Odisha is popular for its beaches and temples. But there is more to the state than that; the jagged Eastern Ghats cut through the state, sprinkling it with a few hill stations that offer an experience different from the usual tourist spots, like the Konark Sun Temple or Puri Beach. Add to that the warm and welcoming people of the state, and you get some hilly destinations that offer some respite from the usual summer heat. So if you are in Odisha, take a break from the incredible monuments, beaches and wildlife sanctuaries and explore these five hill stations instead.

Dhenkanal

Dhenkanal Palace, Dhenkanal, Photograph Courtesy: Subhashish Panigrahi/Wikimedia Commons

Dhenkanal Palace, Dhenkanal, Photograph Courtesy: Subhashish Panigrahi/Wikimedia Commons

One of the lowest-altitude hill stations in this list, Dhenkanal makes up for its short stature with its pilgrimage sites. The star attraction here is the Kapilash temple, with 1,352 stairs leading up to it. There are several other temples in the area, all of which see thousands of devotees at the Maha Shivratri festival. During the festival, you can find pilgrims walking up the hill barefoot, carrying water from the nearby water body to pour onto the Shivling at the Kapilash temple. The sight of these pilgrims and their devotion are incredible, and the whole fair takes place through three days. Apart from the temples, though you have relatively little else in Dhenkanal. This is a place that should be visited during Maha Shivratri, or if you are more of a spiritual traveler.

Mahendragiri

Hills in Paralakhemundi at a distance, Photograph Courtesy: Carla Antonini/Wikimedia Commons

Hills in Paralakhemundi at a distance, Photograph Courtesy: Carla Antonini/Wikimedia Commons

The lesser known hill station of Mahendragiri lies at an altitude of around 4,925 feet in the Paralakhemundi region of Gajapati district. It is said to be the place where Parashurama, an avatar of Vishnu, practiced his penance for a long time. In fact, the place is steeped in religious mythology. There are temples that are said to have been built by the Pandavas, and the hill itself has been mentioned in the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Dense forests and hills surround the peak, home to elephants, mynas, peacocks and several other creatures that you can spot if you choose to explore the woods. Or you can simply take in the view of the hills and the sea at a distance. The Mahendratanaya River is frequented by travelers, as are the three temples at the peak that are named after the Pandava brothers Yudhisthira and Bheema and their mother Kunti. Mahendragiri is pleasant to visit through the year, especially during Maha Shivratri. ALSO READ: 5 magnificent temples that will draw you to Odisha this January

Taptapani

Signboard leading to Taptapani hot spring, Photograph Courtesy: Krupasindhu Muduli/Wikimedia Commons

Signboard leading to Taptapani hot spring, Photograph Courtesy: Krupasindhu Muduli/Wikimedia Commons

Lying around 56 km from Brahmapur, Taptapani is famed for its perpetual hot water sulphur springs that are said cure diseases. The Kandimata Mandir, an important pilgrimage site for Hindus, also lies near the hot water springs. The hill station is situated at an altitude of around 1,800 feet and has more than just the spring to offer. You can walk through the beautiful natural landscape around Taptapani or enjoy the water sports or boating along Tampara Lake. There is also the deer park for those who want to see the sprightly creatures up close. And the local tribes such as Mali, Bonda and Dingara Kondh are always welcoming of visitors. Spend some time with them to learn about their rituals and culture, and to gain a better understanding of the diversity of this country. Taptapani can be visited throughout the year, although anytime between October and March is best for a pleasant experience.

Olasuni

Olasuni Temple, Photograph Courtesy: Amartyabag/Wikimedia Commons

Olasuni Temple, Photograph Courtesy: Amartyabag/Wikimedia Commons

Olasuni is another Odisha hill station popular for religious reasons. It lies along the border of Jajpur and Cuttack districts, near the Laitgiri and Ratnagiri hills and the Gobari River. There are several temples on the hill, including one devoted to the local goddess Olasuni. This is also the resting place of the famous saint Arakhit Das, who is said to have meditated at a cave in the hill and attained salvation. Most of the visitors come to the hill on the Magha Ekadasi festival, to witness the Gumpha Yatra that takes place for nine days. The Yatra commemorates the death of Arakhit Das in 1833 and the Shradha Mahostav.

Daringbadi

Daringbadi, Photograph Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Daringbadi, Photograph Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The hill station of Daringbadi is probably the most famous entry in this list. Located around 3,000 feet above sea level, this hill station is often called the Kashmir of Odisha. Daringbadi lives up to the bold name too, with beautiful views of the hills around and snowfall during the winters. Located in Kandhmal, Daringbadi is around 251 km from Bhubaneswar and 120 km from Brahmapur. The place is flush with pine forests, lush green valleys and plateaus. You can find coffee, black pepper and turmeric plantations here as well. The main sights in Daringbadi include Doluri River, Dasingbadi waterfalls, Lovers Point, Belghar Sanctuary and Dadubada Paradise. The hill station also boasts of several churches and the Samaleswari temple, and you can go sightseeing or trek up the hills nearby. September to May are the best times to visit this place. NOW SEE: Daringbadi is Odisha’s little-known hill station no one’s told you about

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