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What to See and Do in Puri – a guide to notable landmarks and attractions

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A city of colourful temples, which come to life in full religious fervour during Ratha Yatra – the famous chariot festival – Puri is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus. Non-devout Indians head here too, but they come for the city’s swathe of golden sand and plush resort hotels. Not to be missed out, foreign visitors and backpackers have been hitting the beach since the 60s. Whichever group you fit into, Puri’s attractions are bound to intrigue.
Gundicha Temple

 

 

Surrounded by exotic gardens, Gundicha Temple is one that non-Hindus can visit, for a small fee. Although less vast than Jagannath Temple, Gundicha’s equally flamboyant, with brightly painted decorative shrines. During Rath Yatra, Jagannath’s icon is moved here after a long procession when the city’s full of pilgrims, many singing and chanting devotional songs. Indradyumna Tank – one of Puri’s holy lakes – is near to the temple. Stroll over here to watch devotees bathe themselves in the water – part of a cleansing ritual that sees them wash in 4 of Puri’s lakes, as well as a sacred spot in the sea.

 

Puri Beach

 

 

If you’re in Puri for its religious sites, it might come as a surprise to you that there’s a long stretch of golden sand to relax on. Plenty of Kolkata and Bangalore residents head to the resort hotels that line Marine Drive Road. If you prefer a traveller vibe, head to the backpacker haunts around Chakra Tirtha Road – a relic of the 1960s and 70s hippies who would while away days and months on the quiet shoreline. Nowadays Model Beach is the epitome of Puri’s beach scene – a small stretch of pristine sand where you can rent loungers and book a massage.

 

Chilika Lake

 

 

A place of natural beauty on the outskirts of Puri, Chilika Lake is a saltwater lagoon that’s home to an array of wildlife, including birds, reptiles, and – according to reports and rumours – a pod of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. You can take a tour from Puri, or if you fancy exploring by yourself, rent a motorbike or grab a taxi out to the lake for a day trip. A glimpse of rural India awaits you, as local fishermen bob along on boats, and flocks of migratory birds soar above your head.

 

Raghurajpur

 

 

A shorter drive from Puri, Raghurajpur craft village is a state-designated heritage spot, where local artisans make and promote traditional handicrafts. It’s definitely worth the taxi ride – when you arrive you’ll be greeted by friendly families hoping to show you into their colourful homes. It's a whole community of passionate creative types, and their work – from cloth paintings to wooden carvings to decorative figurines – can be seen everywhere in this unforgettable hub of artistic endeavour.