A popular beach destination on the Eastern Coast of India, Pondicherry is often made synonymous with the art community of Auroville or the spiritual respite of Aurobindo Ashram. But there’s more to this quaint, colorful retreat. Read on to learn how you can create a unique vacation experience out of your trip to Pondicherry.
How to travel
Pondicherry is well-connected to major towns and cities around the neighboring states. Whether you are in Chennai or flying to the capital, you can book a licensed taxi from Chennai to Pondicherry. It is a drive of about 150 Km and you can reach your destination in less than four hours.
Explore the Tamil quarters.
While the French colonies of Pondicherry are more popular among tourists, the Tamil quarters are equally delightful. This neighborhood holds the heritage of the town and is sure to make you nostalgic. Walk around the brightly painted vintage villas, boasting wide verandahs, gardens, huge wooden doors, and windows, portraying classic architecture.
Go boutique hopping.
While most travel destinations have local markets or fancy touristy shops, Pondicherry takes pride in artsy boutiques, which makes shopping a more aesthetic affair. Hop into the Kasha Ki Asha at Surcouf St. for beautiful apparel made by local women. Or stop by Domus for artifacts, dainty tableware, and glassware. For a little peek into how a French country store could be, drop by Ooh La La at La Maison Rose. Owned and run by Agathe Gerin Lazaro, a French expat, the store sells chic apparels and accessories, and beautifully blends rustic French culture with Indian traditional nuances.
Take a tour of Arikamedu.
An hour from the main town, the archeological site of Arikamedu holds the history of the ancient Romans, French, and the Chola kings, from the 1st and 2nd centuries. In those days, the site was a busy trading post. Now, the relics of Roman columns and arches stand as a testament to the Indo-Roman connection, which is not much heard of. Visit in the daytime for the best views and explore all its corners.
Go for bird watching.
Pondicherry is blessed with rich natural bounties and you can find some of it at the Osudu Lake. The huge lake not only offers amazing views and exposes you to a new side of Pondicherry’s nature but is also home to exotic avifauna. The freshwater lake and its mudflats are breeding grounds of both resident and migratory birds, which you can spot in the winter months.
Spend some time at the farms.
Pondicherry is beyond the sparkling coastline and expansive beaches and its beauty also lies in its farms. The Dune Ecovillage has evolved to be a popular destination within Pondicherry for naturalists and campers. With organic farms, artistic spaces, spas, and lush environments, the place offers a therapeutic experience.
Walk the iconic food trail.
Pondicherry’s rich culinary heritage calls out to all gourmands and gastronomy enthusiasts. The modern-day food scene of the town draws heavy influence from early French, Portuguese, Vietnamese settles, and native Tamil communities. You can easily do a food tour by availing a local car rental in Pondicherry with a reliable driver. Start at the Grand Bakery for a morning repast, and dig into their fresh baked goods and coffee. A hearty spread of lunch or dinner is a must at the Villa Shanti on Suffren St., an iconic restaurant still satiating millennial taste buds with their classic, colonial fare. For Vietnamese, head to Le Vietnam on Bussy St. For a classic taste of vegetarian South Indian delicacies, drop by Surguru. For a unique dining experience, try the Creole food at Hotel De L’Orient, one of the rare restaurants in the country, bringing you the ethnic cuisine of Louisiana, United States.
Spend a day sailing by the bay.
From small dinghies to speed boats, water scooters, and luxury yachts, Pondicherry offers all possible options for sea lovers to tread the bay waters. You can hit the Paradise Island for a short trip or treat yourself with a relaxed yacht ride and sail through the afternoon into the sunset, while you soak in the sun and the sea breeze.
Explore the town on foot.
Nothing beats the experience of exploring a town on foot or a bicycle. The narrow, cobbled-stone streets of inner parts of the town snake through the bungalows and boutiques, giving you a feeling of an old European town. As you walk or bike down, with the wind in your hair, you will get to see the life up close and get a very different perspective to Pondicherry.
The cozy coastal territory of Pondicherry is trapped somewhere between the long-lost French colonial culture and trappings of modern, urban civilization. It needs a true explorer to delve into the nooks and crannies of this unique town and discover unique experiences in its various corners.