Odisha has always been a place that has intrigued me – ancient temples, clean beaches (well, compared to Juhu Beach that is!), and a slower pace of life. So, I recently ended up hopping on a bus from Kolkata toward Orissa to put an end to all my curiosity, and visited Puri and Bhubaneshwar. Here are some recommendations, both food and travel-wise, for all your veggie wanderers, in case you are planning a small vacation here.
Places to Visit: I lucked out in my choice of stay – Ananya Resorts. It was just a 1 kilometre walk from Golden Beach, which you must visit. For just 10-20 rupees, you can even rent out a plastic chair to park yourself like a total beach bum. However, don’t spend all your time here, because there are several other places you must check out, including the very famous Jagannath Temple (which is just a Rs. 30 cycle rickshaw ride away from Golden Beach – so try clubbing both together early in the morning, or toward the evening), the majestic Konark Sun Temple (this is THE one place you simply cannot afford to miss seeing), and on the way to Konark, you can spend time at much cleaner and prettier beaches – Chandrabhaga Beach and Ramchandi Beach.
Tips: So, there are hop-on-hop-off buses (which are very affordable) that leave from Urban Haat, but you’ll need to be there by 6/6:30am. In case you are not able to catch the bus, you can easily strike a deal with an auto rickshaw for Rs. 500-600 to see all of the above mentioned places at your own pace. If you visit Jagannath Temple, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the beautiful bangle vendors near the shoe counter in the evening. If you are venturing out to Chandrabhaga Beach and Ramchandi Beach, then it is not advisable to go alone later in the day as these places are a bit isolated.
Where & What to Eat: While there are places like Wildgrass, Cafe Coffee Day and Dominos to eat at, if you are vegetarian, then you’ll feel most comfortable eating at Amrut Food Court, which is right next to Ananya Resorts. They have a pretty elaborate and entirely vegetarian menu. Also, if you put in a request in advance, they can actually prepare local delicacies for you, like daalma and badi chura. Check-in with them if they can also offer you a special, local sweet, chenna poda.
Not as amazing as Puri by any means, there are a few places you can easily cover within one day if you start early, including the following: Lingaraj Temple (I personally didn’t find it too amazing architecture-wise), Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves (totally worth a miss if you’ve been to Mahabalipuram, for example), 64 Yogini Temple (not really that amazing, unless you have a thing for all things tantric) and Dhauligiri Hills (serene, though not too picturesque if you’ve been to other hills in India).
Tips: A hop-on-hop-off bus will actually take you to even more locations, so it might be a good idea to plan all of this out more thoroughly and in advance. And, most of these buses let you cover both Puri and Bhubaneshwar in the same day! I highly recommend, in retrospect, starting off with one of these buses in Bhubaneshwar and then spending a lot more time relaxing in Puri. However, if you are unable to align your schedule with the bus timings, then you can rent out an auto-rickshaw for Rs. 600-700 to cover the above mentioned places in Bhubaneshwar.
Where & What to Eat: Mayfair is absolutely gorgeous, and has plenty of dining options. Even their cafe, Teapot, is quite lovely. Mayfair is so extravagant, you could actually just spend an entire day within this huge resort and not run out of things to experience. There are several other restaurants and cafes across all of Bhubaneshwar, but let me advise you against eating at Central Perk 7 – the food is absolutely horrid. If you are a huge fan of FRIENDS, then click a few photos here and venture out elsewhere for your meal.
If you do visit Orissa, please let us know what all you saw and where all you ate by dropping a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!