Odisha is not a place that would usually appear in travel bucket lists and vacation plans, however, this beautiful jewel of eastern India is widely regarded as one of the most underrated travel destinations in the country. While the ancient sun temple of Konark and the holy city of Puri, situated along the shores of the Bay Of Bengal are the popular places to visit in Odisha, the rest of the state still remains a mystery to the outsiders.
The Southern parts of Odisha are characterized by lush green mountains and meadows of the Eastern Ghats, with a tribal culture unparalleled in the Indian mainland. The 485 km coastline of Odisha has a number of pristine and lesser known beaches of the country which also serve as a breeding ground for a number of endangered species of land and aquatic life. The Northern part of Odisha has a number of ancient temples and places of religious importance.
Odisha doesn’t disappoint adventure junkies and wildlife enthusiasts either. Puri has become a popular destination for surfing in India in the recent years. The largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest in the world, Chilika Lake is a haven for migratory birds, endangered Dolphins, reptiles, and mammals. Similipal, Bhitarkanika, and Gahirmatha serve as natural habitats for tigers, crocodiles, and olive ridley turtles respectively.
We bring you 10 best places to visit in Odisha – The Soul Of Incredible India.
Known as the temple city of India, noted mostly for its antiquated temples. An estimation puts the number of temples in the city to around 1200.
Main attractions are temples like Lingaraj(largest temple in the state), Mukteswar, the caves of Khandagiri, Dhaulagiri and the “Diamond Triangle” – Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitagiri.
Apart from temples, other attractions are The Nandankanan Zoo, Chandaka forests, Odisha State Museum, Ekamra Kanan, Regional Museum of Natural History, Pathani Samanta Planetarium.
The Lingaraj Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva
Image Source: Manfred Sommer (Flickr)
Holds a special place among Indians owing to its religious significance, having the grand temple of Lord Jagannath and enjoying the honor of being one of the ‘char dhams’.
Thousands of people from across the country visit this place to witness the annual festival of chariots, popularly known as “Rath Yatra” or “Festival of Chariots”.
Located on a beach, there are over 120 temples and shrines in its compound. Has one of the best beaches for swimming in India, positioned in such a place that both sunset and sunrise can be viewed from the beach,
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
The majestic sun temple at Konark is also known as the Black pagoda that draws tourists historians, scholars & pilgrims from across the world.
The temple takes the form of a chariot of the Sun God drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels at its base. Another major attraction of Konark is the Chandrabhaga Sea beach which lies next to the temple.
Image Source: Laksman Rawat (Flickr)
4. Chilika Lake
The first Indian wetland of international importance. The largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian subcontinent. Also the second largest brackish water (a combination of sea and fresh water) lagoon in the world. A great place of interest for angling, bird watching & boating, it also has a number of islands. Also popular for the bird sanctuary and the famous Irrawaddy Dolphins of Satapada.
Image Source: Pallab Seth (Flickr)
Spread across an area of 900 acres, Nandankanan Zoological park, and botanical garden and is located near the capital city, Bhubaneswar. Established in the year 1960, Nandankanan translates to ‘The Garden of Heaven’.
The zoo house 1660 individual animals of 166 different species, including 67 species of mammals, 81 species of birds, and 18 species of reptiles. The zoological park is one of the few places in India where endangered species like Asiatic lion, Nilgiri langur, and Indian pangolin have been breeding successfully.
White Tiger at the Nanadakanan Zoo
Image Source: Chandrashekhar Bhattacharya (Flickr)
Cuttack was the former capital of Odisha and it derives its name from Katak which literally means the fort. It is also known as the Millenium City and the Silver City due to its long-standing history of the world-renowned silver filigree works.
The Barabati Fort, a 14th-century castle which was built by Maharaja Markata Keshari stands in ruins but still resonates with the historical grandeur of the age. The museums at Cuttack should not be missed by history and culture enthusiasts.
The Baratbati Fort at Cuttack
Image Source: Bikash Das (Flickr)
This seaport is one of the most important ports along the Bay of Bengal. It is the primary port of Odisha and one of the largest on the eastern coast. The port is built on an artificial harbor and the ships access it via manmade lagoons.
Paradip is a major industrial town and it has one of the largest oil refineries in India. The marketing terminals for Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum and Indian Oil are also located here.
Image Source: Chinmay Mohapatra (Flickr)
Located in the western part of Odisha, and is one of the largest and oldest cities in the state. It lies about 300 km west of the capital city of Bhubaneshwar and stands on the banks of the Mahanadi River. It is a commercial and educational hub of Odisha. The Hirakud Dam, on Mahanadi River, is the longest earthen dam in the world and the largest artificial lake of Asia is at Hirakud.
The Leaning Temple of Huma, located about 25 km from Sambalpur, built in the 17th century, leans at an angle of approximately 47 degrees to the west. Samaleswari Temple is the main temple dedicated to the goddess Samaleswari and is located on the banks of Mahanadi River. Sambalpur owes its name to this deity.
Hirakud Dam near Sambhalpur
Image Source: Swagath Rath (Flickr)
Dhanu Jatra at Bargarh
Image Source: Sabyasachi Jana (Flickr)
10. Chandipur Beach
A tranquil beach getaway, the uniqueness of the beach lies in the fact that the sea recedes into the horizon by nearly 5 km twice a day which is a rare sight.
The sea while retreating back leaves its treasures behind in the form of Shells, starfishes, driftwood and conches.
Casuarina trees, sand dunes, and the receding tide makes Chandipur Beach special.
Image Source: Deepak Sahu (Flickr)
Not known to many, this place is a hill station and receives snowfall. The only hill station in Orissa, also widely known as “Kashmir of Orissa”.
Situated in the Kandhamal district, the place is gifted with natural beauty including pine jungles, coffee gardens, and beautiful valleys. An ideal summer resort set in a beautiful spot surrounded by thick rainforests with wild animals.
Image Source: Pritam.Kar.98 (Instagram)
12. Simlipal Tiger Sanctuary
Noted for its thick dense forests, meadows, waterfalls, and rivers.
A perfect location for forest camping, nature walking, forest safari, and trekking. One of the few sanctuaries in India where tigers roam freely in wild. Other animals to be seen are Leopard, Asian elephant, Barking deer, Gaur, Jungle cat, wild boar & four-horned antelope.
Located in Kendrapara, considered as one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries of Asia.
Bhitarkanika: Home to the largest population of the giant saltwater crocodile in India & also has eight varieties of kingfishers.
The largest mangrove forest in the country noted for its lush green mangroves, migrating birds and turtles, the crocodiles, water courses, tranquil surroundings and the ever embracing nature.
Image Source: Ananya & Chinmay (Flickr)
The first and only Marine Sanctuary of Orissa.
The beach separates the Bhitarkanika mangroves from the Bay of Bengal and is the world’s most important nesting beach for olive ridley sea turtles.
Image Source: Deepak Sahu (Flickr)
15. Gopalpur Sea Beach
Offers peaceful ambiance, serene environment, immense sailing opportunities and loads of fun for sea lovers.
The golden sand dotted with casuarinas plantation and clusters of coconut and palm trees set the beach apart from other beaches of the state.
An old lighthouse just on the shore is an added attraction.
Image Source: Satyajit Das (Flickr)
Some of the best works of nature can be seen in this beautiful land.
Set amidst hills with scenic waterfalls and amazing natural parks.
The major attractions here are the Gupteshwar Caves, Sunabeda, Deomali (the highest peak in the state), Duduma Falls, Hatipathar, Nandapur, Kolab Falls, Kolab Botanical Garden, Jagannath Sagar etc.
Deomali – The highest peak of the Eastern Ghats located in the Koraput district Of Odisha
Image Source: Prasanna Sahu (Flickr)
The 175 meters high Duduma waterfall in the Koraput district of Odisha
Image Source: Sriram Girivasan
This Heritage crafts village is located in the district of Puri, about 14 km away from the pilgrimage town of Puri, on the southern banks of river Bhargabi (Bhargavi). It is known around the world for its master Pattachitra painters; who’s art form dates back to the 5th century BCE. It is also known as the birthplace of one of the finest Odissi exponents and Guru, Kelucharan Mohapatra.
The village is also home to crafts like Tussar paintings, palm leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings, wooden, cow dung and papier mache toys, and masks. The village also has a series of temples dedicated not only to Bhuasuni, the local deity but also to various Hindu gods including, Radha Mohan, Gopinath, Raghunath, Laxminarayan, and Gouranga.
Image Source: Sukalyan (Flickr)
It was once the site of a major Buddhist monastery in the Brahmani and Birupa River valley in Jajpur district of Odisha. Ratnagiri offers astounding panoramic views of the surroundings, and it might have been chosen for the serene and calm atmosphere necessary for an ascetic life.
A major excavation project conducted between 1058 and 1961 uncovered much of what we can see today. Prominent, well-preserved standing statues of the bodhisattvas Vajrapani and Padmapani can be found in niches in a portico. Ratnagiri comprises two magnificent monasteries, also rebuilt more than once. A museum on the site displays statuaries featuring Tara, Avalokiteshvara, Aparajita, and Hariti.
Image Source: Hannes Rada (Flickr)
An old village under Tangi, in Khordha district of the state, at the northern end of the Chilika Lake. The scenic beauty of this marshland and village attracts visitors from around the world. The wetlands attract thousands of migratory birds from different parts of the world. The best time to visit the place for bird-watching is between the months of November to March.
Image Source: Rajiv Ranjan Sinha (Instagram)
The name Taptapani is derived from tapta which means hot, and pani which means water. It translates to hot water spring in English. The hot water from the natural spring of Taptapani is said to have medicinal properties. It is situated on the eastern slope of the Eastern Ghats, within the lush green forest having a wide range of flora and fauna.
Image Source: Hubert Gyon (Flickr)
Odisha is truly a magical and mystical place which has some of the most interesting places in the entire country. We hope this list has helped you learn about this underrated and hidden jewel of India. Pack your bags and get ready to explore. Let us know what you think of Odisha in the comments section.