You will come across a lot of blogs on Pondicherry. But I can assure this is the best Pondicherry Travel Guide you will read. As this one comes from a person who has lived in Pondicherry for about 2 years!
I have worked in Pondicherry as a full-time scuba instructor and a digital marketeer. I created this guide to help you have the best experience in the beautiful but little-known french town of India. Do read the blog till the end as I have mentioned a lot of places to visit in Pondicherry. I have also added a Table of Content to make it easier to navigate through this long blog.
Pondicherry (Puducherry) is a union territory of India (Locals call it Puducherry). It is located precisely 150 km’s from Chennai airport. It is famous for its French colonies and also known as the French capital of India, Pondicherry is truly a hidden gem.
It is one of the most underrated travel destinations of India.
Why should you read this Pondicherry Travel Guide?
As I said, I have lived in Pondicherry for about 2 years working as a diving professional and a digital marketer. I created this post with the intent of helping people get the best out of their time in Pondicherry.
In this Pondicherry Travel Guide, you will find the little-known things about Pondicherry, nobody can tell you. So hold on tight, a thrilling vacation is your way!
What is Pondicherry known for?
Food. Culture. Architecture. Beaches. Adventure – I say the five words describe Pondy the best.
Pondicherry is known for its beautiful beaches, French colonies, mouth-watering cuisine, backwater boat rides, scuba diving, and surfing. It is also home to the world-famous Auroville universal city.
Pondy has some lovely churches too!
You can either choose to relax at a beautiful palm beach or roam around in the French colonies, I found it to be the perfect destination for unwinding from the mundane life.
How much would a trip to Pondicherry Cost?
A vacation in Pondicherry is inexpensive. It all depends on what kind of experience are you looking for. It has a lot of luxury options as well as deal-breakers.
The food here costs INR 150-250 per meal, whereas accommodation will cost you INR 300-800 per night. Commuting within Pondicherry can cost you INR 300 per day for a rented bike.
Taking everything into account a budget trip to Pondicherry shouldn’t cost you more than INR 1200-1500 per day per person. Isn’t that affordable? For a holiday destination to offer so much for travellers, it definitely is a deal-breaker.
How many days are enough for Pondicherry?
Generally speaking, two to three days are more than enough to have a wonderful time in Pondicherry. Over two to three days, you will be able to cover almost every popular tourist destination of Pondicherry.
I recommend spending at least 3 days in Pondicherry to make the best out of your vacation and at the same time, be relaxed. There are quite a bit of places to visit in Pondicherry, but 3-4 days are a lot to cover them all in a relaxed manner.
What is the best time to visit Pondicherry?
Pondicherry starts witnessing monsoons from the end of July up to October/November. The monsoons in Pondicherry are quite irregular, and the union territory mainly observes sudden bursts of rain, following an immediate clearing of the sky.
October to January is usually the cooler times to visit Pondicherry. February to May is summertime, May being the hottest.
The best time to visit Pondicherry is from October to January. October is the best, according to my experience. The temperature in October is a lot cooler and the climate is quite pleasant. Plus, October is the best time to go diving!
How to reach Pondicherry?
Pondicherry is well connected to the rest of India. You have three options to reach the union territory.
Pondicherry has an airport, you can either fly straight here or travel by a highway or railway. It’s quite well connected with the rest of the country via road or railway.
If you’re flying in from outside India or northern part of India, then take a flight to Chennai Airport and then catch a bus ride to Pondicherry via the East Coast Road which is a 3-hour journey.
The journey via the ECR road is mind-blowing. I would totally recommend it!
What are the Best places to stay in Pondicherry?
There are a lot of options you can choose from to accommodate in Pondicherry.
Obviously, you can check out accommodation options on MakeMyTrip or some other online booking portal rather than listening to me. But the reason you would want to read this is that you should know which area to live in Pondicherry on your vacation, for the best experience.
The best places to stay in Pondicherry are White Town, MG Road or Serenity Beach.
I would recommend white town as the number one option as it is in the city centre and 5 minutes away from the most popular tourist destinations. You can find excellent accommodation options in White Town like Promenade or Le Dupleix, or heritage hotels.
Of course, these are a little on the higher side of the budget.
For backpackers or solo travellers, there are hostels like Micasa at MG road or a lot of other affordable Airbnb studio apartments available in white town or serenity.
MG Road and White town are close to more than 80 percent of the popular tourist destinations of Pondicherry.
If you would like to unwind and are looking for a more peaceful place to accommodate in Pondicherry, then I recommend finding a serene Airbnb property at the Serenity Beach or Auroville. Few of the Airbnb properties here are simply beautiful and overlook the ocean.
Top 5 Luxury Hotels in Pondicherry
- The Promenade
- La Villa
- Villa Shanti
- Villa Helena
- Le Dupleix
What are the top restaurants in Pondicherry?
Here is a list of top restaurants in Pondicherry –
- PY Cafe
- Cafe Des Arts
- Prawn & Crab
- Coromandel Cafe
- Farm Fresh
- Taka Pizza
- Bay of Buddha
I have spoken about a few of them in detail in the cuisine section of this Pondicherry Travel Guide.
What about the Nightlife in Pondicherry?
Don’t expect a great Goa-like nightlife in Pondicherry. There is nightlife in Pondicherry but in its own vibe and charm. If you want to experience some dancing and drinking, then PY Cafe on a Saturday night or Icecubes (google search for LB2 Lounge) on Thursday & Saturday nights is your best bet.
- Thursday night at Icecubes is a ladies night, it has a small dancefloor and a chill vibe. Whereas Saturday nights are Bollywood nights.
- PY Cafe, on the other hand, has different themed nights every Saturday.
How to commute within Pondicherry?
The best way to commute in Pondicherry is to rent a bike, Vespa being the most famous choice as it goes with the vibe of Pondicherry. I wouldn’t recommend renting a car or taxi as a lot of places to visit in Pondicherry are in close proximity to each other and parking becomes a problem. Secondly, bike rentals are inexpensive options.
- Bike rentals cost INR 200-400 per day, depending on the type of bike and the season.
- A Vespa will cost around INR 300 per day, whereas a Royal Enfield will cost around INR 800 per day normally.
- On weekends or peak seasons like October or December, you can consider INR 100 above the usual price.
Pondicherry Travel Guide 2020 – My Own Experience
While writing the Pondicherry travel guide, I thought a lot about what would be the top things I would be interested in experiencing in Pondicherry, if I was a tourist?
After a lot of thought and living here for almost 2 years, I believe these should be the top eight things anybody should do at their time in Pondicherry. So you can make the most out of your getaway!
8 Things To Do In Pondicherry To Make Your Vacation Thrilling:
1. Have a spiritual experience at the dreamy Auroville City
Auroville (City of Dawn) is an experimental township in the Viluppuram district of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, with some of the parts in the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
Auroville was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator known as “the Mother”) and designed by architect Roger Anger.
It was built to somewhat create a transcendental community where human unity is given the utmost importance and materialism is discouraged.
Auroville is THE PLACE if you want to indulge in some inner peace and silence. You can find a lot of people practising yoga and meditating here, it’s merely a very peaceful place. There’s art in every corner of Auroville.
It has a lot of gated communities and roaming anywhere freely without being an Aurovillian is difficult (I know this sounds frustrating, but it is for the safety of their people). But a lot of places are open to visitors too.
The best things to do in Auroville would be:
- Pay a visit to the Visitor Centre – You can get a free guided tour of the Auroville Universal City. The tickets have to be bought from the visitors centre, which is free of cost.
- Eat breakfast at Bread & Chocolate (This is a must) – The most favourite eatery I have in Pondicherry is B&C. They have a simple menu featuring some exquisite food.
- Dine at Tantos – The best pizza place in town! Especially dinner at Tantos is enjoyable as the atmosphere is quite chill and bindaas!
- Visit the Sound Garden – A small community of Auroville came up with a beautiful idea of creating a Garden where you can experiment with sound. Definitely worth a visit!
- Pick some cookies at Auroville Bakery – Best gifts to buy for friends and family from Pondicherry? Pick some freshly baked cookies as gifts for your buddies from the very own Auroville Bakery. One of the finest bakeries I have been to, even the health juices there is worth trying.
- Sign up to volunteer on a farm – Auroville has a lot of options for tourists to experience the life in Auroville in the form of volunteering programs and workshops. Head out to their website and check out the upcoming programs.
2. Cycle your way through the stunning French Colonies
The most beautiful part of Pondicherry is the French colonies. The mesmerizing French Architecture could make you question whether you actually are in India.
The reason for Pondicherry having such french influence is due to the old trade routes and wars in 1674’s. The French colonies exist in the locality called White Town.
Places to visit in White Town, Pondicherry
- There are a few places you can visit in white town like the Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry Museum, and the botanical garden.
- What I highly recommend is renting bicycles and strolling around the streets of white town.
- Then go have breakfast at Eat my cake or Cafe Des Arts, they’re the best places in white town for a soul pleasing breakfast. Try the salted crepes (traditional french pancakes) at Cafe Des Arts or Affogato at Eat my cake cafe.
3. Chill at the captivating beaches of Pondicherry
There are a lot of beaches in and around Pondicherry. All of them are quite clean and not so crowded.
The best beaches in Pondicherry
- Paradise Beach: This is one of the best beaches in Pondicherry. It’s the cleanest and is quite scenic too. To reach paradise beach you can either go via road (which is a 45-minute journey from white town) or take a ferry organized by Chidambaram Boat House straight to the beach.
- Serenity Beach: The beach is one of my favourites as you can surf here. There are a couple of surf schools here, like Mother Ocean Surf School or Kalilay Surf School which conduct surfing lessons early morning.
- Rock Beach: It’s located right next to the street of white town. It has a huge Gandhi statue and a beautiful road to walk on facing the ocean. The rock beach almost creates a delusion of being abroad. Don’t forget to try the ice cream at the Italian brand ‘GMT’ while at rock beach.
Another activity I highly recommend would be visiting the Rock Beach for sunrise. Sunrise on the East Coast especially the Rock beach is surreal.
4. Make your vacation memorable with a dip in the deep blue – GO SCUBA DIVING!
When in Pondicherry, Scuba diving is another activity you can indulge in. It’s brilliant for a mainland diving destination of India.
You can either choose to do an experience program which is split over 2 days (can be completed in a single day) or a course which will get you certified to dive internationally. There are a bunch of PADI dive centres around the town.
The visibility in Pondicherry can vary from 5-12 meters and sometimes gets as good as 18-20 meters. The best time to dive is from October to February. You can check out a detailed blog on Scuba diving in Pondicherry and my experience over here!
5. Clear your mind and feel light at the Aurobindo Ashram
The Ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926 to renounce from public life and head towards his own spiritual progression. The place is now visited by spiritual seekers from all over the world.
It is one of a kind of an Ashram. Definitely worth the visit. It has a vast library as well, stocked with the work of the mother or Shri Aurobindo.
6. Visit Churches with stunning architecture
There are 32 churches in Pondicherry such as Church of Our Lady of Angels, Sacred Heart Church, Dupleix Church, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Conception Cathedral, to name a few of the biggest and the oldest ones.
The beauty lies in their eye-catching French architecture and the interiors.
Best churches in Pondicherry
- Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Immaculate Conception Cathedral
- Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges
7. Take surfing lessons at the Serenity Beach
One of the most exciting things to do at your vacation in Pondicherry is to experience surfing. There are multiple surfing schools conducting surf lessons at serenity beach early morning. It’s the perfect way to start your day on vacation.
8. Indulge guilt-free in the multi-cultural cuisine of Pondicherry
You can find a variety of cuisine in Pondicherry like Seafood, French Cuisine, Continental, as well as local South Indian Food. From idli-dosa to king prawns to a nice steak and wine, you will find a wide range of options to choose from.
Some of my favourite places which I would recommend are Coromandel Cafe, Bread & Chocolate, Eat My Cake, Auroville Bakery, PY Cafe and Dharma Swasti.
The Best Cafes in Pondicherry
Pondicherry is known for its diverse cuisine. Here is a pick of my favourite cafes/restaurants in Pondicherry –
- Coromandel Cafe – A beautiful cafe featuring continental food situated at the Romain Rolland Street in White Town. The food here is fantastic, and so is the ambience.
- Bread & Chocolate – My all-time favourite place for breakfast – B&C. It’s a beautiful small cafe situated in Auroville. I highly recommend this place! Do try the summertime tartine.
- PY Cafe – Another delightful cafe to visit in Pondicherry. The cafe has a unique & minimal ambience and delicious continental food. Try out the pesto prawn pasta here!
- Dharma Swasti – Another eatery located in Auroville, try anything on the menu, and I assure you won’t be disappointed. It’s a vegan place, and the best time to visit would be dinner. They cook a lot of dishes with the food grown locally and organically.
- Auroville Bakery – Another fantastic place for a soulful breakfast. If you’re looking to buy some gifts for friends or family home, then the baked cookies from Auroville Bakery should be on priority.
- Eat My Cake – A cute little cafe situated at Romain Rolland street in white town. The owner of the cafe is friendly and runs the cafe with the help of women who have faced domestic violence issues. They bake their own french bread like baguettes and brioche. Again, nothing on the menu will disappoint you.
This is my list of the best cafes in Pondicherry, and you definitely should plan your vacation in such a way that you don’t miss eating at any of these.
Short on time? Take a look at my recommendations of Top Places to visit in Pondicherry
|Place||Duration||What To Expect|
|1. Rock Beach||2 Hours||You can either choose to visit rock beach in the evening or early morning for a sunrise. Rock beach is a very famous beach in Pondicherry and you will find a lot of tourists strolling around the beach. Enjoy a spectacular view of the rock beach with some mouthwatering gelato ice cream from GMT or enjoy a few beers at Sicily’s.|
|2. White Town||2 Hours||Cycle through the streets of White Town in Pondicherry. You can witness a lot of beautiful french building and a lot of ashramites walking or cycling around, living in complete peace. White town is a picture-perfect place for those social media addicts (includes me).|
|3. Auroville||8 Hours||First of all, when in Auroville you are spoiled with choices for eateries. My suggestion – eat wonderful pizzas at Tantos, try some soul pleasing vegan food at Dharma Swasti, Eat breakfast at Auroville Bakery and Bread & Chocolate (my personal favourite).|
Okay, apart from food, places to visit in Auroville include the visitors centre, sound garden, youth centre, and matrimandir.
|4. Serenity Beach||2 Hours||One of my most favourite places to unwind in Pondicherry, as the name suggests – Serenity Beach. Take surfing lessons here and then post the session hog on some amazing seafood by the beach. The Akkas here cook mouthwatering fish fry, cuttlefish and prawn fry. Street food Zindabad!|
Finally, is Pondicherry worth visiting?
Pondicherry is certainly worth visiting. It depends on what you are looking for. Like any other tourist destination in the world, Pondicherry has it’s own charm and vibe. I would recommend visiting Pondicherry even if you are a couple, a group of friends or a family.
I hope you liked my Pondicherry Travel Guide! If you would like to know anything more or need help to plan a vacation to Pondicherry feel free to connect with me 🙂
If you like my content, do check out my other blogs!
Adios and have fun!