On the southern coast of India, there is a small town which is quiet and different from the bustling big cities. It is Pondicherry or Puducherry. This is one town of India where there is still a French connection. Until 1954, it was a French settlement. It is also known as the ‘French capital of India’. Tourists from not all over India but from around the world come to this cosmopolitan town. They come here not only for the pristine beaches and backwaters but to also view the heritage buildings built in the colonial era and the spiritual centers. There are eateries, fancy restaurants and quaint cafes offering local and continental delights which are loved by travellers.
The whole town has an ambience which sets it apart from the rest of the country. It has an interesting mix of Tamil culture, colonial structures, people belonging to various ethnicities and nations, and spirituality. You must go to Pondicherry to experience this harmonious existence of the cosmopolitan culture and spirituality, the effortless mix of Tamil and French influence. The diversity is what bonds people there together. You will love soaking in this culture pot and tasting some french dishes!
Pondicherry is a union territory now and it was a French colony earlier. Even to this day, you will find a little piece of France in Pondicherry’s culture, ambience, building and food. Visitors from France will be amazed to see how strong the French connection still remains. The stylish boutiques, the churches, the yellow coloured villas with bougainvilleas growing on the walls around them and the streets with trees alongside it are really charming. The seaside promenade is a stand-out feature which is useful for taking a walk alongside the Bay of Bengal. You will see a Gandhi memorial and other statues as you walk on the promenade.
Doubting if Puducherry holds anything special for you? Well if you are bored of the daily work from home or hybrid working conditions and want to break away from it all, even if for just a couple of days, visit Pondicherry to have a taste of a different lifestyle. You will not only see the heritage buildings to see how the French ancestors lived but will also be able to almost live it by interacting with the people and taking in the scenic views.
Do you love beaches? As Pondicherry lies on the Coromandel coast, there are some beautiful unspoilt beaches here. It is a blessing to anyone seeking an escape from all the noise of city life. One need not do much. You can just walk on the smooth beaches or sit by the water and feel relaxed and peaceful. There are people who love to relax by taking dips in the greenish-blue water of Bay of Bengal.
Pondi is a place which will automatically make you wistful and you will find yourself doing some soul-searching. The sound of water among the calm surroundings will fill your tired mind with a calmness too, which has become tired after staying in the concrete jungle of your city.
The Pondicherry district, currently known as Puducherry district, actually consists of 4 different regions – Puducherry, Yanam, Karaikal and Mahe. Karaikal and Puducherry regions are surrounded by Tamil Nadu, Yanam is surrounded by Andhra Pradesh and Kerala surrounds Mahe district. The Puducherry district is the capital of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The official name of Pondicherry was changed to Puducherry on 20.09.06.
There are many places to visit in Pondicherry, though it’s a small city. Auroville (Pondicherry) and the Aurobindo Ashram are two places which are famous among people having a spiritual bent of mind. And for the people who like to holiday in places which have a lot of nature, Pondicherry can steal their hearts with its beautiful lakes and beaches.
The best time for a trip to Pondicherry is between October and March. But you must remember that it is going to be warm, whenever you come.
You can have a budget holiday in Pondicherry. The rough estimate is that you are going to pay around 750 rupees for food and 400 rupees on local vehicles for travelling per day. So expect to spend around 2300 rupees in one day when you are here. This is just to give you a rough idea, the cost can go up owing to different reasons. The hotel rates will obviously be different. You can stay at Airbnb, boutique hotel, heritage hotel or a family resort – Pondy has them all.
If you are on the internet to know as much as possible about the place before visiting Pondicherry, you have surely come across terms like James Court (Pondicherry) and Accord (Pondicherry). These are things to do in Pondicherry, places that you can see and are the tourist spots of Pondicherry. Read on to know about some of these places and others.
When you visit the Botanical Gardens,Rock Beach, Serenity Beach and Pondicherry Beach you will question yourself whether you are in a foreign land. Even Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville (Pondicherry) can make you forget that you are still in India. You will see citizens of multiple countries meditating and Yoga in their search of spirituality.
Pondy is full of surprises for a first time visitor. The colourful cafes and classy restaurants will satisfy both your stomach and heart when you feel like having a nice meal. Insta-worthy places which have come way way before the inception of Instagram! Also like most other beach towns, the night life is buzzing here too. There are clubs which play great music and arrange beach parties and of course offer delicious dishes. French colony Pondicherry has so much to offer that you will surely return for a second trip here. The ‘White Town’ that you must have heard of is actually the same as the French Quarter.
The unconventional stores, the cobbled pathways and the bakeries will transfer you into a magical wonderland. It is a pure joy to just walk around the town or take a bicycle and go around the lanes. But Pondy has a lot more to offer than cafes, restaurants and stores.
So what really are the Pondicherry Tourist places that you must visit, what are the Pondicherry beaches that you must not miss?
Plage Paradiso or the Paradise Beach is actually situated in Chunnambar which is near to Pondicherry town and is an isolated beach. You can take a boat to cross the backwaters and reach Paradise beach. Going by a ferry will take around half-an-hour. The boats or ferries are available from the boathouse and during your ride, you will be able to see mangrove forests. You can drive to this beach too. Snacks, seafood and coconut water are available in the shacks and stalls near the main entry point of the beach. Paradise beach is actually a private beach and just a part is open to common people. There are various activities that you can do here which has made it the top or one of the top 2 beaches of Pondi. You can enjoy jet skiing, ATV rides, horse rides, banana rides and camel rides.
At the north of the city centre is the Auroville beach or as it is called, the Auro beach. This beach falls under Auroville Ashram. It is a beach which is flocked by both local people and tourists in large numbers. Unlike the previous beach, you will not find snacks easily and that is because of the presence of the ashram. The Ashram has kept a check on the beach so that it stays a serene place and has not allowed any encroachment, keeping the beach untampered. The two things that you can do here is practice yoga and just chill on the beach. There are a few joints selling seafood here. As the beach is less than 10 kms from the city centre, you can go there by cab or auto rickshaw and of course by private car.
Not really in Pondicherry town but bordering on it is the Serenity beach. It is located in Kottakuppam. It is named after the resort or inn located in the same region, having the same name. The original name of the beach is Thanthirayan Kuppam Beach or was just called the Kottakuppam Beach. If a beautiful beach which is away from the main city is what attracts you, Serenity beach is the ideal getaway. The seashore is bordered with rocks and there are many resorts here which are ideal for couples. It is a completely public beach where people can swim. There are surfing schools also here and you can try surfing. ‘Serenity’ is apt name for it as it is another isolated beach about which even some locals are unaware of. If you are a shopping enthusiast and want to buy things as token gifts for loved ones, there is Serenity Beach Bazaar which is favoured by locals too. As it is at a distance of 5 km from the city, this bazaar is amidst a peaceful location. The beach is open on all the days but the bazaar sets up on the weekends from 10 am to 5 pm. Sellers from all over India gather here to sell different things like jewellery, clothes, shoes, handmade things, decor pieces and ceramic utensils. The local food stalls offer tasty refreshments.
4. Pondicherry Beach
This beach is the best for walking and is also called the Promenade beach. The beach is right in the city of Pondicherry and it is the whole stretch between the Dupleix Park which is located on Goubert Avenue and the War Memorial. This stretch beside the Bay of Bengal is just a little more than a km long and usually remains populated. Almost everyone who comes to Pondicherry visits this beach first as this is right in the middle of the city. Apart from people doing Yoga, walking or running during morning or sunset time, you will also find them playing volleyball, swimming or skating. The Promenade beach is captivating and you must visit this one. Sit here, enjoy the mist of water from the waves and people-viewing. You will be able to hear all kinds of discussions as different kinds of people come here.
Out of all the which serve as viewpoints, this one is among the best. Everyone comes here to view the clear blue water and breathe in the fresh air. Brown and black rocks border the waterbody. Swimming is not allowed here but the evening is the best time to come here for a jog or a walk. It is located in White Town, Pondicherry and the beach remains open ro public throughout the day. Rock beach offers a different kind of nightlife experience that people of Pondicherry can enjoy as around dinner time too, you will see people taking a walk on the promenade.
Another spot for enjoying Pondicherry nightlife which is not any club or restaurant is the lighthouse. You will have to pay ten rupees to enter the lighthouse. On Monday it is open from 3 pm to 5 pm, from Tuesday to Saturday it opens at 9 am and on Sundays, it remains open from 3 to 6pm. It was built in the 19th century and was repaired and restored in the 20th century. The lighthouse thus is very old and is partially a museum now. For the localites and visitors back in the 1800s, this lighthouse helped them to navigate. It is now a popular and happening tourist spot where festivities, activities and events take place. If you want to have a jaw dropping view of Pondicherry, take the effort of climbing up the lighthouse stairs . The former light source will gratify your soul.
For people who are seeking peace and solace, a visit to the Auroville Ashram is a must. It is an unique ashram and is actually a whole township. It is experimental in nature and is a universal town. It is meant to be a peaceful place where people of various nations, following different traditions, belonging to different cultures come and live in harmony. Auroville is a progressive hub and is also a centre of education. The Indian government had supported the idea and the Ashram was inaugurated in the year 1986. In 1966 even UNESCO lauded it as ‘a project of importance to the future of humanity’. Though it had an inauguration much later, the ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo and one of his followers way back in 1929! The disciple was a French woman Mirra Alfassa who was referred to as ‘Maa’, meaning ‘The Mother’. There is also the Auro Resort here where you can put up to experience the boho lifestyle.
These are only a few of the top attractions. There are other sightseeing spots like the French War memorial, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Gandhi statue and Aurobindo Ashram and the French Colony which we will explore during our trip. We will also check out the cafes and restaurants as there are French cafes dishing out gourmet items, croissants and baguettes and you will also find restaurants which have South Indian, especially Tamil cuisine on their menu.
There are over 50 places where you can put up during your visit to Pondicherry. Homestays, beach hotels, heritage hotels, Airbnbs, boutique hotels, villas, budget and luxury hotels, resorts, backpacker hostels, cottages – you have them all here. Two of recommended hotels are:
Accord Pondicherry – It is a resort and one of the most refined hotels of the town.It is a classy hotel with comfortable rooms. The interior decoration gives it a temporary and modern vibe. The hotel staff are well-trained and they are very professional. Guests are generally very impressed with their rooms and their meals and the whole service given to them during their stay. It is a resort having a spa, swimming pool and gym. You can reach sightseeing points conveniently from here.
St. James Court Pondicherry – This is a beach resort which is located opposite to the Pondicherry Engineering College. It is a very good hotel which has rooms giving a view of the ocean. Rooms have private balconies and the resort has an outdoor pool and a restaurant too. Auroville, Serenity Beach and Matri Mandir are near to this resort. They have a reserved parking area for their guests too.
You have an option to stay in a Pondicherry Beach House too. There are about 15 beach houses in Pondicherry offering a great stay. When you are visiting a beach, staying at the beach is the best option and beach houses offer just that. Some beach houses are Le Pondy, Micasa Hostels, Waves Beach House, Leela Beach House and Kadal Beach House.
5:15 p.m. - Get on the Chennai Express from Secunderabad Junction
6:00 a.m. - Arrive at Chennai Central station and head towards Puducherry after taking a private vehicle.
10:00 a.m. - Reach Pondicherry, check into our hotel. Freshen up and have breakfast.
12:00 p.m. - Destination Auroville
3:00 p.m. - Visit Lighthouse
4:00 p.m. - Time for Paradise Beach! Return to Promenade Beach and check out:
French War Memorial, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Gandhi statue,Aurobindo Ashram, French Colony and various cafes and restaurants.
10 p.m. - Visit Rock Beach and enjoy till midnight. Returning to the hotel after that.
5:00 a.m. - Experience the best sunrise that can be viewed from the east coast beaches.
7:00 a.m. - Go for Mangrove Forest Boating
11:00 p.m. - Leaving for Chennai. Lunch en-route.
6:10 p.m. - Getting on the train to reach Hyderabad.
7:15 a.m. - Train reaches Hyderabad