What are some unique things about Orissa

The best things to see and do in Odisha, India

Odisha, the "soul of incredible India" as it is often called, is located on the east coast of the country, between the shimmering waters of the Bay of Bengal and the lush green Eastern Ghats. This coastal state offers a variety of cultural, historical, and scenic sights and experiences that will keep travelers busy for days. Read on to discover the best things to do in Odisha.

Visit ancient temples

Odisha is home to numerous ancient temples that are a reminder of the rich cultural heritage and history of the state. One of the oldest and most important temples is the Jagannath Temple in the temple city of Puri. Dedicated to Lord Jagannath (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu), the temple dates back to the 12th century and is one of the four holy places of the Char Dham pilgrimage sites. This temple is famous for its nine-day chariot festival (Ratha Yatra), held in June or July each year. It is a vibrant Hindu festival marked by beautifully decorated wooden chariots carrying the idols of the gods and devotees who pull this chariot. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country attend this great festival and pay homage to Lord Jagannath.

Jagannath Temple, Jambhira, Sankhana, Odisha, India

Another notable temple in Odisha is the Konark Sun Temple, which is in the form of a chariot powered by seven horses on 12 massive wheels. The temple in Konark was built in the 13th century and is dedicated to the sun god Surya. Its ornate stone carving, the striking architecture and the erotic sculptures of the meat associations (Mithunas) as well as the inclusion in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage make it worth a visit.

Konark Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha, India, +91 06758 236 821

Other well-known temples in Odisha are the 11th century Rajarani Temple, also known as the "temple of love" because of its erotic carvings, and the Kalinga-style Lingaraja Temple, the largest temple in Bhubaneshwar. Its carved stone towers are what really sets them apart.

Explore the ancient caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri

Part artificial and part natural, these ancient caves are one of the finest examples of Jaina rock-cut architecture in India. Khandagiri is made up of about 15 caves and the Udayagiri has 18 caves that were once used as homes for the Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela. With intricate carvings, sculptures, Brahmi inscriptions, and important historical, archaeological, and religious significance, these caves cannot be missed.

Khandagiri Caves, Khandagiri, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.

Udayagiri, Khandagiri-Chandaka Road, Khandagiri, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.

Marvel at historic forts

Odisa's glorious past is best represented in its numerous forts, which may lie in ruins but continue to stun visitors with its historical charm. Visitors can stroll among the ruins and marvel at the remains. They are best preserved Fort Barabatiwhich was built in the 14th century by the Ganga dynasty, the Fort Sisupalgarh from the 3rd century BC And the 4th century AD. That Fort Chudanga Gadawhich was built in the 12th century by Kesari Dynasty and the Raibania Fortwhich is a group of ancient forts dating back to the 13th century.

Barabati Fort, Biju Patnaik Colony, Cuttack, Odisha, India.

Sisupalgarh Fort, Mahaveer Nagar, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.

Raibania Fort, Raibania, Odisha, India.

Laze the day on the beach

Located on the Bay of Bengal, Odisha has 485 kilometers of beaches that are perhaps the best commodity in the state. Some of the famous beaches visitors have to include Puri Beach, Chandrabagha Beach and Chandipur Beach. Puri Beach in the pilgrimage town of Puri is one of the largest beaches in the country and stretches for 7 kilometers.

Chandrabagha Beach is only a mile from the Sun Temple in Konark and is known for its breathtaking sunsets as well as the cultural activities that take place here, especially the weeklong Chandrabagha Mela, which takes place every February. Visitors can relax in the inexpensive and luxurious accommodations on the beach.

Chandipur Beach is located in Balasore District and is the only beach in India where the sea drops twice a day at low tide. So you can walk on the seabed and collect sea particles. During the high tide the water returns with full force.

Other beaches that are just as beautiful and pristine are Paradip Beach in Jagatsinghpur District, Astaranga Beach and Balighai Beach in Puri and Aryapalli Beach.

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You can go bird watching, fishing or boating at Chilika Lake

Chilika Lake defined eco-tourism in Odisha. It is the largest salt lake lagoon in the country with an area of ​​up to 1100 square kilometers in the districts of Puri, Ganjam and Khurda. The lake is brimming with wildlife, especially fish and migratory birds, from Russia, Central and Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Ladakh and the Kyrgyz steppes of Mongolia. You can even watch dolphins frolicking in the lake and to do this you need to take a boat ride from Satpada that will take you deep into the lake for breathtaking views. There are also several islands within the lake, such as Honeymoon Island and Breakfast Island, which are well worth a visit for their picturesque surroundings. It is recommended that you bring your camera and binoculars.

Many companies offer cruises and camping trips to Chilika Lake, and Grass Roots Journeys offers the best of both.

Chilika Lake, Odisha, India.

Boats on Lake Chilika | © Arpitargal1996 / WikiCommons

Sunrise at Lake Chilika | © Mike Prince / Flickr

Let yourself be enchanted by breathtaking waterfalls

An integral part of the Odisha's appeal is its breathtaking waterfalls. The highest waterfall in the state is the Barehipani Waterfall, which is located in Simlipal National Park. This spectacular waterfall flows from a height of 399 meters in two levels that form a pool below. Tourists can enjoy the beauty of these majestic waterfalls from afar. The best time to visit is between October and June.

Barehipani Waterfall, Odisha, India.

Near the Barehipani waterfall is the Joranda waterfall, which is located between tall trees and lush salvage vegetation. It falls from a height of 150 meters over a high cliff in a single drop and eventually spreads - it's a sight to see. Other popular waterfalls in the state include Devkund Waterfall, Khandadhar Falls, Sanaghagara Waterfall, and Harishankar Waterfall.

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Visit the handicraft village of Raghurajpur

Just a short drive from Puri is Odisha's first traditional craft village, Raghurajpur. It's one of the points worth visiting the beautiful area especially if you are an art lover. In the village you will find about 120 small, identical rows of houses that are placed next to each other. What fascinates them are their walls, which are adorned with colorful murals, including folk motifs, images of gods and demons, and tribal art. The inhabitants of this village are all artists who practiced the Pattachitra art form from the 5th century BC. Have mastered which is basically miniature painting on palm leaves or fabric. Locals make traditional masks, paper mache, stone idols, wooden toys, and sculptures. Some of the artists have also won national awards for their brilliant and exquisite work.

The neighboring villages of Khasposak, Dandasahi and Nayakapatna are also in this art form, so if you are in the area be sure to visit them. And don't forget to bring a traditional item from these villages back home for your loved ones!

Raghurajpur, Jagannathballava, Odisha, India.

Raghurajpur Pattachitra art form | © Chinmayee Mishra / WikiCommons

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Take a tribal village tour

Odisha has the largest number of tribes in India. Up to 62 different tribes live in this coastal state, which makes up about 24% of the total population of Odisha. Some of the tribes that inhabit the state are Bondas, Kondhs, Dongarias, Munda, Santal, and Koya. These tribes exhibit rich and unique cultures and traditions, including artistic skills such as wall painting, jewelry making, body painting, and weaving. Dance and music are the soul of these tribes. To learn and experience the local tribal culture, you can take a tour of the Rayagada, Ankadeli, and Bantalbiri tribal villages.

If you are new to the area it is best to book a tour to make the trip easy and convenient. Incredible India Tour offers Odisha's Tribal Village Tour which covers all of the tribal villages along with other major tourist spots in the state. Other tours that you can opt for are the Desia Tour, Grass Routes, and Heritage Tours. These tours give you the chance to meet and greet indigenous tribes and have an authentic tribal experience.

Go game viewing

From mammals and exotic birds to marine life, Odisha is home to a diverse range of wildlife, making it a nature lover's paradise. Some of the beautiful places to get up close and personal with the state's incredible wildlife are the Nandankanan Zoological Park, which has 166 species of animals, 130 species of orchids, a reptile park, and 34 aquariums. Bhitarkanika National Park, which is home to diverse flora and fauna and is known for its water monitors and the giant saltwater crocodile that is approximately 23 feet long; and Simlipal National Park, home to 242 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 30 species of reptiles and 96 species of orchids. It is an especially good place to see Bengal tigers.

Nandankanan Zoological Park, Nandankanan Rd, near Police Station, Barang, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, +91 0674 254 7850

Bhitarkanika National Park, Paramanandpur, Odisha, India, +91 080 930 12303

Simlipal National Park, Dist. Mayurbanj, Bhanjpur, Baripada, Odisha, India, +91 06792 252 593

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Get to know the craft at Pipili

A true wonder not known to many visitors, the small village of Pipili, about 22 miles from Puri, is a stunning find due to its applique work. The natives of this village have mastered the application technique, which involves embroidering and sewing colored scarves with traditional designs and incredible art. Every family in this village deals with this type of handicraft and earns a living with it. Be sure to stick around and learn this craft and don't go without buying some appliqué items such as bedspreads, handbags, lanterns, lampshades, tablecloths, wall hangings, purses, dolls and more.

Pipili, Odisha, India.

Craft shop in Pipili | © Bernard Gagnon / WikiCommons

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Spot Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

Olive Ridley sea turtles are an endangered species that can be seen along the Odisha Coast, on Gahirmatha Beach, and in the Devi and Rushikulya Rivers. These areas serve as the largest nesting sites for these reptiles in India. As every year, if you want to witness the most impressive gathering of these beautiful reptiles, visit thousands of sea turtles from Olive Ridley to Gahirmatha Beach to breed along the coast.

Gahirmatha Beach, Kendrapara, Odisha, India.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle on Gahirmatha Beach | © Travelodisha / WikiCommons

Visit Buddhist sites

Odisha is home to several Buddhist sites. In fact, around 200 Buddhist sites have recently been discovered through archaeological digs. These sites date from the 6th century BC and the 16th century AD. They can be found in Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri, also known as the "Diamond Triangle". These sites consist of numerous stupas, monasteries, temples, shrines, stone and terracotta sculptures. When in Odisha visit these holy sites to experience the Buddhist heritage and learn about Buddha and his teachings.