Close your eyes and imagine yourself riding a bicycle on peaceful, clean and well-laid streets lined with flowering trees, mustard yellow, grey and white color houses of colonial style with big compound walls and stately wooden doors, flamboyant bougainvillea bursting over gates, french style cafes and restaurants serving delicious authentic French cuisine- Welcome to Pondicherry also known as Puducherry, a french colonial settlement in India until 1954, now a union territory bounded by Tamil Nadu state.
If you are planning for a small relaxing holiday, away from the crowded city life, Pondicherry is an ideal destination for you. From yoga and meditation to cycling on beautiful lanes to have some feel of old European town or just sitting by the beach, there are numerous ways to unwind in Pondicherry.
Last year I visited this colonial city with my husband on our wedding anniversary, and we both eventually fell in love with the place, it’s beautiful architecture, palm-fringed beaches, quaint indo-french cafes and it’s appealing spiritual and cultural atmosphere. We stayed there at Shenbagga hotel, located in the main city and very close to the beach. The hotel had a swimming pool at the terrace of the hotel and the view of the sea from the hotel terrace was so beautiful. The hotel was quite close to all the prominent places like Aurobindo ashram, shopping street, Promenade etc. We took a bike on rent for two days which is easily available in the city and started exploring the enchanting beauty of this unique city.
A Visit to old catholic churches:
There are many beautiful old French-era churches in Pondicherry. Most famous are Notre Dame des Anges , Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Immaculate Conception cathedral. We visited the last one, it is 300 years old church with splendid architecture (in whites and yellows) and one of the oldest tourist sites in Puducherry.
Walk on Promenade Beach:
This 1.2-kilometer-long stretch beach front is the most popular area of Pondicherry, especially at night. You will be amazed to see the lively atmosphere here every evening. The interesting thing is vehicles are not allowed after 6:00 PM. Park your vehicle in nearby parking stand and take a walk on this lively street enjoying the cool see breeze, watching magnificent landmarks like the War Memorial, statue of Joan of Arc, statue of Mahatma Gandhi and the heritage town hall situated on it. Some of the best restaurants of Pondicherry majorly dealing with traditional cuisine and seafood can be found here. Hawkers selling out local street food and handicrafts are a common sight near the beach.
Visit to Auroville:
Founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as “the Mother”), Auroville is a universal township developed on 20 square kilometers of barren wasteland, some 10 km north of Pondicherry , where people from different countries live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities to realize human unity.
In the middle of the town is the Matrimandir, lotus-shaped dome almost 30 meters high and is covered by golden discs that reflect sunlight. It is a meditation center. If you want to do meditation inside this peaceful area, a prior booking is required for ongoing meditation session. But to have a look at this magnificent structure of peace and tranquility from outside is also a treat to eyes.
Unspoiled Virgin Beaches:
There are four popular beaches around Pondicherry: the Promenade, Serenity Beach, Auroville Beach and Paradise Beach.
Visit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram :
It was the abode of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother during most of their stay in Puducherry. In the inner courtyard is the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Ashram is a very peaceful small home amidst a pretty little garden. It is an important destination for spiritual seekers as well as tourists. Thousands of visitors from all over the world come to the ashram.
If you are in Pondichery, do not forget to have dinner in some French restaurant/cafe. There are many such good restaurants in promenade area which serves authentic french cuisine. Hotel duParc where we had our dinner is one such cafe with beautiful open courtyard gardens. Having dinner in such beautiful place with a glass of wine is a perfect dinner to cherish.
Pondicherry is a shopper’s delight offering wide range of products – from traditional handicrafts and attire to bags, accessories, ceramics and more at a very cheap price. Serenity Beach Bazaar,Mission Street are best for street shopping.
Some Travel tips to visit Pondicherry:
- It would be good to rent a bike(Rs 200 -400 /day) so that you can visit all the places easily.
- Try sea food and French restaurants.
- Have a dinner and walk at Beach Road.
- Find shortest route using Visitin. It will show you the best route to visit all tourist places in from your hotel/place of stay and strictly follow the route so that you can utilize your time in best possible way.
- If you are planning for meditation at Auroville, do prior booking for upcoming session.