Pondicherry; a little slice of French tranquillity amongst the vibrant chaos of India. At 152km Km south of Chennai, it’s a respite from the city hustle and bustle with enough character to keep you seriously interested and enough of Europe to offer a few home comforts. Pondicherry is the capital city of the Indian Union territory of Puducherry. With quaint and colourful streets, little Artsy touches and some melt-in-your-eyes sunrises and sunsets, Pondy’s White Town is not only worth visiting, but it’s worth spending a few days to explore.
If you’re travelling in India, chances are you’ll find yourself in Pondicherry. We had 5 whole days to adventure in Pondicherry, so we donned our adventure caps, hopped on the scooter, and went out in search of all of the awesome things to do in Pondicherry. Here’s an essential guide to spark up your own adventures in East India’s slice of French paradise.
Between the months of June and early October, swell hits the east side of India, meaning that surf’s up! Try Pondicherry beach or head further north towards Serenity beach. If you’re looking to rent boards or have a lesson, try Kallilay surf school.
#2 Cafe Hangouts
With quaint colonial architecture come quaint little cafe hangouts. Try the smoothies and salad thalis at Domus surrounded by lush tropical plants, or hangout in Disdis & Co with its walls covered in Pop art style paintings, marble table tops and super comfy loungers.
#3 Ice cream at Cream Affair
Pondicherry gets hot. Like 40 degrees celcius hot. And if you end up air con hopping during the heat of the day, be sure to hop into Cream Affair. This isn’t just any old soft serve or hand made scoopable stuff. This is the REAL DEAL. Cold stone creations made on a cold plate or waffle cones on steroids made with ACTUAL BUBBLE WAFFLES. One trip might not be enough… but at least make it one trip! Your tastebuds (and internal body temperature) will thank you later.
#4 Visit Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
Best enjoyed in the cool morning air, at first light, this is a seriously cool temple for you to feast your eyes on. Early in the morning you’ll see a handful of worshippers as they enter the temple, but you’ll probably just want to gaze in awe at the religious statues which make up the main part of the temple that tower high into the sky. Be sure to cover legs and shoulders even if you don’t enter the temple as a mark of respect.
#5 Get a massage
Nothing says treating yourself like kicking back and enjoying a good massage. And you can definitely do that here in Pondy. There’s a number of spas to choose from but try Nirmal Beauty Parlour or Domus’ CL45 Le Spa.
#6 Sunrise over the ocean
Being in the East means you can enjoy seeing the colours of dawn dance across the sky. Be sure to wake up nice and early before the sun is up to enjoy all the colourful feels. If you can find a spot with the lighthouse in view, even better! The below picture is taken from the rooftop at Aadhaar Guest House.
#7 Sunsets over the palms
Looking in the opposite direction, out west, from the rooftop of Aadhaar Guest House you’ll get a beautiful sunset which melts into the jungle palms. Be sure to enjoy this tranquil moment every day (especially if you are staying at Aadhaar Guest House – maybe get a beer cooling in the fridge ready for sundown to make it that bit extra special.
#8 Take a trip to Auroville
Rent a scooter or take a tuktuk, but whatever you do, be sure to head to Auroville and check out this awsome little community who are attempting to be as sustainable as possible. Go to the visitors centre near the Auroville Ashram Golden Globe to find out what the place is all about. And for foodie hangouts? Check out Bread & chocolate and Auroville Bakery. Trust me.
#9 Pondicherry Lighthouse
It’s a perfect outing to catch the late afternoon breeze, but it’s still pretty hot so be prepared to sweat. Looking up from the bottom and down from the top makes for a dizzying sight for the eyes. Finally you’ll see Pondy in all its glory from above, you can even check the surf up there as well. You’ll need to remove your shoes and pay a little extra if you have a camera with you. Visiting hours are between 3pm and 5pm.
#10 Buy ACTUAL JAM!
Pondicherry is French. Meaning the town generally caters for French cultural needs. Luckily, this means you can get good Jam in Pondicherry. If you’re travelling for a long time and you’ve regularly been optimistically trying all the jam you’ve ever been served in India, you’ll appreciate this even more. You’ll find Bonne Maman jam in Nilgiris Green Field supermarket. Make the most of this jam pit stop!
#11 Street Art
keep your eyes peeled for art on walls across the town… it’s not like East London but there is definitely a creative vibe thrown across the little streets of Pondy. If you’re a camera buff, and appreciate a good graphic composition, you’ll love just walking around those quaint and colourful streets and snapping whatever catches your eye.
#12 Stroll the promenade
The long stretch of sand which makes up Pondy beach also offers a palm lined promenade with smooth concrete surface – perfect for skating if you happen to have a board with you. But seeing as most of us probably don’t have room for our fave 4 wheeler in our backpacks, just stick to strolling, enjoying the sea air and the Ghandhi statue.
#13 Beach Crawl
Best done by scooter for all the explorer feels, head north from White Town up to Serenity Beach and then take the main road from there continuing north. There’s miles of gorgeous, sandy, and almost deserted beaches up for grabs. Make sure you take your camera in hand and a good sense of adventure! Also make sure you don’t swim anywhere alone in case of hidden rips and strong currents. Can also be enjoyed by tuktuk but you’ll probably need to get one for the whole day.
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