"The French Riviera of the East"
A love child of the French and Indian cultures, Pondicherry, officially known as Puducherry, and commonly referred to as just Pondy, is a beach-side union territory located in Tamil Nadu. Previously until 1954, Pondicherry was French settlement. Now the old Bouganvellia-draped French-style houses, churches and even the newly built French-style shops, bright coloured cafes and restaurants give Pondicherry an exotic character to it.
This French capital of India will definitely make you feel like you are someplace out of India when you visit places like the Rock Beach, Pondicherry Beach, Serenity Beach or the Botanical Gardens. And the best place to see Pondicherry with the same notion is to visit Auroville and Sri Aurobindo Ashram where people from all over the world come to seek spirituality through yoga and meditation.
Pondicherry is such a place, which will never cease to surprise you with its unique style. There are several cafes and restaurants that serve impeccable French cuisine along with some lip-smacking international cuisines as well. As a popular beach-town, Pondicherry also offers you with the amazing nightlife through numerous clubs and beach-parties offering great music and delicious cocktails. There is so much to do and explore here, that you will not want to go back and experience more and more of this quaint French town of India.
Places to visit in Pondicherry
1. Paradise Beach
Located at Chunnambar along the Cuddalore road, Paradise Beach is one of the spectacular Places to visit in Pondicherry. A ferry ride from Chunnambar takes you to this pristine beach that fascinates every traveller with its blue waters, white and golden soft beach sand and tranquil environ. The picturesque beach has pre-built shacks to lounge below, decent changing rooms, showers, and clean toilets.
2. Sri Aurobindo Ashram
One of the most peaceful and spiritual Tourist Places in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry is sprawling and has libraries. It hosts many physical education activities such as sports, asanas, strength training, and swimming. At the centre of the ashram is the Samadhi or mausoleum of Sri Aurobindo under a frangipani tree. If you have an inclination towards spirituality, yoga, and meditation, this ashram is one of the best places to visit in Pondicherry to find your inner self.
Coveted as the “City of Dawn”, Auroville Ashram is a futuristic township that is the brainchild of the Mother, the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo. Auroville aims to unite humans from all walks of life and from all parts of the world against barriers like caste, creed, status, and religion and to let them live in harmony with one another and it is one of the best places to visit in Pondicherry. The huge golden globe-like structure at the center of Auroville is the Matrimandir, which is actually a massive meditation center where one could just sit and focus on one's inner self. While building this township, soil from 124 countries was brought to the ashram and were put together in an urn and mixed. Today, one can find the urn in the amphitheater amidst Matrimandir Gardens.
Pondicherry has a naturally formed rocky promenade that has become one of the most sought-after places to visit in Pondicherry by photographers. This naturally scenic place with refreshing cool sea-breeze is perfect for long strolls and fun-filled gala time with your loved ones. There are several restaurants around this posh area offering a culinary feast. You can also find hawkers selling peanuts and cotton candies by the promenade. If one picture has to mark your presence in Pondicherry, then a picture at the Promenade Pondicherry does the job perfectly well!
5. Serenity Beach
For those looking for a day filled with tranquillity, Serenity beach is a mesmerizing visit in Pondicherry sightseeing for all the tourists. It boasts of the resplendent beauty of nature with its golden sands and blue waters that greet the visitors with a panoramic view.
The beautiful beach offers surfing and serves a great spot to laze around under the shade with your book or just enjoy the company of your loved ones with a refreshing day in Pondicherry.
If you are a history buff then you must not forget to add this destination in your list of places to visit in Pondicherry. Dive deep into the history with this archaeological site of South India, Arikamedu. It was built back in the 19th century and is adorned with Roman lamps, glassware, stone beads, and several other things and it is one of the less explored places to visit in Pondicherry.
7. Auroville Beach
Tucked neatly in the corner of a forest, Auroville beach is the perfect definition of serene and exotic. The beach is a favorite amongst surfers and its shallow waters make it perfect even for beginners. The beach is often used by ashramites for relaxing, thus further enhancing the calming atmosphere. If you are looking for a soulful escapade then this is the right place for you.
8. Chunnambar Boathouse
Also known as "Plage Paradiso", Chunnambar Boathouse is a spectacular boating and picnic spot located on the backwaters where the Chunnambar River meets the Bay of Bengal. At Chunnambar, you can sun lounge and get sun-kissed and even play beach sports with your family and friends and one of the famous places to visit in Pondicherry. You can also enjoy boating in motorboats, speed boats, sailboats, rowed boats, water scooters, paddled boats, and pedalled boats and sail through the placid backwaters amidst thick mangrove trees.
9. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Offering prayers to the Almighty, devotees congregate here at this revered place of worship known for having the glass pictures of 28 saints and many glass panels depict the life of Jesus adding to the interesting sights of this church in Pondicherry.
10. The Pondicherry Botanical Garden
Spread across 22 acres of land, this lush green garden was built by the French colonists who brought exotic plant species from all across the globe and nurtured them here. Today, the garden boasts of 1500 species of plants and there are placards that indicate the species' names and their common name.
11. Old Lighthouse
Built in the 19th century by the erstwhile French rulers in Pondicherry, the old lighthouse is one of the most important historical places to visit in Pondicherry. It once offered the only light for guiding the ships in the sea across the Red Hills and today stands as an integral reminder of engineering and architecture.
12. French War Memorial
Located at Goubert Avenue, The French War Memorial is one of the major historical places to visit in Pondicherry. The memorial was built as a homage to the valiant soldiers who laid their lives to rest during the World War I. On 14th July every year, on the occasion of Bastille Day (French National Day), the memorial is decorated with lights and locals and tourists gather here to pay their respect. The memorial is truly an architectural magnificence and stands tall telling untold stories of the war.
13. The Pondicherry Museum
This art and history museum in Pondicherry has an enviable collection of 81 intricately carved bronze sculptures from the Chola empire. Apart from the bronze statues collected from the Chola and Pallava dynasties, the museum also houses artefacts from the archaeological excavations at Arikamedu that takes one on time travel to centuries before.
While most Pondicherry famous places are open all through the week, the museum is closed on all Mondays.
14. Rock Beach
The Rock beach with golden sands in one of the topmost photogenic Pondicherry sightseeing places with friends and family. The beach is well-kept and spectacular that you can spend hours gazing at the beautiful sight of the undulating waves touching the rocky shores. You can also walk along the long stretch of the beach breathing in the fresh ocean air.
15. Park Monument (Aayi Mandapam)
The Park Monument or the Aayi Mandapam is one of the interesting Pondicherry tourist places that has a beautiful history to it. A woman named Aayi gave her own house to erect a water reservoir to supply water for the city. Today, the Park Monument stands tall in the middle of the Bharati Government Park. This reservoir was built during the time of Napoleon III, a French Emperor, and this white monument has become one of the iconic structures of Pondicherry.
16. Ousteri Lake
Ousteri Lake is a gorgeous tourist spot among places to see in Pondicherry for boating and appreciating the beauty of nature. This important freshwater lake is recognised as an IUCN designated wetland and a source of many beautiful migratory birds who flock here. It is frequented by visitors for many reasons be it grabbing a bite at its various restaurants, enjoy riding on a boat or just enjoy the sunset while sipping your coffee.
17. Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges
Exuberating beautiful influences of French architecture, Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges is one of the most religious places to visit in Pondicherry. The church has a gorgeous white chapel and is known for its statue of Mother Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms.
18. Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Also known as ‘samba kovil’, Immaculate Conception Cathedral is a beautiful church and one of the oldest tourist places in the city of Pondicherry. It is a reminder of Portuguese styled churches of Goa and known as the mother church for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore.
19. Varadaraja Perumal Temple
This well known Vaishnavite temple is a notable temple built in the Dravidian style of architecture in Pondicherry. Built by the Cholas and later expanded by the Pandyas, VaradarajaPerumal Temple is famous for its five tieredrajagopuram and the enchanting idol of Lord Vishnu that stands in sanctum of the temple. The temple looks the most beautiful when it is decorated during the festivals of Diwali, Pongal and Tamil New Year.
20. Cluny Embroidery Centre
Along with appreciating the brilliant work done at this heritage French bungalow, Cluny Embroidery Centre offers many shopping opportunities for tourists. It is one of the most interesting places, where you can see underprivileged women working wonders with their hand stitched designs. The workshop is run by a local convent and offers some of the most stunning vintage handicrafts not found anywhere else in Pondicherry.
21. Manakula Vinayagar Temple
Manakula Vinayagar Temple is one of the very ancient Hindu temples in India that is believed to be built before the 15th century. Manakulam translates to "sand pond" in Tamil and this temple is dedicated to Bhavaneshar Ganapathy (Ganesha). The temple is built in the royal Tamilian style of temples with a sprawling mandapam, raja gopuram and praharam and the walls have astounding paintings of events from Hindu mythology. The chariot at this temple is the key attraction here which is made from 7.5 kg of gold and teak wood. Visit this temple during the Vijayadasami day of Dussehra when the Lord is carried out on this richly ornate chariot for people to witness.
22. Kanniga Parameswari Temple
Dedicated to the Goddess Shakti, KannigaParameswari Temple is known for seamlessly amalgamating the French style with traditional Deccan architecture. This spiritually notable temple draws in a number of tourists who come here to seek the blessings of the goddess on important occasions like festivals, marriages etc.
23. Ousteri Wetland and National Park
One of the most fantastic Pondicherry sightseeing is the Ousteri Wetland and National Park that features a hundred-year-old man-made lake. The park showcases a wide collection of flora and fauna, several migratory birds flock here and that is a true delight to the eyes.
At this time, Whether you are a nature buff or a bird lover, this is the perfect place for you.
24. Sri Karaneswara Nataraja Temple
Based on the structure of Great Pyramids of Giza, Sri Karaneswara Nataraja Temple is a prominent temple in Pondicherry tourist places dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple complex has three paths for pradakshina according to Indian traditions and certainly a sight to behold for both the devotees and tourists. The unique temple is oriented towards north while the entrance faces south as the Indian tradition considers Shiva as the Teacher of the South.
25. Pudukuppam Beach
Arched with the trails of coconut trees and sparkling golden sands, Pudukuppam Beach is one of the most serene tourist places in Pondicherry. With the laid back vibes of the beach, you can soothe your soul.
26. Goubert Market
Another one in the array of Tourist Places in Pondicherry is the Goubert Market that is located on the edge of the French Quarter of Vellala Street. The market is dotted with a number of vegetables, fish, and grocery shops. Apart from this, here you can also find shops brimming with leather goods, intricate jewelry, and trendy apparel that will make you awe-struck. Get your shopping bags and explore the streets of the Goubert market of Pondicherry!
27. Statue of Dupleix
Situated at the end of the Rock Beach, this statue was built in 1870 to honour the French governor Dupleix who ruled Pondicherry up to the year 1754. About 3 metres in height, this statue located in Goubert Avenue is made of granite and symbolises the legacy of French colonial rule over Pondicherry.
28. Scuba Diving in Pondicherry
Pondicherry offers an amazing adventure of scuba diving off the country's East Coast. A dive into the sea will let you explore the rich life comprising of beautiful natural coral reefs and other exotic creatures such as manta rays, kingfish, sea snakes, lionfish, butterflies, crustaceans, moray eels and many more. Apart from that, if it is your lucky day you might even spot whale sharks, even sharks, dolphins and turtles. You also have an option of enjoying the dive at an artificial reef and experience the thrill of the activity making Pondicherry an irresistible diving destination.
29. Jawahar Toy Museum
An ideal place for kids, Jawahar Toy Museum is a well maintained place situated at the old light house building near Gandhi Maidan. The museum houses a wide range of dolls and toys collected from all over the country.
30. Veerampattinam Beach
Located on the outskirts of Pondicherry in the largest coastal village called Veerampattinam, Veerampattinam Beach has an extensive coastline and is counted among the most beautiful beaches of the tinsel town. Since the beach is little known, tourist inflow is minimum and the beach boasts of golden sands and pollution free environs.
31. Meeran Mosque
One of the most revered religious spot by Muslims; Meeran Mosque was built about three hundred and fifty years ago. In fact, it serves as the oldest mosque in Pondicherry with a distinct type of architecture.
Water Sports in Pondicherry
With a unique, peaceful coastal beauty to it, Pondicherry is quickly becoming every beach lovers' favourite hideout. A number of water sports options along its white sandy beaches are another reason for travellers to love Pondy, as it is lovingly known.
The union territory of Pondicherry constitutes four coastal provinces spread across three Indian states: Yanam (in Andhra Pradesh), Pondicherry city, Karaikal (both situated on eastern coasts of Tamil Nadu) and Mahe (located across the western coasts of Kerala). With its offerings of not only multiple water sports activities like scuba diving, parasailing, banana boat rides etc, but also its unique cultural traits, excellent food varieties and innumerable sightseeing options, Pondicherry is a true delight to travelers who long for an off-beat travel experience.
Activities offered : Jet Skiing, Parasailing, Banana Boat ride
How to Reach Pondicherry
Located in South India, Pondicherry is very well connected to the rest of the country and most major cities in the world via a good air, rail and road network. The nearest airport is in Chennai- at a distance of 125 kms and the nearest railway station is at Villupuram Railway Junction which is 37 kms from Pondicherry respectively.
What is the best time to visit Pondicherry?
The best time to visit Pondicherry is from October to March as the weather during these months is pleasant for sightseeing. The temperature during this time usually ranges between 15 - 30 degrees Celcius. Summers (April-June) in Pondicherry are quite hot and the temperature touches 40 degrees Celsius. Monsoons (July-September) is a slightly better time to visit Pondicherry despite the rainfalls. Having said that, the best time to visit Pondicherry varies from person to person as the place transforms itself every season and celebrates a range of festivals which interest a lot of tourists.
Food of Pondicherry
The food in Pondicherry is outlined with a dominant influence of the French cuisine, especially in its elements and styles. A lot of restaurants serve authentic French food - definitely the best place in India for French cuisine. Some of the popular items here are Baguettes, Croissants, Italian Baked Beans, Stuffed Cabbage and many more.
The Union Territory also derives flavours from the neighbouring South Indian states and you can find countless South Indian preparations (especially Tamil) in the city.
Your trip to Pondicherry must include visits to religious sites like Aurobindo Ashram, dedicated to the spiritual leader Sri Aurobindo, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple and Chidambaram. Memorialising the city's past are various museums like the Pondicherry Museum that houses remain from Arikamedu, the French War Memorial commemorating those who died during World War One and Jawahar Toy Museum.
Don't forget to explore the city's greenery at Ganesh Garden, Bharathi Park, Ousteri Wetland, National Park, and Botanical Garden and taste delicious French food at La Maison Rose and Café de Flore. Clubbed together with Pondicherry are destinations like Chennai, Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari. Formerly called Madras, Chennai is Tamil Nadu's capital and a city to visit for its gorgeous temples, beaches, churches, Fort St George, museums etc.