The French Riviera of the East, Pondicherry, is one of the most popular holiday destinations among people within the country and tourists from outside. ‘Pondy’ is certainly a short escape spot for all those craving the salty sea breeze along with the humidity and seafront, a quiet long stroll in the French part of town, lazy laid-back times in cafes, or the buzz and craze of parties or even a quiet environment to relax, meditate and introspect.
It comes under the budget of 10,000 INR per person!
Located in Tamil Nadu, this Union Territory is flanked by the Bay of Bengal and is a blend of the local culture and the remnant of the French colonial lifestyle. This is much evident with the brightly coloured Gallic styled buildings, houses and villas lining the clean, cobbled streets in the French Quarter with shady trees and benches along with the South Indian part of town, otherwise known as ‘Black Town’, with temples, bustling markets and shops, traditional houses and a lot of hub bub.
The aesthetics, the lifestyle, the people, the surroundings of the town itself breathes new zest into anyone who visits this place!
How to Reach?
Chennai, Bangalore is the nearest major cities and are very well connected to Pondicherry through several means of transport.
The nearest airport is the Pondicherry airport which is around 3 km from the city centre. But the airport only receives small aircraft which are limited in number. Chennai being the next closest airport is the second option and has several flights connecting to all major towns and cities.
Villupuram is the nearest railway station to Pondicherry which is at a distance of 35 km. There are several trains that connect the major towns and cities to Pondicherry.
There are several bus services, both government and private, that operate from Chennai, Bangalore and other nearby cities. This is a cost-effective option to take if available. Another way to reach Pondicherry is by driving down to the place. A journey of about 3 hours from Chennai and around 6 to 7 hours from Bangalore.
Where to Stay?
Hotels and Resorts
There are several hotels and resorts that are available in Pondicherry for those who prefer a comfortable stay.
Cost – Ranges from Rs 1500 to Rs 5000 per night
Pondicherry offers tourist the option of staying in villas which include the colonial era, French-styled villas and houses which is an experience of its own.
Cost- Around Rs 2000 to Rs 10000 per night
Guest Houses and Homestays
Guesthouses and homestays are good options to consider for a budget stay with decent facilities and amenities for stay.
Cost- Ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 2000 per night
Places to explore in Pondicherry
1. Rock beach
One of the most popular spots in Pondicherry would be the Rock beach. As the name suggests, unlike a typical beach with sand and the sea, this is a beach with huge rocks lining the seafront with the waves hitting the rocks.
2. The Promenade
A continuing stretch from the Rock beach the Promenade beach is along the same lines which offer tourist the place to sit along the rocks and enjoy a morning sunrise or a relaxing evening sunset. There are several cafes and shops around the beach which complete an evening on the beach.
3. Paradise Beach
A rather unique beach accessed via a boat ride from the Chunnambar boat house, Paradise beach lives up to its name. An isolated and quiet beach which is located on an island of sorts is one of the most beautiful and peaceful beaches to visit.
There are several shacks and shops on the beach where one can relax and eat. There are also water sports available on the beach.
4. Serenity Beach
As the name suggests, it is an extremely serene beach where can simply drop all worries and enjoy. The palm and coconut trees around add to the beauty. The shoreline and waves on the beach make it a good spot for surfing as well.
5. Aurobindo Ashram
Located in the heart of the French quarter, the Aurobindo Ashram is a house for spirituality and meditation. Tourists from all over the world, followers of Shri Aurobindo who founded the community, visit the place in order to live a simple and spiritual life.
The Aurobindo group also has several other centres within Pondicherry which serve different purposes like healing centres, food mess, etc.
Tip: the buildings associated with the Aurobindo group can be spotted with the colour of their buildings which is grey
6. Bharati Park
A central location in Pondicherry, the Bharati Park is a well-planned and structured park which offers large expanses of gardens, parks for children to play in, benches to sit and a lot of trees which provide the perfect relief for anyone wishing to rest under the shade to escape the afternoon sun. The park also houses a monument called the Ayi Mandapam built in the centre of the park. This monument was built in memory of a local lady during the times of Krishnadevraya who decided to give up her house in order to build a water supply for the town.
Bharati Park is surrounded by important buildings like the Raj Nivas, the legislative assembly building etc.
7. War memorials, Statues and Lighthouse
Furthermore, along the stretch of the Promenade, within a radius of around 4 km, one can find the French War memorial, the Kargil war memorial, the statue of Dupleix, the Mahatma Gandhi statue, and the lighthouse. The lighthouse is open to visitors from 4 PM to 6 PM.
The Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus, Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges or Our Lady of Angles, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral is one of the prominent churches in Pondicherry. They each have a unique architecture and charm of its own and provide a calming and peaceful atmosphere.
9. Manakula Vinayagar Temple
Located right next to the White Town, this temple is very famous and considered very auspicious. A very old temple built hundreds of years ago has a history of its own with local legends. It houses 40 incarnation of Lord Ganesha ornately carved inside the temple.
Auroville is a township near Pondicherry, built for a community living based on the tenets of spirituality, humanity and peace. It is the most famous aspect of Pondicherry for tourists from abroad who visit Auroville for a life of spirituality, simplicity and serenity.
This township built in collaboration with several countries of the world aims to attain community living by blurring the lines of race, caste, class, creed and so on and functions on the basis of teachings of The Mother. The township covers a huge area, beautifully planned with housing centres, activity centres, meditation centres, cafes, parks, and the most famous aspect (‘the golden ball’) the Matrimandir.
The Matrimandir is a golden dome which houses mediation and concentration rooms within. However, it requires prior bookings in order to enter the Matrimandir that can otherwise be viewed from the viewing point.
One can walk, cycle or rent two-wheelers to travel inside Auroville.
The cafes like Auroville café, Bread and Chocolate are a must-try. Auroville beach is also located in the vicinity for tourists to visit and unwind.
A Pondicherry visit is incomplete without visiting the cozy, aesthetic and cute cafes in the town. The café menu showcases the cuisine of Pondicherry which is a mixture of French, Continental, and Indian.
There are innumerable cafes to choose from, each of which offers its own unique vibe, there are some which cannot be missed. For instance:
-Café des Arts
-Le Café, and many more.
In other words, it is one of the best parts of Pondicherry which simply cannot be missed.
In short, Pondicherry is a place where all one has to do is walk around the town (or cycle) and discover the treasures it has to offer. The lanes of the town take one through a world of its own with the aesthetic looking buildings, cafes, and local markets and people and of course the beaches!