Pondicherry, fondly called as “Pondy”, is a small French town situated on the Coromandel Coast of India. Step into this “French Riviera of the East” and you will wonder where you are. You have reached a tiny France packed with people and color, clean streets with French signboards, gothic churches, brightly painted houses, white compound walls decked with red bougainvillea, magnificent gardens, Parisian style cafes, French cuisine and people speaking fluent French everywhere. A French territory for 300 years and presently the union territory of India, this little town has retained its old French charm in its architecture and spirit. Whether you are seeking peace and relaxation on the mesmerizing beaches, or a spiritual pilgrimage to religious places and spiritual centers; or you are in a mood to go back in time and take a Heritage Walk to the old French era, you have set your foot in the right place; and there are so many amazing Places to See in Pondicherry that will immerse yourself in its history.
How to Reach Pondicherry
Pondicherry (renamed as Puducherry) is situated at about 160 km from Chennai International airport. The nearest railway station is Villupuram, 36 km away from the city, which is well linked to Chennai and Trivandrum. A number of buses and taxis are available from the railway station and airport which provide comfortable services to Pondicherry. Pondicherry is well connected by road from major cities in South India.
Places to see in Pondicherry
The rich cultural heritage, natural beauty and the French flavor make Pondicherry a favorite tourist destination of the travellers from all parts of the world. Here is our list of the top tourist places to see in Pondicherry which you should not miss during your visit.
1. Sri Aurobindo Ashram – the Abode of Spiritual Salvation
Founded by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, the great Indian philosopher and yogi, in 1926, Sri Aurobindo Ashram attracts thousands of spiritual seekers from all over the world. The Ashram shelters the mortal remains of Sri Aurobindo and ‘The Mother’, who was his French disciple and spiritual companion. A diverse community, of about 1200 members, lives there seeking spiritual salvation. They are engaged in various productive works including farming, gardening, libraries, small scale industries, etc. There are 400 students in its Education Centre and hundreds of devotees staying nearby. The Ashram gives importance to Yoga and helps you attain inner peace. You have to book in advance, if you need accommodation in the Ashram guest houses.
2. Auroville- the Experimental Township of Universal Oneness
Auroville, also known as the “City of Dawn”, is an experimental township founded by ‘The Mother’ in 1968. It is meant to be a universal town where people from all countries are able to live together in peace and harmony, beyond the concepts of creed, politics and nationality. It occupies about 2000 people belonging to 44 nations, who are involved in varieties of activities including technology, agriculture, administration, education, healthcare and many advanced development projects.
The Matrimandir (Temple of the Mother) is an architectural marvel situated in the center of the township in a large open space. It is in the shape of a huge sphere surrounded by twelve petals. This Geodesic dome, covered with golden discs, reflects sunlight to give a unique radiance. It has a meditation hall known as the Inner Chamber, which has the largest optically perfect glass globe in the world.
3. Beaches and Backwaters – the Ultimate Chill Out!
Beaches are undoubtedly the most beautiful places to see in Pondicherry. Paradise beach, Serenity beach, Promenade beach and Auroville beach are the four popular beaches.
With its spectacular blue water, pristine golden sands and fringed palm trees, Serenity beach tops the to See in Pondicherry Pondicherry. Auroville beach, with shallow waters, is an ideal place for swimming. Stroll on the Promenade beach along Goubert Avenue and you can watch the historical landmarks like Mahatma Gandhi statue, War Memorial, Statue of Joan of Arc, Dupleix statue, old Light house, and Town Hall.
With soft silvery and golden sand and blue water the Paradise beach appears like a real paradise. It is located near the mouth of Chunnambar backwater, where the backwater embraces the sea. It is a perfect place for sunbathing, swimming, beach volley and horse riding. Here you can have a memorable experience of watching playful dolphins.
You have to cross the Chunnambar backwater through boat to reach Paradise beach. Chunnambar boat house is situated at about 7 km from the city from where boats keep plying to the Paradise beach in every 20 minutes through the serene backwaters which has full greenery of mangrove and palm forest along the shore. You can stay overnight within the tree top houses on the banks of the backwater and enjoy the ecstasy of ecotourism.
4. Religious Places – Reflection of Cultural Heritage
There are hundreds of religious places to see in Pondicherry, which have a secular line up of temples, churches and mosques. Most popular temples include Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswarar Temple (Villianur Temple), Kamatchi Amman Temple, Manakula Vinayagar Temple, Sri Varadarajaperumal Temple, Kanniga Parameswari Temple and Vedapureeswar Temple.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The magnificent churches in Pondicherry reflect the beauty of French architectural excellence. The most popular among them are The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Church of Our Lady of Angels, The Church of Our Lady of Good Health, The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, and Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
Meeran Mosque, Kuthba Mosque, Jamya Mosque and Muhmadia Mosque are some of the most famous mosques in Pondicherry.
5. Arikamedu – Go back in time!
Arikamedu, located at 4 km south of Pondicherry on the bank of Arivankuppam River, is one of the most important places to see in Pondicherry, which has great historical significance. It is an archaeological site of Roman settlement with a history that dates back to 2nd century B.C. It was a major Chola port renowned for making and exporting beads of stone and glass, terracotta objects, gems, spices, etc., to Roman Ports. Excavations at this site have revealed wonderful remains of the Roman trade including coins, wine jars, ceramic products, megalithic burial urns, Roman potteries, etc. The only structures remaining now are the tall walls of an 18th century French Jesuit Mission House. And of course, the abundance of coconut and mango trees in the site and the bunch of mangoes hanging from the lower branches will bring you back to the present time of reality.
6. Museums – Storehouses of Culture, Art and History
Museums are the informative places to see in Pondicherry which are the store houses of the culture and art of the city. Bharati and Bharatidasan Memorial Museums, Puducherry Museum and Jawahar Toy Museum are the notable among them. Bharati and Bharatidasan Memorial museums are built in the houses where these two Tamil poets lived. These museums display the manuscripts, poems, photographs and letters of these poets.
Puducherry Museum has a rare collection of items belonging to the Pallava and Chola dynasties, statues of gods and goddesses, materials recovered from Arikamedu Roman settlement, fossils of age old trees, rare coins and handicrafts and furniture belonging to French period.
Jawahar Toy Museum has a rare collection of toys and decorated dolls representing the culture of the region and different states of the country that portrays high artistic excellence.
7. Garden and Park – Best Place to Relax
The famous Botanical Gardens with over 1500 species of rare plants from different parts of the world, beautiful flower beds, gravel lined paths, artificial hills and musical fountains are considered to be one of the best botanical gardens in South India. Constructed 200 years ago in the decorative French style, this garden stands out from the surroundings and attracts nature lovers and green activists.
Aayi Mandapam at Bharati Park
The Government Park, also known as Bharati Park, is one of the beautiful places to see in Pondicherry. This well-laid park is dotted with French architectural excellence, lush green trees, and vast green lawn. In the middle of the park stands the magnificent Aayi Mandapam, a gleaming white structure with wonderful architectural brilliance built in the 16th century according to Greco-Roman style of architecture. With its sparkling illuminations, it looks more beautiful in the night sky.
8. Historical Monuments – Have a French Heritage Walk
French War Memorial
Among the historical places to see in Pondicherry, the graceful French War Memorial stands high. This amazing architectural wonder, situated in the Goubert Avenue, was constructed in 1971 to honor the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their country in the First World War. Every year on July 14, Bastille Day is celebrated when the monument is illuminated beautifully and homage paid to the brave martyrs. You can watch the colonial French buildings and the heritage monuments either by your own way or by a French Heritage Walk organized by Puducherry Tourism Department.
The 4 meter high statue of Mahatma Gandhi constructed on the beach front of Promenade beach, surrounded by eight massive granite pillars, reminds you that you are still in India.
The 2.88 meter tall statue of Dupleix was the recognition of the French government to honor the contribution of Joseph Francois Dupleix who was the Governor General of Pondicherry between 1742 and 1754.
The historical Statue of Joan of Arc, the courageous French martyr, stands tall in front of the Church of Our Lady of Angels.
Eight thousand kilometers from France, in this little coastal town, you can give time a break and enjoy something French. Begin your day with a delicious breakfast of cheese baguettes and croissants at the Baker’s street. …..Monsieur, Mademoiselle, be ready for the fun!