Puri is an old 1970’s hippy hangout in the region of Odisha (previously known as Orissa). It’s a seaside town on India‘s quieter east coast with a chilled hippy backpacker vibe. There’s obviously a beach, lot’s of fellow travellers and plenty of cultural things to see and do. Plus there’s some amazing temples to visit around Puri’s old Holy Quarter.
Puri is a comfortable 9 hour train journey from Kolkata, and CT Road where most foreigners stay is a 2 minute rickshaw ride or 15 minute walk away from the station. There are plenty of good places to stay and eat. If you’re looking to stay somewhere a bit special with a price range between 600-2000Rs then the Hotel Grandhara is a good option.
It’s run by a Japanese / Indian owner and a group of well efficient staff and not forgetting the loveable dog ‘Limca’, named after an Indian soda! The gardens are the prettiest I’ve seen with more plants than at Chelsea Flower Show! The rooms are clean and comfortable and they’ve even got a swimming pool! Best thing maybe, they sell self service cold beer!
There are a few decent restaurants, but our favourite was the Peace Restaurant. I think we ate almost every meal there. It seems to be the place where all the travellers hangout and where everyone ate, and why not with great food and unbelievable prices! A massive veg thali for 40Rs and ice cold beer for 90Rs. Can it get any better?!
The beach is nice, but could do with a clean up. It’s got a chilled vibe and an even better sunset (watch out on the east side of the beach, which is used at a public toilet for the fishing village).
The more ‘Indian’ part of the shore is by New Marine Road and is full of Indian holiday makers. It has the look of Brighton seafront with an Indian twist! There are plenty of food stalls and an open market on the sand. Burning ghats are located at the far end of New Marine Road. Hindu’s come here from all over the region to burn the dead bodies of their loved ones. It is an easy 20 minute walk from CT Road.
The Holy Quarter is worth a visit, it’s a great insight into the local life in Puri. Walk through narrow back alleys and find pretty decorated houses in rainbow colours and painted patterns on the walls. It’s really cute to see ‘Rinki Weds Pradip’ hand written on the married couples front door, makes you feel romance is alive in India!
You may mind yourself to be the latest celebrity in town like we experienced, with young and old shouting ‘HELLO’ at us. Children were running after us with their arms out wanting to shake our hands. Now we know what it’s like to be famous!
There is a Hindu temple in Puri called Jagannath Mandir. It’s looks very nice, but unfortunately is closed for non Hindus. If you want a viewing platform go up to the roof of Raghunandan Library (opening hours 9am-2pm & 4-6pm Mon- Sat) a ‘donation’ is expected and 10Rs is fine. Beware of touts telling you the library is closed for refurbishment as they will try and show you another spy place and demand money.
There is a craft village nearby called Raghurajpur. The village is known for colourful houses decorated with hand painted prints and shapes on the walls and rustic thatch roofs. Artists live in the village and their doors are open for people to walk in and buy their work. You can catch a bus from Puri bus station, but make sure they know where you are going so you get off at the right stop.
The 1km walk from the bus stop to the village is a peaceful walk through a quiet rural Indian village. You can see people washing clothes in the river, waiting for a train on a dusty mud platform, goats walking in the road and market sellers sitting in their huts.
There are a few houses before the village selling crafts and trying to call you in, walk on further to reach Raghurajpur. If you are interested in visiting the craft village I would recommend only going with the intention of buying, as the locals can be pushy in getting you to look at their work!
If you enjoy your temples the impressive Sun Temple is well worth a visit. It’s a Unesco World Heritage Site in Konark which is a one hour bus ride away. The temple was built in the mid-13th century and has some interesting carvings, many in the popular erotic style of the time.
Getting there and away
If you are coming from Kolkata take the ‘Howrah Puri Express‘, train number ‘12837’, it takes about 9 hours. Howrah station is massive and is made up of two huge buildings, so if your train is on platform ’22D’ for example you’ll have to take the escalator to the second building. Check out Seat 61 for an in-depth look at the workings of the Indian railway system!
From Puri station, you can take a 2 minute auto-rickshaw ride to CT Street where most foreigners stay. If you have a map, it’s only a 10-15 minute walk.