Things to do in Pondicherry – A Complete Travel Guide

Table of Contents

  1. About Pondicherry
  2. Things to do in Pondicherry
  3. How to Plan a trip to Pondicherry
  4. Places to stay in Pondicherry

About Pondicherry

Pondicherry

Pondicherry, also known as Paris of the East is the most visited, most popular, and one of the most scenic beach retreats near the metro city of Chennai. Whether you are looking for a quick weekend getaway or an elaborate beach vacation, Pondicherry is the answer to all your travel needs. The peaceful, old French town is blended with colonial heritage, millennial trappings, and the pristine beauty of the expansive bay and sparkling shores. Somewhere between the colonial French influence and the quirks of modern civilization, the quaint coastal town of Pondicherry is trapped.

Geography

Pondicherry is located at a distance of 166.4KM from the nearest metro city of Chennai. The beach town is bordered by the Bay of Bengal on the east, and the Arcot district of Tamil Nadu on the other three sides. The town spreads across an area of 429 sq. km. and is divided into two sections by a canal. The total population of Pondicherry, as last recorded in 2011, was at 1,244, 464.

[Also Read: Indianized France – The Pondicherry Affair]

History

Pondicherry French Colony

Pondicherry tourism rides a lot on the region’s history and cultural heritage.

The name of the territory is derived from the Tamil words putu or new, and Ceri or village, which, after corruption in the French language, became Pondichery or anglicized to Pondicherry.

It is believed that this entire region was a part of the Pallava Kingdom in the 4th century, followed by the Cholas of Thanjavur, then Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire, and the Sultan of Bijapur, until the French East India Company colonized it in 1674. The recorded history of Pondicherry city dates back to the time of Dutch, Portuguese, British, and French colonization. But there has been evidence of pre-colonial occupation around the city of Pondicherry. Poduca or Poduke was a Roman trading destination in the 3rd century BCE. Translated as a “marketplace”, the site is now identified as Arikamedu, located 3.2 KM from the main city.

Things to do in Pondicherry

Pondicherry attractions are not limited to the things you see but the things you also do. Besides visiting all the famous places, you can try these interesting things in the French beach town –

  • Explore the exotic avifauna at Osudu Lake. The huge lake not only offers amazing views but also exposes you to the natural beauty of Pondicherry. The freshwater lake and its mudflats are breeding grounds of both resident and migratory birds, which you can spot in the winter months.
  • If you want to roam, without an agenda, then take a bicycle ride through the town. It’s a great way to see the nooks and crannies of Pondicherry, passing through the quaint French town or the colourful Tamil quarters, markets, and promenades.
  • Try out all kinds of water sports. Karaikal Beach offers all sorts of beach adventures, like boating, kayaking, jet-skiing, parasailing and backwater rides. This beach, in particular, is the best to catch the breathtaking views of the sunset and walk along the golden sandy beach. You can also opt for a ride on a traditional sailboat or a fancy yacht. Fitted with all comforts and luxury amenities, these yacht rides are pure indulgences on the sea.
  • Pondicherry is home to hundreds of cottage industries from hand-made soaps, aromatic candles, paper products, incense and essential oils and artefacts. Visit the Cluny Embroidery Center, where you can find skilful artisans doing hand embroidery.
  • Don’t miss a SCUBA trip. Pondicherry is the only place on the Eastern Coast that offers SCUBA diving options. The guided Scuba sessions take you through the coral reefs and the underwater world and offer you an experience of a lifetime.

Places to visit in Pondicherry

French War Memorial
French War Memorial

Pondicherry sightseeing is an experience in itself. With a rich legacy of culture and heritage, there are a host of Pondicherry tourist places that travellers fall in love with. Check out some of these best places to see in Pondicherry on your trip –

  • Promenade Beach – One of the best places to visit in Pondicherry, this is the main beachside promenade of the town. Dotted with boutique stores, restaurants and cafes, this strip of the road offers great views of the bay and is popular among tourists and locals alike.
  • Sri Aurobindo Ashram – A spiritual centre and memorial of the historical preacher and yogi, Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, this ashram commemorates his teachings, philosophies, and showcases his work.
  • Rock Beach – This bustling urban beach is a local hotspot, popular for evening jaunts. Known for beautiful sunset views, this beach features boardwalks and dining options.
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral – One of the iconic structures of the city, this is a 300-year-old Jesuit church, popular for its colonial architecture.
  • Paradise Island – Located off the shores of Pondicherry, this small island resort is known for white sands and palm-lined beaches, offering a relaxing time.
  • Pondicherry Museum – A state-run museum preserving ancient bronze artefacts and stone sculptures.
  • French War Memorial – This monument is located on the main beach road and is dedicated to the French soldiers who died in the First World War.
  • Old Lighthouse – This historical lighthouse is now decommissioned and reconstructed into a new one. It offers a scenic viewing point of the bay and the shoreline.
  • Arikamedu – A Roman-era trading site, it is now an archaeological location with some stray ruins of the Roman era.
  • Auroville – A unique international residential and cultural community, Auroville is known for its scenic setting and meditation centre. The community also offers to stay options for travellers.
Auroville
Auroville, Tamil Nadu

Places to visit near Pondicherry

Apart from the famous and iconic tourist spots within Pondicherry town, you can also visit other interesting destinations nearby and make it a wholesome trip. You can explore the hills stations near Pondicherry or other historical locales.

  • Mahabalipuram, 95KM – One of the most ancient towns of South India, Mahabalipuram is known for its beach temples and 7th and 8th-century architecture. The historical temple town is dotted with rock-cut caves and intricately carved stone temples. Visit the Stone Temple, Shore Temple, Krishna’s butterball, Pancha Ratha, and Tiger Cave.
  • Tranquebar, 119KM – With colonial Scandivadian influences, the beach town showcases traces of its rich history and heritage, which are still found in its local culture. Visit the ruins of old forts, monuments, churches, and temples or take a boat ride to the Uppanar River and spend a day at the river island or explore the Danish Fort.
 Danish Fort, Tranquebar
Danish Fort, Tranquebar
  • Chidambaram, 65 KM – The beautiful and peaceful temple town lies on the eastern side of Tamil Nadu and is considered a significant pilgrimage site. It is famous for housing the marvellous Nataraja Temple among a few other religious sites. 

Best Places to eat in Pondicherry

Pondicherry food is a fine blend of the different local and colonial communities that lived here. With its French, Portuguese, Vietnamese and native Tamil influence, restaurants here offer a wide range of cuisines.

Visit these restaurants to sample its local flavors- 

  • Surguru Restaurant
  • Baker Street, Bussy Street
  • Villa Shanti, Suffren Street
  • Café Des Art, Suffren Street
  • Coromandel Café, Romain Rolland Street
  • La Maison Rose, Romain Rolland Street
  • Rendezvous Café Restaurant
  • Le Café 

How to Plan a Trip to Pondicherry

Best time to Visit Pondicherry

Sitting on the Bay of Bengal, on the Coromandel Coast, Pondicherry experiences a typical coastal climate. The summer months of April and May are extremely hot, while winter months are pleasant when the temperature in Pondicherry becomes much cooler and makes it easier to explore. Pondicherry weather in monsoon is also quite humid but not harsh but heavy rainfall can cause floods. So, the best time to visit this coastal town is between December and March.

Vide Credit: DocTourer Shashvat

How to reach Pondicherry

By Train

Pondicherry is connected by railways to all major cities like Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Mumbai and other major cities/towns nearby like Kanyakumari, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Bhubaneswar, Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam and Mangalore.

By Road

Pondicherry is well-connected to all major towns and cities in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states. The East Coast Road directly connect Chennai to Pondicherry via Mahabalipuram. You can avail of the regular state-run and private buses to travel from anywhere in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana to Pondicherry. The best way, however, is to rent a car or book a cab from any major city nearby and drive to Pondicherry for a scenic travel experience.

Also Read: Chennai to Pondicherry by Road – Distance, Time and Useful Travel Information]

By Flight

Puducherry airport is located at 4KM from the city centre and is a domestic airport. It is connected to all major cities and towns across India. But the flights are not as regular and frequent. Always check for flight availability from your city to Pondicherry before planning a trip. 

Best Hotels and Resorts in Pondicherry 

From hostels, ashrams, to luxurious spa retreats and beachside resorts, there are a host of places to stay. Here are some of the best ones –

  • La Maison Radha
  • La Closerie
  • Maison Perumal Hotel & Restaurant
  • The Promenade
  • Cours Chabrol
  • Villa Du Ocean
  • Hotel Villa Des Gouverneurs
  • Palais de Mahe – CGH Earth
  • Villa Shanti

Witness the magic of Pondicherry by booking a car rental to take you to all these places with a local driver. Install Savaari cab booking app for offers and discounts on outstation rentals.  

Best Road-trips to Pondicherry

Route NameDistanceTime
Bangalore to Pondicherry359 km6 hours and 25 minutes
Chennai to Pondicherry152 km3 hours
Yercaud to Pondicherry235 km4 hours and 43 minutes
Vellore to Pondicherry156 km3 hours
Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry95 km1 hours and 42 minutes
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Pondicherry: Paris of the East | A Complete Travel Guide
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Pondicherry: Paris of the East | A Complete Travel Guide
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Whether you are looking for a quick weekend getaway or an elaborate beach vacation, Pondicherry is the answer to all your travel needs. The peaceful, old French town is blended with colonial heritage, millennial trappings, and the pristine beauty of the expansive bay and sparkling shores.
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I grew up sneaking away to read the well-worn travel magazines I found at my grandfather's house. Today I write stories of my travel experiences and adventures.

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