Things to Do in Pondicherry – A Travel Guide to Explore Paradise Beach to Auroville
There are many reasons to visit Pondicherry and many things to do in Pondicherry. If you are planning for travel to India, you must include Pondicherry in your list. If you are an Indian, and never visited Pondicherry, you missed something incredible. You can plan your next trip there; and I bet, after your first visit you’ll get back to this beautiful place again and again.
In this travel guide, you’ll get an overview about things to do in Pondicherry, which includes the best spots to visit, an idea about the yearly climates, the best way to reach there and an idea to plan your tour. If you wish to plan a 3-4 day’s short trip there, you can cover all the spots listed here.
So Let’s start from scratch.
Introduction to Pondicherry
Pondicherry is an international city, located at south-eastern coast of India, beside the Bay of Bengal. You may be confused with the name Puducherry, which you’ll find often during your search in websites. Actually, Pondicherry is officially known as Puducherry, a district and capital of Indian Union Territory of Puducherry, and is an enclave of Tamilnadu.
The climate of Pondicherry is tropical savanna, and throughout the year temperature varies from 19-38 °C, on average. In summer (April to June) it is too hot and temperature rises up to 42 °C.
Brief History of Pondicherry
The detailed history of Pondicherry has been recorded after arrivals of colonial powers of the Dutch, English, and French. However, some historical signs have proven the occurrence of a marketplace in Poduke (near Pondicherry) in the 1st century. As per research, it is known that Poduke in Pondicherry was a gateway for Roman trade with India.
From 4th to 16th century Pondicherry was ruled by, Indian kingdoms (Pallava, Chola, Pandya) and Muslim kingdoms (Sultanate of Madurai and Sultan of Bijapur).
On 1674 French colonial power occupied Pondicherry and set up trade center for French East India Company. Further in 1693 Dutches captured the colony, but handed over to the French in 1699. Further, the French colony was stable up to next 62 years, and on 1761 British Emperor of India captured Pondicherry but returned to the French in 1765. Thereafter, 1793-1814 British emperor, 1814-1954 again French people ruled over Pondicherry, and finally in 1954 Pondicherry was handed over to Indian union.
Due to a long term presence of French colonies, Pondicherry is well decorated with historical French sculptures and monuments. This is an extra achievement in your Pondicherry trip, in addition to its heavenly beauty and charms of meditation.
The Best Time to Visit Pondicherry
Pondicherry is located in hot climate region. Thus, for the Tourists, winter (Oct/Nov to Feb) is the best season to visit there. If you are from a cold climate, I would rather suggest you visit in the month of November to February. March also offers pleasant weather, but relatively hotter (24-33 °C).
October to March: From late October, the temperature starts to fall down in Pondicherry, and rise again from mid-March. This full season is a perfect time to visit there, as the temperature never cross the upper barrier of 30 °C. Without some exceptional days at the end of December to early January, temperature doesn’t fall below 18 °C. The winter is the best time to experience the beautiful blue ocean of Pondicherry. Under the pleasant weather of winter, you can enjoy comfortably all things to do in Pondicherry, which includes all the sightseeing and water sports.
April to June: It is the hottest season when humidity and temperature increases a lot, at least up to 40 °C. Still, there are certain plus points, (1) This is a relatively less crowded season to realize a peaceful vacation, (2) You can enjoy the water sports in cool water. People from hot climate can visit in this season, especially if they are getting a summer vacation.
July to September: This is rainy season in Pondicherry, and you cannot experience the blue beauty, but can be a witness of the lush green landscape of rest of the Pondicherry. The month of August offers a vibrant scenario to celebrate the birthday of legendary guru and nationalist Sri Aurobindo (15 August 1872).
How to Reach Pondicherry
It totally depends on your latest location just before you head for Pondicherry. There are direct flights and trains, and you can also head on via a road trip. Our group (including me) visited there several times via different routes.
In this section, you must get a very clear idea about the routes and you can easily choose the best one that suits you.
Pondicherry domestic airport is located in around 6 km away from the center of the city. This airport is connected to all mega cities of India (Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad). Among all the cities, you’ll get non-stop direct flights only from Bangalore and Hyderabad. Rest of the and megacities offer you break journey via either Bangalore or Hyderabad.
Chennai International airport the next closest airport which is 160 km away from Pondicherry city. You can reach Pondicherry by road (3 hours) or by train (4 hours) from Chennai.
Puducherry railway station is not a busy one, but you’ll get 1 express train daily from Chennai Egmore railway station, and 9 weekly trains from other parts of the nation (New Delhi, Howrah, Tirupati, Mangaluru, Yesvantpur, Kanyakumari, Bhubaneshwar, Dadar – Mumbai).
Besides, 4 more passenger trains run daily from Chennai Egmore, Tirupati and Villupuram (2 daily).
Villupuram is the next closest railway station from Pondicherry, which is only 38 km away from the city. Many trains from the different corners of the country stop at Villupuram. You can reach Pondicherry from here by passenger train or rented a car.
Personal car or a rental car is the best option to reach Pondicherry with full freedom (if you do not reside far away). Once, we visited there by road from Ooty, India (Ufff!! That was an 8-hour-long journey), and once from Chennai. If you are from an international destination, and willing to land on Chennai Airport, then, you can follow the Chennai – Pondicherry East Coast Road which is the shortest route (160 km) just beside the sea. You can also follow, NH-32 (170 km) and NH-48 (204 km), but you need to cover longer distances.
You’ll get buses to reach Pondicherry (Puducherry) from Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Trichy, Madurai, Mumbai, and other places.
Things to do in Pondicherry
There are many things to do in Pondicherry. You can visit sea beaches, experience meditation in Auroville, can enjoy the greenery, can be interested in local handicrafts and boutiques, shopping malls, enjoy bar time, water sports and many.
This article will explain the details of the list of things which you should not miss in Pondicherry, you must visit and enjoy these.
1. Visit Paradise Beach
Beautiful Paradise beach in Pondicherry. Paradise beach is one of the most attractive places in Pondicherry. This is like an island which is surrounded by the bay of Bengal and Chunnambar backwaters (river). You have to rent a boat (INR 30-50 only) from Chunnambar boat-house to reach there (for personal boat or speedboats you have to pay more). The boathouse is located at approx 7 km away from the main city, beside Pondicherry-Cuddalore highway. You can take an auto or rented car to reach there.
The boats arrive at Paradise beach within 20-25 min after start. During your journey, you can enjoy the greenery at the bank of the backwater which is full of a variety of aquatic birds. I can bet, you’ll be excited when your boat will be reaching the jetty. You can see the backwater is meeting the see, and the entrance of the Paradise is welcoming you.
You can stay in paradise beach for 1-2 hours (which is sufficient), or even more if you wish. The name of the beach (Paradise) matches very well with the overall scenario. Blue water under the blue sky, soft sand, greenery behind the beach and migratory birds the backwater beside; what else we need to experience the heaven on earth. You must take a bath into the blue. So, do not forget to visit here with your swim costume, towels, and sundress.
This is a perfect beach for photography. The beach is decorated with the rocks of various shapes. And if you click a photo standing in front of those with a blue background, it is just amazing.
You’ll see a few stalls for your snacks and cold drinks. To chill yourselves more, you’ll get beer in those small stalls. They are ready to offer you enjoy in full.
You can be a witness of nice sunset over the Chunnambar backwater if your return in the evening.
2. See Sunrise from Rock Beach and Have Peaceful Walk
You’ll not experience formal sand beach here because boulders have been placed throughout the bank to prevent sea erosion. Rather, you’ll find a different sense of relaxation; the sound of waves onto the rock, the breeze from the ocean, the beachside road, the buildings around, everything offers you a very different feeling.
If you visit here in the early morning, you can experience the stunning sight of sunrise from the horizon. This beach is not crowded at all in the morning. You’ll enjoy your pleasant morning walk along the beach road. The restriction of vehicles in this area from 6 PM to 7 AM allows keeping your peace alive. If you have your private car, don’t be disappointed to know this, you can visit there in your car during the day time.
I found evening is the best time to spend hours around this beach line. It is wonderful to sit onto the boulders to chill out with your loved one or maybe alone into the cool breeze while listening to the sound of the unstoppable waves thudding the rocks; one of the best feelings I own in Pondicherry. However, evening time is a bit crowded.
If you love to hang out in the cafe, this is a great landmark for you, there are nice cafeteria around in a line. Additionally, you’ll get many food and shopping options there.
3. See Seaside Promenade
You can reach there by following the Rock beach road. At the end, you’ll find a big statue of Mahatma Gandhi, known as Father of Nation (India). If you cross the road towards Place de is Republic you’ll find lovely gardens.
Rock beach and seaside Promenade are two spots at the same destination, and you can cover in a single visit. After visualizing the Mahatma Gandhi statue, you can spend some lazy hours at Rock beach in the evening. You can chill into the cool breeze while walking or sitting on the rock, or you can hang out to the bar, cafeteria or local shops.
4. Experience Bird’s Eye View from Old Lighthouse
The lighthouse is another historical monument in Pondicherry which was built in 1836 by French to guide the marine at night. It’s located just near Promenade. The lighthouse is 29 m high and if you climb at the top (no elevator), you’ll experience the spectacular bird’s eye view of Pondicherry.
You need to pay a minimum charge for entry (INR 10 only) and for the camera (not applicable for the mobile camera). It remains open from 3-5 PM on weekdays only.
5. Feel the Inner Spirit in Sri Aurobindo Ashram
During your Pondicherry tour, if you wish to spend some time in peace, spirituality, and tranquility, Sri Aurobindo Ashram is one of the perfect places for you. This Ashram is close to the Promenade and Rock beach.
In 1910 Sri Aurobindo (was a nationalist before) retired from politics and settled down to Pondicherry with few of his followers. In Pondicherry, he met ‘The Mother’ (formerly known as Mirra Alfassa), but after the first world war, she had to leave India. She returned to India in 1920 and planned to form a place to feel the inner spirit, which Sri Aurobindo wished after his major spiritual realization. In 1926 the Ashram formed finally by the Mother and the spiritual community.
You’ll realize the feelings like divine upon crossing the main entrance of the ashram, a noise-free peaceful environment. But, please remember, if you are not ready to keep silent, they will request you to leave, because this is a place of meditation, not a tourist spot. So, you visit there, only if you really wish to feel the soul.
6. Walk within the French colony
Near the Rock beach and Sri Aurobindo Ashram, you’ll find very clean streets, full of well maintained white and yellow colored french style housings. These architectures are very different from the Tamil section resides in other parts Pondicherry. This area was a part of the French colony earlier, and they designed in their own French style, and still maintained very well by the Indian government.
You can walk through the streets while you are visiting Sri Aurobindo Ashram; then, you can follow the road beside the Rock beach to reach Promenade. You must feel the overall area quite different.
7. Visit Veerampattinam Beach
This is one of the lovely beaches in Pondicherry to spend an hour or two. To reach there you need to follow Pondicherry-Cuddalore highway, the beach is located 7 km away from Pondicherry center. You may face difficulty to locate the entrance but can find the way by asking local people.
The beach is situated in a historical village, Veerampattinam. The beauty of the area is not only restricted to the sea beach, but the greenery around it is amazing too.
After buying the ticket you’ll find a small park and a few broken old constructions around. Once you head towards the beach gate, you’ll find backwater in both sides of a narrow path, which are small lagoons in a real sense. You’ll also be watching, few fishermen fishing into the lagoon with thin one-man wooden boats. After a few steps, you can see plenty of palm trees at your left, and for sure you move to the palm shades to click some photos or selfies. The view is really wonderful.
Finally, you should move ahead towards the sea beach. In the backside of the beach, the sand is covered by green, and you can sit there for a while on the permanent benches, whenever you wish.
When you go closer to the water, you’ll find waves are not very rough. You can soak your feet in the white wave. White clouds into the blue sky, deep blue ocean, and cool breeze everything will drive you to a different world.
8. Explore the Sign of Ancient History in Arikamedu
It is an exceptional experience to get back to 100 BC, to the lost Indian city Arikamedu. The time machine has not been discovered to date, and its discovery has been under scanner after the death of great scientist Stephen Hawking, the theoretical inventor of time machine. But your visit to Arikamedu with proper guidance will take you to 2000 years back, for sure.
Arikamedu or Poduke is known as the only Indian city to having trade relation with the Romans. You’ll see broken monuments, thousands of years old buildings, Palm trees and mango trees where an ancient international harbor was situated thousands of years back. The town was known to be inhabited by Cholas people and Roman traders. As per archaeologists, the wine was the major import, and textile, beads, gems, glass, shell bangles etc. were major exports.
The area has been owned by the Archaeological Survey of India but has not been maintained properly, either publicized. Without the help of perfect guidance, you’ll not realize the importance of the place. It is recommended to contact with a proper guide before a visit there.
Guides will take you to the place describing the proper history and sail you to the Aryankuppam river. The bank of the river is beautified by nature with pure green (lines of mangroves) and various birds. You’ll enjoy the ride and all the related descriptions by the guides.
Arikamedu trip is among the worthy things to do in Pondicherry, and of course with a guide.
9. Must Visit The Town of Human Unity, Auroville
The slogan of Auroville is a call for human unity. This is a small township approx 12 km away from Pondicherry central, populated with approx 2500 people from 49 nations (1/3 Indian). After the first time realization of this idea by the Mother in 1930, the project was placed to the government of India in 1960 and in 1966 UNESCO passed the project declaring it as a “project of major importance for the future of humanity”.
The inauguration ceremony of Auroville was performed in 28th February 1968, where 5,000 people from 124 nations assembled near the banyan tree, situated at the center of the township.
In the search for ultimate human unity, the mother invented the idea of such a universal township where men and women from all nations, all religion, all politics can leave together is a peaceful and progressive environment. The township can arrange accommodation for up to 50000 people for all over the world as projected. However, the sustainable living, social – cultural – spiritual needs of human, truthful self-dependence are some major things concerned by the organization.
Now Let’s come to the point. Auroville is a huge area, and the Matri Mandir at the center of the town is a major attraction. Without special permission from the authority, you cannot visit the Matri Mandir on the same day of application. They are very strict about their rules.
So, how to visit Matri Mandir?
You have to plan well. You have to book for Matri Mandir one day prior to your visit. They allow 50 people to enter there at a time. In the first day you just go to Auroville in morning 9:00-10:00 AM and book ticket for the next day. They’ll not provide you the ticket very easily. You have to watch a short movie on topics like Matri Mandir and Auroville, and you should watch the movie very seriously. The movie is worthy and unique too, as that explains the slogan of human unity. After watching the movie you have to face an interview. They’ll provide you the ticket, only If they get satisfied with your answer.
After having the ticket, you are allowed to return home (Hotel) for the day. In the next morning, you should attend there in the given time. A bus will take you to the center of Auroville, where Matri Mandir is situated. Remember, camera is not allowed inside Matri Mandir without special permission.
Right from the fence, you can see the huge golden globe in the middle. That is fully made by gold plate. You can see a sample part of that gold plate outside the fence. That is amazing!
Something more amazing is waiting for you inside! When you move closer to the globe you can see there are four gates under that. When you look at above, you can see the stunning architecture of the globe. Upon entering the globe you will be seated of the round stairs, and you just can not realize how wonderful is this inside decoration, before you see! I was stunned for a while!
After then, you’ll be taken to the upstairs in a dark meditation room, where you have to maintain pin drop silence. Even, if you need to cough, you are advised to leave the room and do it outside, and then enter again. All the people need to sit there by surrounding a crystal globe. Light enters from a particular direction to lighten the crystal, and the lighten globe is your aim for meditation.
After 15 minutes of deep meditation you will be asked to leave the room, then sit for a while under the banyan tree, and then return to the bus.
After your return, you can have some snacks and visit local boutique shops in Auroville. Boutiques and handicraft shops are really pure and made by residents of Auroville, but things are relatively expensive here.
10. Play with the Waves in Serenity Beach
Serenity is an offbeat beach, located beside the East Coast Road, just 6 km away from Pondicherry center. This beach is beautiful, sea water is perfect on sunny days and good for play into the wave, but isolated from the main city. It is strictly advised to visit there in the day time, but never in the evening (no light and no security in evening). Not recommended for sunbath and swim in short dress (for women), Paradise beach is safer for such activities.
You can try the sunrise here and then spend the morning session, swim into the sea (but do not go too deep), waves are much frequent here. Instructors of AuroSwim often teach their students in Serenity beach.
A part of this beach is occupied by the fishermen, and in the morning you can see fishermen are bringing their catch. You’ll see fishing boats on the beach, and also experience the view of fishing boats into the sea.
11. Visit Churches
Due to the presence of French colonies about a long period in Pondicherry, the city got some beautiful churches in its every corner. You’ll like all the 3 churches listed here, and you can pray in a calm and cultured environment there. Whatever is your religion, you can pray, god is one.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
This catholic church is situated very close to Pondicherry railway station. The beautiful architecture in red and white in front of a blue sky will let you feel awesome in first sight. Inside, you can see spectacular stained-glass art and the curves at the roof.
Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges
This church is located near promenade; so, you can easily visit when you are walking through the Rock beach. The church has been structured similar to Notre Dame in Paris, but with the different color combination. you can observe beautiful architectural design inside.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Blue sky behind the pure white architecture explores the ultimate beauty of this church in the sunny days. The architecture and painting of the inner wall are magnificent too. The church is near the white street and the main market of Pondicherry.
12. Visit Popular Monuments and Memorials
Following statues and monuments and memorials you can visit during your trip.
French War Memorial
This is a small memorial at Promenade and dedicated to the French Indians militaries who lost their lives in the first world war while fighting for France. The memorial looks nice at night due to the excellent decoration of light.
Kargil War Memorial
This is another memorial at the same Promenade, which is dedicated to the great Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their motherland in Kargil war between India and Pakistan.
If you visit Bharati park in Pondicherry you can watch the Park monument.
Statue of Dupleix
In Promenade, you’ll see another statue of one of the former generals of the French army in India.
Saint Joan of Arc Statue
The statue of Joan of Arc is situated opposite to the Dumas church near Promenade. Joan of Arc is one of the nine secondary Patron Saints of France.
It is known that she joined the uncrowned king Charles VII to recover France from English after she got divine instruction. She was caught by the English and proved convicted in 1431, and the English army burned her alive when her age was only 19. Further, in re-trial after her execution, she was proved innocent and declared as a Martyr.
13. Visit Some Ancient and Modern Temples
You can visit the following temples in Pondicherry to explore the art and culture of ancient India.
Varadaraja Perumal Temple
This temple is located in the heritage township of Pondicherry and dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is believed, the temple was established in 11th century by Cholas. The architecture, painting, inner decoration, beautiful Lord Krishna and the calmness, everything is amazing here.
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple
The temple is situated near Aurobindo Ashram and dedicated to Lord Ganapathy (Vinayaka). This is relatively crowded, but beautiful too. An elephant will bless you before your entrance, just give him bananas.
Kanniga Parameswari Temple
The temple is located on M.G. Road and dedicated to Mahashakti goddess Durga (Kali).
Sri Karaneswara Nataraja Temple
An Egyptian pyramid-like structure provides an interesting look to this Lord Nataraja temple. It is located 10 km away from central Pondicherry on ECR Road. There is a small beach near the temple. there is no crowd, and thus the temple is peaceful and quiet.
14. Other Things to Do in Pondicherry
Visit Ousteri Lake
This a wetland near Pondicherry. You can enjoy 10 minutes boat ride and watch aquatic birds and lotus. If you are lucky enough, you can see birds like flamingo, pelicans, and storks in proper seasons.
This is another rocky beach and nice to spend time by walking and sitting. You’ll get fried fresh fishes in the nearby stalls. Auro beach is 1.5 km away from Serenity beach.
This is a well-maintained park near Rock beach and good enough for leisure time especially if you have children with you. The park is clean and calm.
Visit The Ganesh Garden
Here you can enjoy your relaxing time with loved ones in the lap of nature. The garden has been maintained very well by a French couple. Beautiful place!
ExperincePondicherry city bike tour
This a bicycle tour! Yup!
You must try the bicycle tour in Pondicherry, which explores amazing corners of Pondicherry within 2-3 hour; and of course, cycling in your trip must keep you healthy and help you to lose weight (If you wish to lose weight). During your cycle tour, your guide will explain the detailed history of all the visiting places. So, do not miss it.
Enjoy Scuba dive and other water sports
Maybe you have done scuba dive in past, or you haven’t done ever. You must experience the scuba dive in Pondicherry. They take you to the middle of the sea (7 km from the shore), and provide some wonderful experience with the marine life under the sea. In Pondicherry, scuba dives are relatively expensive than other parts of India, but still worthy. You must choose a proper scuba instructor team.
I have shared all my experiences which I earned during my Pondicherry trips. I tried to explain in-depth, all the best things to do in Pondicherry. I was feeling like, I have reached again to the places, while I was writing this article. I was missing all the beaches (especially Paradise Beach and Veerampattinam beach), the beautiful places I described, the amazing evening I chilled out with the cool breeze, stunning Auroville, everything. I am a bigger lover of nature rather than historical monuments or awesome architectures, but Matri Mondir in Auroville is something totally different, I am still stunned with its amazing architecture.
I shall be more than happy if this article become helpful to you (of course if you are planning to visit Pondicherry).
If you like the article, or you have some questions, or you wish to suggest something, then Please leave a comment in the comment box below. I shall get back to you at my earliest.
With my best regards,
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