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Pondicherry Travel Guide

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Aug 30, 2015.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    There's a little piece of France in India and that's Pondicherry, or more popularly just 'Pondy', for you - which has recently been rechristened as Puducherry. Currently a union territory of India, Pondicherry is a town tucked away along the Eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal. This popular beach destination used to be under the French colonial rule until 1954 and the town still resembles French subcontinental aesthetics.

    The sun kissed beaches are the main attractions at Pondicherry. "The French Riviera of the East" - as Pondy is commonly known as, is home to some fantastic beaches that can mesmerize the tourists.

    Besides, it is also an abode of spirituality with the presence of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville. While a stroll along the Promenade (Beach Road), especially during the sunrise and sunset, can render a heavenly feeling, a quiet evening spent at the Auroville can bring in a sense of spiritual enlightenment. The French connection and delicious continental foods are added bonus. All in all, Pondicherry is much more than just a typical holiday destination. It offers an excellent blend of new-age cum old-world charm that's sure to fascinate you.

    Did You Know? Even after India's independence in 1947, Pondicherry continued to be under the French control. It's in 1954 that the town was finally incorporated in to the Indian Union.

    Local Language

    Tamil is the main language spoken in Pondicherry, though French too is equally popular. Educated people can fluently converse in English and quite a few understand Hindi as well. Telegu comes next followed by Malayalam in the list of most widely spoken languages in Pondicherry.

    Pondicherry Climate and the Best Season to Travel

    Pondicherry exhibits a hot and humid climate throughout the year. The mercury level scorches upwards and hovers around the range of 35 degrees to 42 degrees in summer days with humidity going past the 90% mark. The monsoon climate is usually mild but one can expect torrential downpour during this time of the year.

    The northeast monsoon sets in during the end of September, and Pondicherry gets the bulk of its annual rainfall during the period from October to December. So make sure to carry your rain-gears if you are planning for a Pondy trip after September.

    The winter brings a little respite after the monsoon days. So the period from the end of December to February is considered to be the best time to visit Pondicherry. The weather remains somewhat pleasant in March-April as well.

    Getting There

    By Road:

    Pondicherry has well connected road network from all directions. Towards the Northern side, Chennai is situated 155 KM away through the East Coast Road (ECR). It's a very scenic drive along the Coromendal coast. If you are coming by your own vehicle or a private taxi, it should not take more than three hours' to arrive at Pondy from Chennai. Both TNSTC and private buses are available from CMBT in Koyambedu or you can also hop on to one either from Thiruvanmiyur or Guindy. Bus journey usually takes another half-an-hour extra.

    The other route that can be taken to reach Pondy is through the famous Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road via Tambaram and Tindivanam. It's a bit longer and you will have to travel for around 170 KM.

    Route-1 From Chennai - ECR (155 KM): Chennai - Thiruvidandhai - Mahabalipuram - Kalpakkam - Pudupattinam - Marakkanam - Kalapet - Pondicherry.

    Route-2 From Chennai GST Road (170 KM): Chennai - Tambaram - Madhurantakam - Melmaruvathur - Tindivanam - Pondicherry.

    If you are coming from the Bangalore side, the distance is almost double. Pondicherry is located 320 KM away from Bangalore, but the NH7 and NH66 are in supreme condition; so you can reach Pondy in flat 6 hours' time. Plenty of puses are also available from Bangalore. KSRTC, SETC and PTC are the major bus operators in this route.

    And yes, don't forget to check out the historical Gingee Fort, which falls on the way to Pondy from Bangalore. An Archealogical Survey of India (ASI) Heritage site, it is definitely worthy of a visit.

    Route From Bangalore NH7 && NH66 (320 KM): Bangalore - Hosur - Krishnagiri - Uthangarai - Chengam - Tiruvannamalai - Gingee - Tindivanam - Pondicherry.

    Besides Chennai and Bangalore, Pondicherry is also well connected to the major TN towns including Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Coimbatore, Salem, Karaikal, and Velankanni by NH45A and NH68.

    By Rail:

    Pondicherry railway station has daily train service operating from Chennai, Bangalore (Yesvanthapur) and Tirupati. Besides, there is also a weekly express train to Bhubaneshwar. While train journey is no doubt more comfortable, when you compare the travel time, then the road journey is far shorter.

    By Air:

    Pondicherry does have an airport, but after the unfortunate withdrawal of operations by SpiceJet, flights to Pondy are very few and far between. Air travel is not a recommended travel mode to Pondicherry - unless of-course you own a personal/chartered aircraft.

    Getting Around

    Like many other Indian towns, auto dominates the scene here. Metered auto is hardly available and tourists often have to bargain hard to travel around the town economically.

    Younger folks prefer to rent out two-wheelers. From pedal bicycle to gearless scooty to motorbike - you have several options to choose from. A bicycle can be rented for as little as INR 50. Scooty is available at a daily rental of INR 250-300, while motorcycles are priced in the range of INR 400 to INR 750 depending on the make and model. You will need to provide an identification document in original and deposit INR 500 as the refundable security. Renting a two-wheeler can turn out to be much cheaper compared to hiring auto-rickshaws.

    Last but not the least, the Pondicherry Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has introduced daily bus service for the tourists which covers all the important tourist attractions in Pondicherry. This is by far the cheapest mode of local trasport.

    Pondicherry Tourist Attractions

    Sri Aurobindo Ashram:

    Founded by Rishi Aurobindo and Mother Mirra Alfassa in 1926, Aurobindo Ashram has been synonymous with Pondicherry ever since. The Ashram is a spiritual center for the practice of Integral Yoga. It is one of the major highlights of Pondicherry for the tourists. People, not only from India, but from all over the world, visit Aurobindo Ashram in search of spiritual consciousness.

    The ashram also has the Samadhi (tomb) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The Samadhi enclosure, characterized by the pin-drop silence, is an excellent place to meditate and pray. There is also a library with a rich collection of books on meditation, spirituality and history. The Ashram is open to visitors from 8 AM to 12 Noon and then again from 2 PM to 6 PM everyday.


    Mirra Alfassa, also known as ‘the Mother’, founded Auroville in 1968 as an experimental universal township. Designed by famous architect Roger Anger, Auroville is a must-visit attraction in Pondicherry where people from different countries, cultures and beliefs live together in complete harmony.

    One of the major highlights of Auroville is the Matri Mandir, a huge lotus-shaped dome structure which holds great significance to the Integral Yoga practitioners. The spherical dome covered with golden discs that reflect sunlight.

    Concentration sessions (meditation) are also conducted at the Matri Mandir but prior appointment is a must. First time visitors are offered a guided tour of the Matri Mandir to make them aware of its history, objective and importance.

    Sacred Heart Church:

    Sacred Heart Church, noted for its splendid Gothic architecture, sports a very distinctive brown and white painted exterior. It is located in the vicinity of Pondicherry railway station. Constructed in the 18th Century, the highlight of this church is the stained glass windows depicting various events from the life of Jesus Christ. This gigantic structure is one of the most famous churches not only in Pondicherry, but also in the entire South Indian region. It is definitely worth paying a visit here.


    Standing tall with a height of 29 meters, the lighthouse was constructed in the year 1836 and attracts tourists of all ages. Although it is not use as of today, but still it remains one of prized possessions of Pondicherry and its residents.

    Botanical Garden:

    This Pondicherry Botanical Garden, which was designed by G.S. Perrorret in the year 1826, lies in the South-West part of the town. It is an example of French gardening styles with clipped trees, flower beds, gravel walks and fountains. With over 1500 species of plant saplings, the garden has a wealthy and diverse collection of flora from many parts of India and from abroad as well. There is also a Japanese Garden inside the main area. Not to forget the toy train ride which is bound to bring a bundle of joy if you are travelling with kids.

    French War Memorial:

    The stylish French War Memorial, located in the Goubert Avenue, was constructed in honor of the soldiers who had lost their lives in the First World War. Annual commemoration is celebrated every year on 14th July - the Bastille Day. On that day, the memorial gets illuminated beautifully.

    Ousteri Lake:

    Ousteri or Osudu Lake is a picturesque attraction at the distance of 8 KM from Pondicherry town. It has been declared as a bird sanctuary, besides being the largest lake in Pondicherry. The lake also offers boating facility. You can hire a boat and go on a clicking spree to capture the diversified winged visitors. Openbill Stork, Painted Stork, White Ibis, Golden Oriole, Spotted Owlets and Tailor Birds are some of the bird species that can be spotted here. There is a nice little children's park as well.

    Church of Our Lady of Angels:

    A replica of the famous Basilica at Lourdes Church located in Southern France, Church of Our Lady of Angels was built by French Missionaries in 1865. Situated by the sea front, a statue of Joan of Arc on the backdrop of the Bay of Bengal greets you as you enter its premises. In front of the church is a statue of Mary with infant Jesus in her arms. The most notable artifact on display at the church is an oil painting that was presented by Napolean.


    More than 2000 years ago, it used to be a bustling Indo-Roman trade centre. Excavations at this site have brought out Roman coins, wine jars and megalithic burial urns of Roman origin. You will also bump across the remains of an 18th century French Jesuit Mission here. Arikamedu is a must visit place for the history and archeology enthusiasts.

    Beaches at Pondicherry


    Gouvert Avenue or more popularly the Promenade is a wide pavement for morning and evening walkers along the stretch of a rocky beach that runs for 1.5 KM. Just before sunset, it comes to life with the presence of tourists. There's a statue of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by eight high pillars at one end as a mark of respect to Father of Nation. The street has a number of road-side food joints, peddlers selling colorful beads and a couple of sea facing restaurants.

    Sipping on a cup of hot 'chai' facing the relentless waves of a wild Bay of Bengal can be a memory that remains etched in to the visitors' memory forever.

    Auroville Beach:

    Popularly known as the Auro Beach, it lies at the distance of around 12 KM from the city center along the East Coast Road. Auro Beach is ideal for catching breathtaking views of sunrise and sunset. You can also take a dip in the shallow water or laze around in the golden sand. This beach is known for the shell fragments and 'kowri' disposed off at the shore by the gentle waves. Collecting sea-shells of different colors and shapes can be an engaging activity for the kids.

    Serenity Beach:

    Located on the Northern side of the town, the distinct crystal-blue waters at the Serenity Beach attract huge number of tourists. Bordered by a groove of palm trees, it's just the perfect place to unwind. An evening stroll on the golden sands with your loved ones can remain engraved in the memory for a long time.
    It also offers several water sports activities to the adventure enthusiasts. Tourists can indulge in boating, canoeing and kayaking or even go on a ferry ride in a catamaran. Beach volleyball can be another exciting prospect.

    Paradise Beach & Chunnambar Backwaters:

    By far the most exotic beach in Pondicherry, the Paradise Beach is a long stretch of sandy beach with palm trees lined up on the shore to provide you cool shades. The beach can only be accessed by a 30-minutes ferry ride through the Chunnambar Backwaters and there is no human inhabitants on the beach. That's one reason why it is not littered by the human population. As a result, it managed to retain its unspoiled characteristic. The ferry ride through the backwaters is as exciting as the beach itself.

    Karaikal Beach:

    The highlight of Karaikal beach is the confluence of Arasalar River. It's a magnificent sight to see the river stretching out to merge with the Bay of Bengal. Tourists can hire a boat from the Arasalar jetty to take a ride till the point of convergence. There is also a Children's Park with lots of exciting rides.

    Where to Stay?

    HotelLocationMinimum TariffContact
    R.M. Guest HouseECR RoadINR 700(+91) 97904 53546
    Beach View ResortSerenity BeachINR 750(+91) 97906 18579
    Raj ResidencyNew Bus Stand, PondicherryINR 950(+91) 4132 202 201
    Pondicherry Executive InnPerumal Koil StreetINR 1200(+91) 4132 224 422
    MGR RegencyECR Main RoadINR 1500(+91) 4132 257 871
    Lotus Bay View HotelBeach RoadINR 1800(+91) 4132 228 333
    Ginger Hotel PondicherryOulgaretINR 2000(+91) 4136 663 333
    Hotel Sun ParkRangapillai StreetINR 2500(+91) 4132 349 700
    Le Royal ParkKamraj SalaiINR 3000(+91) 4132 231 500
    Accord PuducherryTilagar Nagar, INR 3500(+91) 4132 299 000
    So how about a Tour de Pondy in the coming winter? Rest assured, few serene beaches, little spiritual awakening, various continental cuisines, some fine wine and a great adventure await you there. When you tour Pondicherry, brace yourself for a rejuvenating holiday amid a tranquil ambiance.


  2. TyCole8

    TyCole8 New Member

    Wow! Thank you so much for all of these helpful suggestions and links. Have you personally been to any of the Pondicherry attractions you recommended? If so, I would love to have any insight you could offer. Seeing the tourist highlights and attractions of a city are essential for capturing the main picture, however, I would also love to delve into some of the city’s lesser known gems. Are there any spots within the local community that allows a deeper understanding to the true flavor of the city? Is there a specific hotel that has less commercial influence, and therefore provides a further glimpse into what life as a local is like?