If there is one thing about Pondicherry that strikes first-time visitors, it’s the French influence. Everything from the architecture to the food and language has French elements – no wonder this charming city earned the nickname of ‘Paris of the East.’
The largest city and capital of the Puducherry Union Territory, this small but remarkable place has lots for visitors. Interesting culture, religious monuments, remarkable beaches, water sports, guided cycle tours, boutiques, and historic structures. When you wish to escape to a serene destination that also has decent activity options, Pondicherry is just the place to be.
Places To Visit In Pondicherry
Pondicherry has plenty of attractions and recreation options for those looking to spend a few days in the city. Owing to its interesting colonial history and mixed population, the city has many attractions that every traveller will love to visit. Here are our recommendations:
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Undoubtedly a must-visit place, this ashram was founded way back in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo Ghose and Mirra Alfassa (known as ‘the Mother’), a French-born lady. A spiritual community with over 2,000 members follow the founder’s integral yoga teachings here. It also holds the samadhis (memorials) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, which thousands of people visit annually to pay their respects. A library, bookshop, accommodation area, and cafeteria are housed within the ashram.
A highlight of any Pondicherry trip, the Promenade offers a refreshing experience. You can sit on the rocky beach, take a stroll, or grab a bite at any of the cafes and restaurants in the area. This place is also known for the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, an iconic landmark of the city. What’s interesting is that there is also a French War Memorial located opposite Gandhi’s statue, which was built to commemorate the French soldiers martyred during World War I.
Bharathi Government Park
A green haven in the midst of the city, Bharathi Park enjoys a beautiful location opposite Raj Nivas, the governor’s residence, which is a magnificent example of neoclassical architecture. A monument called Aayi Mandapam stands tall at the park’s centre, which is surrounded by sprawling grounds with a museum and pond – making it ideal for a family visit or when you wish to spend a restful time.
Manakula Vinayagar Temple
A highly-revered place of worship, Manakula Vinayagar is a centuries-old structure dedicated to the Hindu god Ganesha and a popular pilgrimage spot for Hindus. The walls of the temple are a sight to behold with the intricate paintings and designs.
This remarkable temple is also known for the golden chariot built with 7.5 kilograms of gold! Made from the donations of devotees, it is taken out every Dusherra.
Fun Trivia About Pondicherry
- Pondicherry is a unique Union Territory because it has an elected Chief Minister and its own legislature.
- Auroville, a popular attraction, is an experimental township and ideal for travellers wishing to learn about Indian spirituality.
- The Matrimandir housed within the township has 56 kilograms of gold on the dome.
- Puducherry celebrates its Independence Day on August 16 while the rest of India celebrates it on August 15. It was in 1962, when Pondicherry gained independence from French colonists.
- The Jawahar Toy Museum houses more than 100 rare toys and dolls from all over India.
Useful Words And Phrases For Travel To Pondicherry
- Vaṇakkam: Hello (or other greetings)
- Eppadi irukkīnga: How are you?
- Nalla irukken: I am fine
- Unga peru enna: What is your name?
- En peru: My name is…
- Puriyavillai: I do not understand
- Utavi: Help
- Āmām: Yes
- Illai: No
- Mannikkanum: Sorry
- Nandri: Thank You
- Idhu evvalavu?: How much is this?
Travel Tips For Pondicherry
- Take a rented bicycle or motorbike to explore the city in an affordable, convenient way. Auto rickshaws are available, but usually do not charge according to the meter.
- Carrying a money belt is a smart option to avoid getting pickpocketed. However, refrain from carrying a lot of cash, especially in crowded areas.
- Remove your shoes before entering religious monuments and wear modest clothing. Different places of worship may have specific rules, so abide by them to avoid offending any religious sentiments.
- Carry your medical prescriptions and important medicines to avoid emergencies.
- Pack clothes according to the season as summers can be quite hot and humid owing to the coastal location.
Local Cuisine In Pondicherry
Similar to its culture, Pondicherry’s food has Tamil as well as French influences. So, one can find everything from simple vegetarian South Indian dishes to fresh seafood and delectable French cuisine.
There are numerous restaurant, cafés, and small road-side eateries scattered all over the city where visitors can sample different dishes. The French Quarter is home to several elegant dining places and bistros.
Using Money In Pondicherry
The Indian Rupee (INR) is used in Pondicherry, and there are a decent number of money exchange services, banks, and ATMs available. Credit cards and traveller’s cheques are accepted, though not widely, so it is better to keep sufficient Indian currency in hand during sightseeing and general exploring. Smaller establishments and attractions like museums may often accept cash-only transactions.
Pondicherry Fact File:
Location: In southern India, about 170 km from Chennai.
How to Reach: The domestic airport in Pondicherry has regular small aircrafts flying in from Bengaluru and Hyderabad; Chennai airport is another option. Villupuram is the closest railhead and connected to major Indian cities. Taxis and buses are available to travel by road from Chennai and Bengaluru.
Official Languages: Tamil, English, French
Time Zone: UTC+05:30
Climate: Tropical wet and dry
Food & Drink: The cuisine has both Tamil and French influences; coconut curry, croissants, baguettes and kadugu yerra (prawns curry) are some must-try dishes. Palpayasam (sweet milk) is a popular sweet dish.
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