13 Best Places to Visit in Odisha for Lifetime Memories

Orissa is nestled comfortably in the south eastern part of India and is historically significant with a backdrop of over several centuries to boast of. It is also known as Odisha and houses in its midst, several tourist attractions including the world famous Jagannath Temple, the Sun temple, the Lingaraja temple and most importantly the famous Rock Edits of Ashoka.

The east Indian state of Orissa is a delightful mix of culture, handicrafts, architecture, unpolluted beaches, and serene lakes. There are umpteen best places to visit in Orissa for lifetime memories. Still, the traveler's community ignores Orissa even though it has India's best-kept secret, from waterfalls to festivals, wildlife, and Buddhist monuments.

The key to Orissa tourism is its temples that date back to the 7th-12th century. Moreover, the temple city Orissa is dipped in fascinating history that you must explore by taking the cave tours here. From the photography point of view, this India's lesser-visited state is a perfect place for shutterbugs as there are plenty of handicraft villages.

It actually does not cost much to travel in Odisha, only issue is that of good accomodation and facilities. Anyway outside the standard Bhubaneshwar-Puri-Konark-Chilika circuit, there are some places that are worth a visit, and which do not cost too much. Odisha is the land of temples engraved with deities, farmers, animals, and common masses.

These temples have their own archaeological importance. If you love to visit offbeat places in India, then this is a place that you were looking for this whole time. Sambalpuri Nritya, Chhau Nritya are the most popular semi-classical dances, having their origin in Odisha. Odissi is a well-known classical dance of Odisha. Baliyatra and Panchuka Punei are some more auspicious festivals of Odisha celebrated with great pomp and pleasure.

Manabasa Gurubara, an auspicious ceremony is observed by married women for four consecutive Thursdays on the occasion of Lakshmi Brata in the month of Margashira. Jhoti chita (hand drawings with rice paste) on floor and walls reflect Odia culture and tradition. Khudurukoni Osha is very popular and is meant for unmarried girls only with joy and delight on their faces when they go to pluck flowers along with their favourite sakhis and sahelis.

Poda Pitha, Enduri Pitha, Manda Pitha, Tala Pitha, Chakuli Pitha, Pahala rasagulla, Chhena Poda are some of the most popular Odia delicacies. In fact, Pahala in Odisha is as famous as Kolkata for Rasagulla.

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To personify that Orissa is one of lesser explored places in India, and it should definitely be explored, we have gone ahead and made a list of top tourist attractions in Orissa. Let's dive right in, shall we?

1. Puri

Puri, the popular beach town is one of the four char dhams in India. It is very famous for the Jagannath Temple, which contributed with the word juggernaut to the English language. The temple consists of wooden deities. These sculptures are made out of Margosa or neem wood. Deities made of wood are named as Nabakalebara.

The deities remains unspoiled throughout times because of its excellent architectural skills and also because of its composition. The deities are of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. There are many other deities besides those. The temple is famous for the Ratha Yatra that is held annually. It is also known as Gundicha or garden yatra. The three deities are taken in big, separate chariots and proceeded to Gundicha for their 7 day sojourn.

Apart from this you can chill at the sea beach or have some spiritual knowledge by visiting the Mutts in Puri. Almost all spiritual preachers starting from Adi Shankar, Ramanujacharya, Shri Chaitanya to Guru Nanak Dev has established mutts in Puri. Chhappan Bhog is served everyday in Jagannath Temple; Abadha, Mahaprasad, Tanka Torani being one of the most famous.

Famous for its sun-kissed beaches, vibrant markets, and Rath Yatra Festival in July annually, Puri is one of the top spiritual places to visit in Orissa. It is situated on the tropical coastline and is dotted with several unpolluted beaches. From romantic strolls to swimming on the beaches, this hour and a half south of Bhubaneswar city is best known for its Jagannath Temple.

Only Hindus are allowed to visit inside the temple, but visitors can gaze at the temple's marvelous beauty from the nearby building roofs (by paying a small fee). The city of Puri remains on the top of the spiritual radar because Puri is amongst the Bada Char Dham Yatra of India.

2. Konark

Drive to Konark, where the Sun Temple that is on the beach of the Bay of Bengal is an architectural marvel. Of particular interest to tourists are the southern coasts of Gopalpur and Dhabaleswar, which have long been surpassed by the more popular ones near Puri. But apart from these places, have a visit to the world famous Konark Temple (if you have not visited earlier). It is located between Puri and Bhubaneswar.

The hub of ancient art and structure, Konark is one of the most visited places in entire East India. Konark is dotted with several beaches, archeological museums, but its key charisma lies within its temples. If you want to attain a deeply spiritual experience on your Orissa trip, visit the UNESCO listed Konark Sun Temple, which is known for its impeccable architecture, geometrical patterns, and carved wheels used to serve as sundials.

The sun temple is located at Konark in Orissa. It is also known as the black Pagoda. This monumental structure is from the thirteenth century. It was constructed by King Narasimhadeva of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. The Konark temple was created from weathered and oxidizing sandstone. It is credited as a World Heritage Site and is one of the most well renowned temples in India. It is also listed as one of the seven wonders of India.

Konark Temple is dedicated to the Sun God and is now partially ruined. Hence, no formal religious ceremonies are performed here. However, Konark is one of the most beautiful architectural creations of Odisha. Its walls speak a wonderful story and remind us of the times gone by.

The structure is intricately decorated with stone carving. The temple is in the form of the chariot of the Surya. Surya or Arka is the sun god. The complete complex of temples was formed in the design of a huge chariot on twelve pairs of beautifully decorated wheels which is being pulled by seven glorious horses.

The entrance to the temple is protected by two huge ion structures. These lions are depicted crushing a war elephant. The elephants are lying on top of a human being. The temple successfully shows the majestic stride of Surya, the sun god. Nata Mandir is at the beginning of the temple. At the Nata Mandir temple dancers used to perform dances to pay homage to the sun god, Surya.

The temple is designed with geometric and floral patterns. A part of the temple now lies in ruins. The museum of the sun temple stores the sculptures from the ruins. The temple is famed for its erotic depictions through sculptures and designs. Such sculptures are found on the second level of the porch structure.

The Konark temple belongs to the Kalinga School of temples. It is characterized by cupolas and curvilinear towers. The temple is aligned to the east-west direction. Natural surroundings are present all around the temple complex. Sandy soil holds the many rosewood, eel, and mahogany and casuarina plantations around the temples. These temples are the pride of Indian and depict the culture and rich diversity of ancient India.

You can also chill at the Chandrabhaga Beach or Ramchandi Beach nearby. It is surreal to observe these super talented artists come up with such wonderful designs of places, people and situations. If you ever get the chance, do witness the Sand Art Festival. Sand art, though has its origin in modern times, still is brought to its best in Odisha by none other than Sudarshan Pattnaik.

Spend the day in the artisan village of Raghurajpur near the lace that specializes in paintings of Patachitra, an art form belonging to Batik using bright colors painted on palm leaves.

3. Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar is the capital of the state of Odisha, in eastern India, until recently known as Orissa. Bhubaneswar is the capital city of Orissa and is a perfect blend of heritage, history, and urbanization. Beaches around Bhubaneshwar aren’t as commercial as beaches in Goa or Kerala but they are surely much more cleaner.

If you are planning to visit Bhubaneswar, then do visit the ancient temples. These temples were mostly built before 12th Century BC. Popularly known as the Temple City of India, Bhubaneswar is world famous for its classic example of heritage, history, and urbanization.

Also called India's temple city, this town was once a cornerstone of several Hindu temples; out of them, only a few remain, but all are impressive to witness the architectural splendor. Learn about the historical tales of the temples in Bhubaneswar and get amazed by the intricate sculptures and immaculate carvings. The best you can do is plan a one-day temple hopping tour in Bhubaneswar.

Once you step in Bhubaneswar you will get to know why it is called the Temple City. It has many ancient temples dedicated to Shiva. A Bhubaneswar tour should be in your bucket list if you don’t want to miss out exploring the incredible artwork, wildlife sanctuaries and caves of Odisha.

Some of the key attractions you shouldn't miss on your Bhubaneswar trip include Dhauli Hills, Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves, Ratnagiri Buddhist Excavations, Bindu Sarovara, Nandan Kanan Zoological Park and Lingaraj Temple among others. You need to hike up hill to reach these caves. These caves are hundreds of years old and very intriguing.

About 100 kms from Bhubaneswar is the ancient Buddhist Centers of Lalitagiri and Ratnagiri, which together with the site of Udaygiri form what is known as the diamond triangle of Odisha. On a day trip from Bhubaneswar, visit the ancient Buddhist sites of Lalitagiri and Ratnagiri, dating from the 1st century BC to the 12th century AD to see the stone coffin containing the relics of the Buddha in Lalitagiri, standing statues of the Buddha and sculptures of the Gandhara School of Architecture.

Continue towards Bhubaneshwar and stop at Dhauli Stupa where Ashoka of Kalinga dynasty embraced the teachings of Buddha.

4. Cuttack

Cuttack is the judicial capital of Orissa because the High Court of this state is located here. Often touted as Silver City due to its silver filigree works that date back to 1000 years, this city is next to Bhubneshwar when it comes to the largest town in Orissa.

You will find top-notch facilities as a tourist in Cuttack because it is often considered the trade and commercial epicenter. For religious trips and a day amidst wildlife at Deer Park, Cuttack is sure to spellbind you on your visit.

5. Gopalpur

Gopalpur is a port town, and going beach hopping is one of the best things to do there. There are ample beaches where you can swim and relax. During the time of the British invasion, Gopalpur was used as a significant trading point between Burma and Rangoon via sea. On your visit to Gopalpur, be prepared to get your heart to melt with the swaying palm trees, the gentle roaring of sea waves far-flung from the city’s madness.

6. Paradeep

Paradeep is the oldest port town in the country, which dates back to the 17th century. For family tourists, things to do in Paradeep are many, including taking strolls on the golden waters of Paradeep Beach and relaxing in the lush green Smruti Udyan. Here you can admire nature’s beauty along with swimming and beach activities.

Don’t forget to climb the lighthouse at Paradeep Beach to witness the beautiful sunset. Apart from beaches, there are many other experiences, including forts, aquarium museums, and scenic waterfalls.

7. Jeypore

Shrouded with mist valleys, dense forests, enchanting view points, and unblemished history that dates back to the 16th-century, Jeypore is one of the best places to visit in Odisha during winter. The landscape of Jeypore is rich as it boasts limestone caves, temples, palaces, and age-old bridges. Here, waterfall trekking is one of the best things to do as the trekking trails are not relatively hard to conquer.

For nature lovers Jeypore brings a lot of activities. The city is recognized for offering mesmerizing sights of rocky outcrops, picture-perfect cascades, and verdant biosphere reserves. One of the famous attractions of this place is the forest hills of the southwest. It is home to the tribal people who live in the forest. You can visit their weekly market to meet them. Even if they are tribal people, they are very welcoming by nature.

8. Keonjhar

Sitting quietly on the river Karo, Barbil is one of the best tourist attractions in Orissa to get respite from the city’s madding crowd and bask in tranquility. The place is surrounded by luxuriant forests and has several waterfall treks for thrill-loving tourists. You can attend a number of festivals like Durga Puja, Ramzan, and Guru Nanak Birthday and watch the locals in the city basking with huge zeal and fervor.

On the occasion of Vishwakarma Puja, a range of Pandals around the town are set where vehicles are also decorated extravagantly. Culturally, Barbil is one of the top tourist attractions in Orissa.

9. Sambalpur

A perfect place for nature lovers, Sambalpur boasts cultural sites and natural splendor in its best form. Its landscapes are dotted with pristine waterfalls and emerald forests that invite shutterbugs and adventure seek trekking options. Visit Ushakothi Wildlife Sanctuary to spot Sambalpur, Tigers, and Wild Bears.

There are plenty of temples that depict the bygone era's historical significance that dates back to Koshalas, Sarbapriya, Somvanshiya dynasties.

10. Chilika Lake

Sprawling amidst the East Coast of India, Chilika Lake is rich in fishery resources and is labeled the 2nd largest blacklist water lagoon worldwide. This lake is located 71 kilometers (approx.) from Bhubaneshwar and is also the place where migratory birds flock in winters in huge numbers. You would be amazed to visit this place as Chilika Lake is the hub of flora and fauna, which are on the verge of extinction.

Drive to Chilika Lake and then to Gopalpur along the sea. Kalijai Temple is located in an island on the Chilika lake which is the largest saltwater lake of Asia. It is accessible from Barkul via boats. The government boats charge 260 INR per person and the journey takes more than 3 hours. One of the longest dam in the world in the largest artificial lake of Asia, Hirakud Dam is in the solitary majesty through the great river Mahanadi.

11. Pipili

If you are inclined towards the craft and handicraft culture of Odisha, then a trip to Pipili should be in your bucket list. The appliqué handicrafts of this small town are especially popular. The artists do a superb job with colors and embroidery, make this town famous not just in India but across the globe. You shouldn't return from this town without buying its world-class handicrafts and souvenirs.

12. Baripada

Bangriposi, once a tribal village and now a small town, is located in the Mayurbhanj district in Odisha. It is situated at the foothills of the Thakurani Hills and adjacent to Simlipal Forest. The NH6 that cuts Bangriposi across makes this destination easily accessible from Kolkata. Further ahead, the road turns right and disappears in the Thakurani Hills, while Bangriposi is left behind with its rustic landscapes, simple life and less travelled roads.

13. Koraput

Southern part of Odisha is quite an unexplored beauty. You have beautiful valleys, thick forests, hills, lakes waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately poor infrastructure and add to it Naxal issue has meant the region has not really tapped it’s potential. You can catch a bus to Koraput, or even go on a road trip from Vizag, or Vizianagaram. Till Saluru it's pretty much plain area.

From Salur, you have a very steep ghat road, runs through thick forests. And then you reach Sunki right on the Andhra-Odisha border. From there on to Pottangi, which has the Gali Gabdar waterfalls. From Pottangi en route to Koraput, you pass Sunabeda, lovely route with rolling meadows, valleys and lakes. Koraput is a sleepy small town, very picturesque with hills and all. Has some decent hotels too.

Jagannath Temple here is worth a visit. But the best part is Gupteswar temple, around 90 km from Koraput. The main attraction is the Shiva Linga in a limestone cave. Located near the Kolab river, it involves a trek through a dense forest.

So there you go! Now all you need to do is choose one of the above best places to visit in Odisha in winter and get ready to unlock the happiness.

Kalyan Panja