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 Chilika Lake: No. 1 Natural Wonder of Odisha
April 12, 2024

Chilika Lake: No. 1 Natural Wonder of Odisha

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Chilika Lake is a massive body of water in India that’s a mix of fresh and salty, called brackish. It’s the biggest of its kind in Asia and the second largest in the world. Located in the eastern state of Odisha, it’s where the Daya River meets the Bay of Bengal. Picture a giant lake spanning over 1,100 square kilometers, spread across a few districts. Its unique mix of freshwater from rivers and saltwater from the ocean creates various habitats for different plants and animals. It’s so special that it’s even been considered for UNESCO World Heritage status.

chilika lake


It has played an important role in the culture and economy of Odisha for centuries. Its rich ecosystem has supported the livelihoods of local fishing communities, and its natural beauty has attracted visitors from all over the world. In 1981, the lake was recognized as a Ramsar site, which means it is a wetland of international importance.

Its history reveals its shifting coastline and formation over thousands of years. It started as a shallow sea, gradually becoming a lagoon due to rising sea levels. Sediments carried by rivers built up the lake’s floor. Around 3,500–4,000 years ago, it took its current form, with a sandy spit extending into the Bay of Bengal. Coral remnants and dating techniques show its evolution, including a recent barrier construction 40 years ago. Strong winds, currents, and geological shifts influenced its development, making it a dynamic and fascinating ecosystem.

Why Chilika Lake is the Best Place for Tourism

It offers a unique combination of natural beauty, ecological wonders, and cultural richness, making it an ideal destination for tourism. The lake’s peaceful atmosphere, coupled with its diverse offerings, caters to a wide range of interests, from bird watching and dolphin spotting to cultural exploration and outdoor activities. With its stunning landscapes, friendly locals, and rich biodiversity, It promises an unforgettable experience for visitors seeking a connection with nature and local traditions.

Why It’s Famous

Chilika Lake boasts diverse eco-tourism spots, like Breakfast, and Honeymoon islands, each with unique attractions. Somolo and Dumkudi islands offer dolphin sightings and stunning views. Bird Island hosts migratory birds, while Parikud Islands are a winter birdwatching haven. Satapada village is ideal for dolphin tours, and Kalijai Temple offers serenity on its own island. Barunkuda has a temple, Nabagraha an ancient deity, and Manikapatna historic sites. Mangalajodi is a bird sanctuary. These destinations showcase its natural beauty and biodiversity, offering visitors a chance to visit and appreciate the lake’s rich ecosystem.

It is famous for its diverse bird population, the presence of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins, and its unique ecosystem that supports a wide range of plants and animals. Additionally, the lake’s cultural significance and the traditional way of life of the local communities have contributed to its reputation as a must-visit destination in Odisha.

It is a beautiful and large lagoon located on the eastern coast of Odisha. It is famous for its natural beauty and is a great place for tourism. Here are some reasons why you should visit Chilika Lake:

Main Attractions

1. Migratory Birds

 It is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Every year, around a million birds from different parts of the world like Siberia, Iran, Iraq, and the Himalayas come to the lake during their migration. 

chilika lake

It is a haven for migratory birds, attracting species like the Eurasian curlew, Eurasian wigeon, and northern shovelers from as far as Siberia and the Arctic regions. The white-bellied sea eagle, grey-headed lapwing, and Kentish plover are among the avian visitors from Central Asia and the Himalayas. The lake’s diverse ecosystem also hosts resident birds like the purple heron, Indian cormorant, and Asian openbill stork, making it a birdwatcher’s delight.

2. Irrawaddy dolphin

One of the main highlights of Chilika Lake is the presence of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. These dolphins can be spotted swimming and playing in the lake’s waters, making it a unique experience for visitors.

chilika lake

It harbors India’s only known population of Endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. Dolphin tourism provides income for locals, but boat tours can impact dolphins and cause accidental deaths. Conservation efforts focus on mitigating threats like gill nets and boat strikes. Traditional fishermen and dolphins have a mutualistic relationship, where dolphins help drive fish into nets. This unique bond underscores the importance of conserving both the dolphins and their habitat.

3. Kalijai Island

This island is located within the lake and offers a glimpse into the traditional life of the local fishing communities. You can observe their way of living, see how they cultivate crabs, and learn about their rich culture.

chilika lake

Kalijai Island, nestled within the Lake, is renowned for its ancient Kalijai Temple dedicated to the presiding deity of the lake. This 500-year-old temple attracts devotees from nearby fishing communities. The island showcases the traditional way of life, with locals engaged in crab cultivation and preserving age-old customs. Visitors can witness unique cultural practices, crafts, and folk dances, and savor delectable local cuisine, offering an authentic glimpse into Odisha’s rich heritage.

What to Do

chilika lake

1. Boating and Kayaking

You can go for a relaxing boat ride or kayak through the calm waters of the lake. This is a great way to explore the lake, watch the birds, and potentially spot the Irrawaddy dolphins.

Here are the approximate prices for boating and kayaking in Chilika Lake:


  • Small boat ride (2-3 hours): INR 500 – INR 800 per boat
  • Full-day boat tour: INR 1,000 – INR 1,500 per boat


  • Single Kayak (per hour): INR 200 – INR 300
  • Double Kayak (per hour): INR 300 – INR 400
  • Half-day Kayak tour (3-4 hours): INR 800 – INR 1,200 per person
  • Full-day Kayak tour: INR 1,500 – INR 2,000 per person

The prices may vary depending on the season, the number of people, and the specific tour package or operator you choose. It’s always recommended to check with the local tour operators or boat owners for the current rates and packages available.

2. Bird Watching

With over 230 species of migratory and resident birds, it is a paradise for bird watchers. You can take guided tours to learn more about the different birds from knowledgeable guides.

It is a great place for people who love watching birds. There are more than 230 different types of birds that live in the lake or come there during their migration. You can take a guided tour with experienced guides who will teach you about the many kinds of birds you can see at the lake. From big birds like the white-bellied sea eagle to colorful ones like the purple heron, you can spot many beautiful birds at the lake.

3. Cultural Exploration

Visit nearby villages to experience the vibrant traditions, handicrafts, and delicious local cuisine of the local communities. You can also participate in their folk dances and witness their traditional fishing practices.

You can visit nearby villages like Satapada, Khursinga, and Rambha to experience the vibrant culture of the local communities around it. These villages are known for their colorful folk dances, intricate handicrafts like bamboo weaving, and delicious local cuisine like machha jhola (fish curry). You can also witness the traditional fishing practices of the villagers, such as using small boats and nets to catch fish in the lake.

4. Delicious Food

At Chilika Lake, you’ll find a tasty mix of fresh water and seafood. Imagine digging into delicious crab curry, spicy prawns, and crispy fish fry. And don’t forget the mouthwatering fish pakoras and fragrant fish stew, cooked with local herbs and veggies. These dishes are super popular with both locals and tourists because they capture the unique flavors of the region. 

Chilika’s food scene is all about fresh, flavorful ingredients, making every bite a delightful experience. So, if you’re visiting Chilika, make sure to treat your taste buds to these traditional delicacies. They’re not just meals; they’re a journey into the rich food culture of Odisha’s famous lake.

One-Day Itinerary

chilika lake

The perfect time to visit Chilika Lake is during the winter months from November to February. This is when you can see lots of different birds that come here for the season. Chilika Lake is known for its stunning beauty and it’s the biggest saltwater lagoon in Asia. Besides the lake itself, there are also other cool places nearby to check out. Located on India’s east coast and connected to the Bay of Bengal by a narrow opening, Chilika is a special kind of lake called a lagoon.

8:00 AM: Start your day with a visit to the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary, located within Chilika Lake. Take a guided bird-watching tour to see the diverse bird species in their natural habitat.

10:30 AM: Visit Kalijai Island, where you can learn about the traditional way of life of the local fishing communities. See how they cultivate crabs, interact with the locals, and try their local delicacies.

12:30 PM: Enjoy a delicious lunch featuring traditional Odisha cuisine, savoring the flavors of the region.

2:00 PM: Go for a boat ride or kayaking adventure to explore the calm waters of the lake. Keep an eye out for the graceful Irrawaddy dolphins and take beautiful photographs of the natural surroundings.

5:00 PM: Visit nearby villages to experience the vibrant traditions, handicrafts, and cultural performances of the local communities.

7:00 PM: End your day by watching a beautiful sunset over the serene waters of Chilika Lake, creating lasting memories of this enchanting destination.

Entrance Fees

To explore Chilika Lake and its attractions, there are some fees you need to know about. These fees help maintain the lake and its surroundings, ensuring a memorable experience for visitors while supporting conservation efforts.

Nalabana Bird Sanctuary: INR 50 (for Indians), INR 200 (for foreigners)

Boat Ride: INR 500 – INR 1,000 (depending on the duration and type of boat)

Guided Tours: INR 1,000 – INR 2,000 (depending on the package)

Nearby Places to Visit

chilika lake

Near Chilika Lake, several attractions beckon visitors. Puri, just 60 km away, boasts the renowned Jagannath Temple and stunning beaches. Closer, at 35 km, stands the UNESCO-listed Konark Sun Temple, while Bhubaneswar, 180 km distant, showcases ancient temples like Lingaraja. Nearby, Satapada offers tranquil backwaters and mangrove vistas.

Puri (60 km): Home to the famous Jagannath Temple and golden beaches.

Konark Sun Temple (35 km): A UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its intricate stone carvings and architectural marvel.

Bhubaneswar (180 km): The capital city of Odisha, famous for its ancient temples, including the iconic Lingaraja Temple.

Satapada (20 km): A picturesque village known for its serene backwaters and mangrove forests.


Chilika Lake isn’t just water; it’s a special place full of beauty, history, and different kinds of plants and animals. You’ll be amazed by the wonderful things you’ll see and learn about in Odisha’s amazing treasure.

It is a true gem that offers a harmonious blend of natural wonders, cultural richness, and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re a nature lover, a culture enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, this enchanting destination promises to leave you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the beauty of Odisha.


1. When is the best time to visit Chilika Lake?

The best time to visit Chilika Lake is during winter, from November to February when many migratory birds come here.

2. What makes Chilika Lake special?

Chilika Lake is the biggest saltwater lagoon in Asia, known for its stunning beauty and diverse wildlife.

3. How is Chilika Lake connected to the Bay of Bengal?

Chilika Lake is connected to the Bay of Bengal through a narrow opening, forming a unique kind of lake called a lagoon.

4. What can I see at Chilika Lake?

At Chilika Lake, you can see lots of different birds, especially during winter. You can also enjoy the beautiful scenery and maybe spot some dolphins.

5. Are there other places to visit near Chilika Lake?

Yes, besides the lake, there are other interesting places nearby worth exploring, adding more fun to your trip.

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