Puri is one of the biggest travel destinations on planet earth. Some go there for pilgrimage and some to enjoy the Bay of Bengal waves on its peerless beach. Puri has as many new visitors as new ones. More than 40 lakh tourists come to Puri each year – and while that is great – it also makes us want to look for newer and less crowded places around Puri.

Although there are many places to visit in and around Puri, there are also many which are lesser known and explored.  Here are some which you visit in your next trip –

#1 Raghurajpur Artist Village
Most of us know about the world famous Patachitra of Orissa but not many of us have visited Raghurajpur – the home of the art and artists. Just 14 km away from Puri, we reach Raghurajpur amidst coconut trees and lush greenery. River Bhargavi flows through this area making it rich in land and life.

Once we enter this village, we are speechless. The walls of the cottages and huts have so beautiful and colourful paintings that it seems out of this world. This is Orissa’s own ethnic Disneyland!

The artists have carried the art in their blood for more than 2000 years. Today Raghurajpur is an internationally recognized heritage site. When you visit this place, do appreciate and buy (which you would 🙂 handicrafts and paintings from these artisans. It takes a lot of hard work and so some might be priced higher – but then it is the only place in the whole world where you would get something like this! If you like saris, go for their painted Tassar ones.

#2 District Museum and Sudarshan Workshop
If you loved the Patachitras do visit Puri’s District Museum. Musuems are a repository of the best of the city and this one shows the rarest and best Patachitras and the crafts of Orissa. This museum was established in 1997 and you can probably spend an hour or two exploring these amazing artifacts.

Then there is the remarkable Sudarshan Workshop by the world renowned sand artist Sudarshan Sahoo. If you are lucky you might get to meet him personally, and you can always see his sand art sculptures that are exhibited here.

#3 Daya River

About 30 km away from Puri lays the Daya River. It is that river that has been the witness to the chilling Kalinga war and the change-of-heart of Emperor Ashoka. Beside this river you can see Dhaulagiri, a hill with a serene Buddhist monastery on top. Do not miss these gems!

If you would follow this river, it is only 37 km long and you can see it merging into the Chilka.

#4 Gulmi waterfall, Koraput
This place is a bit far from Puri but worth a visit. From Puri it is a 10 hour journey by car and in Koraput you can stay overnight. Koraput district is one of the most picturesque areas of Orissa with dashing waterfalls and hill stations.

Duduma waterfall is quite popular near Koraput but Gulmi is relatively unknown. Gulmi waterfall is surrounded by forests making this trip quite adventurous. You can surely take a bath in the cool waters but not only is that place rich in wildlife but also crocodiles. Overall, a time well spent in nature.

In Koraput you also see a replica of the Jagannath Temple. Unlike the one in Puri, this beautiful white temple is nestled in a tranquil area and entry is permitted for all. There are many other places around Koraput that makes this a wonderful trip.

#5 Atri Sulfur Spring

About 70 km from Puri, in the town of Khurda is the famous Atri hot water spring. Hot water springs are considered nature’s treasured spots. A dip in these waters will not only rejuvenate you but also cure all your skin problems. A covered spot has been made where people can easily take a dip. The crystal clear water is about 55 degree Celcius. After getting refreshed as much as you want, you can pay a visit to the nearby Lord Shiv Temple called as the Hatakeswara.

#6 Lalitgiri – Ratnagiri – Udaygiri

Most of the tour packages would show you Udaygiri (and Khandgiri) but you must also see Lalitiri and Ratnagiri. Lalitgiri – Ratnagiri – Udaygiri hold the honour of being India’s Diamond Triangle. It is not only an important place in terms of Buddhism, but extremely valuable to archaeologists.

Related: See how the Sanchi stupa looks from above

Once you go to these hills, you will lose the sense of time gazing into these statues and carvings. The place is filled with stupas and viharas and all that you had read in the history books but this time it is alive and very much interesting. Even relics of the great Buddha have been found here.

Definitely take a guide who could show these things to you. Makes an interesting photography spot and a trip of a lifetime. And yes, beware of monkeys.

#7 Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary
Puri is only 3 km away from the entry gate to the Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary. This wildlife sanctuary lies on the way from Puri to Konark driveway. Balukhand is rich with spotted deer and the beautiful blackbucks. Amidst the green forests beside the Nuanai and the Kushabhadra rivers, you may also spot a stray jackal or a hyena. Please keep the place clean and plastic free and do not speak loudly or make any noise. You can spend the whole day frolicking in the rivers and wandering in the serene jungle. It will surely make your day!

Image credits: traviata21, indiashots.com, odishadairy – WordPress.com, omus.wordpress.com, Chandan Roy, Wikimedia