Pondicherry is a beautiful place and it’s considered as French capital of the nation and has every reason to be on your travel list. There is so much of France in this town that you would wonder whether or not you are in India. The people speak fluent French and the wine and dine of the restaurant is most alluring factor of Pondicherry. Churches, Beaches, Artefacts, Cuisine, Peace of mind… whatsoever you desire, Pondi has it all. So you will have enormous fun in your small holiday trips to Pondicherry and make a fun filled excursion. So if you are looking for reason to go to this prettiest town, look no further, because we have here a list of things you can do in Pondicherry–A Little France in India.
Best Time to Visit Pondicherry
Winter and Pre-winter, that is from October till February are considered as best and comfortable time or season for holidaying at Pondicherry. It becomes one of the perfect weekend destinations for the folks in south India because there is a lot of activities to do in Pondicherry.
How to Reach Pondicherry
Pondicherry is located 162 km from Chennai, Tamilnadu. The nearest international airport is in Chennai and nearest domestic airport is located in Pondicherry. You can find direct cabs and buses from the airport to Pondicherry. You can also find direct flights from New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and other Metro cities to Pondicherry. The frequency of the flights varies with season.
Pondicherry has a busy railway station that connects the city with many Metro Cities in the country like Chennai, New Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and others.
Pondicherry is well connected with other cities via road. Therefore you can find private and public buses and cabs from various cities to Pondicherry like Chennai, Ernakulam, Coimbatore, Bangalore and others. The journey to Chennai to Pondicherry takes less than 3 hours by road.
Accommodation in Pondicherry
There is lots of accommodation in Pondicherry but it depends on what your budget is to where you can stay. It would be ideal to stay near the white town so you will be in close to affinity to the promenade and most of the good restaurants and cafes.
There is just one hostel at the moment in Pondicherry – Micasa Hostel, and luckily it is really good.
If you have more money to spend, hotels in White Town in Pondicherry like Villa Krish and Hotel de Petit look very nice but are still reasonable in price, along with La Villa and Palais De Mahe which are luxury boutique hotels in Pondicherry.
Ideally, I would say to stay in White Town of Pondicherry or you will be out of the way and in an area that is more ‘typical India’ than ‘French Colonial’ and let’s face it, that’s what you’re going to Pondicherry for right?
Things to Do in Pondicherry
Pondicherry is also known as Puducherry/Pondi/Pondy. It was the largest French colony in India until 1954, when French rule ended rather than a British one. However, their legacy lives on in the French Quarter where the architecture, food and language have all been preserved. It can be quite a culture shock, as it certainly feels more like France than India there.
1. Promenade Beach
The promenade is to Pondy what Marine drive is to the Mumbaikars long clean road alongside the ocean, Stretching for approximately 1.5km. Watching the waves lash at the rocks in solitude is the best form of mediation and calmness.
Due to Pondicherry Beach being East facing it’s the perfect place to watch the sunrise. It gets extremely crowded in the evening, the best time to visit is early morning when you wouldn’t find a single one on the street!
Whats’ better! You can even witness the gorgeous sunrise over the Bay of Bengal! There are plenty of restaurants, shops, Stores adjoining the Promonade. My Favourite restaurant here was Bay of Budha Hence, get here early evening for romantic dinner on a rooftop overlooking ocean
Pondicherry consists of a total of 32 churches including the popular ones like basilica of the sacred heart of jesus, Dupliex Church and Church of our lady Angels etc. The gothic French architecture is so mesmerizing that one cannot help but admire it. The peaceful atmosphere of the churches leaves one asking for more, regardless of what religion one belongs to.
3. White Town – Walk. Cycle. Repeat.
The best way to explore the white town (French Quarters) is to rent a cycle or simply walk through the perfectly angled lanes with pretty houses and their bougainvillea covered gates. Therefore, French Street name and arty cafes are the highlight of White Town.
The entire French quarters is a convenient walkable area and the colonial buildings are a treat to capture, especially the windows with painted effusively with yellow.
White town is named as such because it used to be area reserved for ‘White’ French Flolks settled in Pondicherry. The streets have French names and a translation in Tamil right underneath. So get hold of a map and walk away and this is definitely a walk to remember.
4. Café Hoping in Pondicherry
The best thing to do in Pondicherry, in my opinion, is to enjoy the many cafes that are in and around White Town and if you are a bit over Indian Food at this point in your trip like I was, Pondicherry is a great place to get a Western Food fix.
White Town also known as French Quarter, most houses in this area have been converted into heritage Hotels, Boutique Café and Galleries. There are many places to visit in Pondicherry to try delicious mouth watering food. So here you can explore various types of cuisines, French food, traditional South-Indian food and continental delicacies, one can enjoy whatever the heart desire.
Café des Art’s is one of the most popular cafes in Pondicherry with cool seating and a good menu offering International Food, it can’t be missed as it’s in a bright yellow building too. It is a Bohemian style restaurant.
Le Café has a terrace overlooking ocean, is a good place to get a drink in a cafe by the beach but their food is pretty poor quality.
Villa Shanti on Rue Suffren is perhaps the most popular place to eat in Pondicherry. It’s really pretty at night when its courtyard is lit up by candles. Both Indian and European fare are served.
Le Dupleix , the former residence of the French governor-general Joseph Francois Dupleix on Rue De La Caserne, offers fusion “Pondicherry cuisine”
Bay of Buddha This fabulous place is at the promenade. And so the view from this restaurant will make your food more delicious.
Also Try : Le Club, Rendezvous, & Baker Street for continental & French delicacies, and La Coromandale & Surguru for traditional South Indian recipes
Detailed Post on Cafés in Pondicherry coming soon!!
5. Experience the Nightlife in Pondicherry
Enjoy the night life in French style!
You believe it or not, yet the nightlife of Pondicherry is just underrated. This place offer some of the most amazing pubs and lounge in Pondicherry to enjoy and have full filled nights amongst youth, primary due to the tax exemption on liquor. Most of the pubs and bars in Pondicherry are just amazing. while in pondicherry you can visit bars like Asian House, Zero house, St James court, Ecstasy, Paradise lounge, Bamboo bar and much more. These bars are must have experiences in Pondicherry.
6. Shri Aurobindo Ashram
Looking for yoga and meditation that will soothe your mind and enliven your senses? Hence, Aurobindo Ashram is the place to go. Explore your spiritual self by engaging in some peaceful meditation and Yoga that not only relax you but also rejuvenate you overall.
Talking of Auroville, Auroville is a town just 30 minutes from Pondicherry and is a very unique place to go because it’s an experimental community and township. It’s actually Small Township founded by Mirra Alfassa, in 1968. Mirra Alfassa, also known as the Mother, was Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator. She aimed to build a township where people of several nationalities could live in peace and harmony. Therefore, Today it is a community where everyone, people irrespective of creed, caste, nationality and class are welcomed.
At the center of Auroville is the ‘soul of the city’ – the famous Matrimandir. It’s basically a yoga center, which took 37 years to build. The orb, made of gold, is a symbol of spiritual significance to those who practice integral yoga, a philosophy which was practiced by Shri Aurobindo and “The Mother” here.
I felt I didn’t get the best experience only visiting for a few hours I did enjoy it and was glad I went.
One of the most visited places in Pondicherry, Auroville is a retreat for your spiritual needs. Take a break from the world and focus on your evolution to higher spiritual beings with yoga, meditation, sermons and other activities.
8. Serenity Beach
Serenity beach can be found on the way to Auroville, as you exit from the city. Its petite beach with white sand and plenty of rocks.
Not crowded on weekdays and almost secluded after 6 pm,the beach is extremely clean and there is nothing more peaceful and therapeutic than dipping your feet in the sand and let the waves curl onto your feet.
9. Old Light House
Located on one end at the promenade is old light house. While I am not sure whether visitors are allowed inside, its beautiful old thing to take photograph from outside. There is another lighthouse on the opposite end of the promenade which is open for visitors.
10. Paradise Beach Island
A must experience activity in your itinerary if you are travelling to Pondicherry as a weekend destination. The famous venue provides spectacular boating amenities in Chunnambar River. You will have a gala time in the backwaters of backdrops and lush green plantation. It’s positioned along the main road of Cuddalore, this is one of the best place for chilling-out and relaxing. Once can enjoy magnificent sights of sunset and take sunbathe here. The boats generally take individual up to the picturesque and placid paradise beach, called as Plage Paradiso. Apart from boating experience on beach, you will get many thrilling and interesting things to do in Pondicherry. You can go for hiking, overnight campaign, picnicking and backwater boating.
I am sure now you know why I had said that Pondicherry is a preferred travel destination for everyone. It was my first trip with my girlsgang and I must say it was super amazing one.
The city indeed offers something for any mood. So, get ready to pack your bags and plan a trip to Pondicherry.
Happy New Year to all,