A beach town hungover on its colonial past, Pondicherry or what is now known as Puducherry, is a spirited city that leaves an indelible mark on every visitor’s memory. Its extraordinariness lies in the seemingly ordinary experiences it offers to visitors – whether it is exploring the vibrancy of the French town, dining at the exceptionally aesthetic cafes or strolling along the shores beside the Bay of Bengal. You can cover a lot of the places to visit in Pondicherry in even a weekend, yet a desire to travel slow and relish all kinds of experiences will make you want to extend your stay or resolve to return here. This union territory is surrounded by Tamil Nadu and is close to other South Indian states. None of the places to visit near Pondicherry, however, can hold a candle to this picturesque city. Besides engaging with the city’s heritage, natural beauty and art, the powerful spiritual energy at Auroville allures travellers from all around the globe. The places to visit in Pondicherry are on top of most travellers’ itinerary planning a trip to South India. Read on to know more about the various places to see in Pondicherry.
The central beach of the town, Promenade Beach, also known as Rock Beach and Gandhi Beach, is the most popular of all the places to visit in Pondicherry. It is a strip beside the sea stretching from the War Memorial to Goubert Ave. Similar to Marine Drive in Mumbai, the shore constitutes large rocks and boulders adding to the aesthetic value of the beach. The best characteristic of this Pondicherry tourist destination is that vehicles are only allowed on the road between 7am and 6pm. Owing to this, you will find plenty of locals and tourists sauntering about, playing games, skating and doing yoga after dawn and dusk. It is recommended to not loiter around after 11pm for safety reasons. A lot of places to visit in Pondicherry for delicious food are also lined up at the beachfront. Other than that, many street shops and hawkers sell souvenirs here every day. As the road is empty after six in the evening, sometimes it is used as a venue for events too. There are a number of places to visit in Pondicherry close to this beach such as the War Memorial, Mahatma Gandhi Statue, Dupleix Park, the remains of a pier, Chief Secretariat, old lighthouse, statue of Joan of Arc, the old Town Hall, Park Monument, Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Pondicherry Museum.
One of the most beautiful seaside places to visit in Pondicherry as well as the whole of India, travellers visit Paradise Beach from near and far. The process of reaching the beach is fun too. You can ride a two-wheeler rental or take public transport to Chunnambar Boathouse, located at the fringes of the city. From there, you need to take a ferry traversing the backwaters to arrive at the beach. Overlooking mangroves and avifauna, the ride is extremely pleasant. Remember that this is one of the places to visit in Pondicherry that is only open from 9am to 6pm. You should plan to spend a couple of hours to have an ideal beach day, therefore aim to arrive as early as possible. As you walk on the fine white sand, gaze at the turquoise blue water which will welcome you to take a dip. Stop at the many shacks along the shore to put your feet up and relax. This is one of the best places to visit in Pondicherry where you can indulge in a variety of activities such as rain dance, fish spa, ATV rides, zorbing, horse riding, trampolining and others. There is a small food joint here too, although it is recommended to bring a few snacks of your own. You are not allowed to go far from the main beach area, but the water is ideal and clean for a quick swim. There are also small showers and changing rooms right on the beach.
Auroville Beach, or Auro Beach, is among the best places to visit in Pondicherry. It is situated just a few kilometres away from its namesake, the renowned township of Auroville. It is one of the most peaceful Pondicherry tourist places where you can simply swim in the sea or just sprawl on the sand watching the waves crash with your travel companions. It is advised to carry your own snacks and water since you will not find many options here. The best time to go is during sunrise and sunset; the sky takes on vibrant hues perfect to take some beachside photographs. Keep in mind that the beach is one of the places to visit in Pondicherry that is closed off to the public after sunset around 6.30pm.
True to its name, this beach is one of the most serene places to visit in Pondicherry. Swathed in gleaming sand with a magnificent view of the horizon, this is one of the best places to visit in Pondicherry for a pleasant getaway from the bustle of the touristy destinations. The waves here are high, that allows several water sports to be organised here. You can find a few sea-facing resorts here, perfect for honeymooners.
To spend your day at a beach devoid of huge crowds, head to Veerampattinam Beach. It is among the places to visit in Pondicherry where you can sunbathe in tranquillity. You have the chance to see a number of busy fishermen here, preparing or returning from their voyage. It is known for having the longest coastline in Pondicherry, so you would not want to miss this destination. It is one of the best places to visit in Pondicherry, on the way to Cuddalore, which can be easily reached via your own vehicle or public transport. The village, where the beach is located, is one of the places to visit near Pondicherry that invites many tourists during its annual car festival held in August.
The former French quarters of the city, also known as White Town, is probably the most favoured of all places to visit in Pondicherry. The pastel, colourful walls ornate with bougainvillea flowers will teleport you back to the time it was inhabited by the French. The architecture and layout are characteristically foreign and add to the charm of the town. The French influence is also evident when you read the names of the street such as Romain Rolland Street, La Bourbonnais Street and Suffren Street. How it is dotted with chic cafes and eateries besides being only at a walking distance from Promenade Beach makes it one of the most famous places to visit in Pondicherry. This is also the most cultural location in the city, home to many well-known places to visit in Pondicherry as well as a centre of events and fests. Even if you choose to only roam around the streets of this area on foot, you will not be disappointed.
This experimental, universal township is among the most well-known places to visit in Pondicherry. Its philosophy of unity and goodwill within diversity is attractive to people across continents. Today it stands as the only internationally recommended place to get in touch with your consciousness. Auroville has adopted the practice of sustainable living and researches the different needs of humankind to march towards a peaceful and united future. Its inception took place in 1968, after clearing up a wasteland and turning into one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pondicherry. Representatives of more than 100 countries, along with those of all the Indian states, brought soil from their land which is now memorialized in a lotus-shaped urn here. The township currently is inhabited by about 2,500 people of different ages, countries, genders, classes and cultures. Of all the places to visit in Pondicherry, this unique destination stands out as the most tranquil and spiritual. The greenery, kindness of people and experience one gets within the complex are unmatched. As a visitor, you can learn about the tenets the residents abide by here. You can also sign up for the various workshops organised here. Do not miss the Matrimandir as it is on top of the list of places to visit in Pondicherry, being one of the major attractions of Auroville. It is a large golden sphere that symbolizes the emergence of a fresh consciousness. Not only is it magnificent to look at from outside, but it is also an astounding thing to witness from within. You need to get a permit in advance, which makes it difficult for people on shorter trips to obtain permission. After spending a couple of hours here, you can head on to other places to visit in Pondicherry, such as Auro Beach.
Shri Aurobindo Ghosh Ashram
Founded in 1926 by former Indian freedom fighter and philosopher Sri Aurobindo, this ashram is one of the places to visit in Pondicherry that people visit to enhance their spiritual connections. A site to find inner peace, this ashram is one of its kind and only exists in Pondicherry. Located in French Town, thousands of devotees reside in and around the ashram, focussing on community life. At the centre of the ashram, in the courtyard, lie the remains of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa (his follower, also known as The Mother). Visitors come here every day to pay their respects. This is among the wealthiest ashrams in the country, and there are several systems in place to offer all necessities to residents. During your visit, you will not be allowed to bring your bag or camera inside. Some parts of the ashram can only be accessed after getting a pass from the Bureau Central. There are several presentations and tours organized to learn about the founders’ lives and writings as well as the daily life and tasks carried out in the ashram. Frequent trips to Auroville is organised by the ashram too.
If you want to get a lovely sweeping view of the city, head to Pondicherry Lighthouse, one of the top places to visit in Pondicherry. It is located near the famous Gandhi Statue on Promenade Beach. There is also an old lighthouse in the city that was once instrumental in guiding ships to Pondicherry, but was closed in 1979. The new lighthouse has now become a centre for several events and cultural activities. Interestingly, there is a striking difference in the architecture of the two structures. It has become one of the most popular places to visit in Pondicherry, hence you might not have the view all to yourself. You should definitely plan a visit here, especially if you want to click panoramic pictures of the breathtaking vistas of the beach town.
One of the important places to visit in Pondicherry for history lovers, this museum houses the largest bronze sculpture collection from the Chola Dynasty. It also consists of relics from Arikamedu and the Pallava Dynasty. The bronze selection showcases various statues of gods and goddesses. Besides sculptures, you can also find impressive ancient handicrafts, furniture, coins, utensils and other different archaeological specimens. There is also a section with geological findings. You will find many tourists making a stop here among other places to visit in Pondicherry.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
This church is among the holiest places to visit in Pondicherry. Founded by French missionaries in the early 20th century, it is the only basilica in the city. Its outstanding Gothic architecture is embellished by Latin biblical engravings as well as images of Jesus and Mary at the entrance. You can also learn about the biblical tales encapsulated in the large stained glass panes. Its stunning architecture invites tourists from different parts of the world throughout the year, but the best time to visit is during Christian festivals such as Christmas and Easter as they are celebrated with immense pomp and gaiety.
This is one of the few places to visit in Pondicherry that is open 24x7. Located in a former port house on Promenade Beach, Le Cafe is the only waterfront eatery in Pondicherry. Unsurprisingly, it has acquired the status of a landmark in the town. Tourists consider it a mandate to at least have one meal here, preferably early in the morning for a beautiful view of the sea while enjoying some scrumptious food. You can get a seat either on the verandah or the roof to enjoy the mellow sea breeze. The wonderfully ideal location of the cafe has unanimously turned it into a meeting spot or a place to relax while on tour of the places to visit in Pondicherry. For a cafe this popular, the menu is surprisingly well priced.
Cafe Des Arts
Every traveller visiting Pondicherry ends up at this cafe clicking pictures in front of its mustard yellow walls or using the rickshaw permanently parked in the lawn as a prop. Located in White Town, it is one of the most famous places to visit in Pondicherry where you can get authentic French food. Besides the delicious food, the delightful decor based on pop culture infused with a vintage touch and the tiny nook with a make-shift library also invites tourists. Within the cafe there are two small shops where you can buy souvenirs.
This cafe has become a must-visit in the town. You can go to the branch on M. G. Road or in Auroville. This is one of the places to visit in Pondicherry that has become legendary owing to its large, wood-fired pizzas. Not only does it have a wide variety of pizzas, but you can also find pastas, and other fast food items along with some delectable specials. You will always leave this cafe full and satisfied, hence you must definitely make a stop here for a meal.
Eat My Cake
Hidden in plain sight, this is one of the most aesthetic places to visit in Pondicherry on the streets of White Town for a quick bite. Painted with bright, contrasting colours, you cannot help but be drawn to this cafe on Romain Rolland Street. Its value yet does not only lie in its mouth-watering French dishes and desserts, but more importantly in its social initiative to empower local women hailing from unfortunate circumstances. There is no reason to not stop here while exploring Pondicherry!
If you want a break from the French food and are interested in some Italian, Tanto is one of the best places to visit in Pondicherry. Strategically located en route Auroville, it is a flourishing restaurant almost always full to its maximum capacity. The menu appeases all kinds of food preferences – whether you are a vegan or love seafood, you will find something you like here. Health conscious people will be assured to know that the food is only prepared with organic ingredients in a hygienic environment. If that is not good enough, the service is impeccable, carried out by a polite and helpful staff.
Written by Shruti Mishra, an in-house Tripoto writer.
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