Route: Bhubaneswar-Cuttack- Chandikhol-Udaygiri-Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri-Paradip-Raghunathpur-Cuttack
Highlight: (a) Mahanadi River (b)Chandikhol temples (c) Buddhist circuit (d) Nehru Bunglow-Paradip (e) Few of the good roads Orissa has to offer. (f)Also one of the many worst roads (I doubt if, SH-12 qualifies for being called a road) Orissa has to offer.
Season to visit: Nothing better than Winter season (Dec -Jan)
Caution: (a) Cuttack-Paradip road is pathetic & driving here after sun-set could be fatal. Its better to take NH-5A & then join NH-5 in Chandikhol.
(b) Decent dhaba availability is an issue in NH-5A (Chandikhol to Paradip), so better pack some food or have in Paradip.
Recommendations: (a) Sunrise over Mahanadi River in Cuttack (b) Sunrise view-Nehru Bunglow beach, Paradip (c) Sweet shop -Salepur in NH5 in between Bhubaneswar-Cuttack.
Places to visit:
a) Cuttack: I only like Mahanadi bridge. View of Train crossing the long Mahandi bridge, against background of rising sun is just awesome & very photographic. It is just ~30Kms from Bhubaneswar & NH5 between Bhubaneswar & Cuttack has many good dhabas.
b) Bhubaneswar: I will write separate article on my home town which has lot -lot to offer, which I am still exploring.
c) Chandikhol: Has two temples: Chandikhol & Sri Mahavinayak Temple, just 6-7KMs off NH-5. I would recommend early morning visit to these temples. I was one of the first to reach there & so could feel the winter chillness of the place, which are nested under huge trees & are resting place of macaques. Mahavinayak temple, atop a small hill has good 300 steps walk. Both temples have parking facility & tea shops.
Both are good place to relax in a peaceful environment. It is of course not a touristy place & keeping any such expectation will certainly disappoint one. Its good place for a day picnic,making your own food while loud music is being played. My early winter morning visit here, did gave me a peace of mind.
d) Buddhist Circuit: Udaygiri, Ratnagiri & Lalitgiri
All the three places of Jajpur district, are best accesible by NH5A. While going from Chandikhol to Paradeep, diversion for Udaygiri & Ratnagiri comes first of left side. Lalitgiri is further down NH5A & is 2KMs off NH on right side. Regular milestones (photos below) helps in getting to place.
The roads off NH5A leading to Udaygiri & Ratnagiri are excellent roads with close to zero traffic. Tree lined roads cuts through infinite paddy field, making it a perfect ride, especially for an early bird.Again food wise, there’s nothing on this village road.
Just to note, all three places form, what is called Buddhist circuit. All three are similar in taste & are in advanced stage of decay.ASI is putting effort to excavate more & finish the incomplete puzzle. But I am sure, they cannot complete this puzzle. The circuit, certainly proves that Orissa, 1000-2000 years ago was a very important Buddhist center.
Except Udaygiri, other two has entry fee, parking facility & some snacking facility. All three are popular picnic spots for schools & big family n friends group. All three are well maintained by ASI with good gardens, providing some relax n chill out environment & so certainly is popular among local Love birds.
Transportation: Best way to cover all three places is a day trip from Bhubaneswar or Cuttack or Paradip. Bus facility is virtually non-existent & so best form of transportation, is a hired vehicle or personal vehicle. A bit cheaper option is to come by bus or local train to Chandikhol & hire a cab there, at junction of NH5 & NH-5A.Also availability of ATM will be an issue, so carry sufficient cash. Bhubaneswar & Cuttack are nearest big Railway stations, well connected with all parts of India. Bhubaneswar is nearest airport.
Udaygiri: First looks gives an impression, that there’s nothing. But walk of couple of 100 mtrs takes to lots of ruins of monasteries, spread across good 50 acres, with some atop a hill. Being over 1000-2000 years old, all are in their advanced stage of ruins & excavation by ASI looks as if they are solving a puzzle.Again it’s not a touristy place, with no entry fee, no parking fee & no eating facility available & so keeping big expectations, will only land to disappointment.
Ratnagiri, some 8KMs from Udaygiri, is the biggest among three. As per written history boards here, it once rivalled Buddhuism’s Mecca: Nalanda. But again, whole place is in advanced stage of ruining & ASI is trying to get something out of ruins. Entry fee is Rs 5 & free parking. It has some “pan shops” selling some packaged snacks. Besides ruins, the dahi bara, sold by a guy was awesome & cheap as well.
Lalitgiri, some 20KMs from Ratnagiri (via some village road) & is just 2KMs off NH5A. It’s of same taste as Udaygiri & Ratnagiri, but is bigger in terms of land area. People tend to get bored of same taste & so generally avoid visiting this bit far off place, which makes this more peaceful & calm. More than ruins, I found view of surrounding fields more interesting in Lalitgiri. Rs 5 access to well maintained gardens, make a perfect spot for peaceful outing. Again food availability is an issue, with few “pan-beetle shops” being only options for tea & biscuits.
1) All this Buddhist circuit sites are very well maintained.Please donot litter.
2) All structures are already in advanced stage of ruins & are very weak.Please avoid climbing over these structures. Moreover, these are/were place of worship, so please donot climb over roof of these structures.
3) Avoid loud music, as it may affect these weak structures.
The port city of Orissa, is supposedly an expanding city with growing industries in & around. Traffic of truckes starts 20Kms before the city itself. The air certainly is very polluted & does look like it has affected eco-system. Anyways, it has good places to go, like Light house & Nehru Bunglow beach. Nehru bunglow beach is most I like & is some ~20Kms from Paradip entry.This is place where one of the big distributary of Mahanadi meets Bay of Bengal. It is very neat n clean, well beautiful. But I am sure it’s gonna last for just few years, as expanding Paradip will galop n pollute it. Anyways place is very pristine & is certainly a picturesque point to see sunrise.One unique thing I saw is that waves are perpendicular to sea (may be due to river mixing action).
Paradip is connected to Cuttack by train,but poorly & so most rely on Bus.It had decent lodging n eating option.
SPECIAL REQUEST: All of these still retain their pristine value & well kept. Please please donot trash. Also be watchful to ruins, which may collapse, due to overloading.
Anyways Happy Journey & be Explorative n not an exploitive tourist.