Orissa is a land blessed with the virgin beauty of endless emerald green fields, meandering rivers dotted with picturesque villages, exquisite temples and monuments and long beaches. It is an attractive treasure house of cultures and customs, religions and traditions, languages and literature, art and architecture, scenic beauty and wildlife. The state once formed a part of Kalinga kingdom which is best known in ancient history for its brave resistance against the invasion of the Mauryan King Ashoka in the 3rd Century B.C.
Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa, is also popularly known as the "Temple City of India". Being the seat of Tribhubaneswar or 'Lord Lingaraj' Bhubaneshwar is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre. Hundreds of temples dot the landscape of the Old Town, which once boasted of more than 2000 temples. Bhubaneshwar is the place where temple building activities of Orissan style flowered from its very inception to its fullest culmination extending over a period of over one thousand years. The new Bhubaneshwar with its modern buildings and extensive infrastructure perfectly compliments its historic surroundings. With facilities to cater to every type of visitor, Bhubaneshwar is an ideal tourist destination.
Backed up by musical sway of casuarina trees and creeping sand dunes, Chandipur is one such beach, but with a unique distinction on its own. Unlike other beaches, the sea water here recedes away from the shore line about five km twice a day, an unusual phenomenon, rarely found anywhere. You can see the sea literally vanishing before your eyes and also watch it coming rhythmically, as if playing hide and seek.
Once buzzing with maritime activities, Gopalpur until 1942 was the frequented sea port during the British rule. The crumbling walls, pillars and the light house stand witness to its past glory. Now this tiny town enjoys the reputation of being a popular beach resort in Orissa. The temptation of bathing in the deep and clear blue waters with the white surf splashing on the golden sands makes Gopalpur - on - Sea as one of the finest beaches in the eastern coast. A trip to Gopalpur - on - Sea is a rewarding experience of sun, fun and frolic.
One of the world's greatest marvels and a priceless gem of Orissan art, the Sun Temple at Konark has drawn a veil of mystery around itself. Built in honour of Surya, the Sun God, in the 13th century, the temple is built in image of the chariot of the Sun with 7 horses (depicting 7 days of the week) and 12 pairs of wheels (depicting the 12 months). What remains today is part of the original massive temple, in fact, only the entrance hall, which is 39 meters high, the Dancing Hall, and ruined temple. Even today the sun rising from the ocean shines on the three images of the morning sun, the mid-day sun and the evening sun at different parts of the day.
The earliest Buddhist complex dates back to the 1st century AD and Lalitagiri forms an important node of the diamond triangle i.e. Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. Well connected by excellent roads to Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar, recent excavations here have brought to light significant archeological material that upholds Lalitagiri as a great centre of Buddhist attraction.
Located in the sacred Gandhamardan Hills, which according to legends, Hanuman carried on his shoulders from the Himalayas as described in Ramayana, the temple at Nrusinghanath is an important site of pilgrimage. It is also an exceeding fascinating and a beautifully located temple worth the journey to this rater remote spot. The Oriya and Devnagari inscriptions on the temple indicate that this temple was built in the early 15th century AD. On the Nrushimha - Chaatrurdasi day (in May) a big fair takes place here and thousand of pilgrims visit the place to worship.
Puri is the hallowed seat of the Hindu religious deities and one of the four most important religious centres of the Hindus. Puri, situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, is a city of lovely beaches, golden sands and gentle sunshine. It is possibly one of the few religious cities that provide the outdoor pleasures of sea and beaches along with religious piety of 'darshan' a sanctified experience of divine communion. The Jagannath Temple is an important place of pilgrimage for the Hindus. Adjoining the temple is the Ananda Bazaar or food bazaar, where food for thousands of pilgrims is cooked and sold daily.
Lying 100 kms from Bhubaneshwar, the city of Ratnagiri is encircled by rivers, namely Mahanadi, Brahmani, Kimiria and Birupa. Numerous Buddhist structures have been unearthed from the nearby hill ranges and the excavations carried out at Ratnagiri links the city to the 6th century AD Gupta dynasty.
Sambalpur district is situated in Western Orissa, approximately 321 km from Bhubaneshwar. Once an important centre for the diamond trade, it is now known for its textile industry. Not to be missed is a visit to Hirakud Dam on the Mahanadi river. An engineering marvel, this is the longest dam in the world and the largest dam made of earth.
The Mayurbhanj district of Orissa is the home to one of the most important National Parks not only in Orissa, but also in the country. Spread over an area of 2,750 sq. kms. the park was specially chosen by Project Tiger for continuing the onerous task of conserving the country's depleting tiger population. This tiger reserve now has over 95 Royal Bengal Tigers within its lavish bounds. Over 230 species of birds and other wild life species such as leopards, elephants, mugger crocodiles and numerous reptiles abound here. Simlipal also provides succor to thousands of tribal people living on the fringe, thus giving an opportunity to witness the tribal culture.
Set amidst thick forests, Taptapani is known for its hot sulphur spring said to contain medicinal properties for many a cure. The hot water is channelised to a pond nearby to facilitate people have a bath. The water is also piped directly into the bathrooms of the Panthanivas (tourist bungalow).