Sambalpur - Ptolemy's text refers to this area as Sambakala, a diamond trading centre in 2nd century. The area is associated with its 8th century celebrated ruler, King Indrabhuti, who became a Buddhist and the teacher-profounder of Vajrayana sect. Sambalpur derives its name from its presiding deity Sambaleswari enshrined in a temple called Samalai Gudi on the banks of Mahanadi, erected by the Chauhans in the mid 16th century. A grand fair is held here in the month of Ashwin and Chitra. A district head quarter town and an important commercial centre, it is famous for its textiles, particularly its tie-and-dye lkat work, also popular as Sambalpuri. Due to its unique pattern, design and texture, the Sambalpur is internationally famed. The folk dances like the Karama dance especially on the festive occasion of Bhardrav Ekadashi (August/September) is entertaining and a special attraction for the visitors.
Hirakud Dam- About 20 km northwest of Sambalpur, the gigantic Hirakud Dam was completed in 1957 with the sole objective of combating the recurring devastating floods of the delta region caused by Mahanadi. This has also helped in irrigating the vast areas of land.
One of the longest mainstream dams in the world, it is over 60 m in height, 1100 m long key section of masonry dam, with a further earth dam of over 3500 m. A twenty one km drive on the dyke offers a unique experience. The view of the mighty Hirakud Dam and the fantastic expanse of water from the revolving towers, Gandhi Minar at the northern end and the Jawahar Minar on the southern side is excellent. Prior permission required for visit from the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Security Force, Hirakud Photography strictly prohibited. Regular buses ply to Dam from Sambalpur.
Ushakothi Wildlife Sanctuary - The wildlife sanctuary at Badrama, popularly called Ushakothi is a densely forested area providing natural habitat to a wide variety of wildlife. It is about 50 km east of Sambalpur on NH6 towards Kolkata.
Another sanctuary Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary adjoining Hirakud Lake (lake on an area of 746 sq km, 50 km from Sambalpur is a very low-key affair.
Huma - Only 32 km from Sambalpur, Huma has the lone Leaning Temple of Odisha (Orissa). The temple on the bank of Mahanadi is dedicated to Lord Bimaleswar or Shiva. The colourful Kudo fishes in the nearby flowing Mahanadi are never caught as these are believed to belong to Lord Shiva, very friendly to visitors who feed them grain. Country boats are available for hire to cruise on river. Regular bus service is available upto Huma Chowk, from where it is 2 km walk to the temple.
Weavers of Bargarh, Barpali and Sonepur excel in weaving sarees in their looms from material produced locally. It is a treat to watch these weaver communities such as Bhulias, Kostas, Gaudias or Asanipatras creating intricate patterns on the fabric. Their villages and the countryside are pleasant in themselves. Bargarh and Barpali are 1 1/2 hrs and 3 hrs away from Sambalpur respectively. Sonepur is a lively small town, on a scenic drive along the river Mahanadi. The road ends at the mouth of a wide sand bank from where small boats ferry visitors across the river.