Full of divergent spirit, outstanding architecture, and exclusive beauty, Pondicherry is one of the most favorite Indian destinations for foreigners and tasteful travelers. Exquisite cohabitation of a number of historical monuments, spiritual adheres, and nostalgic deep blue ocean offer you a lot of things to do in Pondicherry in an unalike manner.
In this travel story, I am introducing the most precious memories of my own Pondicherry trip that you may consider as a most extensive travel guide to Podicherry rather than a simple travel diary.
Introduction to Pondicherry
Wherever, I visit, I do a basic study on the climate and history of the place before and after visiting.
Pondicherry is a small international city, situated at the south-eastern coast of India, just beside the Bay of Bengal. If you hear about Puducherry on the internet, don’t be confused; Pondicherry is officially known as Puducherry, a district and capital of the 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 the temperature rises up to 42 °C.
Brief History of Pondicherry
Some historical signs proved the occurrence of a marketplace in Poduke (near Pondicherry) in the 1st century, which was known as the gateway for Roman trade with India. Also, there is evidence of Indian kingdoms (Pallava, Chola, Pandya) and Muslim kingdoms (Sultanate of Madurai and Sultan of Bijapur), who ruled Pondicherry from 4th to 16th century.
However, the expanded history of Pondicherry has been recorded after the initiation of French colonial powers in Pondicherry.
In 1674 French colonial power occupied Pondicherry and set up a trade center for the French East India Company. Further in 1693 Dutches captured the colony, but handed it over to the French in 1699. The French colony was stable up to the next 62 years, and in 1761 British Emperor of India captured Pondicherry, though returned to the French in 1765. Thereafter, Podicherry was ruled by the British emperor for a longer term (1793-1814) and again by the French people (1814-1954).
Finally in 1954 Pondicherry was handed over to Indian union.
Due to the long-term presence of French colonies, Pondicherry is well architected with historical French sculptures and monuments, which offer you the scope to explore years old history in addition to the heavenly beauty and charms of meditation of Pondicherry.
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Best Things to do in Pondicherry
As I mentioned, there are many things to do in Pondicherry that include beach visits, hide in nature, meditation, exploring local handicrafts and boutiques, shopping malls, churches, temples, enjoying water sports, bar time, and many more.
Let’s explore the must-visit places first.
1. Visit Paradise Beach
On the Bay of Bengal, isolated Paradise Beach is the topmost tourist attraction in Pondicherry; foreigners to Indians, almost no one can skip the call of Paradise on their Puducherry trip.
Not exactly an island, but it’s a beautiful delta at the estuary of Chunnambar backwaters (river), where you can reach after an exciting boating trip while watching the riverside greenery and variety of aquatic birds.
Once you reach the paradise beach, you’ll uncover a serene and photogenic place, well decorated with naturally shaped stones, tamarisk, and coconut trees. The ocean water looks absolutely blue from this beach, and it’s pretty clear where the waves thuds; you can enjoy an exciting sea bath in Paradise beach if you are carry swimming costumes or spare clothes with you. At the backend of the beach, there are some snack bars on the beach where you can spend some quality time with your friends and family.
2. See Sunrise from Rock Beach and Have Peaceful Walk
To prevent sea erosion, the bank of rock beach has been completely covered with a high boulders’ line, so definitely it’s not a place for enjoying the beach sand. But, you’ll find a unique space of relaxation here; the sound of waves onto the rock, the breeze from the ocean, the beachside road, years’ old french colony, exclusive cafeterias, everything offers the feeling of an international holiday destination.
In the early morning, here you can experience the stunning sight of sunrise from the horizon and can enjoy your pleasant morning walk along the beach road. The restriction of vehicles in this area from 6 PM to 7 AM keeps your peace alive in the early morning.
Although evening time is a bit crowded here, the charm of the evening in Rock Beach is something unexplainable. Sitting onto the boulders to chill out with the loved one or maybe even alone into the cool breeze while listening to the sound of the unstoppable waves thudding the rocks; overall, one of the top feelings I personally experience here during my Pondicherry trip.
If you love to hang out in the cafe, this is a great landmark for you, there are exclusive cafeterias and bars around. Additionally, you may have food variety and shopping options nearby Rock beach.
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3. 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 Rock beach.
In 1910 Sri Aurobindo (was a nationalist before) retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry with few of his followers. In Pondicherry, ‘The Mother’ (formerly known as Mirra Alfassa) became the biggest follower of Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual realizations. Although she had to leave India after the first world war, she returned back in 1920; in 1926 the Mother and the spiritual community formed the Aurobindo ashram to spread Sri Aurobindo’s major spiritual realization.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a place of feeling the divine; upon crossing the main entrance of the ashram, you’ll find a noise-free peaceful environment all around that keeps you completely isolated from the entire world.
Note: Spiritually is not for every age, even Sri Aurobindo achieved the spiritual feelings after a busy youth age; so, if you are not ready for spiritual moments, you may simply skip this place.
4. Walk within the French colony
Near the Rock beach and around Sri Aurobindo Ashram, you’ll find very clean streets, full of well-maintained white and yellow colored french style housings. Architectures of these years old housings are very different from the rest of India. Being the former French colony, the architecture of buildings in this area is very different from the rest of India.
You can walk through the streets after or before visiting Sri Aurobindo Ashram; then, you can follow the road beside the Rock beach to reach Promenade.
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5. Visit Veerampattinam Beach
This is one of the lovely beaches in Pondicherry, remains crowd-less most of the time due to being unknown to the common tourist, thus a perfect for spending one or two romantic hours in the lap of nature.
The beach is situated in Veerampattinam, a historical village near Puducherry. To reach there you need to follow Pondicherry-Cuddalore highway, the beach is located 7 km away from Pondicherry center. You may face difficulty locating the entrance but can find the way by asking local people.
After buying the ticket you’ll find a small park and a few broken old constructions around. Next, you’ll be passing through the rows of palm trees and a narrow path between stagged backwater on both sides, and finally, reach the lonely beach covered by green plants and golden sand.
You may see, few fishermen fishing to the backwater with thin one-man wooden boats, which is a pretty unconventional sight to the city residents.
Waves are not very rough on Veerampattinam Beach; you can soak your feet in the white wave, though sea bathing is not recommended as there is no coast guard. The place is absolutely serene and photogenic, especially when the indefinite shapes of white clouds form to cover the blue sky and reflect over the blue ocean, while the amazing breezy wind blows you out to a sea beach of dreamland.
6. Explore the Sign of Ancient History in Arikamedu
It is an exceptional experience to explore the history of 100 BC, uncovering the lost Indian city, Arikamedu.
Arikamedu or Poduke is known as the only Indian city having trade relations with the Romans. You’ll see broken monuments, thousands of years old buildings of the ancient international harbor of Poduke. The town was known to be inhabited by Cholas people and Roman traders. As per the archaeologists, wine was the major import, and textile, beads, gems, glass, shell bangles, etc. were major exports.
Presently the area has been owned by the Archaeological Survey of India but not maintained properly, resulting in the formation of the forest of Palm trees and mango trees around.
It is recommended to contact a proper guide before a visit there, otherwise, you cannot explore the place properly. Guides will take you to the place describing the proper history and sail you to the Aryankuppam river. The riverbank is naturally decorated with lush green mangrove forests. Experiencing the boat ride through the mangroves with the melodious song of unknown birds, it’s pretty exciting to any adventure lover.
Arikamedu day-trip is relatively less explored, but its one of the most refreshing things to do in Pondicherry trip.
7. Must Visit The Town of Unity, Auroville
The world-famous slogan for humanity and human unity attracts thousands of foreign delegates to Auroville.
In the search for ultimate human unity, the Mother invented the idea of a universal township where people from all nations and religions can leave together in a peaceful and progressive environment. Auroville is the realistic form of the Mother’s proposition. This is a small township situating close to Pondicherry city, populated with 2000+ people of around 50 nations.
The Matri Mandir resides at the center of the town is a major attraction to the tourists. But you can’t visit there so easily as you proceed through several steps and waits.
Firstly, you can’t visit there on the same day as you apply for entry; you need to wait for your slot. Secondly, they allow only 50 people at a time inside the Matri Mandir to keep the peaceful environment undisturbed.
Auroville’s township service bus will take you to Matri Mandir. Right from the fence, you can see the huge golden globe in the middle that is completely made of gold plates. Inside the globe, you can experience some stunning architecture of the glob (Matri Mandir); You’ll be directed upstairs in the dark meditation room equipped with a crystal globe at the center where you’ll learn how to meditate keeping pin-drop silence.
Auroville and Matri Mandir is a must-visit place in Pondicherry to experience peace and serenity, humanity, and world-class architecture.
8. Play with the Waves in Serenity Beach
Serenity beach is a fishing coast near Pondicherry, located beside the East Coast Road, just 6 km away from Pondicherry center. Not many people visit this beautiful beach and thus remain pretty crowd-free usually; The waves are relatively calm and good for taking a bath in the seawater. A part of the beach is occupied by the fishermen; in the morning session, you can see fishermen are accumulating on the beach having their catches before sending the fishes to market.
The beach is located outside the city; so it is strictly advised to visit there in the daytime – there no light and no security in the evening. Also, this beach is not recommended for sunbath and swim in shorter clothes, Paradise Beach is safer for such activities.
You can watch the sunrise here and then spend the morning session, swim in the sea. Instructors of AuroSwim (part of Auroville) often teach their students in Serenity beach.
9. See Seaside Promenade
This is a point residing at the end of Rock Beach, where 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.
You can cover this point when you visit Rock beach because Promenade is a part of Rock beach site seeing. In the evening, after visualizing the Mahatma Gandhi statue, you can chill into the cool breeze sitting on the rock, or you can hang out to the bar, cafeteria, or local shops.
10. 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.
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More Things You Can do in Pondicherry
The above list represents the top 10 things to do in Pondicherry. Anyone planning a short trip to Pondicherry, must not miss out the above places and activities. You can cover all the above points in 3 days.
In case, you are planning a longer trip in Pondicherry (4-6 days), there are several other places to visit for you.
11. Visit Churches
Due to the presence of French colonies for a long period in Pondicherry, the city got some beautiful churches in every corner. You can visit the top 3 churches as listed below.
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 offers an outstanding sight. Inside, you can see spectacular stained-glass art.
Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges
This church is located near Promenade; so, you can easily visit there on your trip to Rock beach. This one was architected by mimicking Notre Dame in Paris, though the color combination is different.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Blue sky behind the pure white architecture of this church explores the ultimate beauty on a sunny day. The architecture and painting of the inner wall are magnificent. The church is situated near 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 place 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 the Kargil war.
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 believed that she joined the uncrowned King Charles VII to recover France from English after she received instructions from the devine. 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 Ousteri Lake
This a wetland near Pondicherry. You can enjoy the 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.
14. Visit Auro Beach
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.
Other Things to do in Pondicherry
Pondicherry hosts plenty of places to see. Foreign travelers often stay their for several weeks to spend peaceful holidays and thus wish to explore every single corner of the Pondicherry. If you are looking to stay there for a longer time you have more places and activities to explore. following is a brief list of rest of things to do in Pondicherry.
15. 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.
16. Bharati Park
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.
17. 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!
18. ExperincePondicherry city bike tour
You must try the bicycle tour in Pondicherry. During your cycle tour, your guide will explain the detailed history of all the visiting places. So, do not miss it.
19. Enjoy Scuba dive and other water sports
Maybe you have done scuba dive in past, or you haven’t done you. Whatever it is, you can try Scuba dive in Pondicherry. They take you to the middle of the sea (7 km from the shore) to provide some wonderful experience in the marine life under the sea. In Pondicherry, Scuba dive is relatively expensive than in other parts of India, but still worth it. You must choose the right scuba instructor team.
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 falling down in Pondicherry, and rises again from mid-March. This full season is perfect for visiting Puducherry as the temperature never crosses the upper limit of 30 °C. Without some exceptional days at the end of December to early January, the 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 all the things to do in Pondicherry, comfortably.
April to June: It is the hottest season when humidity and temperature increase a lot, at least up to 40 °C. 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. Still, I don’t recommend visiting Pondicherry in the summer.
July to September: This is the rainy season in Pondicherry, and you cannot see the blue beauty, but can be a witness to the lush green landscape of the 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 choose a road trip.
Pondicherry domestic airport is located around 6 km away from the city center. This airport is connected to all megacities of India (Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad) but non-stop direct flights are available only from Bangalore and 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 about 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, and another time from Chennai.
If you are from an international destination, and willing to land at Chennai Airport, then, you can follow the Chennai – Pondicherry East Coast Road which is the shortest route (160 km). NH-32 (170 km) and NH-48 (204 km) are the other routes to reach Pondicherry.
Also, you’ll get buses to reach Pondicherry (Puducherry) from Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Trichy, Madurai, Mumbai, and other places.
Things to Do in Pondicherry: The Final Words
I have shared all my experiences about Pondicherry covering the best things to do in Pondicherry. To be honest, When I was writing this article, I was missing all beaches and beautiful places, the amazing evenings in Rock beach, stunning Auroville, in fact, everything in Pondicherry.
I shall be more than happy if this article becomes helpful to you, especially in planning your own Pondicherry trip.
If you have some questions leave your query in the comment box below, I shall get back to you to help you. If you like the article, social sharing would be highly appreciated.