Odisha is one of the lesser-travelled to, yet a must-visit among the various states in India. The Odia culture, their history and natural beauty can only be understood by visiting the state. Now, visiting an entire state is very difficult for a multitude of reasons. Therefore, planning a visit to its most important places, the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, offers an enriching experience.
Bhubaneswar is the capital of the Eastern state since 1949 while Cuttack held the post till then. Cuttack continues to be a strong business centre in the state. Thus, these cities, separated by a distance under 30 km encompass the glorious past as well as the vibrant present times of the state.
How to reach
The Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar is the only international airport in the state. It is well-connected to major cities in the country as well. Thus, reaching Bhubaneswar first and moving to Cuttack is the best option while travelling by air.
Bhubaneswar and Cuttack have a superb rail and road connection with numerous trains and national highways leading up to them. Further, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Kolkata in West Bengal are the nearest big cities on the east coast. Hence, reaching either of the cities can be done either way without any hassle.
Where to stay
Budget: Hotel Miland Palace – If you are looking for a place at optimal budget that offers quality accommodation, food, then Hotel Miland Palace is the one you are looking for. It is situated pretty close to the railway station as well. Finally, this hotel has everything one expects from a budget hotel.
Luxury: Mayfair Lagoon – A stunning 5-star hotel in Bhubaneswar, Mayfair Lagoon provides rooms ranging from cottages to suites to villas. This place offers every comfort and service one can ask for in a luxury hotel with the added bonus of spectacular scenery.
Budget: Bishal Inn – This economy hotel offers clean rooms with good room service as well. The rooms are light on one’s pocket and the best part is the restaurant. It is the best part of the hotel and good quality food can be obtained here.
Luxury: Grand Residency – This hotel is not only grand with its hospitality and luxury, but also is very close to shopping centres. A wide variety of rooms can be obtained here and the service will make you come back every time you visit this beautiful city.
What to see
- Lingaraja Temple – Bhubaneswar is deservedly called, “The City of Temples”, due to the number of holy shrines in the capital. The Lingaraja temple stands out amongst them all and is the largest temple in the state. One can have a sneak peek at the Kalinga architectural style here while visiting this abode of Lord Shiva.
- Nandankanan Zoological Park – This natural habitat is not only a zoological park, but also includes a botanical garden and a sanctuary area. One can book a safari ride to witness the lions and white tigers at this place. Also known as “Garden of God”, this is the first Indian zoo to join the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums back in 2009.
- Dhauligiri Hills – History depicts Emperor Ashoka to have undergone a mental transformation after the Kalinga war. This war was apparently fought at these hills. No wonder these hills have various rock edicts of Ashoka as he ensured these hills became a Buddhist centre. The view is great, the white peace pagoda at the top scenic and the wonderful inscriptions are bound to leave a definite mark.
- Museum of Tribal Arts and Artifacts – If you desire to know the history of the local tribes in Odisha, then this is the place to go. This tribal museum is home to vast information about the tribes and their lifestyle. The innumerable artifacts add to the understanding of how the people lived in ancient times and the various objects and weapons they used in their rich culture.
- Ocean World Water Park – This water park is your answer if you are looking to beat the heat while having a good time. Ideally located between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, a number of water rides will enthuse and invigorate you. Further, one can get decent food here as well. So, add this water park to your itinerary.
- Katak Chandi Temple – Goddess Chandi is Cuttack’s presiding deity and this temple is dedicated to her. Picturesquely located on the banks of Mahanadi river, this temple is visited by scores of devotees. Further, it is a sight to behold during the Durga Puja festivities which is celebrated for 16 days here.
- Barabati Fort – This grand fort was built by the Ganga dynasty in the 14th century and is currently in ruins. However, it is still a visit for the historical knowledge it dishes out. Further, these ruins of the nine-storied fort are currently being renovated to convert the ailing fort into a world-class tourist centre.
- Barabati Stadium – This stadium is situated right across the Barabati Fort and is one of the oldest grounds in the country. The stadium hosts international and domestic cricket matches while serving as an alternate venue for IPL teams. Further, it hosts the Santosh Trophy and state-level football tournaments. This ground will tickle the sports buff in you.
- Mahanadi Barrage – A stroll on a road-bridge with one of India’s largest rivers flowing beneath is not only soothing for the eyes, but also for the soul. The Mahanadi Barrage on the Mahanadi river brings in peace away from the din of daily lives while tempting you to click several photos with its scenery.
- Netaji Birthplace Museum – It is a little-known fact that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Cuttack. Formerly known as Janakinath Bhavan, his birthplace has now been converted into a museum. The museum holds memoirs from the life of the Netaji including letters and artifacts.
What and where to eat
Before deciding on the menu for trying out Odia cuisine, it is important to know the basic difference with other ones. Odia cuisine uses less oil (mostly mustard oil) when compared to other cuisines and is richly flavoured despite the usage of mild spices. Another important aspect of the cuisine is the consumption of chutneys, mostly sour, in their meals.
Dalma Restaurant in Bhubaneswar is a must-visit if one wants to try genuine Odia cuisine. This restaurant has turned into a food chain now with branches in Kolkata, Bengaluru and so on. Although the food is slightly on the expensive side, the experience is definitely on the memorable front!
The one food you cannot miss in Cuttack is Dahibara Aloodum. This is a local favourite and various food joints in the city have their own versions of this delicious dish that carries an added mint flavour. One can try out the different variants of this snack and will not be disappointed.
What to buy:
In Bhubaneswar, one can find the famous pipli handicrafts. Along with Cuttack, a number of local textiles can be bought. Thus, the speciality of these twin cities lies in their various handicrafts using filigree, horns, paper and so on.