Things to do in Pondicherry

Unlike most of the cities in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry is very refreshing and pleasing to the eyes. With a blend of the French culture due to their rule for over 200 years in this town, the territory is distinctly divided into two. On one side you have a town of croissants and crêpes, known as the French town (White Town) and the other the town of Dosas and eating from a banana leaf also called the Tamil Town (Native town).

Pondicherry is an emotion, one that’s difficult to articulate in words, but Suraj Rahul couldn’t have been more accurate in his description of this quaint town.‘You are in Pondy, if you see the walls as a background, then you are in Pondi, If you find people doing meditation in the beach, then you are in Pondi, you are in Pondi, if you find peace by walking down the street, then you are in Pondi, if you see people are happy riding cycles, then you are in Pondi, if you feel like home away in home away in one day, then you are in Pondi’ , he said.

Streets of pondicherry, Things to do in Pondicherry Cycling streets of Pondicherry (Picture Credit – Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

Pondicherry is laidback, aesthetic, not too intense and most importantly has some cheap alcohol (thank you tax waivers for a few drunk nights), enjoy Pondicherry as she allows you to just be you and take back memories of more than just a pretty town but a memory of the happy place on your itinerary!  

Here are some of the top things to do in Pondicherry

Portuguese style hotel in Ponicherry, Places to visit in Pondicherry A heritage hotel in the white town of Pondicherry, standing out with its vibrant colours and French architecture.

spend a day at Auroville Town

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like living in a society in peace and harmony, without religion, politics and nationalities coming in the way? Auroville in Pondicherry is the best example for the world! This experimental township is 20 mins from Pondicherry, attracts people from all over the world, many of which are permanent residents following Shri Aurobindo’s philosophy.

You can spend half a day soaking in the place, going to the cafes, interacting with the people there or indulging in some shopping. The main attraction is the Matrimandir where you can go meditate, however only if you are really interested in meditating and getting in touch with your inner self, make sure you don’t miss entering this golden dome at any cost. You have to go a day prior and get a pass, you can only get this in person. 

VISITING HOURS: 08:00 to 12:00 hours, 14:00 to 18:00 hours

ESTIMATED TIME: Half A Day 

COST: Free

Matrimandir at Auroville Town. – (Photo credits: @mrinalrai_Unsplash)

Sri Aurobindo Ashram – A peaceful escape

If you have heard of Pondicherry you’ve definitely heard of the Aurobindo Ashram. This Ashram was founded in the year 1926 by Mirra Alfassa (also known as ‘The Mother’), Auro Bindo and his followers (disciples). This ashram has gained a lot of recognition for the work they have done as a whole.

The ashram houses a mausoleum of ‘The Mother’ along with a library which speaks about Auro Bindos teachings. There is also a craft centre which sells Ayurvedic products and other handmade items. Overall while visiting this ashram get ready to get in touch with your spiritual side because of the serenity and silence maintained by the disciples there.

VISITING HOURS: 08:00 to 12:00 hours, 14:00 to 18:00 hours

ESTIMATED TIME: 1 hour

COST: Free

Museums in India, Pondicherry The entrance of Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry (Photo Credits – Avinash Singh)

Enjoy The Beaches Of Pondicherry   

When in Pondicherry, you have to make sure you visit the pristine beaches here! As most of them are rocky and don’t have the ideal waves to enjoy a swim, we would suggest avoiding going for one. However, that should not stop you from enjoying the fresh breezes and dipping your legs in the ocean.

Some of the best beaches to visit in Pondicherry include

  • Paradise Beach; you need to take a 15 min boat to get to the actual beach. Do note this ticket will be a restaurant ticket and will have a minimal fee. You will find a lot of travelers at the beach but it should not stop you from sipping on your pina colada and enjoy the sound of the waves.
  • There is also the Promenade Beach, where you can sit on the rocks and reminisce about your time spent in Pondicherry. Perfect to watch the sunset and relax. 
  • Auroville Beach has some of the most spectacular sunrise views of Pondicherry. Mahe Beach is also a great visit especially at sunrise to watch the fishermen at work.
  • In case you are looking at surfing then your go-to beaches are Serenity Beach and Banyan Beach.

VISITING HOURS: 24 hours

ESTIMATED TIME: 1 hour

COST: Free

Veerampattinam beach, the lengthiest and one of the most beautiful beaches of Pondicherry.

the holy Churches of Pondicherry – A divine experience  

The churches in Pondicherry will make sure you look at them not once but twice! The architecture and simplicity of these churches have a way of getting to you. The most important one being in the French town, is, ‘Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges’, with its pastel pink colour structure, symmetrical design and gorgeous interiors will catch your eye.

You also have ‘The Immaculate Conception Church’, flaunting its Roman style of architecture, what makes this church special is the paintings by Napoleon III, along with a visit made by the kindest lady ‘Mother Teresa’, more so this church is over 300 years old!

And the last that you can add to this list is, ‘Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’, with its Neo-Gothic style of architecture, this church is more simple, yet the stained glass windows, white and brown arches, and chandeliers make it exquisite! Make sure to stop by at least the first two if you are running out of time. 

VISITING HOURS: 06:00 to 18:00 

ESTIMATED TIME: 1 hour

COST: Free

Churches in Pondicherry Seek blessings and marvel at the grand structure of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Photo Credit – Richard Mortel)

Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple

Add some colour and seek some blessings in your life! The Manakula Vinayagar Temple is about 400 meters away from the white town. This temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh will leave you awestruck. Legends have it that the French rulers constantly tried to throw the idol into the sea, however, it kept finding its way back into the temple.

If not for this story, then you should visit this temple for the gorgeous elephant called Laxmi. While she is no less than a celebrity there, she showers blessings on people using her trunk. There are also colourful paintings that are adorned on the walls and ceiling of this temple, adding to the beauty of the place.

VISITING HOURS: 06:00 to 18:00 

ESTIMATED TIME: 1 hour

COST: Free

Stroll Through the French Quarters – White Town 

The heart of Pondicherry lies in the French town, so do soul a favour and stroll along the streets of the French Quarter, as you get to experience all the positive and happy vibes of the town! This part of Pondicherry is an absolute treat to the eyes. The mustard colored houses, European-style lanes, the sophisticated French doors and windows, the bougainvillea greeting you after almost every five minutes of walking, is just simply blissful!

Make sure to stop by the cafes here, as they have some really cool graffitis which will make for good Instagram shots and postcards pictures. If you are up for something even more fun you can even cycle through this part of the town, a lot of people do so, it’s like the Amsterdam of India!

VISITING HOURS: 06:00 to 18:00 

ESTIMATED TIME: 1 to 2 hours

COST: Free

White town, French Town in Pondicherry Ariel view of white town

VISIT THE CAFES OF PONDICHERRY

A must-visit thing to do is visit the cafes of Pondicherry and devour the meals in these quirky cafes. You have a wide variety of dishes to choose from Tibetian Momos to Nepalese-style curry to delicious croissants. These cafes also make for an ideal spot to just sit back, relax and read a book or simply just stare at the local’s stroll by going on with their daily life. Few cafes which are worth it are Cafe Des Arts, Coromandel Cafe, and Le Cafe.

Cafes in Pondicherry An antique cycle rickshaw outside a cafe in Pondicherry (Photo Credits – Avinash Singh)

SURF ON THE BEACHES OF PONDICHERRY

The beaches of Pondicherry invites you not only to just relax while sipping your drinks and watching the sunset but also has something for all you thrill-seekers! SURFING! That’s right, in case you have not made it to the beaches of Goa, do not get disappointed as you can enjoying doing this in Pondicherry. Some of the best surfing schools here are Kallialay Surf School and Mother Ocean Surf School. So to all the water babies, do not miss this opportunity while in Pondicherry.

Surfing in India, Pondicherry Enjoying surfing on the pristine beaches of Pondicherry.

PAMPER YOURSELF WITH A MASSAGE

South India is known for its Ayurvedic massages and spa treatments and Pondicherry too offers such experiences. Once you are in this town, with its laidback vibe and relaxing beaches it would only do justice to your trip if you tick marked a spa treatment done here.  Not only is this relaxing but these massages have healing properties, balancing the body and mind. You can check out Keralaa Ayurveda, Le Pondy Resort And Spa and Le Green Day Spa.

Ayurvedic massages in India, Pondicherry Acupuncture points help destress and relieve body pain.

backwaters of Pondicherry

In case you do not have time to squeeze in the backwaters of Kerala to your itinerary, don’t stress as Pondicherry has got your back! About 7 – 8 kms away from the main town you have this hidden gem – Chunnambar. In case you wish to visit Paradise Beach you have to pass through the Chunnambar backwaters. There are no houseboats stays here like the ones in Kerala. However, if you are just looking for a day trip by the backwaters, this would work as well.

Backwaters in South India, Pondicherry Serene backwaters in Pondicherry, India (Photo Credit – Tom Maisey)

SHOPPING in Pondicherry

Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper 

You can not only purchase all the really interesting handmade paper products but you also get to witness the whole process of how paper is made. You will definitely get mesmerized by their artwork and won’t be able to resist a purchase.  

WHAT TO BUY: Handmade paper products 

TIMINGS: 09:30 to 17:00 hours, 10:00 to 13:00 (only on Sundays)

ADDRESS: 50, Sardar Vallabhai Patel Salai, Kuruchikuppam, Puducherry, 605001

The Grand Bazaar 

The Grand Bazaar is a sight to experience, the proper market, well segregated, fruit and vegetable vendors, seafood vendors, the flower market and lots more. little lanes inside. The hustle and bustle which you would normally find in any city is here for Pondicherry!

WHAT TO BUY: Groceries OR visit just to watch the local life 

TIMINGS: 06:00 to 22:00 hours

ADDRESS: JN Street, MG Road Area, Puducherry, 605001

Places to shop in Pondicherry Locals conducting their daily purchases in the markets of Pondciherry (Photo Credit – Richard Mortel)

NavaVihan

NavaVihan is an excellent store for handmade products, they have a little shop and sell the cutest products. From gift cards to photo frames, they sell a lot of DIY products that will look good in your living rooms back at home. So if you have time in hand, stop by to witness the art here.

WHAT TO BUY: Handmade gift cards, Handicraft items

TIMINGS: 09:00 to 17:00 hours (closed on Sundays)

ADDRESS: 23, Rue De La Compagnie, Puducherry, 605001

Getting around in Pondicherry

Pondicherry is a small town so moving around is not a hassle and you have quite a few options to do so as well. 

Autorickshaw

Auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks) in Pondicherry may sometimes be tough to find, especially in the French town but they are convenient to move around if you get one. You would have to bargain for a price before you start your journey.

Bicycle 

This is probably the best way to explore the town, if you love cycling, you can get bicycles on rent. Do go around the White Town cycling, as the roads here are ideal to do so. Make sure to carry your identity card with you, as you would need one at a rental shop.

 

Bikes/Scooters

The best mode of travel in Pondicherry is a two-wheeler if you can ride one. There are many who rent them out and it is another convenient way to move around. It would cost you INR 1000 – INR 500 for one whole day. Make sure you carry an identity card with you while going to rent one.  

Ola

A great option to travel around in comfort is Ola. It is a safe and reliable option, in case you do not want to go through the hassle of bargaining with the tuk-tuk drivers.

Planning your trip but can’t choose what to do after Pondicherry or before? Don’t worry we can help you plan your trip to India, one that is tailor made to suit your travel style. Be it adventure, basking in the midst of nature or spotting rare wildlife, South India has it all and so much more.

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