Exploring rural Odisha by road – A glimpse into the tribal life

The real beauty of India lies in her villages; nearly 98% of the total geographical area of India constitutes rural areas, in which 74% of the total population lives. Tourists rarely get to see the real side of India—rarely do they experience India in its raw form. In recent times, there has been a 15-20 percent rise in rural tourism in the country, along with eco-tourism stays and cottage dwellings in remote parts of each state. Rural tourism allows travellers to experience the unique rhythm of India’s villages, people, crafts and traditions. As tourists evolve as travellers, their preferences shift to more ethnic and rural experiences. A starting point for one can be by exploring the tribal villages of Odisha in a cab with a driver where the essence of the tribal culture is still pure.

Odisha is a vast landmass, landlocked on one side and bordered by the sea on the other. The Konark Sun Temple’s exquisite craftsmanship, the Jagannath Temple’s divinity, the enthralling ancient caves, classical Odissi dance, and the pristine beauty of the Chilika lake speak volumes about Odisha’s prosperous heritage and glorious culture. However, it is more than just the majestic temples & the magnificent landscapes. It is home to the oldest tribe The Santhal and 62 such tribes.

 Significance of ‘Rural Tourism’ in Odisha

Rural Odisha is home to more than 62 tribes, accounting for 29 per cent of the state’s population. And the rural economy in many parts of Odisha is in shambles due to rising input costs and falling income. As a result, many bankrupt farmers are committing suicide. With the growing popularity of rural tourism in a state like Odisha, where most of the population lives in villages, it will benefit the development of these villagers. With balanced regional development, efforts to promote rural tourism as a secondary occupation can also halt this trend.

Rural Odisha is endowed with an unrivalled natural beauty, which brings us closer to nature. The earthy lifestyle, the rural homestay, the vibrant culture, and the vast open fields with lush greenery are all enthralling. Aside from the natural beauty, the art, craftsmanship, and other cultural activities add to the awe of these villages. It promotes rural arts and crafts, infrastructure development, and preservation of environmental and cultural heritage.

If you are interested in understanding people from varied tribes and learning about their indigenous culture, then planning a trip to the tribal villages of Odisha is a must. Taking an Odisha tribal tour will allow you to explore Odisha’s tiny tribal towns, communicate with the locals, and closely observe their age-old traditions. Here are some of the tribal offerings you should not miss.

Chasing Rural Summers with Savaari | E01 | A Road Trip to Rural Odisha & Andhra Pradesh

Tribal Markets – The epicentre of Odisha’s Commerce

Haats or weekly markets are invaluable treasures of the Odia tribe. A visit to Odisha is incomplete without a trip to such marketplaces. The best place to witness these weekly markets is the Koraput district in Odisha. Koraput is a natural retreat with a slow pace of life, densely forested and dotted with pristine waterfalls and deep valleys. This village is home to several Indian tribes and exemplifies rural life’s vibrancy and rich folk culture. The region’s bustling and lively tribal market is located in the heart of Koraput, where visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant tribal culture. However, due to the lack of malls and business districts, tribal markets are strictly a local affair.

Tribal men and women come from their villages to these markets, sometimes walking for miles and miles in the forested hill paths to sell forest produce and grocery items, foodstuffs, daily necessities, jewellery and clothing, alcohol brewed from sago palms, sheep and goats, dry fish, chicken, and even cattle. Rice, mahua flowers, vegetables, tobacco, forest products, tribal ornaments, brooms made from wild grass, and a few factory products are among the earthy, rural products.

Every week, the district hosts approximately 200 haats. While the Ramagiri and Boipariguda haats are well-known for their rare forest products, the Onkadeli haat is popular with foreign tourists because it attracts women from the primitive Bonda tribe. The Pottangi block’s Kundli haat is well-known for its vegetable trading. If you enjoy music, the Kakiriguma haat could be your ideal shopping destination, as traditional drums and other tribal musical instruments can be found in abundance. The markets combine trading with a bit of entertainment.

The regional haat is the best time to observe myriad tribes engaging in trade and fun together. Despite poverty and a battle for survival, they still conserve their heritage and passion for music, dance and celebration. Travelling to these little villages in the valley, with their age-old traditions, weekly markets, amazing hikes through the spectacular scenery, or drum beats in the evening as they dance to the tune of Dhemsa, can be a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience as well as a learning experience for all.

 Local Cuisine- The Taste Of  Rural Odisha

You must have heard of popular dishes of Odisha like Khicede, Gupchup, Chhena Poda and Macha Ghanta. The state’s cuisine is dominated by rice and its traditional food uses a variety of locally sourced vegetables, grains, pulses, dairy products and seafood. But lesser known to the world, rural Odisha’s authentic cuisine is a mix of many things. Most of Odisha’s tribal population lives in the forest ecosystem, which has its socio-cultural preferences, tradition, and food practices. Their diet consists primarily of unusual foods such as edible forms of flowers, fruits, tubers, leaves, stems, seeds, and wild mushrooms.

Foreign visitors devour the forest products and liquor. The tribals of western Odisha are fond of their porridge-based breakfast, known as Mandia Jau. Other popular regional delicacies in Odisha include the Black Carpenter Ant Chutney, pancakes or pithas made of black gram and dates, and pakoras made of rice flour and dates. Tapioca and jackfruit chips are also popular among the people of the Parijal tribal areas. A must-try is the fish curry, Jara dal Mandi alu.


The forest ecosystem and tribal traditions and cultures have a delicate interdependence. In addition to food, most tribal people enjoy alcoholic beverages. These alcoholic beverages are made using traditional methods and are consumed during horrid weather, hard labour, and ceremonial occasions. There are several types of alcohol, including those made with rice, mahua flowers, and palm tree fruit. In local haats, homemade fermented rice brews with a nutty texture are served in a leaf cup. Tribal food tourism can help promote biodiversity while preserving Odisha’s dying ethnic and tribal food habits.

Live like a local- Experience the cultural pot-pourri

Odisha’s antiquity is validated by its ancient communities, which continue to occupy their traditional residence spots in remote regions rich in wilderness and mountainous cores. Soaked in the mystery that surrounds their historical ways, the Odia tribals continue to be a source of deep interest not only for anthropologists and sociologists but also for numerous travellers who flock to Odisha in search of the unusual mystique of this largely unexplored state.

Odisha’s lush forests, mountainous landscape, and remote land regions help support a thriving tribal population. Live in mud houses with a gabled roof of thatch made of paddy stalks or jungle grass surrounded by vast paddy fields, lush green forest areas and even cascading waterfalls. You can immerse yourself in watching the sunset spread its orange and pink hues over the valley at dusk, with birds chirping in the background.

Explore Rural Odisha with Savaari

With its lush landscape characterised by waterfalls, forests and tribes, Odisha provides many opportunities for sightseeing and exploration. At Savaari, we believe in capturing the true rural experience of Odisha, and we aim to motivate everyone to step out and experience rural India. Savaari’s pan-India coverage includes over 2000 Tier I, II and III cities as well as smaller towns and rural villages across the length and breadth of the country. Book our chauffeur driven cars for safe and trusted car rental services so that on your way back, the only thing on your mind is the memories you’re going to carry throughout your life.


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