Pondicherry, a tropical paradise, is an exemplary blend of turquoise blue oceans; sun kissed immaculate beaches, and an awe-inspiring French experience. Pondicherry is quite famous on the Indian map when it comes to vacations where one just wants to relax. But there are also a few underrated experiences in and near Pondicherry which you can’t afford to miss!
How to reach Pondicherry:
Pondicherry is very well connected to Chennai via 2 roads – the ECR and the NH4. The ECR road is more scenic and is also 40kms less than the NH4. You can either hire a cab in Chennai or take a bus from the famous bus terminal- CMBT which lies adjacent to Chennai Airport.
Where to stay in Pondicherry:
If you are on a budget, it’s preferable to stay in one of the guest houses maintained brilliantly by the Aurobindo Ashram Trust. You can book any guest house from their main office, which lies at the heart of the city, the Bureau Central. I will recommend you to stay at Andhra Bhavan, one of the many guest houses maintained by Aurobindo Ashram, mainly because of its location. Many of the major attractions in Pondicherry and the main market are at a walking distance from Andhra Bhawan – Rock Beach, White Town, popular Cafes etc.
If you are on a high budget, you can always opt for any of the resorts lying at the outskirts of the town overlooking the pristine seas that Pondicherry is known for.
Things you must do at Pondicherry:
Collect sea shells at Rock Beach
Roch Beach, one of the most decorated beaches I have even seen in India, is surely the cynosure of Pondicherry. And that’s not because it’s a favorite of the tourists only. Locals, too, love to laze around in its aesthetic surrounding. You can sit there listening to the music of the waves that hit the rocks or walk along the untainted pitch path running parallel to the beach or just observe the crowd enjoying in their own terms.
In the morning, head to the beach to witness a beautiful sun, making it’s way through the horizon. Early morning sees less crowd and the beach, in general, is not over commercialized. And so you can go down the rocks (be careful) and collect as many sea shells as you want. Yes, the sea bed stays literally covered by sea shells!
Buy sea shells from Asia’s largest sea shell museum
Not exactly in Pondicherry, but in Mahabalipuram, which lies between Chennai and Pondicherry on the ECR road, you can find the largest sea shell museum. It hosts 45000 types of sea shells collected entirely by one single person. The museum is an exemplary of dedicated art which is now 33 years in the making! After getting awed by the myriad types of sea shells, you can head to their exclusive shop to buy some of the rarest sea shells that you may, otherwise, never get your hands on. Also, if you are a lover of real pearls, nothing can be a better place than this. And trust me, this shopping may just become one of your biggest flaunts!
Explore the 2nd largest mangrove forest of Asia – Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
Don’t miss this! Especially if you haven’t visited any other mangrove forest. This place was quite secluded compared to other tourist places and I was shocked. This place is beautiful in more than one ways and it deserves every bit of your attention!
Located at a two hour drive from Pondicherry, this forest spreads across 1100 acres and is the second largest in the world. Maintained largely by the forest officials, it runs speed boats and paddle boats. I will strongly recommend you to opt for the speed boats even if the coasts may go a bit on the higher side because that takes you through some hidden tunnels which will leave you flabbergasted. There are almost 400 tunnels through which the boats can be taken and this is a major hub for research on mangrove.
Take a boat ride to reach the sea at Paradise beach
This is one of those beaches which requires an entry ticket! Yes! You need to take a boat ride through the cleanest of backwaters to reach the beach. And it will be one hell of a memorable boat ride because you won’t be able to have enough of those turquoise blue waters. And after that, you will enter paradise for sure! Beautifully decorated with tiny thatched grass roof topped huts and umbrellas, it is one of the most scenic beaches to take a dive in. You might just forget Goa after reaching here.
Go to Serenity Beach and see people surfing there
Put it in your priority list, bucket list, to-do list or whatever but come and visit this beach which has not been named Serenity beach for reasons unknown. The beach is a true paradise with every bit of serenity to offer. This beach, unlike, paradise beach doesn’t see a high tourist influx and you should be happy about it. This beach has steep slopes because of which it gets really high tides. High enough for surfing and not for swimming or bathing. You can see a lot of people surfing here or learning to surf. Adjacent to the beach is a surf school because of the ideal location. So, if you want to see the bluest of waters, head here to let time flow at your own pace!
Take a walk through the whole of White Town and French Colony
The whole township of Pondicherry is laid out in a grid pattern with parallel streets crossing each other at right angle. With its elegant colonial mansions and trees, parks, cool and happening bars and cafes on either side of the town, Pondicherry happens to be a really satisfying destination to stroll around. And as you enter White Town and the French Colony, you will surely forget that you are in India, at least for some time. Cleanly maintained, this place forms a perfect destination to capture some beautiful memories in the form of photographs.
Rent a bicycle or motorbike and explore hidden places
It’s best to visit Pondicherry in a bike. Autorikshaws here charge a hell lot of money and they will never fail to recognize a tourist and suck the money out of his/her pocket. Also, Pondicherry is not as small as it might look like. A number of places like Paradise Beach, Serenity Beach, Auroville, Chidambaram, Pichavaram Mangrove Forest, Auro Beach etc lie at the outskirts of the main town and it’s always cheaper and more fun to explore these places in a bike. Moreover you get the freedom to go around the places at your own pace. Don’t forget to stop at some of the cafes to have some of the most amazing food just at the side of the road. That’s not something you can commonly find in India.
Experience French and Italian cuisine at some of the best cafes
Pondicherry has some of the best cafes for every kind of taste palette. The most popular ones being – Café Xtasi, Café Des Arts, Sea Gulls, Bakers Street, Satsanga, Le Dupleix, Domus. And these cafes are not just about the food. The rustic ambiance that each one has got to offer with an eminent tinge of the French architecture surely promises to give you a different experience altogether.
Meditate inside Matri Mandir at Auroville
Well, this is one of the most frequented activity for which people visit Pondicherry. Matri Mandir is one of the most peaceful places on earth and you will never be able to forget your experience here. The place stays closed on Tuesdays. And always come with prior booking because mostly, it stays booked for at least the next 3 days.
Have meals at Aurobindo Ashram and visit the ashram for some silent time with yourself
Don’t forget to take a meal or two or may be all the meals at Aurobindo Ashram. They are not just dirt cheap (Rs 80 a day which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner!) but also they are delicious. Well, a bhog is always delicious. You will not just be awed by the discipline that’s followed here but also by the dedication of the disciples in serving so many people irrespective of any social stigmas created by the society.
One thing to note is that you need to stay in one of the Ashram guest houses to be able to collect the coupons for the meals. And also you need to go to Bureau Central everyday in the morning at around 6:30 am – 7:15 am to get the coupons as they et exhausted really fast.
If that was helpful, let me know in the comments below. If not, then surely let me know. You can DM me for any doubts or other suggestions and I will be happy to help. Don’t forget to follow me at Instagram – the_wandergirl_