A laid back holiday with a stroll along pristine beaches, a walk in the lanes laden with history, a peep into your inner self, isn’t this an enticing prospect? Head to Pondicherry for a holiday of life time. Located on the eastern coast, Pondicherry is one of the most preferred tourist destinations of south India. There are so many stunning places to visit in Pondicherry that you forget to keep count of all. Here are a few of them.
We are traveling through Pondicherry as we explore south to northeast India to learn the cultural richness of the country. Read more about our project at #OutOnRoads4hornbill.
Selected Places to Visit in Pondicherry
1. Promenade or Rock Beach, Pondicherry
Beaches in Pondicherry are biggest attraction for tourists. Rock beach Pondicherry is one that reminds us of the French roots of the place. The 1.5 km long promenade has been built in French style, imparting an old world charm to the area. This is the ideal spot for a morning walk, enjoying the cool breeze and splashing waves. In the evening hours, the beach becomes crowded with people looking for a way to get rid of exhaustion of the day. There are many restaurants and food carts, so you can try some local street food. Several handicraft bazaars also thrive nearby, if you are interested in some shopping in Pondicherry.
2. Botanical Garden
This is one of the most stunning places to visit in Pondicherry by reason of abundant green cover in the middle of the city. The garden dating back to 1826, was constructed by French rulers. Entrance to the garden has been built in French architectural style, another memory left behind by the colonial empire. Step inside the garden and you enter another world, of tall trees and exotic plants. Today the garden is the favorite of kids are there are toy trains, aquariums, musical fountains, all to their taste!
This is the destination for all spiritual wanderers and seekers. The idea of Auroville or ‘City of Dawn’ was conceived by Sri Aurobindo. This is a universal township, where people from all over the globe live peacefully under one roof. The state of the art architecture of buildings is worth applause. Matrimandir, the meditation place which glows in golden color, is the most imposing structure of the whole place. People living here are engaged in activities like agriculture and making of organic products. For those desirous of buying organic and handmade items, this is the best place for shopping in Pondicherry. The products are a bit high priced, though.
4. Manakula Vinayagar Temple
This temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, is one among the stunning places to visit in Pondicherry which has a divine aura attached. Several images of Lord Ganesha are carved on stone walls surrounding the temple and on the spire. The architecture is typical Dravidian style, which was followed in olden days. This temple is highly revered among Hindu worshippers. During the days of French colonial rule, attempts were made to destroy this temple. But the place survived and today it stands testimony to the faith of thousands.
5. Auroville Beach Pondicherry
Another gem among beaches in Pondicherry is Auroville beach, named so on account of its proximity to Auroville. This is a famous beach and will be crowded on weekends. The waters here are shallow, making it ideal for swimming. You can also find people surfing in the waters. The long stretch of beach looks mesmerizing when the white sands sparkle in sunrays. With your feet sinking in the soft sands and cool water, this beach rejuvenates you.
6. Bharti Park
Bharti Park or Government Park is a well maintained park in Pondicherry and is one of the most stunning places to visit in Pondicherry. This is the green zone of the city, entertaining young and old alike. Kids play in the gardens and pond, while elders relax in the shades. The park houses an important monument of Pondicherry, Aayi Mandapam. The monument has an interesting history. It was built in memory of Aayi, a courtesan who was so generous that she demolished her house to build a water tank for providing water to the people of Pondicherry. Raj Niwas, the official residence of Governor is also located in the premises of the park. This building with striking architecture adds to the charm of the place.
7. Chunnambar Boat House
This is the backwater beauty of Pondicherry. Chunnambar beach is located close to the origin of backwaters. The serene waters invite tourists to sink in its beauty. Located near the Chunnambar backwaters is Paradise beach, another charming beach. A boat ride along the backwaters to Paradise beach with nature surrounding you, the ultimate pleasure ride! Water in Chunnambar is not very deep, so you can try swimming. There are some more water recreational activities, in case you are not satisfied by simply gazing and lazing around.
Arikamedu, a lost city, is one of the most stunning places to visit in Pondicherry. It is a trip back in time. This is the place where archaeological excavations have unearthed remains of an ancient port city. A city that has records of Roman presence in India! The city was famous for manufacture of bead jewelry and the glass bead making site of this place was known all over the world. It was a part of Chola dynasty who had trade ties with Romans. Artefacts excavated here speak of the glorious past of Arikamedu. Do not miss a visit to Arikamedu, if you are a history lover.
9. Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus
This church is a sacred place of worship for Christians in and around Pondicherry. The church, built in Gothic architectural style, is a major heritage landmark in Pondicherry. Consecrated more than a century back, the church still remains intact. Inside the church there are stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ. Pictures of 28 saints related to sacred heart of Jesus also adorn the walls of church. Once inside the church, you cannot but bow down before the altar, even if you are not a Christian. Such is the atmosphere of the place!
10. Gingee Fort
Though located at an hour’s distance, Gingee fort is one of the most stunning places to visit in Pondicherry. This fort was built on three hillocks and was considered as one of the most impenetrable fortresses of India. The British even nicknamed it ‘Troy of the East’. The fort was constructed by Chola dynasty in 9th century AD. Three hills on which the fort is set, are connected by walls making it a massive enclosure. Inside there are halls, granaries and even prisons. Though a trek to the top might leave you sweating and panting, it is worth a visit. Just to marvel at the intelligence of old rulers!
11. Pondicherry Museum
To learn about the heritage and history of a place, one should visit its museums. So is it with Pondicherry also. A visit to the museum will help us understand how several empires have left their marks in Pondicherry. Stone and bronze sculptures from Chola dynasty, Roman artefacts from Arikamedu excavations, remnants of French culture, all can be found here. If you missed out on Arikamedu, a trip to this museum will cover up for that. Precious stones, glass beads, Roman jars and many such rare artefacts dug out from Arikamedu can be seen here.
The sleepy little town of Pondicherry has much to offer, only if you manage to squeeze a few days out of your hectic life to relax in its shores. It is beyond any doubt that a few days spent in Pondicherry will invigorate every wandering soul.