Odisha is one of the most underrated travel destinations in India. Spread across diverse geographical terrains, surrounded by diverse cultures and inhabited by diverse people, it is many destinations in one. And sitting in the middle of it all is the strategically located capital city, Bhubaneswar. While the most popular and oft-repeated trail in the state is the temple circuit of Konark-Puri-Bhubaneswar, the city can be your base to visit many other places and experience nature, heritage, and wildlife at its best. Whether you are on a quick work trip or a religious tour or visiting the city as a student, these easy day trips will help you witness the beauty of Odisha in its true form.
1. Gopalpur beach
Gopalpur was once an important port of the Kalinga dynasty. Over the centuries it was used by many other dynasties, but it was the East India Company that made it into a modern port and added the suffix on the sea, Gopalpur On Sea, which made it sound like fishing towns in the UK. The town of Gopalpur derives its name from a Krishna temple (Krishna is also called Gopal and is omnipresent in Odisha). Today, Gopalpur is a quaint town with colonial-era architecture, lush green backwaters, sleepy lagoons, and one of Odisha’s most beautiful beaches. While it is mostly known for the beach, there are many interesting things you can do here. Visit the blackbuck sanctuary, trek to the natural hot springs, watch Olive Ridley turtles, and shop sarees from the nearby town of Berhampur.
Distance from Bhubaneswar airport: 170 km
2. Chandaka wildlife sanctuary
Located just outside the city, Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best-kept secrets of Bhubaneswar. Set up in 1982, the sanctuary is considered one of the best elephant sanctuaries in India. Elephants are the prime inhabitants of these forests, but you also get to witness many other smaller animals in the sanctuary. Wild boars, hyena, jackal, macaque, langur, leopard, barking deer, spotted deer, porcupine, wolf, and civets, are some interesting jungle beings you will encounter here. For the more adventurous travellers, there is also an abundant reptile population found here like the rat snake, Bengal monitor, python, mud turtle and cobra. The forest department offers regular safaris into the forest as well as accommodation and lodging facilities in Chandaka wildlife sanctuary. A day spent at Chandaka can be a balm for the soul.
Distance from Bhubaneswar Bhubaneswarairport: 20 km
3. Chausathi Yogini temple
It is hard to locate the Chausathi Yogini temple. Hidden in the paddy fields just outside the town of Bhubaneswar, it is well protected from unnecessary crowds and retains its mysterious aura. The temple was discovered only in 1953 by a historian who stumbled upon sandstone blocks of a ruined temple while excavating here. It was subsequently pieced together in the form it is today — a circular roofless structure. While on the outside wall you can see black slate statues of the yoginis, the inner face of the temple has 60 evenly-spaced niches, each one containing an extraordinary standing figure (yogini) carved from fine-grained chlorite. The exquisite work, the variety of adornments, and the unique accessories and weapons they carry are unique and unlike any other temple. The Chausathi Yogini Mahotsav is held here every year between December 23-25 where eminent artists participate. Watching the artists perform in the backdrop of the temple is an experience in itself.
Distance from Bhubaneswar airport: 10 km
4. Mangalajodi bird sanctuary
Located on the banks of the Chilika Lake, Mangalajodi was once infamous as the poachers’ village, today it has a thriving bird population whose numbers cross three hundred thousand during the migratory season. The nearby Chilika lake is also famous for dolphin sightings and over the years has been attracting travellers from across the world — a boat ride at Chilika is often the most cherished experience for tourists. Mangalajodi is a town of great historical significance. The Patitapaban-Dev temple here showcases Odisha’s exquisite architectural influences, traditional folk dances like Danda-Nrutya and Shree Ramlila, and Badi-Pala, the age-old musical traditions that are still celebrated here. Every year during the Raja festival Badi-Pala dance is performed in front of the Maa Majhianee Tara temple, another important temple in the village.
Distance from Bhubaneswar airport: 70 km
5. Lalitgiri Buddhist complex
Dating back to the 1st century AD, Lalitgiri is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Odisha. With towering monasteries, remains of a prayer hall, multiple votive stupas and a renovated stone stupa, the pace is scenic and peaceful. Many Mahayana sculptures consisting of life-size figures, most with short inscriptions, stand inside the renovated structure. You can see the influences of the Gandhara and Mathura schools of art on the Buddha figures with knee-length draperies. The Bodhisattva images here are some of the most finely sculpted figures found in India. The golden caskets containing a sacred bone relic of the Buddha that were found here makes it one of the most sacred places for Buddhism.
Distance from Bhubaneswar airport: 80 kms