By Dr. Himanshu Talwar, International TEDx speaker & Travel Writer
Odisha is India’s hockey capital. Yes, it’s true, although not known to many. Out of many forms of tourism, sports tourism is one that has picked up well in the state. Thanks to the state government for developing and maintaining the sports infrastructure and also taking the privilege and honour of organising the Hockey World Cup in 2023.
I have been a regular visitor to the state, mostly to visit the religious sites and deliver lectures to the students. Penned an engaging travelogue for travellers who have or have not been to the state. I am covering as much as I can so that places can be included in the itinerary well in advance while planning a trip to Odisha.
Odisha offers a vivid, one-of-a-kind experience for people around the country with its magnificent structures, rich history, and vibrant culture of art, music, and dance styles. The state of Odisha, formerly known as Orissa, is located by the Bay of Bengal on the nation’s east coast. Odisha has some beautifully unique tourist attractions, from temples to tribal villages to pristine beaches, national parks, etc. Odisha’s rich culture is brought alive through its incredible indigenous music and dance, handicrafts, tribal culture, Buddhist relics, rich flora and fauna, and delectable cuisine. Odisha is renowned for its myriad wonders. It has a lot in store for everyone, which makes it a great tourist destination.
Here is a list of locations and tourist attractions one must visit in Odisha:
You may begin your journey in the temple city of India, Bhubaneshwar, which is infamous for its architecture and majestic temples. The stunning historical temples in the ancient city of Bhubaneshwar draw pilgrims and visitors from all over the nation. A rare example of Oriyan architecture is the Parasurameswara temple. The presence of 1,000 lingas in the complex’s northwest corner is this temple’s most unique feature. Lingaraj Temple is a magnificent example of a temple built in the Orissa style with hints of Kalinga architecture. This stunning monument is made of the deepest colour of sandstone and has an incredible structure.
Puri, which is also known to many religious and spirituality-seeking travellers by the name of Jagannath Puri, is a seaside city located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal and is one of the favourites among tourists. Located in the sacred town of Puri, the Jagannath Temple is India’s pride. It is a part of the sacred Char Dham and is considered to be the most renowned Hindu pilgrimage place. Puri is also popular for its golden-hued sandy beaches. Balighai Beach, Beleswar Beach, Swargadwar Beach, Puri Beach, and Chandrabhaga Beach are the top five beaches in Puri. The Golden Beach, also known as Puri Beach, is a Hindu sacred site that hosts the Puri Beach Festival every November. Additionally, Puri Beach is well known for its serene surroundings as well as the sand sculptures made by Sudarsan Pattnaik, the world-famous sand artist.
From Puri, Chilika Lake is a must-visit location in Odisha, which lies close to the coastal city. The largest internal saltwater lake in Asia, Chilika Lake, is a haven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. A few small islands dot the pear-shaped lake, which is surrounded by saltpans and fisheries. The Chilika Lake also has one of the most favourable ecosystems in the entire world, so a variety of plants and animals can be seen here.
Konark: The Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit. In addition, the annual dance festival and its splendid sandy beaches have made Konark, in the state of Odisha, known across the world. One of India’s most stunning structures is the Sun Temple at Konark, which is a work of architectural genius. Konark’s Annual Dance Festival is a five-day cultural spectacle that invites exceptional dancers from across the nation as a celebration of the diverse dance genres that our nation has created as well as the rich cultural and artistic legacy of our nation. The Sun Temple serves as the backdrop for the ceremonies, which gives the entire event a sense of grandeur and beauty.
Furthermore, Konark is home to the Sun Festival, during which devotees immerse themselves in the sea to make prayers to the Sun God. A Handicrafts Mela is held in conjunction with the Dance Festival, where visitors can purchase one-of-a-kind, wonderfully made items that brilliantly showcase Oriya art.
Then comes the city of Cuttack, the “cultural capital of Odisha,” which is a bustling urban centre with many top-notch tourist attractions. The second-largest city in Odisha and the previous capital, Cuttack hosts numerous festivals, including the Baliyatra, and is always humming with cultural events exhibiting local handicrafts and artwork.
With a carved doorway, the Barbati Fort, about 8 kilometres away from the city, is a well-known fort. The Mahanadi River flows past the fort. The fort offers an amazing view of the urban Cuttack metropolis. It is the earthen mound of the nine-story palace. A Barbati stadium is adjacent and is constructed for cultural and various sporting activities. A temple to Katak Chandi is also present. In addition to adding a unique charm, the fort depicts the city’s illustrious past.
For nature and wildlife enthusiasts, Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, which is 120 km from Cuttack, is a unique preserve that spans 650 square kilometres and is home to a variety of salt-tolerant trees, plants, rivers, and creeks. It is home to some of the rarest species of both flora and fauna in the world. The rare white crocodile, as long as 23 feet, is the nature sanctuary’s main attraction. Another attraction of the expansive mangrove trees that make up the second-largest mangrove forest in India Boating from Khola to Dangmal is the most popular of the park’s entrances, which are all available. You can access the rich ecology and trek through the thick trees through this entrance.
Odisha, known to be the “soul of India,” is an amazing tourist destination where one can experience the beauty and wealth of nature, relax by the beach, or visit the numerous temples and monuments that proudly stand to serve as a reminder of the history of the region. If you love vibrancy and want to enjoy every bit of your stay, Odisha is a treat you don’t want to miss out on.