Pondicherry Travel Guide – Know What Is Best
Tranquil, modern, beautiful…there are many adjectives that describe Pondicherry
Tranquil, modern, beautiful…there are many adjectives that describe Pondicherry, but none do full justice to the place. The town is serene and replete with history and culture. Colloquially known as ‘Puducherry’, it is a union territory that was earlier ruled variously by Dutch, French and British masters. However, it continues to show leanings for French culture and popular influences – there is even a large French quarter here which is the most popular tourist place in Pondicherry. The French Quarter has some of the most charming houses, resorts, shopping stores, cafes and restaurants in Pondicherry. Other quarters here are the Green Quarter and the Brown Quarter.
If you have not visited Pondicherry yet, make the trip this year. You can have a short romantic getaway here with your spouse or partner. Or you can take the trip with your family. We explain a bit about this wonderful city, how to get there, and the best tourist places in Pondicherry to explore.
There are many great reasons to visit Pondicherry, whether you are on a small trip of a couple of days or a weeklong one. You can get by in Pondicherry if you speak English, Tamil, Hindi and French. There’s a lot to see and explore. Here’s why you should visit this charming little city this year:
* It is rich with culture and history: As mentioned above, Pondicherry has a French Quarter, apart from a Brown Quarter (which has a sizeable Tamil population) and a Green Quarter (which has a Muslim population). Both are included in several heritage walks conducted by reputed tour operators here. The French Quarter is known as the White Quarter, because it had a huge French population at one point in time. Several French people still live here, though the demographic is a mixed one today. All three quarters are interesting in their own way, and representative of their cultures. A visit through each will teach you a lot about the local history and cultures here. Pondicherry tourism guidebooks will give you information about which places to visit in these quarters.
* It is full of beautiful temples and churches: You will love the places of worship in Pondicherry. The best places to visit in Pondicherry are the Sacred Heart Basilica and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral (both are over 300 years old), while the notable temples are the Gokilambal Thirukameswar Temple and the Manakula Vinayagar Temples. These temples have awesome exteriors adorned with sculptures and paintings from a bygone era, so don’t forget to check them out.
* The city is spotlessly clean. You will never find litter anywhere in Pondicherry. The local authorities take care to empty the trash bins and also sweep the roads every morning. You are advised to maintain the high standards of hygiene when you visit – take care to use the large bins for wet and dry waste provided at every street corner. There are hefty fines to pay for littering. The roads are also washed clean about once a week.
* The food is amazing: The French Quarter has the most amazing restaurants in Pondicherry. You can get a variety of cuisines as well as many preparations in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. You will also amazing food at the street side stalls in the Green Quarter, selling kebabs, gosht and biryanis. The food on offer is spellbinding, to say the least. However, the upscale restaurants in the French Quarter are quite expensive in tourist season, so you might want to do some research before heading out to eat.
Pondicherry is an all-year long tourist destination. Come rain or hailstorm, you can easily get around the city because there is never any flooding incident. The weather remains relatively constant all year, and the seasons are predictable. In fact, a few factors barred, you may visit at any time with a few basic precautions.
* Visiting Pondicherry in the summer: The summer time temperatures in Pondicherry can shoot right up to 40⁰C in May. Like the rest of Tamil Nadu, the summer season is quite intensely hot in Pondicherry. Most people stay away from Pondicherry during this time, fearing heatstroke and other problems. But if you like less crowds and more space to explore the tourist points, then the summer is the right time to visit this city. Just make sure to drink plenty of water and carry sun shades and hat before you step out.
* Visiting Pondicherry in the monsoon: The monsoon season is simply beautiful in Pondicherry. While most people are loath to step out in the rain, you should just wear good rain footwear and walk about in Pondicherry during this time. You will find empty roads lined with dense greenery – a sight to soothe the most troubled spirit! Watch out for puddles, but don’t be concerned about flooding and landslides – these don’t happen in Pondicherry. But be warned that the showers can be heavy and prolonged, so you might need to tweak your sightseeing plans accordingly. Monsoon months span from June to end of August. We suggest going around in a car instead of hiring a bike, to avoid getting drenched. Other than these basic precautions, do make the time to enjoy the romance of the rains in this beautiful city.
* Visiting Pondicherry in the winter: Winters in Pondicherry are as intense as the summer, but of course, the sunlight conditions are not as troubling. This could make it the primary reason to head to Pondicherry during this time of the year. The months between November and February are the winter months for the city and they are quite cold. However, just like the monsoon season, there is never any extreme weather event like hailstorms or snow. If you bundle up warmly and go about in a car instead of on a bike or cycle, you will find that this is the right time to explore the city: there are certainly more tourists, but the city is awash in soft sunlight and every hotel and restaurant is open for business, so there is a gentle buzz around you as well.
There are a number of ways to reach Pondicherry. Most people prefer to take a flight to Chennai and then drive down to Pondicherry from there, via the East Coast Road. The drive is one of the most famous routes in India, simply because it is hauntingly beautiful. However, it spans about 4 hours with little scope for stops in between.
Most people are unaware that Pondicherry has its own airport as well. It is known as Puducherry Airport. However, there are no direct flights from most places – you can get a connecting flight via Bengaluru or Chennai, to Puducherry Airport. It is a small airstrip that was previously used only for the Armed Forces. For the last few years, it has been opened for commercial operations. However, there are only about two daily flights arriving and departing from here. Do plan your arrival and departure carefully, because the flight frequency is too low to allow for delays and last minute cancellations. Check with your travel agent about the flight schedule for your intended period of visit, and book a round trip if you can.
It’s now time to get cracking on your itinerary for your Pondicherry holiday. Are you confused about where to begin? We recommend the following superb things to do in Pondicherry so that you can get started. Do hire a bike or car to get around and explore faraway spots like Auroville to the fullest. Many other places are within walking distance in the French Quarter:
* Auroville: Auroville was set up by people who believe in the teachings of Guru Aurobindo, as well as a new way of life separate from caste, creed and nationality. It is often mistaken to be a hippe hangout, but nothing could be further from the truth. People from all over the world who believe in a united spirit of kinship and harmony, have built this place and named it the ‘City of Dawn’. The entire place exudes peace and unity, and houses the famous Matrimandir Meditation Centre, the Main Road Market selling locally made soaps, perfumes, trinkets and clothing, delicious organic food at the Auroville Bakery, and the Auroville Botanical Gardens. This is a must-visit tourist place in Pondicherry for you and the family.
* Promenade Beach: This is probably the only beachfront in India that closes down the main road from 6 pm to midnight every single day so that pedestrians may move about freely without the fear of accidents. This alone makes it one of the hippest tourist places in Pondicherry, apart from its scenic beauty. The 1.2 km stretch of beach and sand is a pleasing prospect in the monsoon and winter seasons, and you will love looking at the sea, or sitting on the rocks, or just strolling past the shops and restaurants at the far end of the promenade.
* Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Located near MG Road and close to the Pondicherry Railway Station, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a grand edifice that is as inviting on the outside as it is spectacular on the inside. It is one of the best Pondicherry tourist places, and is modelled on the Gothic architecture style. It is one of the few churches in India to have a separate adoration chapel. The mass here is normally held in French, but all faiths are invited to attend the service. Do not click pictures or video inside certain parts of the Basilica, and certainly not during the service.
* French War Memorial: This is a major historical landmark for the city. One of the most important tourist places in Pondicherry, the French War Memorial is a prominent landmark memorial that is best visited just before the sunrise. It is a spectacular site when the sun rises. The majestic memorial was built as a sign of respect for the French soldiers that perished in the World War I. It is located at Goubert Avenue, and is decorated with lamps and lights on July 14 every year to honour the French Bastille Day.
* Ousteri Lake: This is a man-made freshwater lake, and one of the best tourist places in Pondicherry. It is home to a series of exotic migratory and Indian birds. It is a popular picnic spot both for the local residents and tourists. We recommend that you visit this spot during the evening hours to catch the stunning sunset, and also to feast your eyes on the lovely birds that come to roost and drink water. You are most likely to see birds like water hens, billed storks, egrets, golden orioles and white ibises here, apart from Indian kingfishers and woodland pigeons.
* Old Lighthouse: One of the prominent landmarks in the town, the Old Lighthouse is one of the prominent Pondicherry tourist places. You must visit it if you like exploring old buildings repleate with history. The lighthouse was built in the 19th century when this town was still under the French provincial rule. The historic lighthouse was the only source of light on this part of the coast, for ships travelling from here across the Red Hills. You will love its solid engineering and the views it offers, so keep your camera at the ready when you reach the top.
Staying at the best Pondicherry resort will ensure that your holiday is well-rounded and as special as you can make it. We recommend the Club Mahindra Puducherry Resort in Tamil Nadu. It is an exclusive property that bears all the hallmarks of Club Mahindra excellence: a central location just outside town, a lavish 24 acres of land to explore, well-appointed rooms, delicious food in the restaurant, a spa, pool, fitness centre, children’s activity space, and tranquillity for your soul! Book your holiday at Club Mahindra for a fabulous experience.
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