Bhubaneshwar is a city of ancient temples, many of which are still used for worship. Undoubtedly, they're the highlight. Yet, there are a number of other places to visit in Bhubaneshwar that shouldn't be overlooked. As the attractions are spread out over the city, it's best to take a tour or hire a car (or auto rickshaw) for the day to visit them. Here's the pick of what to see and do.
Temple building flourished in Bhubaneshwar during the 8th-12th centuries, when the worship of Lord Shiva dominated. Apparently, there used to be thousands of them in the city. It's estimated that about 700 temples remain. Many can be found in the Old Town area in the vicinity of Bindu Sagar. Their architecture, particularly the towering heavily sculptured spires, is captivating. Here are six Bhubaneshwar temples that you must see. Ekamra Walks conducts comprehensive free guided heritage walking tours of the Old Town every Sunday morning at 6.30 a.m., starting from Mukteshwar Temple.
Bindu Sagar and Shoshi Ghat
Divine Bindu Sagar (Ocean Drop Lake) is situated in the heart of the Old Town area, just north of the famous Lingraj Temple. It's believed to have been formed by Lord Shiva, who collected water from holy places all over India, for his wife Goddess Parvati. Pilgrims take a dip in the lake to cleanse themselves of sins. Take a stroll around it, and sit for a while and soak up the atmosphere at picturesque Shoshi Ghat.
Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden
Bhubaneshwar's most underrated attraction, the inspiring Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden is not just a serene place to spend some time by the lake. It's hard to believe, given how lush and well manicured it is, that it used to be derelict land where people openly defecated. Thanks to the remarkable restoration effort of the Odisha Forest Department, it's now home to more than 200 medicinal plants. The garden opens at 8 a.m. and there's a nominal entry charge. Ekamra Walks' heritage tour ends at Ekamravan Medicinal Plant Garden.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri
Head a short distance out of the city, southwest on National Highway 5, and you'll reach the rock-cut Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves. The caves are spread over two adjacent hills -- Udayagiri (Sunrise Hill) has 18 caves and Khandagiri has 15. Apparently, most of them were carved for Jain monks to live in during the reign of Emperor Kharavela, during the 1st and 2nd century BC. Cave number 14 (Hathi Gumpha, the elephant cave) has a 17 line inscription that he wrote. In addition to the caves, there's a Jain temple atop Khandagiri. If you climb up the hill, you'll be rewarded with a fine view over Bhubaneshwar. The caves are open from sunrise until sunset. The entrance fee is 15 rupees for Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners. Ekamra Walks conducts free guided walking tours of the Khandagiri hills every Saturday morning at 6.30 a.m.
Bhubaneshwar's newest museum, the exceptional Kala Bhoomi Odisha Crafts Museum, is the state's first museum dedicated to hand-loom and handicrafts. The interactive museum is spread over a massive 13 acres and there are four zones with exhibitions, galleries, and workshops. It features outdoor display sections, with courtyards dedicated to tribal living and temple architecture. The museum opens at 10 a.m. (closed Mondays). Ekamra Walks conducts free guided walking tours of the Odisha Crafts Museum every Sunday afternoon at 3.30 p.m.
If you're interested in Odisha's distinctive tribal culture, you'll also find it worthwhile stopping at the comprehensive Museum of Tribal Arts & Artifacts on the way to the Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves. It opens at 10 a.m. (closed Sunday and public holidays). Photography is now allowed inside. The Odisha State Museum is worth visiting too. Its four floors have an outstanding collection of rare palm-leaf manuscripts, folk musical instruments, primeval weapons and tools, Buddhist and Jain artifacts, and other archaeological treasures. It opens at 10 a.m. (closed Monday and public holidays).
Dhauli Giri and Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda)
Step back in Indian history to the site of the Kalinga War at Dhauli, situated by the Daya River about 8 kilometers south of Bhubaneshwar. The war was waged on Kalinga (now the state of Odisha) by Emperor Ashoka (who ruled much of India during the 3rd century BC) in his thirst for conquest. It's said to have been particularly bloody and destructive. However, it ultimately led to Ashoka's remorse and transformation into a peaceful Buddhist. He installed several monuments, pillars, and stone edicts there, which can be viewed. Another attraction is the white peace pagoda, built in the 1970s by Japanese monks and the Odisha government. It contains four huge idols of Lord Buddha along with various stone carvings. Odisha's first sound and light show was launched at Dhauli in August 2015. It starts at 7 p.m. daily, except Mondays.
To feast on authentic Odia cuisine, head to Dalma. The restaurant gets its name from the traditional Odia dish of daal and vegetables. Delicious Odia food is typically less oily and less spicy than usual in India. Seafood is a specialty and thalis are priced from 120 (for fish) to 250 rupees (for crab). Yum!
Ekamra Haat is a permanent handicraft market located on a large five acre landscaped plot at the Exhibition Ground in Bhubaneshwar. It was constructed along the lines of Dilli Haat, albeit on a much smaller scale. There are about 50 shops selling paintings, hand-loom textiles, stone statues, and other products made by artisans in Odisha. It's a convenient place to shop (and grab a bite to eat at the snack stalls). It opens at 10 a.m. but some shops remain closed until later in the day. Entry is free.
Odisha is renowned for its silver work, particularly Tarakasi silver filigree from Cuttack. If you love silver jewelry, don't miss shopping at the silver emporiums near Bhubaneshwar Railway Station. You'll find a huge range of inexpensive silver earrings, toe rings, anklets, and necklaces. The intricate toe ring designs are really special and unique, and often feature glittery stones or bells. Ask the shop assistants to show you the boxes full of toe rings kept under the display counters.