How to get there By air/ road to Bhubaneswar, then to Berhampur, the silk city
Estimated time (From Berhampur) 20 minutes
Place to stay Basic, no-frills hotels
Imagine a long stretch of beach with complete silence, hardly anyone to disturb you and all that you can hear for long intervals are the symphony of waves and your heart. If one is looking for such a peaceful getaway then Gopalpur on- sea gives you every reason for it. Untouched natural beauty, away from the hullabaloo of cities and a polite host, awaits every tourist here. During the days of Kalingas it was known as the port of Paloura from which traders sailed as far as Java, Bali and Sumatra and piled up wealth dealing in silk and pearl. Gopalpur is now left with thinly populated small settlement which depends on the sea for all their means.
Like Middleton-on-sea, the ‘on-sea’ tag has been conferred on Gopalpur. The beach is 20 minutes from Behrampur, the silk city of Odisha. For accommodation, it has basic hotel and hospitality facilities.
Authorities claim that Gopalpur-on-sea is ideal for both sailing and surfing. Fairly isolated and undisturbed by day trippers, avid beach combers can have one of the finest times spent at the eastern coast.
From the ruins of what was once a port, the Bay of Bengal seems to speak to you, at times challenging your senses in a way that can be overwhelming. Unlike other destinations in India, Gopalpur has a comparatively raw beach. It is easy to be hoodwinked because of the shallow shores but as one wades further into the waters, the sea suddenly becomes deeper.
The sea collects itself and invites to join its recreation. And there you go, as waves come and go with full force. Those who don’t even know how to swim, try to it learn here. Sand slips under the feet quickly, leaving a tingling after-effect. However, it calls for mutual understanding to play the games the waves play. Yes, trying to be too daring might prove a costly affair.
There are no palm trees along the coastline, making it difficult to get some shade. On the plus side, you get an uninterrupted view of the mammoth Bay of Bengal. Named after Lord Krishna, the beach town is blessed with one of the most serene sunrises. A single visit is enough to arouse the envy of the locals who enjoy the scenic beauty round-the year. As for sunset, with every passing moment, the waves get into a more playful mood. A peaceful bath followed by nimbu chai is de rigeur.
Gopalpur is also a haven for foodies. Prawns, crabs, along with the chicken and mutton delicacies are listed on the menu of several foodstalls near the shore. Offering the cheapest sea food possible, they generally operate in the evening. A whole crab can be bought at a minimal price of 30 here.
For evening tipsiness, a wine shop is located in the promenade of the coast. Chinese and other food options can be found in the restaurant on the stairs leading to the beach, where one can enjoy the delectable food and the tranquil view of small boats bobbing over the waves.
If one manages to get a home-made food, Gopalpur locals’ for potatoes becomes evident. It is a staple part of their food, including many other non-vegetarian dishes.
The small market nearby stands as testimony of the traditional port town. Artistic hutments are often interrupted by modern architecture of lions and gates, whose origins are a little obscure. Handmade jute wristbands and accessories along with regular sea ornaments are favourite trinkets. The town is well connected, with buses and autos plying to and fro. In the unlikely event that you lose your way, a lighthouse serves as a landmark.
The tourism department and Hoteliers’ Association jointly organise the five-day Gopalpur Beach Festival in November/December. According to the locals, the festival is like icing on the cake. Rich Odiya culture, Bollywood singers, sand art and a lively crowd from Ganjam-Behrampur add to the fun.
The rejuvenating quality of Gopalpur and its locals can be seen in the way they have reorganised their lives after the devastating Phailin cyclone.