If you have come to Pondicherry, now known as Puducherry, or almost always referred to as “Pondy”, thinking of it as just another provincial village by the Bay of Bengal, you are in for a big disappointment. Pondy is a city in South of India which means there will unfailingly be a lot of people, a lot of traffic, a lot of noise, and a lot of everything. Having said that, the older part of this former French colony, where you will be spending most of your time most likely, is full of many calm, quiet, clean and shady streets bordered with mustard-yellow painted colonial houses.
The city was under the French rule up until 1954 and some of the locals here still speak the language. You may also hear locals speaking in English but with a French accent. Many hotel and restaurants serve French menu and many shops and business make profits displaying a wide range of French products. Most of these are even constructed keeping in mind the French architecture.
If not for the French quarters, then Pondy is famous for its next best thing – the famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the town of Auroville. The ashram is one of the major factors for a majority of spiritually-inclined travellers visiting the town and also for a large part of the town’s creative art.
When in Pondy, enjoy roaming through the streets of the old French Quarters, enjoy French food and wine, drink cheap beer (Pondy is a Union Territory so no state taxes on alcohol), and if you prefer, some yoga and meditation.
Pondy is divided from North to South by a partially covered canal. The east part of the city though is more French. Many streets have English, French, and Tamil names, all at once.
Let’s now explore some of the popular sights in this French town of India:
These are some of the prominent sights and attractions in the town of Pondicherry. There are many activities for you to take part in while you are in the town including Indian and French cookery classes, Bollywood and Indian Classical dance classes, yoga, Ayurveda, meditation and more. There are fun diving lessons being offered too along with a full range of PADI and NAUI diving courses for beginners to professionals. The best months for diving is considered to be between February and April and September and November. Sri Aurobindo Ashram offers courses in yoga, Ayurveda and Varma-point treatments to cure all manner of ailments. You can practise as well as learn these subjects at the ashram.
Speaking of Yoga, Puducherry celebrates the International Yoga Festival from 4th to 7th January every year where numerous workshops, demonstrations, and music and dance events are held by various yoga and meditation schools and practitioners. The festival attracts yoga enthusiasts from all over the country and beyond.
The airport at Pondicherry can accommodate landing of a small aircraft only and has flights coming in from Bangalore and Hyderabad. However, you can get a connecting flight if you are coming from Delhi, Kochi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Chennai is the second nearest domestic as well as international airport which is roughly 135 kilometres from Pondicherry and is well connected to all major cities across the globe. From the airport, you can hire a private taxi to reach Pondicherry.
The nearest rail station from Pondicherry is Villupuram, which is roughly 35 kilometres away from the town. The railhead is well-connected to other major cities in the country such as New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Trivandrum. Two of the most popular trains are New Delhi Pondicherry Express and Nagarcoli Express. From the station, you can hire a taxi that will drive you to the city.
There are frequent buses from Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Madurai to Pondy. Both private and state-owned buses are available. National Highway 45 connects Pondy to other major cities of South India such as Chennai and Bangalore. You can hire a taxi or drive down to the city from these nearby cities. The drive from Chennai to Pondicherry is particularly scenic and offers magnificently picturesque views of the Bay of Bengal.