Pondicherry Attractions: 10 Awesome Things To Do In The French Capital of India


The French capital of India is yours to discover with my list of the very best things to do in Puducherry (formerly called Pondicherry and generally referred to as 'Pondy'). From lunch-hour wonders to full-blown days out, Pondicherry's attractions are bound to keep you hooked throughout. This is your ultimate checklist to explore Puducherry, a town tucked away on the Eastern seaboard of India.

1. Take a leap of faith, and plunge deeper into the world of wonderful creatures.

Photo of Pondicherry Attractions: 10 Awesome Things To Do In The French Capital of India 1/1 by Gunjan Upreti

The clean water and beautiful marine life makes Pondicherry one of the most alluring destinations for scuba diving in India. Pondicherry is also home to many diving sites with a diverse range of corals, lion fish, grouper, kingfish, moray eels, eagle, manta rays, parrot fish, sea snakes, triggerfish, and if you're lucky, even sharks, whales and dolphins!

Dive sites in Pondicherry : Cool Shark Reef, Temple Reef, The Hole, 4 Corners

Cost: ₹6500-8000 (pool and sea)

Timings: 6:00 am to 8:30 pm

Operator: Temple Adventures

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2. Go boating under the dark umbrella of trees and discover the amazing Pichavaram Mangrove Forest.

Credits: Prashant Agrawal

Photo of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest, Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu, India by Gunjan Upreti

The Pichavaram Mangrove Forest is definitely an underrated Pondicherry attraction. It does not find a place on the usual tourist trail, so I won't hold you accountable if didn’t know about it, despite it being the world’s second largest mangrove jungle (Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal is the largest).

The mangrove thickets of Pichavaram are just a few hours away from the main city and the entire forest land is controlled by the government.

I suggest you either reach early in the morning or go late in the evening so that you enjoy the beauty without being bothered by the heat.

Cost: Row boat ₹920 (5 persons, 4 hours)

Motor boat ₹2100 (8 persons, 2 hours)

Timings: 8 am to 5:30 pm

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3. If inner peace is what you seek, head to Aurobindo Ashram.

Credits: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Photo of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, India by Gunjan Upreti

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram located on Rue de la Marine, is one of the most well known of Pondichery attractuons. The ashram attracts devotees from India and all over the world for spiritual salvation.

During his stay in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo evolved a new method of spiritual practice, which he called Integral Yoga. Its aim is a spiritual realisation that not only liberates man's consciousness but also transforms his nature.

Cost: Nil

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

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4. Float past the amazing coastline of Pondicherry.

Photo of Pondicherry Attractions: 10 Awesome Things To Do In The French Capital of India by Gunjan Upreti

Do you remember that dream most of us have had in which we are running on a beautiful beach with wind in our hair? That beach is in Pondicherry.

From Paradise Beach, Auroville Beach, to Serenity Beach and Promenade Beach, Pondicherry is one of the most popular beach destinations in India and unlike other beach destinations in the country, beaches in Pondicherry are known for their tranquil ambience.

Cost: Nil

Timings: Although the beaches are open 24*7, avoid going there after 8pm. Some beaches are cleared by police after 7-8pm

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5. Have a Franco-Tamil gastronomic affair.

Photo of Pondicherry Attractions: 10 Awesome Things To Do In The French Capital of India by Gunjan Upreti

The city has a unique Franco-Tamil culture, which is also visible in its cuisine. As you would expect out of a coastal town, there is a lot of seafood that can be enjoyed in Pondicherry. Crabs, prawn and fish are available in abundance and cooked in inventive styles. And, because it is in the south, the traditional South Indian fare of idli dosa is available too. And of course, thanks to the French influence, good steak and wine are also served in most restaurants.

Here are a few recommended restaurants:

Cafe Xtasi, Baker Street and Zuka Choco-la on MG road

Le Dupleix and Satsanga in White Town

Tanto Pizzeria near Iyyanar Koil Kullapalyam, Auroville

Cost: ₹800-1500 for two

Timings: 11 am - 11 pm (This is an average time)

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6. Visit Auroville – A place where people come to live their dreams.

Credits: auroville

Photo of Auroville, Pondicherry, India by Gunjan Upreti

Auroville, 'the city of dawn', is an experimental township where people from across the globe, irrespective of creed, colour and nationality, work together to build a universal, cash-free, non-religious township to realise good old human unity. It is this unique concept at its heart which makes Auroville the most popular of Pondicherry's attractions. Today, Auroville is recognised as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness, also concerned with - and practically researching into - sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.

Cost: Nil

Timings: Passes Issued for Matrimandir - 9 am - 4 pm (Mon to Saturday)

9 am to 1 pm (Sunday)

7. Shop till you drop because there ain't no therapy like retail therapy.

Pondicherry is known for its incense sticks, aromatic candles, essential oils, handmade paper items, handicrafts, souvenirs, mementos, cotton dresses and artefacts. You can visit the following stores:

• Kalki boutique: Famous for silk and cotton fashions, as well as accessories, incense, essential oils, handmade-paper knick-knacks.

• La Boutique d’Auroville: Famous for trinkets, garments, stoles and scarves.

• Geethanjali: Known for traditional and curio shop sells sculptures, carved doors, wooden chests, paintings and furniture.

Cost: Variable

Timings: 10 am - 8:30 pm (for most shops)

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8. Experience solitude at Ousteri Lake in Pondicherry.

Credits: The 13th group

Photo of Osudu Lake by Gunjan Upreti

Indulge in birdwatching at the Ousteri Lake, as this site is inhabited by more than 40 migratory birds. Golden Oriole, Painted Stork, White Ibis, Openbill Stork, Tailor Bird and Spotted Owlets are some of the unique bird species that can be seen here. Apart from birdwatching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has recognised this lake as one of Asia's important wetlands.

Cost: Nil

Timings: 9 am - 5 pm

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9. Visit the old lighthouse, an iconic Pondicherry attraction

Credits: Babak Fakhamzadeh

Photo of Pondicherry Attractions: 10 Awesome Things To Do In The French Capital of India by Gunjan Upreti

Constructed in the year 1836, it was hailed as a modern addition to the coastal town back then. However, it is not operational today but still remains very significant, when it comes to Pondicherry attractions.

Cost: Nil

Timings: 24*7

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10. You can also explore the gorgeous French Colony of India with a heritage walk through marketplaces and experience how life thrives in this region. During the course of your walk, make sure you interact with the locals to discover the secrets of Pondicherry.

Cost: Nil

Timings: 24*7

Best Time To Visit Pondicherry

The ideal time to visit Pondicherry is from October to February, when the weather is pleasant and conducive for outdoor activities

Best Places To Stay At In Pondicherry

Luxury: Palais De Mahe - CGH Earth, La Villa, Villa Shanti

Mid-range: Villa Anna Pondy, Pondicherry Executive Inn, White Pearl Residency

Budget: Villa Umar, Sir Bharathi, La Maison Radha

Hostels: Droid Hostel, Valentine Hostel, Blue Lotus

Homestays: Unique Thatch Cabin, Serenity Homes, House of Mud

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