Pondicherry - The French Riviera of the East:- Pondicherry (or Puducherry), is now a Union Territory town bounded by the southeastern Tamil Nadu state. Until 1954, it was a French colonial settlement in India.
Pondicherry welcomes you to a totally different atmosphere, with its colorfully painted houses in French architecture and relaxed attitude. Owing to it’s colonial era buildings, churches and temples, and of course, the famous beaches, it is a popular tourist destination in South India. It is also one of the few places to visit in South India which is preferred by mainstream and offbeat travelers alike.
Puducherry, a former French colony is one of the best places to get a glimpse of colonial heritage with its lanes having small yellow walled houses along with French cafes serving delicious steaks. The tourists usually come from the nearby towns of Bangalore and Chennai, whereas foreigners also flock to this town studded with beautiful beaches.
The town’s Auroville with the famous Shri Aurobindo Ashram is another prominent reason why people come over here. Pondicherry is a centre to learn the art of yoga, meditation and spirituality. The food, the beer, the beaches, the ashrams, the tranquil in the air, the breezy shores, Pondicherry has a color for everyone.
- Best Time To Visit
Pondicherry is best enjoyed during the months of October to March as the temperature usually ranges between 15 degree to 30 degree Celsius. Summers (April-June) are quite hot and the temperature touches even 40 degree Celsius occasionally. Monsoons (July-September) is also a good time to visit Pondicherry despite the rainfalls.
- Summer (March - June) : Summers in Pondicherry can vary on a day to day basis. Somedays could be pleasant while some extremely hot. The temperature usually ranges between 26 to 42 degrees Celsius.
- Monsoon (July - September) : Due to proximity to the sea, monsoons bring in quite a lot of humidity. The average temperature ranges between 25 to 35 degrees Celsius.
- Winter (October - February) : Winters in Pondicherry are very pleasant and mild. The temperatures range between 22 to 32 degrees Celsius and it is a very good time to be planning a trip here.
- How To Reach
Located in South India, Pondicherry is very well connected to the rest of the country and most major cities in the world via a good air, rail and road network.
- How to Reach Pondicherry by Flight
Pondicherry can be reached by air from the Puducherry Airport at Lawspet. Another option would be the Karaikal Airport.
Nearest Airport: Chennai Airport - 125 kms from Pondicherry
- How to Reach Pondicherry by Road
A road trip to Pondicherry is a dream for every traveller because of the exotic scenery. However, there are various buses that connect Pondicherry to Chennai, Trichy, Bangalore, Coimbatore etc.
- How to Reach Pondicherry by Train
The Villupuram Railway Junction connects Pondicherry to the rest of India via rail.
- Commuting Within Pondicherry
A lot of people prefer to rent their own motorcycle and car in Pondicherry, since some of the main attractions - Auroville and the Paradise beach are far from the main town. If you would not prefer to drive yourself, there are a lot of taxi and shared autos available which can give you a ride to and from the main promenade.
Top 6 Places To Visit
1) Paradise Beach
Also known as the Plage Paradiso, Paradise Beach is situated in Chunnambar, close to Pondicherry town. Adorned with the golden sand, this famous and highly sought after beach is always pitching with cold sea breeze. This is a little isolated beach, and to reach here you have to take a ferry across the backwaters, which takes around 20-30 minutes.
Part of the fun in reaching the beach is actually the beautiful ferry from the boat house. Photography enthusiasts would relish the opportunity to get some great photos of birds here.
The currents in the water are strong, so it is advisable to not go deep in the water. Paradise beach is a great spot to reach early morning and get a view of the sunrise on the eastern coast. A variety of water sport facilities are available here as well - enthusiastic tourists can try a hand at fishing as fishing rods and nets are easily available on rent.
- Open Time : 9 AM - 5 PM all days of the week
- How to Reach Paradise Beach
You can take an auto from the main city to the Chunnambar boat house, which is about 7kms south of the main town. From there, you can take a ferry for 30 rs. and take around 20-30 mins to reach the beach. These boats ply every 20 minutes and are very convenient.
Please keep in mind the timings of the last ferries - you will need to return from the beach before sunset. The current timings of the ferries are notified at the boat house, and you can take a photo of the timings on your phone while going to the beach.
Carry a fresh change of clothes if you plan to swim. Swimming is permitted only close to the shore.
2) Auroville Ashram
Conceived as the ‘Universal Town’, the Auroville Ashram is an experimental township. Started by the Maa, a disciple of Shri Aurobindo in 1960s - the project was supported by the Govt. of India, and the UNESCO passed a resolution in 1966 commending this as “a project of importance to the future of humanity”. The town was officially inaugurated in 1968.
The main attraction here is the “Matrimandir” - you can watch an introductory video about the concept of the city, and sit here in silence to concentrate. With water pooling in from different sides, the sound of the water and cool breeze which always flows, provides a perfect atmosphere for meditation. The mandir is an architectural masterpiece with a 30m high globe with a lotus-shaped foundation urn.
The entry is free of costs, and you can only buy the tickets in person at the venue, not online. The walk from the entry gates to the center takes around 10-12 minutes.
- Open Time: Mon-Sat : 9.30AM to 5PM, Sun 9.30AM to 1.30PM only
3) Water Sports In Pondicherry
With a unique, peaceful coastal beauty to it, Pondicherry is quickly becoming every beach lovers' favorite hideout. A number of water sports options along its white sandy beaches are another reason for travelers to love Pondy, as it is lovingly known.
The union territory of Pondicherry constitutes four coastal provinces spread across three Indian states: Yanam (in Andhra Pradesh), Pondicherry city, Karaikal (both situated on eastern coasts of Tamil Nadu) and Mahe (located across the western coasts of Kerala).
With its offerings of not only multiple water sports activities like scuba diving, parasailing, banana boat rides etc, but also its unique cultural traits, excellent food varieties and innumerable sightseeing options, Pondicherry is a true delight to travelers who long for an off-beat travel experience.
- About Water Sports in Pondicherry
Activities offered : Jet Skiing, Parasailing, Banana Boat ride
Cost of Activity : Jet Skiing- Rs 450 onwards, Parasailing- Rs 1000 , Banana Boat ride- Rs 300 onwards
Difficulty Level : Easy- Moderate
Region : Pondicherry
Water Temperature : Around 20 degree celsius during peak season (Nov-Feb)
- Safety Tips
1. Consumption of alcohol or any other intoxicating products is strictly prohibited during this activity
2. For safety purposes, do pay heed to the guidelines given by the instructors.
4) Scuba Diving In Pondicherry
Packed with enchanting marine life, Pondicherry offers an amazing adventure of scuba diving off the country’s East Coast.
A dive into the sea will let you explore the rich life comprising of beautiful natural coral reefs and other exotic creatures such as manta rays, kingfish, sea snakes, lion fish, butterflys, crustaceans, moray eels and many more.
Apart from that, if it is your lucky day you might even spot whale sharks, even sharks, dolphins and turtles. You also have an option of enjoying the dive at artificial reef and experience the thrill of the activity making Pondicherry an irresistible diving destination.
- About Scuba Diving in Pondicherry
Cost of Activity : Starts at Rs. 5000 per dive
Currents : Range from calm waters to strong, depending upon the tides and the dive site
Depth of Dive : Up to 30 m
Difficulty Level : Easy-Moderate
Nearest Airport : Pondicherry
Nearest Railhead : Pondicherry
Nearest road city : Pondicherry
Region : Bay of Bengal
Time required for Dive : 2 days to 4 days
Visibility in the waters : 20 m to 30 m depending upon weather condition
- How to Reach Scuba Diving in Pondicherry
Air: Pondicherry has its own airport with ever increasing air travel demand. The airport is located at Lawspet with a new terminal inaugurated recently where flights from Bangalore and other major cities are scheduled. However, if you are planning a dive into the sea, spicejet is the only airlines with flights operating to Pondicherry via Bangalore.
Rail: With a railways station of its own, Pondicherry is well connected to five-way junction at Viluppuram and Chennai by a broad gauge railway line. There are express trains that connect the Union Territory with other neighbouirng cities and states.
Road: Pondicherry is well connected to national highways and state highways with a good network of roads and infrastructure facilities. With a total road length of 2552 km, one can easily reach the place by road from either Chennai situated 150 km away or from Bangalore situated 309 km away. Regular bus services plies both state and private to and from Bangalore.
- General Tips
Make sure to gather essential instructions from expert divers from the dive center.
Going through a reputed diving school helps because of the proper equipment that they use and their experience.
- Medical Fitness
The diving schools prefer if you are medically fit for a dive due to problems that could arise because of artificial oxygenation underwater.
5) Seaside Promenade
The beautiful Seaside Promenade is one of the things that does justice to Pondicherry’s French Roots. You can actually feel foam spray on your face while sipping a cooler in one of the many cafes at the promenade. The Seaside Promenade is equally feel good, whether you are visiting during the sunny day or the starry night.
6) Chunnambar Boat House
The beach of Chunnambar is near the origin of the backwater. It is a perfect place for one to spend a day out playing water sports and bathing in the sun. A short cruise is organized for the visitors which gives them a fantastic overall view of the serene beauty of the waters. One can also spot dolphins playing around in the water. It is a must-visit for the nature lovers.
It is a place which can be enjoyed and is worth visiting for every age group.
- Open Time: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
- Best time to visit Chunnambar Boat House
The best time to visit the place is during the months of January to March and further between September and December.
- How to Reach Chunnambar Boat House
Chunnambar Boat House is located on the Cuddalore Main Road at a distance of 7 km from Pondicherry. One can easily take an auto or a bus from here to the destination.
- Things to do at Chunnambar Boat House
One of the finest things to do at Chunnambar is to try getting an accommodation in the tree-house for an overnight stay. The accommodation provided is full of delightful surprises including being able to watch the sunrise and hearing the birds chirping.
Boating, boat tours of the backwater, trekking and picnics on the beach are some other facilities which are offered to the visitors. The backwater also has a restaurant named Seagulls which is a lounge that offers multiple cuisines. The specialty of the restaurant is, however, tandoori and Chinese food.
No liquor or outside food is allowed on the premises. Also, note that the entry in the boat house is charged.