Tourist attractions you want to explore in Puri

Spirituality and divinity echo through every by-lane of the temple city of Puri. A very popular destination of pilgrimage for Hindus, the city is sprawled along the long and pristine coastline of the Bay of Bengal, in the state of Odisha. Buzzing with devotees, who come here to pay obeisance at the Lord Jagannath Temple, Puri is also known worldwide for the larger-than-life celebrations associated with its presiding deity. While one part of the city gets busy celebrating the annual festival of Ratha Yatra (chariot procession of Lord Jagannath), that sees lakhs of footfalls, the other part on the outskirts, fringed by beaches and lakes, remains blanketed in relative calm and serenity, making it a hub for nature lovers.

Puri’s coastline is home to some of the finest beaches in the country, offering not just spectacular views of sunrises and sunsets but also a taste of adventure activities like water sports and wildlife experiences. The city is a must-visit site for architecture buffs and history lovers, owing to the abundance of gorgeous temples located here. The local fisher-folk add a unique charm to Puri, making it a haven for culture and seafood — gastronomic wonders are always close at hand! Even though Puri is thronged by tourists throughout the year, it becomes most prominent at the time of the nine-day-long Ratha Yatra festival, held around the months of July-August, when three decorated chariots carry Lord Jagannath and his sister Subhadra and brother Balabhadra.

The city is said to have been sanctified by the great saint Adi Shankaracharya in the 9th century AD, who later established a monastery here, called Gobardhan Matha. The Matha was also home to several saints and philosophers like Ramanuja, Maraharitirtha, Nanak, Kabir, Chaitanya and Ballav Bhatta. For centuries, Puri has been at the centre of divinity and historical documents prove that from the time of the Somavamsis, 11th century AD onwards, all ruling dynasties of the region extended liberal patronage to Puri's temples and ashrams.

Atharnala Bridge

Protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the 280-ft-long and 36-ft-wide Atharnala Bridge was constructed by Bhanu Deba of the Ganga dynasty in the 13th century. It is built on River Muthiya and is a glorious example of ancient architectural styles prevalent in the state of Odisha. It is also a fantastic sample of engineering techniques of that time, proven by the fact that it is still in use. The bridge draws its name from 18 brick passages: athar means 18 and nala means passage. The bridge is located at the entrance of Puri and is a welcoming sight for all who come to this holy abode of Lord Jagannath. It is used by locals on a daily basis.

Balighai Beach

A small but quiet beach, Balighai is a picturesque spot with fine sand lined with rows of casuarina trees. The unspoiled beach lies just 8 km away from Puri. This beach is located at the mouth of the Nuanai river, which flows gently into the Bay of Bengal. The sun soaked surroundings of the beach have something for everyone: from water skiing and parasailing to tranquil boat rides giving panoramic views of the green casuarina trees. Balighai Beach is also a nesting bed for Olive Ridley turtles, who lay their eggs in the sand between December and January. Moreover, a host of migratory birds take refuge here. The nearby Sea Turtle Research Centre offers an insight into local marine life, while the Balihirana Deer Sanctuary lets you watch the endangered Balihirana antelope and the Indian blackbuck. The beach is an ideal picnic spot, thanks to its thick casuarinas grooves, sand dunes and gentle sea breeze.

Balukhand Konark Sanctuary

Located along the coastal stretch between Puri and Konark, the Balukhand Konark Sanctuary is spread across 87 sq km. The Marine Drive Road runs adjacent to it, making for a pleasant road trip. This eco-tourism site boasts casuarina, acacia, cashew, eucalyptus, neem, and karanjia trees. Spotted deer and blackbucks abound in the area, reeling in wildlife enthusiasts from far and wide. The beach next to the sanctuary is home to Olive Ridley turtles. Declared as an ecologically sensitive zone, the sanctuary has both Nuanai and Kushabhadra rivers passing through it. It is an hour's drive (approximately) from Puri and Konark. The sanctuary contributes to the agricultural activity of the region and helps recharge the freshwater levels underground. Other wildlife that can be spotted here includes large tribes of monkeys, squirrels, hyenas, jungle cats, monitor lizards, snakes, jackals, mongoose and a variety of birds and reptiles.


Known for the shrine of Lord Alarnath (Lord Vishnu), Brahmagiri is located approximately 25 km from Puri. Thousands of devotees visit it during the anabasara (rituals) of Lord Jagannath. The temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built in 1610 AD. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a Hindu mystic saint, is said to have stayed at Alarnath Temple during the anavasara period of Lord Jagannath, when the god took rest in isolation for two weeks. At the Alarnath Temple, Chaitanya claimed to have visualised the appearance of Lord Jagannath after which he spent a long time here worshipping the deity. Following his example, a multitude of pilgrims come here to seek the blessings of Lord Jagannath and taste the town's extremely popular kheer ( a rice pudding).

Chilika Lake

Spread over 1,100 sq km, the Chilika Lake is Asia's largest brackish water lake. It is one of the most important eco-tourism sites in the country and lies about 37 km from Puri. Chilika's unique location and water composition make it an ideal home for over 100 varieties of fish, crabs and other sea animals and the star attraction is the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. Running parallel to the Bay of Bengal, the sea water flows inland into the lake. In winter, thousands of migratory birds flock here, among whom the pink flamingos are the most photographed. Watching flocks of birds take off into the air in a coordinated pattern is mesmeric. The lake's shallow waters enclose large tracts of marshes, lowlands and islands, among which the most prominent are Nalbana Island and Kalijai Island. The Nalbana Island, with its wide variety of flora and fauna, forms the core of the Chilika Sanctuary. Kalijai Island is home to Goddess Kalijai, revered by local fishermen. This island plays host to a large fair during the annual Makar Sankranti festival in January. You can hire boats for regular rides around the lake or opt for special ones that take you to places where the shy Irrawaddy dolphins can be spotted

Golden Beach

Also famous as the Puri Beach, the Golden Beach is a stretch of fine golden sand dotted with stalls selling sumptuous sea food and knick-knacks. It is popular with pilgrims who come to worship Lord Jagannath at the temple located nearby. The grand Marine Drive road running parallel to the beach is a popular spot for long walks. The fine sands of Puri beach and the roar of the waters from the Bay of Bengal fascinate visitors throughout the year. The local fishermen with their wide-brimmed cane hats, along with excellent hotels and guesthouses, make Puri beach an ideal holiday spot with plenty of things to do here. The beach's choppy waters are also an ideal choice for surfing enthusiasts. Visitors here can take a stroll, browse pearls and seashell souvenirs sold by local vendors or marvel at impressive sand sculptures, including the work of internationally recognised local artist Sudarshan Pattnaik. The beach also hosts the annual Puri Beach Festival every November. There are also a plethora of options with a lot of stalls selling snacks for foodies; there are several shacks along the beach selling fried and grilled seafood like prawns, crabs and pomfrets, freshly caught from the sea, along with vegetable pakodas. Puri also has a lighthouse which remains open from 4 pm to 6 pm. One can get a spectacular view of the sea and the beach from the top of the lighthouse.


The small town of Gopalpur lies about 16 km Berhampur and 173 km from Puri. It is a popular beach resort of Odisha whose inviting clear and blue waters lure visitors from all over the country. Lying on the Bay of Bengal, it is an attractive stopover for beachcombers and sea worshippers. Sunrises and sunsets are stunning sights at this beach. Adventure junkies can try their hand at surfing and sailing to explore spots untouched by humans. Popularly regarded as a sailor's paradise, in ancient times this beach served as an important port for the seafarers of Kalinga. Even during WWI it was an important military port from where soldiers embarked on journeys to Burma (now Myanmar). It was here that the first ever modern hotel was built in Odisha in 1914. The beach is lined with casuarina groves and is one of the cleanest in India. Even though the sea is too rough to go swimming, there are plenty of other activities that can be enjoyed. You can take a quiet stroll and soak in the sights of the beach or roam around the town to look at beautiful old buildings; seafood lovers will find plenty of food joints to indulge themselves and courtesy the Kalinga Divers Association, there are boating and water sports facilities available as well.

Gopalpur Beach

An erstwhile port town, the small sleepy town of Gopalpur on the Bay of Bengal is popular for its pristine beach. With fine sand and deep and clear blue waters, Gopalpur Beach is an ideal spot for a lap or two in the sea. And if you are not a swimmer, nuliahs (local fishermen) can help you learn. White surf splashing on the golden sand makes Gopalpur one of the finest beaches on the eastern coast. The ruins of a port, a lighthouse and a few colonial-style old bungalows stand testament to Gopalpur's past as a bustling commercial town till about 1942, when its port ceased operations. Hardly 16 km from Berhampur, the hub of southern Odisha, this is an ideal site to rewind and relax. Swim, take long walks on the beach or just watch fishermen ride out the distant waves, all the while soaking in the serenity of the place.

Gundicha Temple

The Gundicha Temple stands in the midst of a garden, just 3 km from the Jagannath Temple. Located on Bada Danda (Grand Road), on which the famous Rath Yatra (chariot procession) takes place, the temple is named after Gundicha, the queen of Indradyumna, who commissioned the temple. It sees a lot of activity during the Rath Yatra festival every year. Known by many names like the Garden House of Jagannath or Gods Summer Garden Retreat, Gundicha Temple is said to be the Vrindavan of Puri. It serves as the temporary home of Lord Jagannath during the Rath Yatra. Built in the traditional Kalinga style of architecture, Gundicha's facade is extremely beautiful, thanks to the light grey sandstone that was used to construct it. The temple also houses a seat called 'Ratnavedi', which is 4 ft high. During major festivals, idols are placed on this seat. The temple has two entrance gates: the main gate in west and the Nakuchana gate in the east. During festivals, deities enter through the former and exit via the latter.

Narendra Sarovar

Located on the north-east of the Jagannath Temple, Narendra Sarovar is the largest of Puris holy ponds or tanks. Also called Sri Chandana Pukur, it is the place where legend says Lord Jagannath comes during the annual Chandan Yatra (held in April-May) for nauka lila (boating excursion). The Chandan Yatra (sandalwood voyage) also marks the beginning of the grand Rath Yatra (chariot procession). During the yatra, thousands of devotees take a dip in the tank as they believe it would wash away their sins. A small island at the centre of the tank houses a temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath and his siblings, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. During the festival, beautifully decorated boats are used for taking the lord around the tank. As the boats do rounds of the waterbody, devotees throng its banks, dancing and singing.

Puri Beach

Puri Beach is a stretch of fine golden sand dotted with stalls selling sumptuous sea food and knick-knacks. It is popular with pilgrims who come to worship Lord Jagannath at the famous temple located nearby. The grand Marine Drive road running parallel to the beach is a popular spot for long walks. The fine sands of Puri Beach and the roar of the waters from the Bay of Bengal fascinate visitors throughout the year. The excellent hotels and guesthouses make the beach an ideal holiday spot with plenty of things to do here.

The beach's choppy waters are also the favourite choice of surfing enthusiasts. Visitors can take a stroll on the beach, browse pearls and seashell souvenirs sold by local vendors or marvel at impressive sand sculptures, including the work of internationally recognised local artist, Sudarshan Pattnaik. The beach hosts the annual Puri Beach Festival every November that sees huge footfalls. There are a plethora of options with lots of stalls selling snacks for foodies; there are several shacks along the beach selling fried and grilled seafood like prawns, crabs and pomfrets, freshly caught from the sea, along with vegetable pakodas (fritters). Puri also has a lighthouse that remains open from 4 pm to 6 pm. One can get a spectacular view of the sea and the beach from the top of the lighthouse.


Sakhigopal is a quaint village, located about 19 km north of Puri. It is home to one of the most renowned temples of Lord Krishna, and many believe that a pilgrimage to Puri is incomplete without a visit to this temple. The temple of Sakhigopal is 60 ft high and houses an image of Sri Krishna and Goddess Radha. The temple is surrounded by Brahmin settlements and attracts thousands every year, who come to see Radha Pada (feet of Radha). Literally translating to friend of Gopal, the village settlement holds a larger than life celebration annually for the Anla Navami. Visitors particularly flock to Sakhigopal during festivals like Dol Purnima, Chandan Yatra and Kartik Purnima. Sakhigopal is also a hub for the coconut industry in Odisha.


Odisha is noted for being home to around 100-odd endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. You can visit these dolphins at Satpada village near the Chilika Lake. Satpada (meaning a group of seven settlements in Odia language), is located around 50 km from Puri. At the Satpada Jetty, hire a boat that will take you to the blue expanse of the Chilika Lake, which houses the Sea Mouth Island on the point of its convergence with the Bay of Bengal. Spot Irrawaddy dolphins in the lake at Dolphin Point and then take a leisurely stroll at Sea Mouth island or bite into freshly fried fish and crabs at small kiosks. A day's trip is usually enough time to explore Satpada. Boating excursions from Satpada towards the Chilika Lake range from dolphin-spotting adventures to birdwatching to daylong outings where you can explore several islands. At Satpada village, you can visit the Chilika eco-park where visitors can find a 12-m-long whale skeleton on display. Apart from the Sea Mouth, islands like Nalabana, Honeymoon, Breakfast and Rajhans in the vicinity attract a large number of tourists as well.

Satpada is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds within the Indian subcontinent. During winters, finches come from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other parts of Russia, Ladakh and the Himalayas to take refuge. You can also visit the temple of Maa Kalijai, a boat ride away, or arrange canoeing and kayaking trips in Chilika Lake.

Sri Jagannath Temple

Sri Jagannath Temple is one of the most revered and sacred pilgrimage sites in India. Its main deity is Lord Jagannath, who is said to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

The majestic temple is said to have been built by king Anangabhimadeva, also known as Angangabhima III of the Ganga dynasty. Some historians say the construction of the temple began during the reign of king Chodagangadeva, the founder of the dynasty, in the 12th century. Built on a gigantic raised platform, the magnificent temple soars above all neighbouring buildings and dominates the skyline of Puri. Its 65-m-high spire is visible even from the outskirts of the city. The temple complex is enclosed within two concentric walls, the Kuruma Bheda (inner wall) and the Meghnad Pachira (wall). The main entrance to the temple is through the Singhadwar or the Lion Gate, which is guarded by two imposing stone lions in a crouching position. On the pilasters next to the door are a couple of statues of guards. There are three other gates facing the three of the cardinal directions and are known as the Elephant Gate, the Horse Gate and the Tiger Gate (also called the Khanja Gate). Inside the temple complex, there are 6,000 servitors and kitchens that feed around 10,000 people every day. Every year, the temple celebrates the Ratha Yatra (chariot) festival with great exuberance. It is one of the most widely-attended spiritual extravaganzas in the country.

The temple consists of four structures: Vimana or Bada Deula (sanctum sanctorum), Jagamohan or Mukhasala (the porch), Natamandir (the audience hall) and Bhogamandap (bhoga is the food offering made to gods). While the mysticism of Lord Jagannath may dwarf the architectural marvels of the temple structure, it does have several unique features. It is said the main temple has been constructed in such a way that no shadow of it falls on the ground at any time of the day. There are several other points of interest, like the Nilachakra or the blue wheel perched on top of the temple. Made of eight metals or asta dhatu, devotees believe that sighting the Nilachakra is as good as a sight of the lord Himself. Atop the Nilachakra is the Patitapabana or the flag that is changed every day at sunset. For believers, a sight of the fluttering flag is divine. Devotees also hold the mahaprasada or the offering of food to the lord, in great esteem. A serving of rice, vegetables and cereals, it is cooked in earthen pots on wood and charcoal fire. Also revered is the Aruna stambha or the Sun pillar, the 33-ft-high monolithic pillar of black chlorite in front of the Lion Gate. The capital of the pillar is surmounted by a squatting Garuda (the mythological bird mount of Lord Vishnu).

Sun Temple

Dedicated to Surya or the Sun God and designed like his chariot, the massive and magnificent Sun Temple at Konark (kona meaning angle and ark referring to the sun) is one of the finest examples of ancient Indian architectural heritage. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the breathtakingly splendid temple was once described by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore as the place where the language of stone surpasses the language of man. Situated around 30 km from Puri, the temple, seemingly rising from the depths of the sea, is just 2 km away from the Bay of Bengal coastline. Built in the 13th century by Ganga king Narasimhadeva I, the temple with stunning sculptural details, marks the most evolved period in the Kalinga architecture. It is said that the temple was designed in such a way that the rising sun's first rays would illuminate the deul (sanctuary) and the presiding deity. The temple stands on a base of a total of 24 intricately carved wheels, 12 on each side. Four of the 24 wheels can be used as sundials to tell the time!

According to experts, the temple was used for prayers only for a short period and in the 17th century, the presiding deity may have been moved to Jagannath Temple in Puri. The main entrance of the temple, the Gajasimha (gaja meaning elephant and simha referring to lions) derives its name from two massive stone lions crushing elephants. This gate leads to the finely carved Natya Mandapa (dancing hall). Wide steps that are flanked by horses rise to the Jagamohan (assembly hall). Though carved in stone, the life-like horses seem to be straining at their reins, each sinew bulging. The temple has three impressive carvings of the Sun God at three strategic locations to catch the sun at dawn, noon and sunset. The carvings at the base of the temple and on its walls chronicle everyday activities. While the Konark Temple is unique, there are several other chariot-temples in the places like Hampi (Karnataka), and Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu). The Konark Sun Temple is visited by lakhs every year and the annual Konark Festival held here is famed for its cultural importance.

Swargadwar Beach

Literally translating to the door to heaven, the Swargadwar Beach is located very close to the Jagannath Temple. It is believed to be the bathing site of Sri Chaitanyadev, a revered Vaishnava saint. Thus, it holds religious significance apart from being very picturesque. Thousands of devotees visit the nearby Mahadadhi bathing spot throughout the year to take a dip in the holy waters. As popularly believed in Hinduism, those who do take a dip, attain salvation and reach heaven after they die. Devotees offer prayers so that they and their loved ones go to heaven after death. The beach has been blessed by a peaceful and surreal ambience. Close by is the Swargdwar cremation ground, which holds immense significance too.

Biju John
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