Odisha is an explorer’s delight. Unfurling the state’s full offerings requires many visits, but a popular choice—be it for families, friend groups or solo trips—is to start with a five-to-seven-day trip around what is popularly known as the Golden Triangle: a famous route connecting the state capital Bhubaneswar, the pilgrim and beach town of Puri, and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Konark.
As you may have already discovered, this city reflects the spirit of Odisha. Firmly rooted in the past, it is also a key IT hub in eastern India. The old town, with its many temples, old houses, marketplaces, and lakes, will take you back to the glorious past. While Hindus are allowed inside the city’s Lingaraj Temple complex—which houses the 11th-century temple dedicated to the patron deity of Tri-bhubaneswara (Shiva) and many shrines—non-Hindus may have a look at the architectural splendour from the viewing platform outside. Other popular temples include Parshurameswara (said to be the oldest surviving temple from the 7th century), Mukteswara (from the 10th century, a bridge between early and later styles), Rajarani (from the 11th century, gets its name from the two coloured stones used in construction) and Brahmeswar. You may also visit the 2nd-century rock cut caves of Udaygiri and Khandagiri, and the Nandankanan Zoological Park. If you are interested in the arts, do not miss Kala Bhoomi or the Odisha Crafts Museum. Ekamra Haat and the state emporiums are the places to go for local food and handicrafts.
Located along the Bay of Bengal, Puri is famous as the home of the state’s presiding deity Lord Jagannath, and for its beaches. Residing in the 13th-century temple in the heart of the town are the gigantic wooden idols of Lord Jagannath and his siblings, Balabhadra and Subhadra. The temple and its spire are a towering sight, and can be seen from a distance. The sculptures on the temple’s exterior were revealed after the layers of white plaster were peeled off under a maintenance project by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Non-Hindus are not allowed inside, but you can see the towering structure from the roof of the Raghunandan Library in exchange for a nominal donation. If you can tolerate humidity and crowds, the Jagannath Rathayatra (June–July) is the best time to visit Puri. The golden beach at the edge of the town is a favourite with those who love to frolic among the waves. The beachfront is chock-a-block with hotels and shops, and the occasional sand artist at work.
While in Puri, do not miss a chance to visit Raghurajpur (10km). It is home to Odia craftspeople practising traditional forms like pattachitra, ganjapa, and palm-leaf painting. It is also the birthplace of the late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, a notable Odissi dancer and teacher. The Chilika Lake, via the village of Satapada, is also accessible from Puri.
Follow the hour-long Marine Drive from Puri to visit the 13th-century Sun Temple of Konark. Magnificent even in its ruined state, it is fashioned in the form of a chariot, complete with 12 giant wheels on both sides, and seven straining horses in front. Yet, it is in keeping with the classical rules of Odisha’s temple architecture. The embellished walls, wheel ornamentations, scattered statues of a war stallion, and an enraged elephant, all inspire a tremendous sense of awe. From Konark you may also visit some of the lesser-known beaches likeBalighai, Ramachandi and Chandrabhaga.
If travelling by air or train, you may start with Bhubaneswar (both options) or Puri (train) and continue along any arm of the triangle. Multiple landmarks at each of these three locations host light and sound shows, and road connectivity between all three points is good. November to March is the best time to visit, but you may also drop in during the many local and state-organised festivals.