is a must visit for a traveller exploring Odisha. A paradise for migratory birds, it is Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon with estuarine character. Between November and February, the lake offers tourists a spectacular display of birds—over 160 species—in myriad hues. The Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over 1,100 sq km, is one of the most important wetlands in the world and is home to a number of threatened species of plants and animals, and an extraordinary variety of resident and migratory birds.

Nalabana Island, which covers 16 sq km of the lagoon area, is a spectacle to behold with a large number of nesting birds including flamingoes, ospreys, golden plovers, sandpipers, white-bellied sea eagles, Brahminy kites, spot-billed pelicans, spoonbills, avocets, and ibises from Central Asia, Iran and Siberia. One can also spot blackbuck, chital, golden jackals, hyenas and several felines and canine species in the lush sanctuary. While Chilika is an ecosystem with large fishery resources and boasts a wealth of marine life, including 225 or more species of fishes, crabs, prawns and limbless lizards, it is particularly famed for the Irrawaddy dolphins.

GETTING THERE
Air
Bhubaneswar is the nearest airport (95 km).
Rail Chilika has its own railway station connected to major cities.
Road The nearest bus stand is Satapada (25 km).

ACCOMMODATION  OTDC (Odisha Tourism Development Corporation) Panthanivas and Daaven’s Eco Cottage of Chilika Island Resort on Berhampura-Mahisa Island are the best mid-budget accommodation options.

BEST SEASON November to February.

2# Bhitarkanika National Park

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |Balm for one’s senses and soul, the Bhitarkanika National Park is a gem that is frequented by scholars, scientists, nature lovers and tourists. Verdant mangroves, migratory birds and turtles, estuarine crocodiles, and meandering water courses with chirping birds make for a tranquil setting. One of the largest mangrove ecosystems in India, with 70 varieties of mangroves that serve as a nesting ground for migratory birds, Bhitarkanika is home to diverse flora and fauna. It covers 672 sq km of mangrove forests and wetland, and is home to the largest population of giant saltwater crocodiles in India, earning the status of a crocodile sanctuary.

The sanctuary is also one of the largest rookeries for Olive Ridley sea turtles. Bhitarkanika is deemed one of Asia’s most impressive wildlife sanctuaries with a crisscrossing network of brooks, rivers, estuaries, backwaters and mudflats, with the Bay of Bengal on the east. Accessible only by boat, it makes for a perfect trekking, camping and picnic site. If you love to shoot through your lens or are a nature buff, the richness of Bhitarkanika—including the eight species of brilliantly coloured kingfishers—will leave you spellbound.

GETTING THERE
Air
Bhubaneswar airport is the closest (190 km).
Rail The nearest railhead is Bhadrakh (77 km).
Road Chandabali is the nearest town (35 km). Dangamal is the starting point of the park.
Boat From Chandabali and Rajnagar, the journey by motor launch takes about three hours.

ACCOMMODATION Forest rest houses in and around the park at nominal costs at Chandabali, Dangmal, Gupti, Ekakula and Habalikhati.

BEST SEASON December to February.

3# Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is the first and only marine sanctuary of Odisha. It stretches from the Dhamra river mouth in the north to the Mahanadi river mouth in the south and forms part of the Bhitarkanika National Park. Comprising mudflats, mangroves and sea beaches, and covering 1,408 sq km, the sanctuary’s sandy beaches have served as a hatchery for Olive Ridley sea turtles for a very long time. The turtles migrate en masse from the Indian Ocean during the winter and congregate on the sands of Gahirmatha until the end of March. In view of its ecological importance and to protect the sea turtles, the government of Odisha declared Gahirmatha a turtle sanctuary in 1979.

GETTING THERE
Air Bhubaneswar airport is the closest (75 km).
Rail Bhadrak (49 km) is the nearest railhead. Trains from Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Puri, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and Howrah stop here. Taxis ferry tourists from the station to the sanctuary.
Road Gahirmatha Sanctuary is well-connected to major cities of Odisha. Private buses and taxis are available to reach the sanctuary.
Boat They may be taken from Chandabali, Ragnagar and Gupti to reach the sanctuary.

ACCOMMODATION Nearby towns have government rest houses and private hotels to suit all pockets. Gahirmatha Beach, however, has plenty of restaurants.

BEST SEASON October to February.

4# Simlipal National Park and Tiger Reserve

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |One of India’s biggest tiger sanctuaries, the Simlipal National Park extends over an area of 2,750 sq km within a larger 4,374-sq-km biosphere reserve. It derives its name from the abundance of simul or red silk cotton trees that bloom here. Since 2009, the national park has been a part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. A treasure chest of flora—including a big expanse of sal trees, and many medicinal and aromatic plants that serve as a source of income for its tribal population—Simlipal has an astonishing 1,076 varieties of flowers and 96 species of orchids that are a blend of Western Ghat, Eastern Ghat and sub-Himalayan floral species.

It is also home to three of India’s biggest animal species—the tiger, Asian elephant and gaur. Simlipal is famed for Project Tiger, initiated in May 1973, and the Mugger Crocodile Scheme that began in 1979. With its undulating terrain, perennial streams, rivers, gorges and valleys, it’s an ideal spot for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

GETTING THERE
Air Bhubaneswar (270 km) and Kolkata (240 km) have the nearest airports.
Rail The nearest railhead is Balasore (60 km from Baripada) which is directly connected by major trains running on the South-Eastern sector.
Road Baripada is the most accessible point to reach the national park.

ACCOMMODATION Toshali Jungle Lodge, Similipal Kahiri Resort.

BEST SEASON Simlipal remains open from November 1 to June 15.

5# Puri Beach

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |

The most frequented and well-known beach in Odisha, the Puri beach is a sacred spot for devotees who take a dip here before offering obeisance to the deity, Jagannath, and his siblings at the temple. Nonetheless, it also gets—and has been receiving in increasing numbers—a mixed crowd from across India and abroad thanks to the Beach Festival that takes place in November. The sand sculptures, especially by the world acclaimed artist, Sudarshan Pattnaik, adds to the charm of this beautiful location. With its sun-kissed white sand and the endless expanse of water ahead, plus a host of water sports on offer, there are many reasons to fall in love with the Puri beach.

GETTING THERE
Air The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar (60 km).
Rail Puri is a terminus on the East Coast Railway with direct express and superfast trains from various cities.
Road Buses ply regularly from the bus stand near the Gundicha temple to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

ACCOMMODATION Hotel Nilachal Ashok, Puri Beach Resort, Hotel Holiday Resort, Golden Sands Sterling Holiday Resorts, Mayfair Waves.

BEST SEASON Puri is a year-round destination. November is one of the best times to visit because of the Beach Festival.

6# Chandipur Beach

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |If you fancy walking on the seabed, then Chandipur beach in Balasore makes for a must-visit on your Odisha itinerary. Unbelievable? Lying about 200 km from Bhubaneswar, the sea here, at Chandipur, recedes by as much as five kilometres every day during the ebb and swiftly returns to fill the emptiness during high tide. This beautiful play of the waters is an everyday affair and so visitors can be seen taking leisurely walks on the seabed, only to watch their trail being devoured by the sea hours later. Naturally blessed with beauty—the beach is lined with casuarina trees and solitary sand dunes—Chandipur also supports thriving biodiversity. So don’t be surprised if you have a red crab or a horseshoe-shaped crab crawling beside you for the company.

GETTING THERE
Air Nearest airports are in Bhubaneswar (200 km) and Kolkata.
Rail Balasore (17 km) is the nearest railhead.
Road Well-connected by bus services; taxis also available.

ACCOMMODATION Panthanivas (Odisha Tourism Development Corporation Ltd), Arpita Beach Resort are some of the options.

BEST SEASON December to February.

TEMPLES

1# Konark Sun Temple

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |An architectural marvel, the Konark Sun Temple was constructed in the 13th century by King Narasimhadeva and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and 12 pairs of wheels, carrying the Sun God, Surya, across the heavens. The beauty of the temple lies in the intricate detailing of its architecture; it’s almost like poetry in stone. The edifice is embellished with a profusion of sculptures on its interior and exterior walls. Although parts of the temple are in ruins, the three images of Surya, designed to capture the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset, are enthralling. It took the labour of 1,200 artisans and 12 years to complete the Sun Temple. Legend has it that after killing the demon, Gyasur, Lord Vishnu placed his belongings at different places to commemorate the victory. He put his conch in Puri, disc in Bhubaneswar and mace in Jajapur. He placed the lotus at Konark.

GETTING THERE
Air The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar (65 km).
Rail The nearest railway stations are Bhubaneswar (65 km) and Puri (35 km).
Road Well-connected by good roads and regular bus service from Puri and Bhubaneswar. Taxis also available.

ACCOMMODATION Panthanivas, Traveller’s Lodge, Inspection Bungalow, Yatri Nivas.

BEST SEASON October to February.

2# Lingaraja Temple

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |The largest temple in the temple city of Bhubaneswar, the Lingaraja temple dates back to the 10th century. An extraordinary specimen representing the quintessence of Kalinga architecture, the temple is made of red sandstone and was built by the Somavanshi king, Jajati Keshari. It boasts a spacious courtyard bounded by fortified walls and covers over 250,000 sq ft and contains 50 smaller shrines dedicated to the Hindu pantheon. The central tower of the temple stands at 180 feet and is elaborately carved. The sanctum sanctorum of the main temple is adorned with a massive shivling in granite. It is regarded as ‘Swayambhu’ or self-manifested and is worshipped as Hari-Hara, as both Vishnu and Shiva.

GETTING THERE
Air Bhubaneswar’s Biju Patnaik Airport is connected to most Indian cities.
Rail Superfast trains connect Bhubaneswar to major cities.
Road Bhubaneswar is well linked to the rest of India.

ACCOMMODATION Several options in all categories, to suit all budget types.

BEST SEASON October to March.

3# Puri Jagannath Temple

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |The Jagannath temple in Puri is one of the Char Dhams or four sacred places of worship and is therefore of much prominence among devotees. Built on a gigantic raised platform, the temple complex is enclosed by a wall with four gates that have pyramidal structures over them. The east facing Lions Gate leads to a vast open area, in the centre of which is the 11-metre-high monolithic pillar, known locally as the Aruna Stambha, with the figure of Aruna, the Sun God’s charioteer. This pillar was once in front of the Sun Temple in Konark. It was brought to Puri during the 18th century. Sprawled across 10.7 acres, the temple complex, built in the Kalinga style, is enclosed by two walls—the outer Meghanada Prachira, and the inner Kurma Bheda. The main sanctum is surrounded by 30 shrines of varying sizes.

There is a metal wheel at the top of the temple tower called Nila Chakra or blue wheel, crafted from an alloy of eight metals, to which is attached the temple flag. Of particular interest is the flight of 22 steps that one is faced with right after entering through the main gate. Devotees can be seen rolling down these steps in an act of reverence for the deity. The Jagannath temple is considered one of the tallest monuments in the Indian subcontinent and rises 214 feet from the ground. Its construction was initiated by King Chora Ganga Deva and completed during the reign of his 12th-century descendant, Ananga Bhima Deva.

GETTING THERE
Air The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar (60 km).
Rail Puri is a terminus on the East Coast Railway with direct express and superfast trains from many Indian cities.
Road Well-connected, with regular bus services from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

ACCOMMODATION Hotel Nilachal Ashok, Puri Beach Resort, Hotel Holiday Resort, Golden Sands Sterling Holiday Resorts, Mayfair Waves and Toshali Sands are some of the options.

BEST SEASON Year-round destination, but best between November and February.

FESTIVALS

1# Jagannath Rath Yatra

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |The Jagannath Rath Yatra is one of the most awaited festivals of Odisha, now well-known and attended by devotees in large numbers from across India. Organised in Puri every year in the month of June or July, the festival is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. An incredible show of devotion, the prime attractions of the Yatra are the three elaborately decorated chariots on which the deities sit. At 45.6 feet in height, Lord Jagannath’s chariot is called Nandighosa and has 18 wheels. The chariot of Lord Balaram (Taladhvaja) is 45 feet in height and has 16 wheels, and Goddess Subhadra’s (Devadalana) is 44.6 feet tall and has 14 wheels.

The chariots are pulled by hand, using long ropes; devotees, who gather in thousands to pull the chariots, believe that this is an act of penance and therefore blesses one with good karma. It is believed that during this time, Lord Jagannath visits his aunt (Mausi Maa), and therefore the chariots are pulled from the Jagannath temple to the Gundicha temple (Mausi Maa temple). The distance between the temples is just three kilometres but given the strength of the crowd and the fanfare, the procession takes a long time to reach the Gundicha temple.

GETTING THERE
Air The Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar is the closest (60 km).
Rail Puri is the last stop on the East Coast Railway; well-connected express and super-fast trains.
Road Well-connected by good roads. Regular buses from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack available to the nearest bus stand near Gundicha temple. Private taxis also available.

ACCOMMODATION Puri Beach Resort, Hotel Nilachal Ashok, Mayfair Waves, Mayfair Heritage.

DATES June or July (second day of the fortnight of Ashadha month). Nine days’ duration.

2# International Sand Art Festival

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |If the sand art of maestros such as Sudarshan Pattnaik of Odisha—awarded the Padma Shri in 2014—has always wowed you, then imagine being able to look at an array of creations by the best sand artists of the world in one place. The International Sand Art Festival of Odisha promises you just that. Held in the first week of December (December 1-5) on the gorgeous Chandrabhaga beach, about three kilometres from Konark, the festival brings together sand artists from India and other countries in a competition that promises to take your breath away. Life-sized, and often larger than life sculptures that one usually sees in stone, bronze or wood, are created by skilful artists. The detailing is spellbinding. Artists from countries such as Mexico, Singapore, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US, and from 20 states across India are expected to take part in this year’s edition of the sand art festival, and Pattnaik has been roped in by Odisha Tourism as the festival’s brand ambassador.

GETTING THERE
Air Bhubaneswar is the closest airport to Konark (64 km).
Rail Closest railway station is at Puri (32 km).
Road Konark is well-connected by good, motorable roads. Regular bus services available from Puri and Bhubaneswar.

ACCOMMODATION Panthanivas, Traveller’s Lodge, Inspection Bungalow, Yatri Niwas.

DATES December 1-5, 2017.

3# Puri Beach Festival

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |A stupendous show of art and culture, the Puri Beach Festival is again a very popular event in Odisha. The festival schedule is typically choc-a-bloc with classical music and folk dance performances by artists from the state and across the country, apart from exhibitions that showcase a wide range of traditional handicraft and handloom products, and sand art by different artists. The venue itself, the beautiful beach of Puri, adds to the charm of the festival. Keeping in mind the different tastes of visitors, lately, rock shows and fashion shows have also made it to the schedule of the typically week-long festival. There are bike stunt shows, tattoo workshops, beach yoga sessions, and adventure sports activities as well. The enthralling traditional dances, however, steal the show.

GETTING THERE
Air
The Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar is the closest (60 km).
Rail Puri is the last stop on the East Coast Railway; well-connected express and super-fast trains.
Road Well-connected by good roads. Regular buses from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack available to the nearest bus stand near Gundicha temple. Private taxis also available.

ACCOMMODATION Puri Beach Resort, Hotel Nilachal Ashok, Mayfair Waves, Mayfair Heritage.

DATES Typically in the month of November. Week-long duration.

4# Adivasi Mela

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |Home to 62 tribes, including 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), each different and unique from the other, Odisha has a rich tribal heritage. The Adivasi Mela, or Tribal Exhibition, is, therefore, a one-of-a-kind affair in which the different tribes come together and give a sneak peek into their culture through their art and craft. With increasing popularity, the exhibition has helped in both telling the world about the different tribal groups as well as in their overall development. Well-known Hollywood actor Ashley Judd was among the many visitors at this year’s edition of the Mela which took place in January-February; she visited the exhibition in her capacity as the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador. Held every year in Bhubaneswar, the exhibition is a colourful event, promising to open one’s mind about the state’s treasure trove.

GETTING THERE
Air
The Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar is well-connected to most Indian cities.
Rail Superfast trains connect Bhubaneswar to most Indian cities.
Road Well-connected to the rest of India.

ACCOMMODATION Several options available in Bhubaneswar to suit all budgets. Trident Bhubaneswar, Hotel Kalinga Ashok, Hotel Hindustan International and others.

DATES Usually commences on January 26, lasts until the first week of February.

BUDDHIST CIRCUIT

Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha |
1# Dhauligiri

Dhauligiri occupies a place of great prominence among all Buddhist sites in the world for it was here that Emperor Ashoka underwent a change of heart after all the bloodshed in the Kalinga war. Among its most renowned features is the Shanti Stupa or Peace Pagoda, which is thronged by tourists the world over.

GETTING THERE
Air Closest airport is Bhubaneswar (14 km).
Rail Closest railway station is in Bhubaneswar, which is well-connected to many Indian cities.
Road Well-connected, with buses and private taxis available.

ACCOMMODATION Number of options in Bhubaneswar to suit all budgets.

2# Lalitgiri

Lalitgiri in Jajpur district of Odisha is an important excavation site where the most dated sculptures of Buddha have been excavated. Again an important part of the Buddhist circuit, the first-century Buddhist complex of Lalitgiri, also known as Naltigiri, has several rock-cut caves, viharas, chaityas, monasteries, stupas, and caskets of stone with Buddhist relics. A museum in its precincts contains caskets believed to enshrine the bones of the Buddha.

GETTING THERE
Air Closest airport is Bhubaneswar (90 km).
Rail Closest railway station is Cuttack (70 km).
Road Can be reached from Cuttack by bus or taxi.

ACCOMMODATION Toshali Lalitgiri Resort and other options available.

3# Ratnagiri

A well-preserved and magnificent doorjamb adorning Monastery 1 in Ratnagiri is an unforgettable image that will stay with you long after you have left this place. There are sculptures, large monasteries, shrines, big stupas, and a colossal statue of Lord Buddha. There is also a museum with relics that date back to the fifth century.

GETTING THERE
Air Closest airport is Bhubaneswar (90 km).
Rail Closest railway station is in Cuttack (70 km).
Road Can be reached from Cuttack by bus or taxi.

ACCOMMODATION Toshali Ratnagiri Resort and other options available.

4# Udayagiri

Udayagiri is the largest Buddhist site in Odisha. There is so much to explore here. Among its most prominent features is a beautiful statue of the Avalokitesvara Buddha. There are also rock-cut sculptures, stupas, monasteries and a beautiful stepwell. The area is in the foothills which makes for an imposing and stunning backdrop.

GETTING THERE
Just 5 km from Ratnagiri. One can also avail of the Buddhist Circuit tour packages from tour operators.

Let’s wrap up Odisha Travel Guide | Best Places to Visit in Odisha | article. Read also Top 10 Cleanest Destinations Of India

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