The Bhubaneswar temples have delicate, almost filigree-like carvings whilst the erotic sculptures of Konarak are said by some to surpass even those at Khajuraho. Chilika Lake, Asia's largest salt-water lake, boasts of Irrawady dolphins and rich birdlife. The long sandy beach at Puri with its distinctive green/blue waters makes for a great evening stroll.
Day 1 - Bhubaneswar
Arrive in Bhubaneswar and transfer to your hotel. The capital of the state of Orissa, Bhubaneshwar is a pleasant city containing a real contrast between the modern new buildings and the famous old temples, of which there are many hundreds (it seems impossible to establish an exact number!). The most famous is the large Lingaraj Temple. In the afternoon you can enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the temples.
Day 2 - Puri
Today you drive to Puri (1 1/2 hrs) via the artisan village of Pipli and the Sun temple at Konarak. Pipli, 15 km south of Bhubaneswar on the highway to Puri, is a village of artisans famous for their colourful appliquï¿½-work fabrics. The craft originated to serve temples but nowadays is used for garden umbrellas, cushion covers, wall hangings and bags. They follow the same techniques, in which cloth is cut into bird, flower, animal and other decorative shapes, and stitched on to fabric of a contrasting colour. The splendid Sun temple of Konarak, built in the 13th century and located about 35 km from Puri, is the finest example of ancient Orissan temple architecture. The temple was conceived in the form of a colossal chariot for the sun god Surya, standing on 12 pairs of eight-spoke-wheels and drawn by seven galloping horses. The horses represent the seven days of the week, the wheels the 24 fortnights of the Indian year, and the eight spokes of each wheel the periods into which the ancients divided day and night. Every aspect of life has been carved on the facades of the temple. The most striking sculptures are the erotic figures locked in postures drawn from the Kama Sutra.
Day 3 - Puri
Puri is a popular seaside resort, famous for the great `Car Festival' held at the Temple of Jagannath in June or July. During this festival, the image of Jagannath is placed on an enormous 15 metre high wooden chariot and drawn through the streets by thousands of penitent devotees. In times past, ecstatic pilgrims would hurl themselves under the wheels of this rumbling "juggernaut". Just a 20-minute drive from Puri is the idyllic village of Raghurajpur, where every thatch-roof dwelling houses a family of artisans. Their skills in stone-and-wood carving, talapatra (extremely complicated and delicate palm-leaf paintings), and patachitra (fine drawings on silk or cloth), are passed down from one generation to almost every member of the next generation. If you're interested, the artisans will demonstrate their processes. The afternoon is free in Puri to enjoy the beach or further explore the city on your own.
Day 4 - Bhubaneswar
Today you drive from Puri to Chilika Lake (110 km, 2 Â½ hours), Asia's largest salt-water lake. The lake supports a staggering variety of aquatic life and birds, both resident and migratory. Winters, the lake gets surrounded by migratory birds' nesting colonies, including the delicate pink flamingos. The lake is also home to dolphins that can be seen regularly near the islands. Chilika is also an important place for turtles that come in large numbers in winter to lay their eggs in hundreds. You can enjoy a private boat trip on the lake, an ideal way of spotting some of the lake's interesting inhabitants. After the boat trip, you drive back to Bhubaneswar (130 km, 3 hours).
Day 5 - Bhubaneswar
Today you will leave Bhubaneswar to continue your travels through India. We will arrange your departure transfer to the airport or railway station to connect with your onward travel.