A few miles from the Tamil Nadu’s capital city Chennai lies a town to charm you with its French influence. The beach town of Pondicherry is like a slow walk into the bygone era. The lanes named in French and the culinary delights from France is India’s way of preserving its history. No matter how many days are spent in Pondicherry, it will leave you wanting for more. This Pondicherry itinerary for 2 days or more will present you with the options to soak in the zeal of this quaint town.
Pondicherry is one of the seven union territories of India; officially named as Puducherry. This means alcohol is available at a cheaper price than the other parts of the country. The prime language spoken is Tamil, along with English, Hindi & French.
The French East India company set up a trading centre in Pondicherry in 1674. Pondicherry’s history also includes Dutch colonialists when they acquired the town in 1693. But within 6 short years, the Dutch gave the control back to the French. Even after that, Pondicherry switched heads between the British & the French in the 17th century and ultimately becoming a French colony until 1962.
Pondicherry Itinerary for 2 days (or more)
An excursion to Pondicherry should include a minimum of 2 days for immersing in the soul of the town. Here’s my Pondicherry itinerary with the options for places to stay, eat & see.
Places to see in Pondicherry
Despite a quiet settlement, the town is incredibly popular with tourists with numerous places to see in Pondicherry. The beach is a prime attraction of the town apart from the colonial influence in the French quarters. So, here is my Pondicherry itinerary with the all the places to see in Pondicherry
Rock Beach or The Promenade
Despite being a beach town on the Bay of Bengal, Pondicherry doesn’t technically have a beach. The town had a sand beach until 1989 which had to be converted into a rock beach because it caused extreme corrosion. So, the current day beach is a 2 km long promenade where the beach is gorgeously decorated through massive black rocks.
The promenade is a usually quiet spot to see the beautiful sunrise of the east coast of India. Head here in the wee hours to pick a spot to set up a camera & capture the best sunrise pictures.
The best part of the promenade is that it is like Mumbai’s marine drive but a lot quieter. The entry of cars is stopped in the evenings which helps in enjoying the walk by the seaside. Although I love the sand in my feet, but when I can walk by the sea without taking my shoes off it’s a different feeling.
The spirituality in Pondicherry can be found easily in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram located just near to the promenade. Sri Aurobindo after realising his deep inclination towards spirituality set up the ashram in the 19th century. If you’re interested in peeking at the history and experience tranquillity, visit the Aurobindo Ashram for a while
The antique styled lighthouse of Pondicherry located at the beginning of the Promenade is a sight easily overshadowed by the beach just opposite to it. Unfortunately, the lighthouse is not functional any more and a newer one is being used in its place. The perfectly rounded lighthouse still makes up for gorgeous pictures.
The Pondicherry lighthouse aka the newer one is located on the slight outers of the white colony and can be reached via a scooter or a bicycle. The lighthouse is open all day except the afternoon hours from 1300hrs to 1600 hours. I couldn’t see the lighthouse from close nor I could go up as it was closed at that time of the day.
French War Memorial
World War is usually associated with a deep dark history with countless upsetting chronicles. Throughout the world, umpteen memorials are set up to keep the horrors of the war fresh & to held tribute to those brave soldiers who fought bravely & lost their lives. India was under British rule then, so wasn’t spared from participating in the war. As Pondicherry was under a French colony, the French Indian soldiers also took up arms in the First World War. The French War Memorial honours those courageous souls who lost lives during the war. The memorial was designed by sculptor Gaston Petit & is engraved with bronze plates listing the names of soldiers who lost lives during WWI & also of those who died during WWII.
The French war memorial was put together in 1937, inaugurated in 1938 & still is a property of The French Republic (unofficially France). Every July 14, French government officials visit Puducherry where the monument is decorated & celebrated.
Mahatma Gandhi is a renowned name from the bygone era whose adages are quoted numerous times throughout the world. Not only in India, but the statues of the Mahatma are also placed around the world. Pondicherry is also home to one, a four-meter square was erected in Goubert Avenue or the Promenade.
“Did you know? The statue is also admired as it is the biggest one in Asia.”
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple
The exquisitely ornate & colourful temple is one of the oldest temples in the town. Worshipping the Hindu god Ganesha – the elephant-faced god – the temple attracts many tourists as well as locals. The temple also has utter importance to Hindus considering there were various attempts to destroy it but went unsuccessful. I couldn’t visit the temple myself, but I recommend sparing a few minutes for this gorgeous temple.
Churches in Pondicherry
Pondicherry being a former French colony is a name synonymous to intricate & equally colourful churches as the white town. Some of the churches in Pondicherry goes back to the 17th century and some more recent as the 19th century. The churches have beautiful impressions of the gothic and Greco-roman styled architecture. Some churches in Pondicherry will transport you to a European era with ornate detailing. With a number of churches in place, I’d like to present some of the historic ones I visited as no Pondicherry itinerary will be complete without them.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
An ideal example of Gothic architecture in India is articulated by the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A 19th-century church depicts the life of the Jesus & various saints.
The exteriors of the 100-year-old Basilica are coloured in bright red & white hues with stunning coloured glass windows. A visual treat for those who fancy stupendous European churches like me.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
An 18th-century churches Notre Dame Des Anges architectured in Greco-Roman design and on similar lines of Notre Dame Paris. Coloured from outside in pretty pastel pink & beige with the interiors in white, pink & blue hues the church stays true to the coloured theme white town. The church is known for holding mass every Sunday in French, English, and Tamil.
The two frontal bell towers will easily remind you of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The entry of the church is achieved through two sides of perfectly symmetrical stairs leading to luminous interiors. The aisle of the church is not as deep as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus but built in an exemplary radiance. The immaculate dome rises above the high altar disperses luster in the cathedral.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
One of the oldest churches in the French town of Puducherry is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The site holding the cathedral held a number of churches before it but they never survived. One of the main highlights of the church is that Mother Teresa also visited it during her time in Pondicherry.
Designed in white & yellow tints, the church holds a dark history of destruction. The church was conceptualised by missionaries who came to Pondicherry in the late 16th century. Bringing a large garden to the French Fort and with the financial go-ahead from the French King – Louis XIV, a humongous church was built. Sadly, the church was demolished when the Dutch took power, but in a year, a new church was hastily erected; that also didn’t last long. In the early-mid 17th century, another cathedral was built but was demolished by the British during the Seven Years War; talk about a dark history!
Paradise beach is one of the gorgeous & serene beaches outside of Pondicherry town. The journey from the Puducherry’s white town to the beach takes about 30-45 minutes. The short journey is a drive from the soft pastel town to the typical small towns & finally through the gorgeous villages of South India countryside. I’d recommend taking an auto, scooter or hiring a car/uber for better access. The small backwaters are also seen in the final leg of the trip. Locals sell freshly caught & prepared fish and happily talk to you as well.
The beach is literally like a quiet one away from the tourist havens of the Pondy. I spent the evening there, waiting for the sun to go down. Although the sunset in the east doesn’t go down on the horizon, it’s still breathtaking.
South India is comparatively safer than the Northern part of the country, but if you’re travelling solo, I’d advise leaving before it goes dark.
Take a Walk around the gorgeous White Town
The white town of this previously French colony is a delight to walk around. This part of the town is better explored on foot, cycle or a scooter, I chose a combination of cycle & foot. Cycles are easily available on rent, for which an ID proof is required. Just show your ID and you can rent a bicycle & paddle around the white town. Stop wherever you may to admire the beautifully maintained facades & colours of the town & take as many pictures. After all, these are completely Instagram friendly pictures 😀
Don’t miss out exploring the white town from my Pondicherry itinerary, you’ll thank me later 😉
Auroville Town & Matrimandir
Humanity – that is what Auroville is all about. A town starting as an experiment dedicated to Sri Aurobindo, to honour humanity above all caste, creeds, and nationalities. Located on the outskirts of Pondicherry, the town is a must-visit to experience spirituality and celebrate humanity.
The town was perceived & started by Mira Alfassa in 1968. The township has a matrimandir in the centre, which commenced as a symbol to the divine answers. Although the matrimandir is not open to the tourists, it can be admired from the boundaries.
The walk to the matrimandir takes as much as 15-25 minutes amid all the trees & organic farms. It is to be noted that this area received heavy sun making the walk difficult. So, I’d recommend carrying hats or umbrellas and water as none are available on the way. Although, there’s a huge tree offering shade & benches for resting halfway through the walk. You’ll need your water bottle to fill up there.
Upon the entry, there are various eateries, serving completely organic food, icecreams, and drinks. If you wish to spend some days at Auroville, various boutique styled hotels are also available here.
There’s also a beach in the Auroville, which you can enjoy if you stay here. I just visited matrimandir on my way back from Pondy to Chennai airport to catch my flight back to Delhi. But to realise that I need to return soon 🙂
The name says it all! The beach is located outside Pondicherry town & used mainly by local fishermen. That means the beach is smelly, if you can bear that then it’s a nice off-beat thing to do in Pondicherry.
The influence of French culture is imminent in Pondicherry and not only in the white town but also in the culinary delights it offers. The very thought of freshly baked croissants, tartines & crepes will help you explore the town even more. Cafe Des Arts, Artika Cafe Gallery, Le Cafe, Hidesign Cafe, Bakers Street are some of my recommended ones.
Where to eat in Pondicherry
Villa Shanti – A four-star boutique style hotel and restaurant is one of the best places to enjoy French & Indian cuisine. I did try North-Indian food here, which felt almost similar to the one I eat in Delhi. Head to the GMT to try some of the best organic ice-creams in the town.
Where to stay in Pondicherry
A lot of people have converted their homes to boutique styled hotels so ideally, you may choose any, but I loved at The Richmond Hotel & I love to provide you with some of my recommendations –
The Richmond – A 3-star hotel, perfectly located in the white town just next to the Artika Cafe Gallery is perfect for solo travellers or couple/family travellers. I got upgraded into a family room because of the unavailability of rooms available. The family room had an extra sofa-cum-bed perfect for families with young kids; I didn’t use it though 😉 The yellow painted hotel is a cosy one located near to some of the best cafes & resto-bars. Literally, a 3-min walk away from the Promenade makes it one of the best perfect places to stay in Pondicherry. The hotel serves complimentary buffet, check with your booking if it includes that or offers just the room. The restaurant serves South Indian, North Indian, seafood among a lot of others. I tried their penne pasta, Dal Makhani with nan along with the breakfast.
Villa Shanti – A Heritage Hotel – A true heritage hotel rated as a 4-star hotel is known for its preference with solo travellers. The bistro here is a typical cosy one serving drinks, cocktails and serving Indian, continental, Italian, and seafood with a wide array of options. I chose Dal Makhani & tandoori vegetarian platter from the menu, with garlic naan. The service was quick, and the staff was amazingly amicable. Plan your stay at the Villa Shanti to enjoy an authentic experience.
Le Dupleix – Le Dupleix is for my luxury lover readers who would love to stay in a 5-star accommodation with authentic French vibes & a history. Originally built for the mayor as his residency, the hotel is near to the beach.
The Promenade – Not a typical French boutique-styled hotel, this hotel is a fine 4-star hotel with an additional point for its excellent location. The hotel fills up fast because of the location, service & pool. I too couldn’t book it as it was full for my dates. Don’t wait up, you wouldn’t want to miss an amazing experience while in Pondy.
Did I convince to consider Pondicherry as an amazing tourist destination? I highly recommend spending a few days here & if you go by Pondicherry itinerary for 2 days or more, then you’ll love the town as I do 🙂
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