Odisha, previously known as Orissa or the ancient land of Kalinga, is called the ‘Soul of India’. Officially specified as a separate state on April 1st 1936, it came to be recognized as a place of great cultural and historical significance over the years. Now, it is a great vacation spot waiting to be explored for its immense beauty, stories and spirit. We have named a few of the most significant tourist places in Odisha that are a must when visiting this land of splendour.
The time to visit these best tourist places in Odisha is during the winter season, when the coolness will leave you to enjoy the place to a maximum extent. Know ahead to carry suitable clothes for each of the experiences the state has to offer, from glorious temples to age-old monuments and nature’s spree. It is an incredibly photographic region, and we are here to cue you into carrying your cameras.
Cuttack was derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Katak’, which means military camp, as it was the army base and the governance centre of the Kalinga empire. This ancient city was once the capital known for its rich history, architectural significance and the art of delicate silver craftsmanship, which is still prominent. Home to great rivers, abundant wildlife and beaches nearby, this city is all about giving you a travel experience of a lifetime.
Places to explore in Cuttack:
- Chandi Temple: Built dedicated to the local deity Maa Kataka Chandi near the banks of the river Mahanadi, it has an interesting tale about how the temple came into place. A royal priest who was herding his cattle rested on a site nearby to take a break and was blessed with a dream by the Goddess requesting to be dug out and worshipped. When the king’s men excavated the place, they found the deity and thus, this holy place was born.
- Dhabaleshwar: An island amidst the river Mahanadi, it is home to Lord Dabaleshwar, a form of Lord Shiva. This religious site is ancient and famous for its carvings made of stone.
- Barabati Fort: The great fort was built by the Ganga Dynasty in the 14th Century. It is surrounded by a dug pit, usually called a moat. It holds water and is planned to add protection to the fort. The fort has the remains of its entrance, gates and a 9 storied palace that takes you back in time. It is one of the renowned tourist places in Odisha.
- Ansupa Lake: Nestled in the hills of Saranda and encircled by bamboo chutes and mango trees, this natural piece of wonder houses lush flora and fauna. It’s a great place to witness a variety of resident and migratory birds, especially during the winters, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.
- Deer Park: This place is the perfect day outing to plan with your kids. The park holds a great number of deer in a green park.
It is no wonder one of the best tourist places in Odisha. Check out these top hotels to stay in Bhubaneshwar while you explore the nearby beauty of Cuttack.
Here’s a list of the top historical places to visit in India.
2. Simplipal National Park
Also called the Simplipal Tiger Reserve, this wild wonder gets its name from red silk cotton trees that bedeck this region. It houses a wide variety of animals, like Bengal tigers, sambhar, leopards, barking deers, and Asian elephants, to the four-horned antelope – chausingha. The forest also has a large variety of birds and reptiles. It is also home to many small and big waterfalls, namely, Barehipani, Uski, Joranada and others.
Barehipani Waterfall in the Simplipal National Park is one of the highest waterfalls in India. It takes birth from the river Budhabalanga, which descends from the Meghasuni mountains. The fall is a 2-stepped cascade nestled in the middle of a forest, giving it a green backdrop. This spot is surely one of the best tourist places in Odisha to explore. A rejuvenating site to be in, this nature park is just where you need to go for some adventurous time.
Sewed with the tales of the past and layered with eras of royalty, British rule and the awakening of freedom, Sambalpur has long been of keen interest to many history-loving travellers. Celebrated for its culture, artisans, craftsmanship and textiles, the city stands out for its unique products, mainly sarees. The site is also known to have many age-old temples and verdant lands of forests and wildlife.
Places to explore in Sambalpur
- Hirakud Dam: Known as the ‘Longest Earthen Dam in the World’, Hirakud is built on the river Mahanadi. There is a reservoir which is considered to form one of the largest man-made lakes in Asia. It’s a great spot to just relax and enjoy the view. This adds to Sambalpur being considered one of the famous tourist places in Odisha.
- Ushakothi Sanctuary: Also called ‘Badrama’, this wildlife spot is located near the Hirakud Dam. In a small region of land, it houses a wide variety of trees and some of the great beasts like tigers, leopards, spotted panthers, sloth bears and elephants. It also has nilgai, chital and guar.
- Samaleswari Temple: As a much-believed goddess of the state, her temple was built by a ruler of the Chauhan Dynasty, King Balram Dev. It is established on the banks of the river Mahanadi and resonates a positive vibe. Considered a Shakti peetha, this temple of the presiding deity of Sambalpur is extremely famous and invites followers from all over India.
- Gudguda Waterfall: Not far from the city, this cascading waterfall falls in a step-wise manner from the hills of Gudguda amidst lush nature and orchids. Singing birds treat you to a musical environment while you rest away in the shades. It’s a beautiful spot to capture great photos.
A small town with a big history in the district of Puri, Konark was part of the Ganga Dynasty. The name comes from two key words, ‘Kona’ meaning corners and ‘Arka’ meaning corners of Sun. It came to fame when the world renowned ‘Sun Temple’, also called the ‘Black Pagoda’, came into the light. It is situated not far away from the great city of Bhubaneswar. You might have also heard of the famous cultural event that takes place here every year – the Konark Dance Festival, which celebrates the classical dance forms of India.
Places to explore in Konark:
- Konark Sun Temple: Named one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this ancient architectural marvel is stunning, making it one of the must-visit tourist places in Odisha. It holds great significance towards Hinduism and its devotion towards the great God, Surya. Simply a wonder to behold, the site now has uncovered the temple, a prayer hall, a dance arena and the most spectacular of all, the structure of the chariot. 24 stone wheels, pulled by 7 horses, giving the essence of Lord Surya’s chariot being pulled.
- Chandrabhaga or Konark Beach: Hemmed at one of the corners of the Bay of Bengal, this beach is considered to be one of the finest in Odisha, with blue waters and soft sand shores.
- Archeological Museum: It is located near the Konark Sun Temple and retains some great sculptures, history and more of the land.
- Ramachandi Temple: Located on the banks of the river Kushabhadra lies the religious shrine of the great Goddess Chandi. It is a wonderful location that soothes your mind with a spiritual vibe and stuns with the surrounding natural beauty.
For more details, visit the official site of Odisha Tourism.
Long lost as one of the greatest sea ports of the Kalinga Empire, Gopalpur is now a quaint site on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. The beach here is spectacular for enjoying sunrise and sunset due to its facing. Trees line the beach, giving them a gentle green vibe contrasting the golden sand. This town is one of the must-see tourist places in Odisha.
Places to explore in Gopalpur
- Gopalpur Beach: A long serene beach with splashing blue waves and light breezes kissing you. The fine sands are like therapy to your feet and let you cherish the moment of watching the endless sea from the shore.
- Lighthouse: Located on Gopalpur Beach, it is one of the oldest ones in this region. It gives a great 360 degree view of the horizon and other parts of the town.
- Chilika Lake: It is the largest saltwater lake and lagoon in India and comes under the list of the largest lagoons in the world as well. Considered one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this natural spectacle will leave you in awe. Home to an array of migratory birds, it’s a great spot for photography and bird lovers. It is dotted with many small islands, each named uniquely. Birds like flamingos, herons, purple moorhens, graylag geese, emerald doves, yellow-legged green pigeons, white-bellied sea eagles and over 160 varieties can be spotted. One can also see dolphins and other aquatic animals here.
- Dhabaleswar Island: A quaint island in the river, Mahanadi is home to a gorgeous temple of Lord Shiva called Dhabaleswara. The architecture is old and has beautiful stone carvings. One can reach the island through a bridge or a boat.
We hope you got some amazing ideas on what to plan while visiting the Soul of India – Odisha. Don’t forget that winter is the ideal time to discover these extraordinary tourist places in Odisha. Explore more of the state: Top places to visit in Bhubaneswar.