Pondicherry (also known as Puducherry) is the former French capital of India. Having been colonised by the French back in 1674 the city was held under French rule until the 1960’s, and although fifty years have passed the ambience of French heritage is still apparent today.
This French influence tied in with the rich Indian culture and seaside setting is what brings tourists here, to this relatively small town on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. On one end you’ll find busy bazaars, rich south Indian cuisine and chaotic streets, on the other you’ll find heritage homes, eccentric cafés and croissants. It’s a fusion of India and France, 2016 and 1920.
Situated 4 hours south of the state’s capital Chennai, many choose to come here on their travels through southern India. Whether it’s for a relaxing seaside getaway, a taste of colonial times or a visit to an Ashram, Pondicherry has some quaint characteristics that you don’t want to miss.
Pondicherry is connected by various bus routes from surrounding cities Chennai, Bangalore, and Madurai.
Being quite a small city there is no local airport or train station. The closest train connection is via Villupuram, which services trains to Chennai, the state capital of Tamil Nadu.
Tuk Tuk (Auto)
Moped or Scooter
Not to miss
Take a tour with The Blue Yonder
Goubert Salai Promenade & Gandhi Statue
The SITA Cultural Centre
Other attractions & sights
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a world famous ashram located in the heart of Pondicherry. It is open to visitors from 8:00am to noon and 2:00pm to 6:00pm, where guests can take a walk around the peaceful grounds, admiring the serenity and reading about the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Discover Pondicherry in early morning with a Pondy Bikes tour. Starting at the SITA Cultural Centre you will ride around the quiet streets, past the colourful houses of the Muslim area to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the French Quarter. The tour costs 1200 rupees per person including bike hire and drinking water.
Manakula Vinayagar temple
The Manakula Vinayagar temple is one of the most famous ancient temples in Pondicherry, built over 400 years ago before French colonisation. Each year many tourists and pilgrims visit this temple, which is dedicated to the god Ganesa,
Do some Yoga
With Ashrams comes Yoga, and this spiritual art is quite a popular pastime here in Pondicherry. The SITA Cultural Centre runs classes every Monday at 6pm, Wednesday at 6:30pm and Saturday at 9:30am. There is also the Raja Yoga Centre and Yoganjali Natyalayam who offer classes as well.
Relax at a European styled café
With the European influence in Pondicherry many cafes have sprouted throughout the town giving visitors a little taste of coffee culture. Cafes like Café des Artes and Kasha Ki Aasha serve a range of French snacks such as crepes and croissants. Many also have tranquil settings and rooftop terraces where you can escape the midday heat.
Do some shopping
Pondicherry has two main markets, the Sunday Market on every Sunday between M.G Road and Nehru street, and the Grand Bazaar, between M.G Road and Bharathi Street. You can find anything from garments to spices to flowers and fruits, all at very reasonable prices.
If you’re looking to shop for a cause, Kriti Eco Boutique is a fair trade shop that sells various products made by women in rural communities around India.
Food & drink
Pondicherry is a good place to take a break from Indian food, if that is what you want. Full of European influence you can find many types of pastries, pizzas and desserts all throughout the town. Baker Street is everyone’s favourite place for baguettes, croissants and cakes. There are also a number of high-class restaurants where you can dine on a reasonably priced western meal, and enjoy a cocktail or 2.
If it’s Indian food you’re after then of course you can find it here. Aside from you’re every day restaurants and street food, Surguru does a great thali in a lovely garden setting. The Indian Kaffe Express also offers all your favourite Indian dishes.
If you’re looking to dine with a view visit Le Café on the promenade, and conveniently open 24 hours. For a splurge dine at The Promenade Hotel’s rooftop restaurant, BlueLine, for views over the Bay of Bengal.
Unfortunately Pondicherry does not have any hostels for the budget backpacker. Instead there are many guesthouses and hotels located throughout the city. Most travellers choose to stay within Heritage Town as it is within walking distance to all the main sights. One unique style of accommodation is a Pondicherry Heritage Hotel. It might not be inside the backpacker’s budget but it certainly won’t break the bank balance at 1500 rupees per night. Our pick – The Heritage Hotel Coromandal.
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