“Give Time a break…..Pondicherry” , the tag line one will see at many prominent locations in Pondicherry.
Pondicherry or Puducherry, is one of the Union Territories of India, and was under French rule till 1954. It’s also known as “The French Riviera of the East”, the French influence can be prominently felt in Pondicherry. The French part of town showcases the colonial style houses, café’s & restaurants, French street names and much more. Pondicherry houses “Sri Aurobindo Ashram”, well known internationally for yoga, meditation and spirituality.
Pondicherry is well connected by road and rail. Nearest airport is in Chennai, which is about 150km.
I visited Pondicherry few days ago, my list of ‘Things to Do’ is as follows:
- Sri Aurobindo Ashram: Visit to Pondicherry is not complete unless you visit the ashram. Located in White Town, the ashram offers serene, quiet and peaceful environment to visitors who seek spiritual retreat. If you want to stay at the ashram, I would recommend to book well in advance as the cottages are limited. There are few areas of ashram where visitor pass is required, and can be obtained from office/authorities. Phones, photography and children under the certain age are not allowed inside the ashram for obvious reasons.
- Eglise de Norte Dame des Anges: Situated near the ashram in White Town, painted in pink with golden pillars, the church is a wonderful example of French architect. Overlooking Bay of Bengal, the church was built in 1855. From outside to inside, the church is beautiful and visitors are sure get immersed in admiring this wonderful church for hours. The mass is held every Sunday in three languages, English, Tamil and French.
- Beach Road: The road stretches from one end of the French area to other along the coast, offering panoramic view of Bay of Bengal. The beach road can be considered as mini version of Marine drive of Mumbai. The street is vehicle free from 6:00pm to 7:30am. Plenty of parking available on the streets connecting to beach road. Various tourist spots can be explored from this road including Old Light House, Gandhi Statue, Rock Beach and Duplex Statue. Numerous cafes, heritage buildings turned into hotels and government offices are situated on this road. “Le Café” is only restaurant situated on the beach side, and in my view, it’s a must visit place for breakfast or meal at any time of the day.
- Bharathi Park: The park is situated in White Town, offers lush green and well-manicured landscapes. This is the good park to spend some time away from hustle and bustle of main beach road, but if one is pressed on time this can be skipped.
- Paradise Beach: A boat ride away from Chynnambar boat house, paradise beach offers sandy beaches, restaurant and recreation facilities. Swimming is only allowed close to shore in designated areas due to high tides. The beach is clean and good to spend 2-3 hours, if not more. There are not enough covered places on the beach, remember to pack your brollies to save yourself from direct sunlight. The beach is only accessible from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
- Serenity Beach: Unlike other beaches in Pondicherry, this beach is shallow and surrounded by rocky walls. It is a good place to catch the sunrise over Bay of Bengal, have a dip or just chill. The drawback of the beach, there are no changing facilities available.
- Auroville: 10Km north of Pondicherry, the town of Auroville is conceptual town, came into existence to experiment human unity. The town is concerned with practically researching into sustainable living, future cultural, environmental social and spiritual needs of mankind.
- French Quarter and Streets: I had great time exploring the French quarter, streets and various eating places in town. I would recommend to do the same, walk or ride in all streets in the area, never know where you’ll find something to make your visit to Pondicherry – worthwhile.
Although the French area of Pondicherry is best to be explored on foot or by cycle, I ended up renting a scooter. Renting a scooter was easy and it helped me to discover areas which were not in walking or cycling reach. There are various vendors in the city to rent a scooter from, and one can pick a deal ranging from 300Rs to 800Rs for per day, depending on type of scooter.