Travel Guide to Pondicherry — A World unto itself

Serene streets overshadowed with a dappled shade of bougainvillea, pristine sun-soaked beaches, French style architecture, and colourful markets; that’s Pondicherry for you. Sitting calmly on the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal, Pondicherry is a small town that drives you to the bygone era of the French colony. This little piece of France in India is another world unto itself. It is one of those places where you don’t typically need to carry a to-do list; surrender yourself to the tranquil streets of the city and it will open up to you on its own.

Home to highly admired spirituality centres, including Aurobindo Ashram, the enchanting temples and churches of Pondicherry add to its mystic vibe.
 Indulge in scrumptious French food, fabulous shopping, plenty of yoga and meditation, the essence of the place is sure to linger on in your memory forever.

Here’s how you can bask in the beauty of Pondicherry — “The Riviera of the East”.

Things not to miss

Seaside Promenade

A romantic wander at the seafront promenade is a definite must when in Pondicherry. Since authorities have banned traffic from 6 pm to 7:30 am, you can enjoy a peaceful stroll along the Rock beach with a sprinkle of foam spray on your face. The best part; it acquaints you with the most famous landmarks in the city, including the War Memorial, the statue of Joan of Arc, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, old lighthouse, the remains of the old pier and Dupleix statue.

Auroville Ashram

Auroville Ashram is an experimental township, backed by an idea of creating a nearly perfect city where people from different cultures and traditions can come and live together in harmony. UNESCO declared it “a project of importance to the future of humanity”. Get insights into the Ashram life from people who are living there. The city is well-planned and is as interesting as the concept. Matrimandir, occupying the centre, is the main highlight and the best place to imbibe tranquility.

Timings: Monday to Saturday 9:30 am to 5 pm and Sunday 9:30 am to 1:30 pm

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Your trip to Pondicherry is incomplete without a visit to the internationally famous Aurobindo Ashram. Since it’s the best place to understand the philosophies of Sri Aurobindo and his ways of life, the Ashram draws a large number of spiritually minded visitors every year. Imbibing the meditative silence and tranquility around the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo is one of the best experiences of Pondicherry. Guests can indulge in yoga, meditation and other enlightening activities; evening meditation around Samadhi is for everyone.

Timings: 8 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm

Raj Niwas

Once home to Governor Dupleix, Raj Niwas is a notable neo-classical building in Pondicherry. The monolithic pillars and a water monument are the prime attractions of Raj Niwas.

Puducherry Museum

A delight for history and art enthusiasts, Puducherry Museum is a converted late-18-century villa, housing a fabulous collection of Chola, Vijayanagar, and Nayak bronzes along with one full floor crammed with French-era furniture.

Timings: 10 am to 5 pm

Botanical Garden

Another major attraction in Pondicherry, Botanical Garden inhabits several exotic varieties of rare plants and an aquarium. You can also learn about the different methods of fishing adopted in the coastal areas.

Timings: 9 am to 7:30 pm

Bharathi Park

Even though the park is thronged by visitors on a daily basis, an evening stroll at this shady green haven is a perfect way to relax and unwind on any random evening.

Jawahar Toy Museum

Situated at the Old Light House building, Jawahar Toy Museum also referred as Doll Museum, is a well-maintained place ideal for kids. The museum has a wide variety of dolls and toys, collected from all across India.

Beaches

Paradise Beach

Situated in Chunnambar, close to Pondicherry town, Paradise Beach is a safe haven for beach lovers. It’s a pristine and isolated beach that can be reached through a ferry across backwaters. The ferry is actually the fun part, as the backwaters are engulfed in thick mangrove forests. In the morning, you can enjoy birch-watching, which means there is a good scope for photography enthusiasts.

Timings: 9 am to 5 pm all days of week

Serenity Beach

The golden sand kissed by shimmering waters of the Bay of Bengal, Serenity Beach is a secluded place to revel in the beauty of nature. Not over-crowded and commercialised, Serenity is one of the gorgeous beaches in Pondicherry and a must visit.

Churches

Pondicherry is home to a slew of impressive churches. If you don’t have much time on your hand, pay a visit to Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Notre Dame Des Anges, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, and Assumption Church Nellithope Church. While Notre Dame is arguably the most attractive church in Pondy, the Neo-gothic structure of the Secret Heart Basilica is done up with stained glass.

Temples

If you are willing to give a day to the enchanting temples of Pondicherry, start your journey with Manakula Vinyagar Temple, renowned for its stupefying paintings, followed by a visit to Shri Prityagara Temple. Next, drive towards the MG road to witness the famous lord Shiva temple Vedapureeswarar Temple, followed by a tour to the Kanniga Parameswari Temple, an exemplary of Indian cum French architecture.

Travel Tips

Pondicherry usually experiences hot and humid climate as it is located in the coastal areas of South India. It is recommended to carry light breathable clothes in summer. Keep your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen handy to protect yourself from the scorching sun.

During monsoon, a folded umbrella comes in handy. It is a good time to visit Pondicherry as you soak the beauty of lush green landscapes of the city and be a part of the Sri Aurobindo’s birthday in August. The city is at its vibrant best.
 During winter months, the temperature does not go below 17 degrees, so light sweaters and jackets are required. So, the best time to visit Pondicherry is between October and March.

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