Were it not for its glass-like surface, Chilka Lake, Asia’s largest lagoon, could easily be mistaken for the sea; from its mud-fringed foreshore you can barely make out the narrow strip of marshy islands and sand-flats that separate the 1100-square-kilometre expanse of brackish water from the Bay of Bengal. Come here between December and February, and you’ll see a variety of birds, including flamingos, pelicans, painted storks, fish eagles, ospreys and kites, many of them migrants from Siberia, Iran and the Himalayas. Chilika is also one of the few places in India where the Irrawaddy dolphin can be spotted.

The best way to see the lake and the birdlife is on a boat trip. Unfortunately, tourists are currently banned from visiting Nalabana Island, a bird sanctuary, which has dramatically reduced the chances of seeing the migratory species close up. It’s still possible to see them from further away, however, on a boat cruise or by visiting some of Chilika’s other islands.

Satapada, on the coastal side 45km from Puri, is the best place to stay on the lake; the surrounding waters offer the best chance of seeing dolphins.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

13 tips for backpacking India

13 tips for backpacking India

Whether you’re hurtling along in a rickshaw, eating fantastic curries, kicking back on the backwaters or hiking in the mountains, backpacking India will alwa…

15 Aug 2017 • Helen Abramson insert_drive_file Article
Video: a 2 minute guide to India

Video: a 2 minute guide to India

India has been captivating travellers for centuries – and it continues to enchant to this day. It's a country that has it all: rainforest, desert, pretty beac…

20 Jul 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Modernity is seeping into Old Delhi, a walled district that has long harboured the Indian capital’s traditional ways of life. But what does this mean for long…

13 Jun 2017 • Jack Palfrey local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month