Pondicherry Tourism and Travel Guide

Pondicherry is what dream vacations are made of. With a rich heritage and an enthralling past, the union territory has dazzled travellers from across the globe. An erstwhile French colony, it's located 150 kilometres – a five-hour drive – from Chennai and is the ideal destination for photographers, spiritual seekers and nature lovers. A world of its own, it's far from the chaos of everyday life. Beaches, heritage buildings, an independent township and fishing villages make Pondicherry tourism unlike any other. You can satisfy your curiosity with a visit to Pondicherry museum or the French War Memorial, or enjoy a day at the beach admiring the sunset. Food lovers can head to one of the cafes to spend a leisurely afternoon and a fun evening amidst live music. However you choose to spend time in Pondicherry, you won't be disappointed. Adventure enthusiasts can indulge in a morning of water sports including scuba diving, fishing and surfing followed by a captivating cycling tour. On the other hand, if Ayurveda, a cooking class or meditation is on your mind, you can spend the day in White Town or the erstwhile French quarters of the city. Reminiscent of an ancient town with modern sensibilities, Pondicherry is an artist’s delight. Inspiring you at every turn are bougainvillaea-adorned walls and traces of Gallic architecture that you just can’t get enough of. If paved streets, captivating cafes and scenic beaches are your ideas of a perfect holiday, then Pondicherry will have your heart in no time.
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Best Time To Visit Pondicherry

The best time to explore Pondicherry tourism is during the winter season. Situated along the Bay of Bengal, Pondicherry experiences hot summers, severe monsoons and pleasant winters. 

 

The months from October to March are ideal for travellers who want to explore all facets of Pondicherry tourism. You can enjoy sightseeing tours, explore the local markets, participate in heritage walks and take a tour of the best cafes without the weather ruining your plans.

 

The months between June and September are marked by monsoon and it may not be the best time to plan your trip to explore Pondicherry tourism. However, budget travellers can take advantage of the slow tourist season and enjoy great deals on flights and hotels. Besides the unpredictable rainfall, there is nothing else stopping you from enjoying your vacation. Some travellers say that Pondicherry is best experienced in monsoon when the entire region is covered in hues of green and blue.

 

Summer in Pondicherry is between April and June and days are hot. The evenings during summer are bearable owing to the sea breeze but most travellers avoid exploring Pondicherry tourism during this time.

Top Attractions In Pondicherry

Aurobindo Ashram

Pondicherry tourism attracts travellers owing to a large number of spiritual centres. Aurobindo Ashram is the first spiritual centre which put Pondicherry on the global map. Established by Shri Aurobindo Ghosh in 1926 as a platform for spiritual seekers, the ashram has grown leaps and bounds since its conception. Based on no religious principles but on the tenets of spiritual knowledge, the ashram is a refuge for people from all walks of life. 

 

Acknowledged as of the wealthiest ashrams in the world, there are no branches of this ashram besides the one in Pondicherry. The ashram is located in White Town or the main town and is a significant contributor to Pondicherry tourism. Aurobindo Ashram is home to more than five hundred seekers and continues to spread the teachings of Shri Aurobindo. After Shri Aurobindo’s death in 1950, Mirra Alfassa or Mother took over the ashram responsibilities and helped it grow further as a spiritual retreat. 

 

To visit the ashram, you only need a gate pass from the Bureau Central. The pass gives you access to the library, the gardens and the main building. If you want to learn more about the history of the ashram and its teachings, you can book a guided tour or get in touch with the management of the ashram. Several workshops, meditation retreats and exhibitions regularly take place here. If you’d like to include any of these in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary, we recommend booking in advance. 

 

Paradise Beach

Beaches are the highlight of Pondicherry tourism and a day spent on the beach is the best way to experience this laidback city. Located eight kilometres from the main town of Pondicherry is Plage Paradiso or Paradise Beach. A popular attraction you can’t ignore in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary, it promises to take you away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

 

The most exciting feature of the beach is the 30-minute ferry ride that takes you from Chunnambar to Pondicherry. Promising surreal views of the villages in and around Chunnambar, the ferry ride across backwaters is one of the best experiences of Pondicherry tourism. The beach, on the other hand, is a classic example of a scenic beach complete with small coconut shacks, local eating joints, a few local bars and a small market. Even though Paradise Beach features on all Pondicherry tourism itineraries, it’s surprising to note that the beach is not crowded. 

 

Most travellers prefer heading here in the morning or in the evening so that they can catch a glimpse of the breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. This is not the best place to try swimming since the current is quite high. You can relax on the comfortable beach chairs, enjoy a meal of fresh fish curry and rice and of course indulge in some retail therapy. If you are interested in fishing, the beach is the ideal place to improve your skills. You can rent fishing equipment from the fishermen on the beach. 

 

Auroville

Often referred to as the ‘Universal Town’ and the ‘City of Dawn’, Auroville is among the top highlights of Pondicherry tourism. The township is a few kilometres from Pondicherry and is built on a unique concept. Home to thousands of people from all cultures and countries, Auroville was founded by Mother. Envisioned as a free township which functions on the principles of harmony, sustainable living and peace, it’s a must-include in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary. You need at least five to six hours to explore the township so we recommend keeping aside sufficient time. 

 

Auroville is divided into different sectors including Peace Area, Industrial Zone, Residential Zone, International Zone, Cultural Zone and Green Belt.. The area around Auroville is entirely transformed owing to the efforts of the residents. What earlier was barren land is today rows and rows of lush fields. There are many tours for Auroville which are organised by good tour agencies and should be part of your Pondicherry tourism itinerary. Depending on your itinerary and interests, you can spend anywhere between two to six hours in the township. 

 

There are a number of attractions in Auroville which contribute to Pondicherry tourism. Matrimandir, set in the midst of the Peace Area, is visited by hundreds of people from across the world. The globe-shaped lotus symbolises peace and harmony for the residents and functions as a place for self-contemplation and group meditations. You have to take permission to enter Matrimandir as only a limited number of people are allowed inside every day. An example of brilliant architecture, Matrimandir is part of all Pondicherry tourism itineraries. 

 

Auroville is home to a number of cafes that are an integral part of the way of life here. Most locals begin their day with strong coffee and end it with a locally made dessert at one of the scenic cafes. If you want to learn more about Auroville and the culture here, there isn’t a better way than interacting with the locals. Some of the best cafes in Auroville that are part of Pondicherry tourism are La Terrace Cafe, Marc’s Cafe, Frites Corner, Tanto’s Pizzeria and Gelato Factory.

 

Promenade Beach

Another highlight in most Pondicherry tourism itineraries is Promenade Beach. The 1.2-kilometre-long beach stretches from War Memorial to Goubert Avenue. One can say that the beach is the centre for all activities including morning walks, sunsets, yoga, and of course swimming. 

This is one of the first beaches that tourists head to and is brimming with travellers as well as locals. While mapping your Pondicherry tourism itinerary, you can combine a visit to Promenade Beach with other landmarks including the statue of Joan of Arc, old lighthouse, Dupleix statue and Town Hall. 

If food is one of the primary highlights for you on a holiday, then you shouldn’t miss eating at one of the many restaurants here. Le Cafe is the most popular cafe here and you can expect a memorable experience as well as a wide variety of delicacies. The food is a mix of local seafood and French cuisine. For those who are interested in trying local food, there are several local joints dotting the beach that serve a variety of street food. The beach is also lined by a number of shops selling local handicrafts including shell jewellery, wooden items and scarves. If bargaining is one of your assets, you can expect to take home a good deal. 

Serenity Beach

Serenity Beach is among the lesser-known gems of Pondicherry tourism. The beach is located almost 10 kilometres from Pondicherry and is a must-visit for those who are looking for a quiet day at the beach. The beach is best known for a spa-resort by the same name which is located on the beach. Promising pristine views of the azure waters, sunsets here are divine and photographers ensure that they spend at least one evening here. Most of the resorts on Serenity Beach are visited by honeymooners and nature lovers. If you are looking for a beautiful escape from the city, then you can’t find a better place.

 

If you are interested in surfing and want to learn about this enthralling sport, there are a few surfing schools on Serenity Beach. These schools offer short-term courses on surfing and amateurs can easily spend three to four hours tackling the mighty waves.

 

Auroville Beach

Beach lovers have a lot to keep them busy in Pondicherry. Auroville Beach is situated 12 kilometres from Pondicherry and has a special spot on all Pondicherry tourism itineraries. The beach is under the management of Auroville Ashram and is among the quietest beaches here. There aren’t too many street food stalls lining the beach so you can expect a peaceful experience with only the blue sea and the vibrant sky for company. The beach is maintained by the ashram and immense efforts are made to ensure cleanliness. There are a few resorts on Auroville Beach and if you are in the mood, you can head to any one of these for a cup of coffee or a meal.

 

If you decide to include Auroville Beach in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary, we recommend heading here in the morning or during the day. The beach closes at 6:30 pm so you should plan your itinerary accordingly. If you want to admire the gorgeous sunset from Auroville Beach, coming on time is important. Owing to the views and the serenity, the beach tends to get busy on weekends. One of the reasons that Auroville Beach is a favourite with travellers is due to the ideal conditions it offers for swimmers. The tide is low and you can easily dive in to enjoy the soft waves.

 

Activities And Things To Do In Pondicherry

Spend a day exploring Arikamedu

If the idea of exploring an erstwhile port town is how you’d like to spend your vacation in Pondicherry, we highly recommend visiting Arikamedu. Located fewer than ten kilometres from the main town, this is one of the hidden gems of Pondicherry tourism. An ancient Roman trade centre, this port town was occupied by the Romans, the French and the Cholas at different points in time. 

 

Arikamedu was discovered in the 1940s and the city has since been on the radar of history lovers. While you might think there is not much to see in the town but this is where the beauty lies. History lovers will surely admire the two perpendicular walls as well as the French Jesuit Mission House. 

Amidst rows and rows of coconut trees, you can spot the markings of an erstwhile flourishing port city. You might find a lot of things of interest here but to understand the historical and archaeological significance, we highly recommend including a guided tour in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary. Photographers must keep aside a couple of hours in their itinerary since there is much to capture here.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is an unmissable highlight when you are exploring Pondicherry tourism. In fact, it’s among the few places in the country which offers an exceptional scuba diving experience. Divers can expect to see a range of underwater life including kingfish, sea snakes, lionfish, moray eels and manta rays. There are some diving spots which also offer you a glimpse into the vibrant world of red snappers and blue lines. 

 

The best way to enjoy scuba diving during your trip is by booking a tour through Pondicherry tourism approved agencies. This ensures that you have a memorable experience within your budget. You can also rest assured that the scuba diving excursion will be under the supervision of experts. 

 

A single divecan cost between Rs.4000 and Rs.6000. This amount can vary depending on the number of people and the number of dives. Temple Adventures is among the best agencies that can arrange a memorable scuba diving tour for you. If you book a separate tour package to explore Pondicherry tourism, we suggest including scuba diving in your Pondicherry itinerary.

 

Watch The Sunset From Pondicherry Lighthouse

Pondicherry is home to two lighthouses and this often confuses travellers. However, the old lighthouse has been closed for the general public. At the same time, you can include a visit to the new lighthouse in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary to enjoy the breathtaking views of the city.

 

The lighthouse in Pondicherry attracts visitors owing to its importance during the French rule. One of the only landmarks for mariners, the old lighthouse was built under the leadership of L. Guerre. If you choose to include a historical tour of the beautiful town of Pondicherry, you will be taken to both these landmarks. 

 

The new lighthouse is visited by numerous travellers every day and for good reason. The view of the sunset from here simply takes your breath away and you will find yourself returning time and again. If you plan to head here to admire the sunset, we suggest coming a little ahead of time so that you can find the perfect spot to capture the mesmerising skies.

Where To Stay In Pondicherry

Pondicherry tourism has always welcomed all kinds of travellers. From solo travellers, couples, nature buffs to spiritual seekers, beach bums and adventure enthusiasts – everyone finds a spot to call their own in Pondicherry. It's no surprise then that there are numerous accommodation options in the city. You can opt for five-star properties, budget resorts, hostels and guest houses depending on your Pondicherry tourism itinerary and budget.

 

Luxury hotels in Pondicherry

There are several luxury hotels in Pondicherry that offer breathtaking views and promise a series of services including a spa, in-house restaurants, cruises and customised sightseeing tours. Here are some of the best resorts which are part of Pondicherry tourism.

 

  • La Villa
  • Palais de Mahe
  • The Dune Eco Village & Spa
  • The Promenade
  • Le Dupleix
  • The Windflower Resort and Spa Pondicherry

 

Mid-budget hotels in Pondicherry

What do you do when you want a mix of both comfort and budget? You opt for mid-budget hotels and Pondicherry doesn't disappoint. The hotels here offer comfortable rooms, efficient service and ensure you experience the best of local hospitality. Here are some of the best mid-budget hotels which are part of Pondicherry tourism.

 

  • Le Chateau
  • Anantha Heritage Hotel
  • Villa Kalifie
  • Sunway Manor
  • White Pearl Residency

 

Budget hotels in Pondicherry

Budget hotels and hostels are the ideal accommodation options for those who want to experience Pondicherry tourism on a budget. Backpackers contribute immensely to Pondicherry tourism and the tourism department has not left a stone unturned to ensure that the city remains budget friendly. Here are some of the best budget hotels which are part of Pondicherry tourism.

 

  • Blue Lotus Hostel
  • Holi Wood Guesthouse
  • Hotel Coramandal Heritage
  • Le Mirage
  • Hotel Corbelli

Cuisine And Best Places To Eat

The local food of Pondicherry is influenced by French and South Indian cuisines. You will find a variety of restaurants and cafes serving an array of both Indian and French dishes. This has made Pondicherry a favourite with food lovers. You can find the perfect cup of coffee in almost all cafes, each of which also keeps freshly baked bread. Baguettes and croissants are available almost everywhere and you'll be surprised by the authentic flavours.

 

You might think that seafood is available only in restaurants but you'll be glad to find various renditions of fish and crab curry at most local restaurants. Fried prawns and fish fry are also easily available at reasonable prices. The combination of fresh seafood with local spices and thick coconut cream is something you'll miss when you are back home.

 

Mutton sambar, beef patties, traditional Pondicherry white chicken curry and crab masala are some of the favourites which are available almost everywhere. The best thing about enjoying a meal in Pondicherry is that you can eat according to your budget and still have the best experience. Whether you choose a roadside stall or a luxurious restaurant, the experience is completely worth it. 

 

Cafe hopping is an integral part of all Pondicherry tourism itineraries and you can’t help but appreciate the vibrant cafes, welcoming owners and huge variety of finger-licking food.  Some of the best cafes and best restaurants in Pondicherry are La Maison Rose, Cafe Des Arts, Well Cafe, Carte Blanche, Crepe in Touch, Rendezvous Cafe, Kasha ki Asha and Tanto.

How To Travel In Pondicherry?

One of the most attractive features of Pondicherry tourism is that the city urges you to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. You can explore White Town completely on foot whereas nearby areas can easily be explored on a cycle. In fact, a cycle is one of the most popular means of transport in Pondicherry. You can rent a cycle from one of the many tour agencies here and keep it for the entire duration of your trip or rent it by the hour. You can also book a cycling tour in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary since there are fun tours that regularly take place. 

 

If you want to explore places such as Auroville Beach and Serenity Beach, you can hire a cab. The prices for most sightseeing spots is fixed so you don't have to worry about exceeding your budget. There is public transport in the city but we highly recommend having a reliable means of transport so you can enjoy your trip without any hassle.

Typical Costs In Pondicherry

If you are planning to explore Pondicherry tourism, you can prepare a customised itinerary without worrying about costs. The city is open to all kinds of travellers and the kind of trip you expect is completely dependent on the season you travel in and the accommodation you choose.

 

Luxury travellers can expect to spend between Rs.6000 and Rs.8000 per day. The cost is only inclusive of food, sightseeing and the activities you choose and doesn't take accommodation into account.

 

Mid-budget travellers can have a wonderful trip exploring Pondicherry tourism and expect to spend between Rs.3000 and Rs.5000. This amount may vary depending on the activities you include in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary.

 

Budget travellers should consider planning their trip to explore Pondicherry tourism during shoulder season or off-season. If you plan your trip well, you can expect to spend between Rs.500 and Rs.1500 per day.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pondicherry Tourism

Which are the best places to visit in Pondicherry tourism?

The best places to visit in Pondicherry tourism are Auroville, Paradise Beach, Serenity Beach, Old Lighthouse, Auroville Market, Arikamedu, Chunnamber Boat House and Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus.

 

How can I travel from Chennai to Pondicherry?

Pondicherry is located 150 kilometres from Chennai. There are numerous ways to travel between the two places and depending on your budget, you can choose any one. Buses are the cheapest and take about four hours. Tickets for an AC bus will cost you between Rs.250 and Rs.350 depending on the bus service. You can even rent a self-drive car or a taxi for your journey. A taxi will cost you between Rs.3000 and Rs.4000.

 

Which are the best beaches in Pondicherry?

The best beaches which are part of Pondicherry tourism are Serenity Beach, Paradise Beach, Auroville Beach and Veerampattinam Beach. 

 

Where can I scuba dive in Pondicherry?

Pondicherry is known for one of the most thriving artificial reefs in the world. You can scuba dive at any of the 22 sites in the city and we highly recommend booking through an authorised travel agency.

 

Which are the best cafes in Pondicherry?

The best cafes in Pondicherry are Coromandel Cafe, Domus, Artika Café Gallery, Café des Arts and Café Carte Blanche.

 

Name the best historical sites of Pondicherry tourism.

The best historical sites of Pondicherry tourism are Gingee Fort, The Statue of Dupleix, Arikamedu, the French War Memorial and the Mahatma Gandhi Statue.

 

Share three tips for planning a tour of Pondicherry tourism?

Pondicherry tourism has something to offer all types of travellers and all you need to do is pack a bag for your trip. Here are three tips for exploring Pondicherry tourism.

  1. Book a scuba diving tour and a cycling tour if you want to include unique experiences in your Pondicherry tourism itinerary
  2. Book a hotel or a resort that offers you a peek into the local way of life
  3. Plan your trip at the end of the monsoon season – just before the peak season is about to begin.

 

Which are the best homestays in Pondicherry tourism?

In recent years, a number of homestays and boutique accommodations have come up in an effort to boost Pondicherry tourism. Some of the most welcoming homestays that are part of Pondicherry tourism are La Maison Radha, Ponni Illam, Mantra, A La Villa Creole and Villa Umar. 

 

Which are the best places to enjoy shopping in Pondicherry tourism?

Shopping is one of the major highlights of Pondicherry tourism and you can expect to bring back an array of souvenirs. From locally designed clothes, handmade jewellery and incense sticks to local spices, wooden artefacts and home decor, Markets in Pondicherry are a delight for shopping enthusiasts. Some of the best markets and shops that are part of Pondicherry tourism are Casablanca, Kalki, Janaki, Goubert Market, Cluny Embroidery Centre, Serenity Beach Bazaar, Titanic, the Cotton House and Auroville Market. 

 

Name the best cafes in Auroville.

The cafe culture in the city is one of the most attractive features for globetrotters. Almost every corner of the city has something special to offer food lovers and cafe hoppers. On your visit to Auroville, you will notice a plethora of vibrant and welcoming cafes. Some of the cafes that should be part of your Pondicherry tourism itinerary are Dreamer’s Cafe, Tanto’s Pizzeria, Garden Cafe, Solitude Organic Farm and Sustenance Farm.

Written by Kirat Sodhi. She is a proud mom of three cats and lives for lemon tea, a good book and spontaneous travel plans.