Odisha’s Puri is well-known for the annual Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings — elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra — which begins today. Drawing thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, the nine-day festival marks their religious journey from Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple which covers a distance of around 17 km.
But there is so much more to the coastal town which is washed by the waters of the Bay of Bengal and embraced by casuarina-fringed beaches.
Located at a distance of 60 km from the state capital Bhubaneshwar, Puri is known for its pilgrimage spots but is also popular for its sandy beaches. If you are in Puri for the religious festival and are looking to explore this eastern city, here is your quick ready reckoner.
Known to be one of the cleanest beaches in Asia, Puri Beach is a must-visit. The seven km-long beach is also famous for hosting sand art displays, including work by international award-winning local sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik. A round-the-year destination for both domestic and international travellers, you are sure to have a lovely time here.
Visitors can enjoy sunrise and sunset, and also sunbathe, sit back on the beach and watch local fishermen busy pulling their catch or mending their nets, along with listening to the waves.
Model Beach is part of a sustainable, community-run beach tourism initiative by Barefoot, a voluntary organisation. It offers a 700m stretch of sand that’s easily Puri’s finest. You can enjoy a calm day at the beach where palm trees serve as umbrellas and provide shade.
Located south-west of Puri, it covers a widespread area of 1100 sq km. As a popular picnic spot, the pear-shaped Chilika Lake has a unique ecosystem, and a wide variety of aquatic flora and fauna that can be spotted here. A remarkable array of bird life, both migrant and native, makes Chilka Lake one of the best places in India for the avid bird watchers. Greylag geese, white bellied sea eagles, purple moorhen, jacana, flamingos and herons are among the many species which can be seen here.
Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary
The area around Chilika Lake comprises the Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to various migratory and local birds. The most spotted ones include Flamingo, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Spotbilled Pelican, Openbilled Stork, Spoonbill, Brahimny Duck, Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveller, Stilt, Heron, Egret and Avocet. Blackbuck, Spotted Deer, Golden Jackals, Hyenas can also be seen here.
Sudarshan Crafts Museum, Puri
Established by sculptor Sudarshan Sahoo, the Sudarshan Crafts Museum is a must-visit place for art lovers. The museum, which beautifully showcases the evolution of modern craftsmanship, displays the changes that have taken place in traditional sculptures over the decades. The museum has facilities for artists and gives them an opportunity to display their work.
Running along the main Marine Drive of Puri, Swargadwar Beach is the heartbeat of the Puri city. Crowded with visitors throughout the year, the beach is dotted with numerous stalls selling local handmade products, seashells, and jewellery.
Pipili is a town in Puri which is famous for handicraft products. The entire economy depends on the crafts and includes figures of Gods, animals, birds, flowers, pillow covers, sheets, handbags and purses.
The nearest airport to Puri is Bhubaneswar’s Biju Patnaik Airport, at a distance of nearly 60 kilometres.