Pondicherry is located in Tamil Nadu state, India and is one of the most fascinating cities in the southern region of the country. Before independence, while other cities were more influenced by British art and culture, Pondicherry followed French colony until 1960. This is the reason we get to see a lot of French-influenced architecture, food and community. Many people residing in Pondicherry speak French and French institutions can be seen in a few places. If you have seen one of the Hollywood adventure movies, Life of Pie, you may have noticed that its lead role, Pi was named after a French swimming pool Piscine in his childhood.
Due to its nearness to the capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai, it has great roads and connectivity. The city is oval-shaped and is surrounded by sea. The entire city is divided into three sections: The Tamil Quarter, French Quarter and Muslim Quarter. Small White town or French Quarter is influenced by the French colony. It is also named after original British settlers around Fort St. George, today known as Georgetown. The Black town or the Muslim Quarter belongs to a different part and is located at the end of the old city. Let’s explore more fascinating facts and awesome things to do in Pondicherry in this travel guide.
Things to do in Pondicherry: Visit Temples and Church
Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Auroville
As mentioned earlier in this blog, Pondicherry depicts French culture. This must to see place in Pondicherry is a spiritual place that was established by a French woman called ‘The Mother’ and Sri Aurobindo in the year 1926. This place is renowned due to spiritual retreat offered to the people including yoga practices and meditation sessions. Other than visiting the village, you can see Auroville Beach located nearby. The seawater here is crystal clear within the expanse of shallow water and white sand.
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar
Built in the 14th century, this temple is located some 400 metres away from the Bay of Bengal, Pondicherry. This temple in the White town has a shrine which is dedicated to Bhaveshar Ganapathy, one who remove obstacles from people’s lives. The word ‘manal’ means a pond in Tamil language and ‘kulam’ is referred to as sand. When this temple was built, a pond full of sand was seen nearby and henceforth this temple became popular under the name of Manalkulam too. The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings which portray Hindu mythology.
Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges
This church is also known as the Church of Our Lady of Angels. This religious edifice has beautiful masonry work. The texture which looks like white marble is actually made of limestone mixed with egg white. The entire structure of the church resembles that to Basilica of Lourdes of Southern France. The front side of the church has the statue of Our Lady holding young Jesus while inside of the church has eight-barrel vaults along with a central dome pierced with eight round openings.
Church of Sacred Heart
This beautiful Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is yet another holy place in Pondicherry and is located in the South Boulevard. The perfect architecture of the church reveals Gothic architecture adorned with colourful glass pieces that illustrate the life of Jesus. Much Christian community living in and around Pondicherry visit this place to worship Jesus.
Things to do in Pondicherry: Beachside activities, scuba diving, surfing and more
Pondicherry has many beaches where people soak up the sun, relax, and take a walk amidst serene atmosphere. The promenade is the longest beach in Pondicherry where taking a long walk is a dream come true for many people. Do watch sunset and sunrise on this beach for some heavenly experience when pink and orange hues reflect in the turquoise seawater. Several water sports can be enjoyed on this beach during day time. If you like water surfing, Serenity beach is the perfect destination whereas for stretching in the sand, Mahe beach is an idle place.
To explore Pondicherry to its fullest, we would recommend using two wheelers than a car. The journey through smaller lanes will show you the rich culture and diversity in Tamil Quarters, Green Quarters and French Colonies. You may also see cultural and historical sites at hideous places. To get yourself a cycle, you have to visit tour and travel agencies like Sita Cultural Centre and Pondy Cycle Tours.
Experience a kingly feel through yachting in Pondicherry. Sail on the seawaters and get enthralled like ever before. This is not only an adventurous activity for first-time sailors but also a luxurious one since the yacht comes equipped with many luxurious amenities.
Similar to Havelock Island, Pondicherry boasts fine water along with marine life that constitutes the best place for scuba diving. Plunge into the sea which has a depth of not less than 40 meters. The divers in Pondicherry faces with some of the rare and finest marine creatures which include corals, triggerfish, lionfish, sea snakes, parrotfish, angelfish besides many others.
If you want to indulge in water activity away from the sea, hit the backwaters of Chunnambar River situated along the Cuddalore Main Road. The Chunnambar Boat House will provide you with exclusive boat rides due to the namesake of the river! Experience boating activity amidst serene backwaters and relish your eyes with stunning views surrounding the riverside. You can see many rare and beautiful birds chirping near the riverside while sitting in the pedal or motorboats available for tourists.
Kayaking is another water activity loved by many people who seek indulging into some adventure and fun. Blessed with many scenic views and composed atmosphere, Pondicherry’s Karaikal Beach offers its visitors to partake this adrenaline activity. If you are canoeing or kayaking for the first time, do follow the instructions provided by a professional trainer.
Things to do in Pondicherry: Heritage walk and Nightlife
If you like to take a long walk in the evenings or with your loved ones, visit Goubert Avenue beach which offers some offbeat things to do in Pondicherry. You can see the seafront which remains overcrowded with visitors, especially during sunset and sunrise.
A perfect spot for nightlife enjoying, Zero House offers nothing but an awesome experience! A store of bars and night clubs can be found here which will make you spend the night boozing and grooving with friends. If you are visiting Pondicherry with friends, do visit Zero House to experience an unforgettable nightlife.
A perfect destination and a heritage walk site, White Town is considered as the best place in the city due to the diverse experience offered in a tiny space. The vibrant culture of the heritage place is reflected in its heart-warming locales, colourful by lanes and a lively marketplace. You can even dine in some of the restaurants which offer best Tamilian cuisine and exotic seafood.
Things to do in Pondicherry: Explore the nature
Birdwatching in Ousteri Lake
Popularly known as Osudu Lake, Ousteri Lake offers best picturesque view and freshwater manmade lake in Pondicherry. Many mudflats and marshy lands surround the area which together constitutes an important wetland of Asia recognised by International Union for Conservation of Nature & Natural Resources. The region has many residential and migratory birds which is why this place is a paradise for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
Paradise Beach Island
Paradise Beach island is located near Chunnambar River. Many lush green plants and flora and fauna can be seen in this place. Many visitors find this place a perfect spot for relaxing and chilling besides sunbathing and taking long walks. You can even go for boating activity in Chunnambar River along with picnicking, hiking and overnight camping in tress houses present on the island.
Things to do in Pondicherry: Food and shopping
Dining while cruising can prove to be one of the best things to do in Pondicherry especially when the food is mouth-licking. The Cruise sails in the sea and offers everything a restaurant can offer onboard. You can have parties on board and enjoy great food with music and dancing.
The Lighthouse is a rooftop restaurant and is considered as a piece of heaven of food lovers. Many cuisines are available in this place while the specialities include continental dishes, French food and traditional south Indian delicacies. This place is also ideal for romantic dinners and family get-together.
This place is popular among party-goers and nightlife enjoyers as it offers liquors which are exempted from paying taxes. Located at 100 feet Road, Asta is owned by the Sunway GRT Grand Pondicherry. This place is among finest lounge bars available in the town which portrays exclusive interior, neon lights, a wide plethora of beverages and the dazzling crowd.
Roof Garden Cafe
Roof garden Café is located near Rock Beach and makes its visitors sit in an open area to cherish beach view while enjoying mouth-watering food. Head straight to its rooftop and grab a good seat from where you can enjoy the magnificent view of Promenade beach.
Saram China Market
This is a place for budget shoppers who seek buying quality Chinese goods. Stroll in the market area to spend some exciting time and enjoy awesome things to do in Pondicherry. Do not refrain from making huge bargains in this market as you might get a good deal for your favourite products.
Shopping here means never-ending experience. No wonder how many markets you have been to, if you are at Casablanca, you will run out of cash for sure. The more you explore the shops present in this place, the more you tend to purchase. Casablanca is a mall cum boutique which has everything from souvenirs to trendy garments which you will love to buy from here.
Things to do in Pondicherry: Explore Major Attractions of the City
This is one of the best tourist spots in Pondicherry which homes many cultural and historic treasures. In different rooms, you will find antique pieces and an incredible collection of rare stone figures. The bronze statues present here are very old and some belong too Pallava and Chola dynasties even. Artefacts and Pre-Christian relics can also be seen which have been brought from the Arikamedu Roman settlements and Roman kingdom who used to live in this city earlier. Along with French furniture room and a geology room, the fossil room in the museum displays unique fossils,
This Botanical Garden is different from the Botanical Garden in Kolkata. The most peculiar thing about this garden is that it is built in French style and displays stunning fountains, flowerbeds, pruned trees, aquarium and Rock structures displaying Japanese culture. You can have a toy train ride too in this 22-acre garden comprising more than 1,500 plant species collected from every part of the world. A musical fountain show is held on weekends however, the show may depend on seasonal influences.
Statue of Dupleix
The Statue of Dupleix measures 2.88 meters in height and lies in the Goubert Avenue, Beach Road. The statue is made of granite and is dedicated to Francois Dupleix. He was a French governor who governed Pondicherry in between 1742 to 1754. The statue was built in the year 1870 and stands straight symbolising imperial French colonial rule ruling Pondicherry.
Jawahar Toy Museum
As the name says, this museum is dedicated to kids’ toys and dolls collected from various parts of the country. Jawahar Toy Museum is decorated with toys and dolls that represent different cultures present in India. This unique toy museum is a must to see place especially if you visit Pondicherry with kids. Almost 120 dolls are been kept here, each labelled separately and dressed in beautiful costumes. A fairyland is also available in the museum which has a small Ganesh to watch every proceeding in the museum.
Park Monument or Aayi Mandapam
This beautiful monument is built in the centre of Bharat Park. The Aayi Mandapam or Park Monument is considered as an iconic place in Pondicherry and an idle place who seek exploration things to do in Pondicherry. The park was built during the period of Napoleon and named after a female courtesan, Aayi in the 16th century. Residents nearby say that Aayi destroyed her own house so that a reservoir can be built to enable good water supply in the city. The Aayi Mandapam or the white structure is milky white which reflects Greco-Roman architecture. A well-maintained flowerbed can be seen here surrounding majestic fountains.