The only place on earth to spot the exceedingly rare black tiger is open to visitors again. Similipal National Park in Mayurbhanj, an under-the-radar region in India’s eastern state of Odisha, reopened in November with strict restrictions to the number of daily visitors—only 60 vehicle entry permits are available each day—in order to safeguard its sprawling delicate ecosystem, home to over 40 mammals including Asian elephants and Bengal tigers. Visitors can now explore its unique flora and fauna on guided safaris or self-guided cycling tours.
There’s plenty more to do while you’re in town. This April, Mayurbhanj Chhau, a captivating dance festival on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list will take place on a much larger scale following a pandemic hiatus. Bespoke chhau performances that combine ancient martial arts and folk dance are scheduled at The Belgadia Palace, an elegant boutique hotel and royal residence. Guests staying at the 11-bedroom old-world property can also participate in experiential retreats and visit the area’s Indigenous handicraft communities (many of which are composed of all women) that focus on intricate handlooms, Sabai grass weaving, and the dying art of Dokra (metal casting).
Stunning biodiversity and interminable heritage continue throughout the state. In the capital Bhubaneswar, a new guided walking tour series, Odisha Walks, explores ancient cultural sites, monolithic rock edicts, and remarkable temple architecture. Later this year, the Pangi Forest Reserve in Jeypore, home to the eponymous Jeypore ground gecko, is opening a new trekking trail up the 4,600 ft. Nakti Dangar hill.
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