Cuttack, Odisha’s second city in the north of the state, straddles the Mahanadi River. Devoid of attractions, it detains few travellers on the long journey to or from Kolkata. Once clear of Cuttack’s polluted outskirts, however, you soon find yourself amid the flat paddy fields, palm groves and mud-walled villages of the Mahanadi Delta. Twisting through it is one of India’s busiest transport arteries; the main railway line and NH-5 follow the path of the famous pilgrim trail, the Jagannath Sadak, which once led from Kolkata to Puri.
The area’s biggest attraction is Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, 130km northeast of Bhubaneswar, which has outstanding natural scenery, an abundance of fauna and flora and is visited by the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. Similipal National Park, close to the state border with West Bengal, is also impressive.