The most accessible union territory in South India – Pondicherry, is well known in Chennai for cheap liquor. But more importantly it is known globally for a rich french culture and a very immersive lifestyle. The colours and art on the buildings at the heart of the town, depict a lively vibe and the life here. The list of must see places and things to do in Pondicherry, aren’t very many but spread across all interest groups making it a great place to travel with friends or family. From local tour guides helping you figure the place and culture better to adventure sport instructors, very few places offer the variety that Pondicherry does.
Here are a list things to do in Pondicherry the next time you are there.
Explore the Heritage:
Pondicherry is one of the most historic places in the country. The french ways here have blended perfectly well with the tamilian culture to create a unique platter that seems to charm everyone with its evergreen enchantment. The aesthetics of these streets have become a prime attraction. The markets and churches here show traces of the rich history that engulfs Pondicherry.
The town has two faces, the French, and the Tamil one. The Former was built along the coast and is characterised by a colonial styled buildings, while the latter has a stark contrast since the architecture there uses a tamilian vocabulary. You will also find traces of this heritage in the culture here as well, especially the delicious Tamil and French cuisines you are bound to find along these streets.
So exploring the heritage must be first on your list of things to do in Pondicherry. The best way to experience the heritage would be to go for a heritage walk along these streets.
We have quite a few micro tours here (even food walks), many of which are curated by an experienced local tour guide.
Pondicherry has always been a great place to buy leather products, a trademark of which is the world famous Hidesign headquartered here. Other popular products to get here are aromatic candles, handmade paper products, handicrafts, metal artifacts and essential oils.
Since Pondicherry is octroi-free, everything is cheaper. A combination of this with all those unique products on offer easily makes it a shoppers paradise.
While at it, some must visit places are the Cluny embroidery centre (covered on *this tour), Goubert market, Geethanjali, Serenity beach bazaar (set up only on the weekends) and the ever popular Hidesign.
Just outside Pondicherry is an experimental town called Auroville. The sole purpose of this town is to get closer to humanity through unity and progressive harmony, and to stand above casts, creeds, and politics. Almost synonymously associated with auroville is the Matrimandir, which houses the “Urn of Humanity”, an urn containing soil from 121 countries and 23 Indian states.
The town is the result of an idea that came to the mind of Mirra Alfassa – a painter and musician A.K.A the Mother, and Sri Aurobindo – a scholar, revolutionary and spiritual visionary. The construction of the town was well planned, with an industrial zone, a cultural zone, a residential zone, an international zone, a peace area in the middle concentric to the matrimandir, and the whole town circumscribed by a green belt.
To visit Auroville and enjoy its tranquil ambience definitely counts as one of the best things to do in Pondicherry. Apart from local tour guides, the place also has a very active artisan community – both of which are covered as part of our Pondicherry sightseeing tour series. As part of this micro tour, experience hands on bamboo crafting as well as lunch at a unique community solar kitchen.
Experience Folk Art:
Folk art and dance forms had been integral to the Indian culture with every state and tribe having their variations of practices and instruments. While in Pondicherry, here’s your chance to enjoy a performance of Nattupura Nadanam – a form of storytelling using dance. The local heritage and mythology are often topics of prominence of this folk art.
This experience lets you behind the scenes with the folk artists and even a chance to play their musical instruments.
Spend a Day with Elephants:
Among the few places you get to see elephants in India is the elephant care facility close to Pondicherry, an initiative by the TREE foundation, Chennai and WRRC, Bengaluru. This is a very accessible, near wild facility to watch the elephants up close and even feed them under the safety of a Mahout.
Check out details of this micro tour here.
Check out the beaches:
Pondicherry has been blessed with a beautiful coastline varying between rocky terrain and sandy beaches. Though some are known to be overcrowded, there are a few beaches in Pondicherry that showcases a vibe of tranquility perfect for an evening walk or jog.
If you are here for some romance, these beaches offer you exactly what you need. The sunrise there is absolutely breathtaking and known to be one of the best things to do in Pondicherry. Unfortunately the sun here does not set on the water so you do have to get up in the morning, but aren’t mornings always better! Our best picks are Serenity Beach, Paradise Beach, Karaikal Beach, Promenade Beach, Mahe Beach & Auroville Beach. Moreover, you really do not need a local tour guide to show you around.
Like the popularity of the beaches here, watersports too are prominent among the list of things to do in Pondicherry. People from all over the country come down for surfing & scuba diving here.
It is said that one does not know the true meaning of colour unless they have seen the life underwater. The waters of the Bay of Bengal in Pondicherry offers just that. The scuba diving sites here ranges from 5 meters to 40 meters so it accommodates novices and veterans. The best places to try scuba diving are Temple Reef, Coral Shark Reef and The Hole.
The adrenaline junkies who prefer surfing have an equal if not better opportunity at the beaches in Pondicherry. The turquoise and gentle waters here have been known to be ideal for surfers whether they are new to the sport or not. The best beaches in Pondicherry for surfing are Serenity and Paradise beach. Kallialay surf school is one of the most popular surf schools here.
Finally, when it comes to the things to do in Pondicherry, you cannot leave without Kayaking or Yachting. The gentle waters of the Chunnambar River offer an exciting stage for boating with a view that has been painted by the lush green landscape of plantations combined with the ambience of the backwaters. It stands along the Cuddalore road and is known to be one of the best things to do in Pondicherry.
Unlike other water sports, Kayaking and Canoeing do not require much training, yet they offer an enthralling experience. However, yachts are your best bet if you are looking for something a little more charismatic and relaxing. Over time, they have become very popular and come highly recommended among the things to do in Pondicherry and the many micro tours and activities here.
Picture Credits: pondytourism.in