Pondicherry: The Perfect Place to Unwind and Find Your Inner Peace
The former French settlement and the current union territory of Pondicherry, or Puducherry as it is called now, is a delightful amalgamation of Indian culture and French civilization. You can still see the touches of French colonization in the French Quarter or otherwise called as White Town. Walking down the streets of the beachside town, you get a feel of something that is completely out of India. Rows and rows of perfectly arranged houses, neat and clean streets and bougainvillaea laden walls peppered with cafes and restaurants offering French cuisine is a sight that treats an amazed tourist.
But if you are looking for sight or experience similar to Goa, you will be disappointed, because what you get is a completely different coast and a very different experience. The union territory makes you want to stop time, let everything go and relax. So, long walks enjoying the beauty of the town and relaxing in the beaches is the schedule of the day. Choose one of the numerous cafes, enjoy a glass of wine with some delectable food and forget about your day-to-day life. Visit Auroville or Sri Aurobindo Ashram and try your hand at yoga or meditation. But if adventure is your relaxation, Pondicherry offers you rides in a catamaran, scuba diving, surfing and so much more. In short, Pondicherry is all about relaxation.
If You like Eating: Top 5 Eateries to Visit in Pondicherry
Pondicherry, having been a French settlement, is famous for its restaurants offering authentic French cuisine. Your trip to Pondicherry isn’t complete without digging into what the town has to offer.
Right on the seaside, facing the sea is Escape In delivering the most delectable food and a relaxed ambience for the hungry locals and tired tourists alike. With a front-row view of the Promenade Sea, the patrons can expect delicious North Indian fare including kebabs, tandoori dishes, rotis and more. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian you can be assured that your taste buds would be doing a happy dance. So good is the food. Not much a fan of kebabs and rotis, try their Chinese and continental fare. By the way, don't skip on their soups either. You will thank us later. And a special mention is a must for the person who chooses their music. A perfect addition to a lovely atmosphere.
In short with amazing food, fresh ingredients, good music and a view to die for, Escape In is a place that should be in your itinerary.
Situated in the centre of the old town otherwise known as the White Town, Villa Shanti gives you a glimpse into the past as a French colony. A blend of the charming old with the trendy modernity, it houses a restaurant and cafe. Most recently, they have added a new wing that houses 15 rooms. Villa Shanti is more of an upscale restaurant aimed at people looking for a European experience in terms of food. Keeping up with the colonial French architecture you can find delicious crepes, salads and wines in their menu. For the desi foodies, you also have an excellent selection of north Indian fare. If possible, ask for a table at their inner courtyard. The inner courtyard has tons of natural light and plants most importantly a vertical garden. What better way can you think of to wind down rather than a delicious meal in the most beautiful of settings?
Looking for a change in the environment? Steaks? Rich French fare? Go for Villa Shanti as your next staycation.
An unassuming restaurant, almost like a hole in the wall, it is very easy to miss if you don't look carefully enough. The decor may not be much but the food more than makes up for it. Boston Cafe is a family-run restaurant that serves food both Indian and western. If you are craving for some sinfully enticing food that no fancy restaurant serves, Boston Cafe is the place. It serves some of the best beef dishes in Pondy. Among the Indian dishes, their beef roast, beef curry with parotta and pepper beef are dishes that are not to be missed. They also serve continental food including fish and chips, burgers and steaks.
Are you a foodie with tastes ranging from street food to gourmet? Dare not miss Boston Cafe at your next visit to Pondy.
Cafe Des Arts
Bohemian yet refined! Delicious European fare! Cafe Des Arts gives you the best in terms of decor and food. Not just the food, the cafe itself give you a European hipster vibe. The delicate 19th-century architecture and the graffiti on the cafe lend to the name. The aroma of freshly baked goods and coffee assault your senses as you enter the cafe. Name your dish; Be it the cheesy omelette or a simple baguette or the heavenly crepes; Get ready for an attack on your tastebuds. With the number of people milling around, there ought to be some delay. While you are waiting to be seated peep into the lifestyle store on the premises. If you happen to go on a rare quiet day ask for a table in the courtyard. Kissed by the sun, touched by the gentle breeze and accompanied by a plate of steaming hot food. That's heaven right there.
The perfect grab and go breakfast option; But once you enter you’d certainly want to linger around and savour the moment.
Gelateria Montecatini Terme
Pondicherry, being a colonial town has some of the best gelatos. Gelateria Montecatini Terme has the best gelato in town without being in Italy. You may have had the best gelato and ice cream before; But with GMT in the picture, you might as well forget about it. With a rich collection of usual as well as exotic flavours, it gives you an experience of a lifetime. Located in the famous Rock beach, GMT has more than 30 flavours on offer. Apart from the classical flavour, they have some unusual, exotic flavours like Amaretto, Dubai cream, Sicilia and more that are a must-have.
End your visit to the Rock Beach with some delicious gelato from Gelateria Montecatini Terme.
If You Like Shopping: Top 5 Places to Hunt Down Bargains
Cluny Embroidery Centre
True to Pondy’s roots is the Cluny Embroidery Centre. Run by the sisters from The Cluny Convent, it supports underprivileged women. It is set up in an 18th-century building which hosts a workshop alongside. Visitors get to see the women in work if they so desire. These women are trained in delicate needlework and embroidery. The resultant products are set for sale in their store. Embroidered table mats, table cloths, bed covers and more are available for sale.
Cluny Embroidery Centre is open all days from Tuesday to Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm. Watch the women bring threads and cloth to life with beautiful artwork.
Serenity Beach Bazaar
Serenity Beach Bazaar is one of the lesser-known markets but a must-visit on your schedule. It is a weekly market that happens only during the weekend. Vendors from all over the country have their wares on display. Hence it has quite a colourful vibe similar to that of a village market. You can get everything from handicrafts to jewellery and home goods. Hungry shoppers can visit one of the food stalls that sell delicious food hot from the grill to your plate.
Situated at the famous serenity beach, the Serenity Beach Bazaar operates from 10 am to 5 pm only on Saturdays and Sundays. The quiet and peaceful locale along with the beautiful beach makes for a memorable day out.
La Boutique D'Auroville
Is any trip complete without purchasing a bunch of gifts and souvenirs? And Pondicherry’s very own La Boutique D'Auroville has a variety of gifts that are unique and intriguing. From trendy clothing including kurta, palazzo, tops, jewellery, to handmade stuff like wood carvings, aromatics, handbags, shawls etc you can get everything that you desire and more. Whatever you buy don't miss out on their lampshades! You can get lampshades in every colour, design and size here. The lampshades are handmade using dried flowers, paper and more. If food is your thing check out their jam, lemon curd and pickles.
While you are enjoying the French vibe, check out this little store for a wholesome experience. The La Boutique D'Auroville is open on all days from 9:30 am to 8:30 pm.
Mahatma Gandhi Street
Beautiful handcrafted products; Dirt cheap prices; If you ignore the rather unsavoury (read smelly) environment, then Mahatma Gandhi Street is the place for you. With more than 100 stalls and a festive atmosphere, the shopping street is the go-to place for tourists and locals alike.
Open on all days from 4 pm to 10 pm, Mahatma Gandhi Street is the place to be to buy souvenirs for family and friends.
Romain Rolland Street
If there is a shopping street catering to the shopaholic, it is Romain Rolland Street. Featuring high-end boutiques as well as the street shops, the street market has choices on both extremes price-wise and in-between. Handmade products like incense, candles and silk, trendy outfits, perfumes are some of the stuff you can score in Romain Rolland Street. You can find handicrafts not just from Pondy but also from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa and even Tibet.
Operating from 4 pm to 10 pm on all days, Romain Rolland Street is a dream come true for a true shopper. You can spend hours trying outfits in the boutiques or bargaining in the street shops.
Pondicherry being an octroi - free destination is an attractive shopping destination for many a shopper. As such, it attracts many a designer and artisan to display their wares. Even if you have no idea of shopping, you might want to check it out for the kick of it.
If You Like Exploring or Sightseeing: Top 5 Must Visit Locations in Pondicherry
Pondicherry is known for its pristine beaches, both sandy and rocky. Be it just lounging on the sand or surfing or even other adventurous activities, Pondy beaches cater to all your interests.
Serenity beach tops the list for being the only beach with a few surfing schools in its vicinity. The beach, as its name indicates, is a picture of serenity and tranquil. It is surrounded by beautiful white sands on one side with rocks marking another part. Tall palm trees dot the shore making it an ideal location for photography.
The Bay of Bengal laps gently at the shores with waves high enough to surf. If you are a surfer, you are in for a treat. It is not well-known among the locals, hence you can find the beach quite peaceful with only a few tourists milling around
Otherwise called Pondy’s Marine Drive, Promenade beach is a nod to its French roots. The beach is a 1.2 km stretch that extends from the War Memorial to the Duplex Park. Though the beach is quite crowded, the clean and neat stretch makes for a relaxing walk. Or you could opt for a beach sport or a picnic with your family. The food stalls call for some timeout to enjoy their delicious fares.
Some of Pondy’s most loved tourist places like the war memorial, old lighthouse etc are situated right at the beach itself. The best time to visit Promenade beach is probably the evening when the sunsets letting you enjoy the cool breeze. But the cafes and tourist spots on the beach makes it desirable any time of the day.
Auroville, the brainchild of Mirra Alfassa, a disciple of Aurobindo is an experimental society based in Pondicherry. It is a universal town where people come together and live regardless of society, culture and culture. Surrounded by nature, it is home to people who love life and come here to escape the hustle-bustle of everyday life.
The main attraction and centre to Auroville, Matrimadir is a 30 m high globe sitting on a lotus-shaped urn. It is about a 1-minute walk from the gates where you can purchase the entry tickets. Here you can sit in silent contemplation surrounded by cool breeze and sounds of flowing water.
Take your time and walk across the distance to the Mandir and back. The walk among nature rejuvenates you and gives you a fresh breath of air.
A beach isolated enough to be untouched by commercial means; Golden Sands; Gentle Surf; Everything summed up is Paradise Beach. To reach the beach you need to take a boat ride across beautiful backwaters. Once you reach the beach, lounge on the lovely soft sands and stretch your legs. The beach shacks offer some heavenly food. Or maybe you could settle on some delicious tender coconuts.
Interested in bird-watching? Grab a pair of binoculars. You are in for a treat. Amateur photographers and professionals alike can brush up their skills in the beautiful and bountiful sceneries. The backwaters are surrounded by dense mangrove forests and monsoon season is when nature is in its full glory; all lush and green.
While the beach is known for its picturesque beauty, the waters have some serious currents, so it is better to avoid deep waters. But adventurers need not turn away; You have your share of water sports.
Pondicherry being a beachside city has had a lighthouse throughout its history. Currently, there are two; The old and the new. The former is not open for public visitation but the latter one brings a lot of footfall. The new lighthouse is quite different from the others in terms of architecture. Rather than being rectangular, it has a two-storied circular structure. Bring in your camera, since the lighthouse serves as an ideal spot for photographers providing a bird’s eye view of the city below.
Bonus Tip: Go for a Yoga or Meditation Session
Yoga is one of India’s best offerings to the world. In the busy and machinist world, you need something to ground you. Yoga lets you relieve your stress and worries; It brings you peace with an added advantage of health.
The presence of Auroville in Pondicherry gave rise to the yoga culture in the city. Be it Vinyasa, Hatha, Isha, Ashtanga, Iyengar or Bikram, Pondicherry has numerous yoga centres to satisfy your needs. Many centres provide Yoga Teacher Training Courses too.
Serious yogis can opt for ashram style yoga training. The duration of the training last from a month to six months. If you are someone looking to shed your worries, book yourself a yoga retreat. A week or 10 days of serious beach yoga sets you in harmony with nature and yourself.
Check the weather before you go
Pondicherry and Auroville comprise of a large international community, of which many return to their home countries in the summer months of May and June and often longer. The weather at this time is especially hot which will make it difficult to get around in the day, but more importantly, many of the lovely cafes and stores also down their shutters while owners are away and you may miss out on a few things you'd planned. The winters can be pleasant and it can also get cold when it rains. Prepare your itinerary and check if the weather matches it before you buy tickets.