Pondicherry is one of those destinations that is sure to blow your mind away – while it is true that every traveller has a certain hankering for something unique, something that is different. Pondicherry or Puducherry as it is more commonly known manages to serve it on a platter.
The small city-state is also one of the 7 union territories of India and this small town, tucked away from the hectic life that continues to define the rest of Tamilnadu, can actually help you relax and get closer to nature.
What makes the city unique is just not a case of one too many tourist attractions hogging the limelight, but rather the helpful nature of everyone around. It is unique in almost every aspect, and a trip to Pondicherry should certainly leave you wanting for more.
The best part is that the city enjoys pleasant weather all year round, except during the peak of summer.
The best time to visit Pondicherry
Well, as long as you are not visiting Pondicherry during the summer months or during monsoon, you should be fine. This small, elegant town has plenty of attractions to make the rest of your stay worthwhile which is why you need to do some research as to the best time to visit Pondicherry.
The ideal time to visit would be between July through September or after Christmas and until February end. You may want to check in with the local tourism office and even find out if the Government of India has issued any travel advisories to tourists planning to visit Pondicherry and the weather updates.
As mentioned earlier, you would definitely want to avoid the humid months as well as the monsoon season. You certainly do not want to get stuck in your hotel room all day long as the rain starts to pour down heavily.
So, make sure that you do the required research before making your travel arrangements.
How to reach Pondicherry
It may surprise you to know that this small, elegant, and what looks like a backwater town when it is anything but that, is well connected to the rest of India. If you are flying in, you can always fly down to Chennai, which is located only 151 km away from the city.
From Chennai, you can take the local bus, or train or even hire a car to take you all the way to Pondicherry. Do note that there are daily flights from Bangalore to Pondicherry except for Wednesdays or alternatively, you can also fly into the French Rivera of the east from Chennai or Trichy.
If you have just landed in Bangalore and are looking over your travel options, then you can either choose to fly in, although it would be in a smaller plane to Pondicherry. Or you can travel to Chennai and take another flight to Pondicherry.
But a better option would be to travel straight down to Pondicherry from Bangalore, either catch a local bus or a train direct to Pondicherry.
If you are neither used to extremely warm weather or humid one at that, then you definitely need to avoid visiting Pondicherry during the peak summer months or during the monsoon.
Usually, the temperature in Pondicherry ranges from a high of 36 C to a low of 26 C during the night and as for rain, it may be intermittent during the periods of July, August, and September.
In other words, apart from warm weather, you can also look forward to humid weather during these months.
Places to visit in Pondicherry
If this is your first visit to Pondicherry, then you should know that there are more than a few places that you would definitely want to visit starting with the beautiful beach as well as the Aurobindo Ashram. So, let us have a look at some of the must-visit places in Pondicherry.
Auroville Matrimandir and Aurobindo Ashram
The Aurobindo Ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo as a place that envisaged peaceful co-existence with nature, in the 1960s. Today, Auroville, as it is called, stands out as a beacon of a planned township, one that comes with its own charter, with the sole purpose of promoting progressive harmony in every sphere of life.
Auroville comes with its own village crafts and several quintessential shops, which market unique products. It is definitely worth a visit, if not for anything else but to visit the 56kg Gold dome, Matrimandir, located at the centre of Auroville.
The Aurobindo Ashram is located in the heart of Auroville and offers you a glimpse into the life of Sri Aurobindo and his teachings.
The lighthouse was first built by the French rulers in the 19th century and since then; it has become a ramshackle monument to a bygone era. However, it still provides you with a panoramic view of the bay along with a reminder of the engineering skill of its builders.
Raj Nivas used to be a palace during French rule and occupation; today it stands out as the official residence of the current Lieutenant Governor. In fact, the building used to be the residence of the infamous Dupleix, which should give you an idea as to the age of the building itself. It is surrounded by huge parks, which are often open to the public.
French war memorial
This memorial was constructed in 1971 and serves as a poignant reminder of all soldiers who lost their lives during world war one. The memorial is also backlit and beautifully illuminated during Bastille Day.
Mahatma Gandhi statue
A visit to the city would not be complete without visiting the Gandhi statue. It is located right across the Nehru statue and also features 8 granite pillars, which were moved to the current location from Gingee fort. The statue is currently located on Rock Beach road.
Pondicherry Botanical garden
If you love gardens, then you would love the botanical garden; set up in 1826, the botanical garden has not changed much as it retains most of its current structure intact. It features several plants, unique gardens, complete with trees, and gravel-lined paths.
The Pondicherry Museum
The city has managed to exemplify the very best in sculpture, architecture and this place is the best to view the same. Pondicherry has been in the news for several reasons and one of those happens to be the Arikmedu Roman settlements – the remains of which are at display at the museum with other historical and valuable remains. Please note that the museum closes each day by 6:30 PM.
Known also as Goubert Avenue, this seafront promenade is a must place to visit for early morning walks as well as visits to all the local shops including tea and coffee stalls that can be found here.
Distance: Roughly located, 22 km from Pondicherry bus stand.
This unique and historical monument was first built by Napoleon the third in the 16th century. A visit to this monument today should transport you to a bygone era with its classically designed architecture, surrounding parks and walks where you can relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
Distance: Located inside Bharati Park, it is located 3.5 km from Pondicherry bus stand
Bharati Government parks
This is one of the most organized parks pan India; it certainly seems to be plush, rife with various types of plants, shrubs, and trees. This park also features a pond as well as a local museum and can be found in close proximity to Raj Nivas.
Distance: The Park is situated 3.5 km from Pondicherry bus stand
There’s nothing that comes close to a day of boating on the placid waters of Lake Ousteri. You can hire boats on the lakefront and depending on the size of the boat, the charges would vary.
Generally, the lake and its shores are open to visitors all day long but if you are keen on boating, then you should know that the official working hours are from 9 am to 5 pm.
Distance: The Lake is situated 10 km away from Pondicherry bus stand.
Chunnambar boathouse and river
If you are looking to spend some quiet time, away from the bustle of the city, then you need to head over to the Chunnambarboathouse and book a boat to take you on a quiet boat trip among the placid and pristine waters of Chunnambar River.
Distance: Located 8km from Pondicherry bus stand
Statue of Dupleix
This statue more than anything else symbolizes the French occupation of Pondicherry. Located on Goubert Avenue, this granite statue is indeed attractive enough and is definitely worthwhile a walk to the end of the rocky beach.
Distance: Located 22kns from Pondicherry bus stand.
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple
This temple is better known for the fact that the erstwhile French government under Dupleix tried to demolish the same but could not do so, due to protests by locals.
This temple is one of the ancient temples to dot Pondicherry and is a must visit place for tourists on account of its temple architecture and the rituals that take place each day.
This erstwhile ancient port, located roughly 70kms from Chennai and about 90k from Pondicherry bus stand. This ancient port is more famous for its rock cut shore temples as well as rock sculptures, especially Arjuna’s penance, which is an enormous rock-cut relief.
You can travel either by bus or by car, direct from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram.
Top beaches to visit in Pondicherry
Pondicherry is home to some of the most pristine beaches that you are bound to come across anywhere. Here are some of the top beaches that you would definitely want to visit for some relaxation and fun.
The name says it all, set against the backdrop of rocks and the sea, Rock Beach sure stands out for all the right reasons. You can go for a pleasant stroll, swim in the sea, get a bite to eat and spend the whole day. What’s more, it is free to visit and is open 24hrs per day.
Distance: It is located 3 km from Pondicherry bus stand
If you love pristine beaches, then Auroville beach is sure to get your attention; Surrounded by shallow waters, the beach here is the perfect place for those looking forward to swimming. The beach is also famous for its sunrise which should make for a great camera shot.
Distance: Located 12 km from Pondicherry main town.
A.K.A Plage Paradiso, is one of the few beaches that boasts of Pristine clear waters as well as beautiful sandy, shores. The ferry ride to the beach is a must, that takes you through some scenic views and it goes without saying that the Sunrise at the beach is indeed memorable in every aspect.
Distance: It is located 2 km away from Chunnambar boat house.
This beach is quite popular among tourists and locals alike; it presents an idyllic view of the shoreline along the Indian Ocean and offers you some of the best opportunities for surfing as well. A walk along the golden sands or a visit to the local kiosk for some snacks may just complete your day.
Distance: Located 7km from Pondicherry bus stand
This beach, allows you to glimpse into the life of a fisherman; the beach may seem ordinary but the icing on the cake is that it is less crowded and more tranquil than other beaches combined.
Distance: Located 8 km from Pondicherry bus stand.
If you are in an idyllic frame of mind, then this beach may just be what you need – a quiet atmosphere, less of the noisy crowds, and above all, the sound of the sea waves, as they come onto land. It is pristine, clean and comes with its own unique ambience.
Distance: Located 10km from Pondicherry bus stand
This beach is located right off the famous Promenade in Pondicherry. It is a typical rocky beach and is over 1.5 to 2 km long and also comes with a long walkway. This beach is perfect in the sense it offers you a panoramic view of the seashore and is the place to be, to capture the scintillating sunrise early in the morning.
Yet another pristine beach that you may want to check out; this beach is the place to be, especially if you are an avid swimmer. It features shallow and clean water and makes it perfect for swimming.
Distance: It is currently located 7km from Pondicherry city centre
Things to do in Pondicherry
There are an endless number of things that you can do in Pondicherry, but if we have to hand-pick a few and list them out for you, these would be the must do things while you are in Pondicherry.
Early morning walks
Imagine walking on one of the pristine beaches of Pondicherry, early in the morning. You can catch a spectacular sunrise off Promenade beach, undertake some morning exercises and recharge yourself for the day ahead.
You can head over to 0usteri Lake which is one of the most important freshwater bodies in and around Pondicherry. This lake comprises several marshy lands, which makes it ideal for birds to settle in and nest. So, if you are into bird watching, you can head over to the lake, for some local and migratory bird species.
If you are interested in Scuba diving, there is a diving course, that you can enrol in. But the point is that Pondicherry is also the only known diving spot on the east coast of India, where you can dive into the murky depths and come up quite close to colorful coral reefs and its inhabitants.
When it comes to jet skis, you’ll find that you can get rides on them or even rent them out for a few hours at most beaches in and around Pondicherry. Please keep in mind that you may have to provide some ID documentation when you are renting a jet ski.
If you love boating, then you can always head over to the Chunambar boathouse for a quiet boat ride on the backwaters. You can either opt for a short boat ride or book a boathouse for a few days.
Self-drive bike rentals in Pondicherry
One of the best ways to commute in and around Pondicherry is by renting a bike. For starters, it’s more economical and what’s more, you can book your preferred bike well in advance and have it delivered to you on the day that you require the same.
There are various agencies which offer self-drive bike rentals at attractive rates and usually, you can choose the type and model of bike that you would prefer. Once you have registered online, you would need to make the payment and confirm your booking.
After that, you would need to choose the pickup location and that’s it. You can now commute with a rented bike for the duration of your stay.
Accommodations in Pondicherry: Hotels and Resorts
It can be a bit overwhelming making a decision as to where to stay for the duration of your stay in Pondicherry. Pondicherry has quite a few hotels, resorts, and even serviced apartments and you’ll just have to sort through the lot depending on your current requirements and budget.
A few more things worth knowing about Pondicherry
Pondicherry is not your usual tourist destination but it comes with its own eclectic character that makes it a must visit the place on any itinerary. The city has certainly had a colourful history, with its past and current governors, and a local population that goes out of its way to be friendly.
Granted that when it comes to travelling to a new destination, there are a lot of things that you may have to think about, from room, board, lodging, transportation, and you would also need to work out your travelling budget as well.
The good news is that Pondicherry is not that expensive and that it comes with more than its fair share of good hotel accommodations, including budget hotels. Most of the hotel accommodations listed often provide you with a wide range of perks and amenities and you need to double check the same before you confirm the booking with a particular hotel.
If you are still worried about the cost, you can always opt for tourist attractions that cost close to nothing, like a walk in one of the local beaches. The other reason that you may want to visit Pondicherry, is a visit to some of the local shops, including the various local craft shops. You can purchase a wide range of products, from homemade soaps, scents, to saris and other custom-made dresses at attractive rates.
Pondicherry is indeed the Rivera of the east, as there is always something for someone in this city. As far as the food goes, Pondicherry is home to wide-ranging French cuisine, and there are various eateries and kiosks which specialize in the same. But what makes this an attractive destination for any tourist, is that there is something in the city for anyone.
If you are into adventure sports, then you would be happy to know that Pondicherry is home to more than a few organizations that offer customized adventure sports, from scuba diving classes to bike riding, parasailing, surfing and much more.
Pondicherry has certainly become a city of all shades and colours; It is certainly unique and should make your visit stand out for all the right reasons. If you were looking for a place to visit, one that transcends both the old and the new, both the material and the immaterial, then a visit to Pondicherry and Auroville should put you on the right track.
One thing that you can count on, where Pondicherry is concerned is that you would be left feeling a lot contended, then you had in a long time.
If you are planning a trip and need a travel guide, contact us at Thripzel.com, we would assist you in this regard.