A travel Guide to Orissa
Orissa is situated in the eastern region of India on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The region was also known as ‘Utkala’ and has been mentioned in the Indian National Anthem as well. Orissa tourism plays an important role in the tourism sector of India as it is blessed with a diverse geography that consists of a long coastline, lakes, rivers, and mountains. It is widely known as the ‘Soul of India’ and receives many tourists from across the globe every year.
Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneshwar make up the Golden Triangle of Orissa because of their religious significance and cultural heritage. When in Orissa, you can wander amidst the gift of nature, rejuvenate by the sea, visit magnificent temples and monuments that exhibit heritage and some of the best works of architecture of ancient times. Some of the most popular Orissa tourist attractions are Jagannath Temple in Puri, Sun Temple in Konark, Chilika Lake, Hirakud Dam, Chandipur Beach, the list goes on.
Places to visit in Orissa
Being the house of the sacred Jagannath Temple, Puri a pilgrimage site for Hindu devotees and a part of Char Dham Yatra. Located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, Puri became one of the top Orissa attractions in the 70s. The location was considered as the resting spot of Lord Shiva and its heritage dates back to the 3rd Century BC. Puri is still a famous tourist spot among backpackers who can choose between a plethora of hotels and homestays near the New Marine Drive and Chakra Tirtha. If you are planning to visit in the months of June and July, you should definitely be part of the annual Rath Yatra that takes place in the city.
Konark is the home of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sun Temple which showcases one of the best works of architecture in the world. The temple is designed in the Kalinga style of Architecture and depicts the Chariot of the Sun God with 12 intricately carved wheels being pulled by 7 horses. Apart from this, Konark is also famous for its sandy beaches and hosting the Annual Dance Festival. The festival is a 5-day long event that celebrates the cultural diversity of the country. You can witness the classical dance of Orissa, Odissi along with several other dance forms of the different states such as Kuchipudi, Bihu and many others. Sun Temple acts as a backdrop for this event and adds to its beauty. You can even purchase traditional Oriya handicrafts at the dance festival as a souvenir. Konark also hosts the Sun Festival making it one of the top places to be ticked off the Orissa travel guide.
Cuttack is the second-largest city and the former capital of Orissa. It is also known as the cultural capital of the state and is a hub for traditional Oriya handicrafts. Cuttack hosts several cultural festivals such as the Baliyatra which commemorates trade links with Java, Bali and Sumatra from the ancient days. You can visit during November to witness the grandeur of Durga Puja and the Kite Festival in January. It is also famous for its silver filigree and is hence recognised as the ‘silver city’. Cuttack is one of the popular Orissa tourist places where you can try out the local Oriya street food like Dalma, Bamboo Biryani, and much more.
The city is abundant with rivers, hills, verdant forests and wildlife and holds historical significance because of the freedom fights that took place over here. The place was named after their main Goddess, Devi Samaleswari. The textile and handloom industry in Sambalpur gave birth to the famous Sambalpuri sarees. It is the biggest city in the western region of Orissa and is rich in tribal life and folk songs, dances, and culture making it one of the famous Orissa tourist places.
Bhubaneswar has made its mark in Orissa tourism for being known as the temple city of India. It showcases some of the best works of architecture on its grand temples and receives pilgrims and tourists from across India every year. Bhubaneswar translates to ‘Lord of the Universe’ and the name fits perfectly for being the home of numerous temples that are a couple of centuries old. Some of the top Orissa attractions can be found in this city such as the Lingaraj temple and Parsurameswar temple.
Things to do in Orissa
Here’s a list of things to do in Orissa during your trip.
Visit Jagannath Temple in Puri
Built-in the 12th century during the Ganga Dynasty, Jagannath Temple is the host of the famous Rath Yatra. The temple houses several deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. Every year, people from Orissa as well as the rest of the country visit the temple during the Rath Yatra to seek blessings. It is one of the top things in the Orissa travel guide. However, the temple doesn’t allow foreigners and Non-Hindu inside the premises. It is known that birds don’t fly over the temple because there’s a Garuda (eagle) that scares them away.
Bird watching at Chilika Lake
Chilika Lake is situated 44 km from Puri and is the largest inland salt lake across Asia. It is one of the famous Orissa attractions among bird watchers and nature lovers. The lake is formed in the shape of a pear and you can observe salt plans around its shore. The place is rich in flora and fauna and you can witness a myriad of birds on your trip to the lake like the white-bellied sea eagles and flamingoes. The place offers one of the best sunset and sunrise views and is widely known for being one of the two sites where you can see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. The best time to visit this place is between November and February as it is the migration season and you’ll witness a whole new variety of birds.
Explore the seabed of Chandipur Beach
A visit to Chandipur Beach is considered one of the unique Orissa attractions and here’s the reason why. It is widely known as the ‘vanishing beach’ because the water recedes from the shore twice every day during the low tide making the seabed visible to its visitors who can take a stroll on it and collect vibrant seashells and stones. The gleaming sands and glistening waters on the shore of the Bay of Bengal make it a picturesque location. You can enjoy amazing seafood in a wide array of cafes and shacks at the beach. The Chandipur Beach festival attracts numerous tourists every year who enjoy cultural dance performances and indulge in watersport activities offered to them by Orissa tourism.
Explore wildlife at Simlipal National Park
The Simlipal National Park was once a famous hunting ground and is blessed with an abundance of forests, waterfalls, river, and vibrant plants. It is a popular elephant reserve in the country. Apart from that, you can witness several animals like langurs, pythons, grey hornbills and crested serpent eagles. The national park is located in the Mayurbhanj District and its rich biodiversity makes it a popular spot among nature lovers.
Best time to visit Orissa
The best time to visit Orissa is anytime between late September to March as the incessant rains have receded by this time and the weather is pleasant and the sky is clear making it an ideal time for sightseeing and other outdoor activities. The state hosts several cultural festivals during the winter months like the Konark Dance Festival, Durga Puja, Kite Festival, and the Chandipur Beach festival making it the best season to visit Orissa. November to February is also the migration season so you can even enjoy bird watching at Chilika Lake at this time of the year.
How to reach Orissa
Orissa is well connected by all means of transports i.e flights, railways, and by road so you need not worry about how to reach Orissa.
Orissa is equipped with many airports, however, Biju Patnaik International Airport which is located 6 km from the centre of the capital city, Bhubaneswar, is the primary one. You can book flights to Bhubaneswar from major cities of India such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai as well as some other parts of the world.
Orissa is well connected to major cities of the country. The main station in Orissa is the one in Bhubaneswar which can be accessed by Rajdhani Express, Coromandel Express, and Konark Express. Several other super express trains run from Bhubaneswar; connecting it to Mumbai, Delhi, Tirupati, Chennai, Guwahati and many others. Tourists can get cabs or buses outside the railway station which will take them to their hotels in Bhubaneswar.
The state is connected by major cities of the country through an extensive network of national and state highways. If you are planning for a road trip, then these highways will take you to Orissa conveniently. You can hire a cab or ride a bus to Orissa from the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh.
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