Have you ever tried to identify Odisha with something different than Jagannath Temple, Chilika Lake and Sun Temple? If you haven’t yet, never Mind! As I understand until and unless you get a combo-off like the one we got last week during Diwali, the corporate professionals hardly try to explore beyond their increment and bank account status. Though said in a lighter mood, but it’s true to the lives of many of us that the dream of spending time in Burj Khalifa hardly lands on the practical ground, either for budget constraints or limited time.
So, while keeping the wish of spending holidays in Burj Khalifa awaited in bucket list, let’s look for an Indian destination that lives up to the mark of your classy choice of travelling. Time saving, less expensive and fascinating if all that you need for the moment then go for Odisha, the land of eloquent heritage. The colourful past of the art-filled edifices and splendour of natural diorama found even in the distant corners of the state would arouse the traveller in you dramatically. Here is a list of the top tourist places to visit in Odisha with major attractions to see in those places:
Puri and Jagannath Temple always appears as synonymous. The myths associated with the temple mainly with its wooden idols make it stand apart. But, if you are in Puri, don’t limit yourself to the temple premise. There are plenty of sightseeing options in Puri that can supply food for any inquisitive mind.
Location: 104km from Puri city
Nestled in the heart of coastal Odisha, Chilika Lake is claimed to be the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia. Extending over three major districts of the state, namely Puri, Khurda and Ganjam, this huge waterbody provides shelter to a wide range of avifauna and turns to one of the best tourist attractions in Odisha. Its scattered islands are inhabited by the members of the fisherman community. The Nalabana Island is a picturesque site where contrasting species of migratory birds can be witnessed. This 8 km long island is a popular bird sanctuary which is a must see attractions for the birding enthusiasts. Apart from multiple varieties of avifauna and unthinkable varieties of fishes a significant variety of algae, phytoplankton, aquatic plants, and over 350 species of non-aquatic plants are also found in this lake. For an unbeatable experience boat riding will be a must enjoy activity in Chilika. Satapada side of Chilika is ideal for dolphin watching.
Location: 10 km from Puri
A quaint village on the southern bank of River Bhargavi, Raghurajpur possesses a significant position in the cultural map of India. Fringed with intertwining palm, jackfruit and coconut trees this small village is inhabited by number of rural artists who craft beautiful work of art in their small huts. Introducing the tourists to the hidden gems of the country, this village compels one to fall in love with rural India. India’s famous Patachitra painters craft their best paintings in this village. The creative artisans of the village lead a simple life and create spellbinding handicrafts such as stone carvings, palm leaf engravings, cowdung toys, wood carvings, papier mache toys and masks, wooden toys, and tusser paintings. Meeting the villagers personally is a very exciting idea as almost every household of this village is engaged in something or the other type of creative work. The temple of Bhausani, Gouranga, Radha Mohan, Raghunath are the best sightseeing places of this village.
Location: Jagannath Temple Complex
Not only the devoted souls but the lovers of art and architecture would also feel affection for this temple. Located inside the temple complex of Lord Jagannath, this temple enshrines seven Matrikas i.e., Brahmi, Andri, Maheswari, Vaishnavi, Kaumari, Varahi and Chamunda. Built of sandstone and laterite, the temple is designed in Kalinga Architecture Style with four components called vimana, jagamohana, nata-mandapa and bhoga-mandapa . The exterior of vimana is ornate with khakhara mundis, love-making couples, lion-faced beast, Gajavidalas, jaliwork, monster face motifs, along with the figurines of eight Dikpalas.
Location: Markandeshwara Street, to the north of Jagannath Temple
A centre of deep rooted religious beliefs, Markandeshwara Temple is associated with the name of sage Markandeya who could see Lord Shiva in the form a kid on a banyan tree leaf. Markandeshwara Mahadeva is the presiding deity of this temple. The temple is one of the Pancha Tirthas (five pilgrimages) of Puri and one of the 52 Shiva temples in the country. Markandeya Kund is close to the vicinity of the temple and considered as a very consecrated place in Odisha. Chandan Yatra, Sital Sasthi etc are some of the annual celebrations of this temple.
An ancient Indian city dotted with around 500 prominent temples, Bhubaneshwar was once the capital of Kalinga. Along with Puri and Konark, it forms the golden triangle of the eastern part of India. Apart from the age old archaeological sites the city looks eye-catching for its sky scrapping modern business towers.
Location: 7 km west of Bhubaneswar
A fine example of Jaina rock-cut architecture the twin caves of Udaygiri and Khandagiri are ideal sites to have an idea about the heights of architectural excellence attained by the ancient Indian builders. These hills are honeycombed with 33 rock-cut caves. Partially natural and partly artificial, these caves were the residence of Jaina monks. Ranigumpha in the hillock of Udaygiri is a double storeyed monastery and known to be the most important among them. Tourists who are fond of watching the treasure of sculpture must see Hathigumpha (cave14) and Ganeshgumpha (cave 10).
Location: Lingaraj Nagar, Old Town
Designed in Kalinga Architecture Style, Lingaraj Temple is claimed to be the oldest and largest temple of Bhubaneshwar. Made of red sandstone, the temple enshrines the seat of Swayambhu Shiva (self-originated Lingam). The massive Lingam is made of granite stone and bathed with water, milk and bhang every day. The temple is set on a spacious courtyard on the Pancharatha plan with five divisions to the temple. The Sri Mandir is 54 m high and adorned with impressive carvings. The 2.5 m wide lingam is considered to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva found in India and known as Hari-Hara, the embodiment of Lord Vishnu and Mahadeva.
Location: 8km from Bhubaneshwar
The commencing point of the famous war of Kalinga, Dhauli Hills is located on the bank of Daya River and known to be one of the best places for family holidaying in Odisha. Today no sign of the war is visible on this famous place and it is popular for the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, which is a pristine white colour pagoda conversing about the world peace. Enclosed with dark green ambiance from all side this stupa is raised above a single rock. Five Chatris (umbrellas) placed atop are the symbols of five pillars of Buddhism. The rock edicts available on these hills date back to the days of the great Emperor Ashoka.
Location: 20 km from Bhubaneshwar
Popularly known as the Garden of Pleasure, Nandan Kanan is a National Park located in the vicinity of Kanjia Lake. One of the most famous Eco-Tourism destinations of Odisha, this protected land is a part of Chandaka Forest where a total number of 126 species of animals can be found. 54 cages are inhabited by 88 species of endemic and 32 exotic species of animals. This is one of the most significant national parks in the country that houses white tigers. It is one among the three popular animal captives of India housing Cinereous Vulture, Green-winged Macaws, and Nicobar Pigeon.
Location: 64 km from Kendrapara
One of the most sought-after destinations for nature explorers in Odisha, Bhitarkanika National Park is located in Kendrapara District of Odisha. A biodiversity hotspot, the park is home to the largest population of huge salt water crocodile in India. The park serves as the residence of around 215 species of avifauna and an amazing variety of kingfishers. Claimed to be the second largest Mangrove Eco-System in the country, the park encompasses around 70 species of Mangrove. Do not forget to see the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles in Gahirmatha.
The ancient Indian diamond trading centre, Sambalpur derives its name for housing the seat of Deity Sambaleshwari. The giant river dam Hirakud runs over this part of Odisha. The city has grown in importance among the tourists for its textiles, especially tie-and-dye lkat work. The must see destinations in Sambalpur include:
Location: 23 km South of Sambalpur
A famous abode of Bimaleshwara Shiva on the bank of River Mahanadi, the temple of Huma stands apart for its leaning structure. A significant element of travel & tourism in Odisha, this temple seek special attention for the tilted form of all the constructions starting from the boundary to the small temples. Curious tourists might like to see the play of varieties of fishes in the river, especially the one called Kudo.
Distance from Sambalpur: 50 km from Sambalpur
Located in the vicinity of Hirakud Lake and covered with dense deciduous forest, Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary is well acclaimed as the winter refuge to the migratory birds. Sambar, Sloth Bear, Chital, Serpent Eagle, Chousingha, are mostly found roaming in its virgin forest. During monsoon season the cascading waterfalls rolling over the Barapahad Hills add to its scenic opulence.
Location: Chiplima, Sambalpur
Adorned magnificently with numerous bells hanging across the temple, the seat of deity Ghanteshwari is a mysterious and very popular temple of Odisha. It is believed that the deity Ghanteshwari listens to the call of her devotees who after fulfilment of their wishes tie bells in the railing of the temple. The bells in the temple are of different sizes starting from small to huge ones and produce a continuous sound when heavy wind blows. The temple is located on the bank of River Mahanadi and exudes a scenic view during sunrise and sunset.
Location: Yavatmal, Odisha
A popular wildlife sanctuary in Yavatmal, Odisha, Ushakothi or Badrama is known for housing tigers, leopard, elephants, panthers and several other significant species of animals. These reserve forest is around 22 km from Sambalpur and is famous for being one of the smallest sanctuaries of Odisha. Racket-tailed drongo and flying squirrel are the main attraction of this sanctuary.
The centre of deep-rooted religious beliefs in Western Odisha and Chattisgarh region, Samaleswari temple is located on the bank of the holy River Mahanadi. Samaleswari is believed to be the presiding deity of Sambalpur. The divine entity is considered as Jagatjanani, the mother of the world. This white coloured temple depicts beautiful architectural style and comprises the figure of a giant lion in front of the temple. Srabanbhishek, Shyama Puja and Nuakhai are the most famous festivals of this temple.
Known across the country for enclosing one of its kinds the Sun Temple, Konark is an artistically enriched town in Puri district of Odisha. The sea beaches, natural beauty and manmade wonders paint the picturesque landscape of this small town perfectly and transform it to a quaint holiday retreat.
Location: Konark, Puri
A temple designed in the form of a royal chariot of Lord Surya, the Sun Temple is the pride of Odisha. The finest specimen of Odisha’s rich temple architecture, the temple is brought with twelve pairs of gracefully adorned wheels. The decorative carvings on the wall, ornaments and sculptures found in the vicinity are impressive and stand apart for their mammoth size. Imposing dimensions and refined finishing of the walls and sculptures mesmerises the first timers immensely. Evening is the ideal time to enjoy the peaceful environment of this temple.
Whether it is having a glimpse of the picturesque sunset or walking on the shores of the melodious sea, Konark Beach will never let you down in any season. Popularly known as Chandrabhaga, the beach appears as an ideal site to go for a leisure walk enjoying the windy sea breeze blowing against the hair or rolling waves washing away your bare feet. The perfect site to wake up the poet in you, the beach pleases any romantic and peace loving soul and exhorts one to take a dip in its swirling water.
Location: Konark, Puri
Located at a distance of around 8 km from the Sun Temple, Kuruma is a lesser known Buddhist shrine in the village of Kuruma. The excavations carried out in this village resulted in the discovery of antique idols of Heruka and Buddha. The Buddhist monastery spotted in this village enshrines the statue of Lord Buddha excavated from the site. The image of Buddha found here is considered to be one of the exceptional idols of Buddha.
Location: Konark, Puri
A popular getaway for an idyllic retreat, the Beach of Chandrabhaga ranks high for its religious as well as scenic view. The long stretch of golden sandy beach lined across azure sea water turns to an ideal spot for a rejuvenating walk in the morning or in the afternoon. In a clear day the sunrise over the sparkling sea-bed looks bewitching. During February-March a week long fair takes place in this beach in honour of Sun God. According to legends, Krishna’s son Shambo got cured from Leprosy praying to Sun God in this beach.
Darting springs, cascading waterfalls, unbound meadows and dense forest are all what transform Jeypore into a nature lover’s delight. Literally known as the city of victory, the city is surrounded by dark vegetation. The lifestyle of the tribal people is a wonderful sight to observe. The age old remains of the royal palaces exhibit impressive designs.
Location: Koraput District
A mystifying cave on the heart of a limestone hill, Gupteshwar is the seat of Lord Shiva. This age old cave temple is surrounded by deep greenery from all sides and presents a stunning view of Devi’s falls. The cave is replete with various rock formations and adds the feel of thrill due to its dark interior. The self incarnated Shiva Lingam is 2 m high and worshipped by thousands of devotees during the Shivaratri Festival in March.
Location: 22 KM from Padwa on Jeypore road
Popular for its majestic throne of 32 steps, Nandpur used to be the royal abode of King Vikramaditya. The Batrish-Simhasan is the main attraction of this place. Plush greenery coupled with peaceful environment adds to its scenic beauty and turns it to an undisturbed tourist site in Odisha.
Considered to be the highest waterfall in Jeypore, Duduma is a sparkling source of water rolling down over chocolate boulders. Dense deciduous forest and the wonderful topography add to the picturesque ambiance of this gurgling waterfall. A hydro-electricity project has been built amidst deep greenery. Ankadeli is a small village, 3 km away from this waterfall, where the primitive tribal people assemble for a weekly market on Thursdays. If one is there on that particular day, it is worth it to have a look at their lifestyle.
Well! All said and done, but without mentioning the names of Ratnagiri, Khandadhar 1, Keonjhar; Sapta Sajya , Dhenkanal; and Satkosia wildlife sanctuary in Tikarpara, Angul the list of important tourist points in Odisha remains incomplete. Now, I am sure by this time you have made up your mind to embark on a trip to explore this incredibly wonderful land. Just keep it in mind; never plan for spending holidays in Odisha during peak summer days, especially if you are seeking retreat from sweltering heat.