Brightly coloured walls, Mediterranean styled heritage houses with high compound walls laden with vibrant bougainvillea vines, neat and clean streets where South Indian filter coffee and croissants go together! Yes it’s Pondichery- A mix of modern heritage and spiritual lifestyle. The French influence is everywhere right from the food to architecture, from roads to cafes and streets to hearts! And it’s rightly called “The French Riviera of the East”. This quaint little town is tucked away on the eastern seaboard of India. And let me tell you that the super hit blockbuster movie “Life of Pi” was also shot here!
A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went there for the tutorial break for about four days and had an incredible time. The place has a beautiful laid back vibe, where you get to slow down and enjoy life.
Best time to go to Pondicherry
The best time to go is October to February when the climate is cooler. We went in the month of August which was a little too hot and humid for both of us.
How to get there
We drove down from Wellington and it took us around 7-8 hours to reach our pretty destination Pondicherry. It falls on the National Highway 45, which connects it to Chennai and Bangalore.
There are many buses available for Pondichery from some of the nearby cities, like Chennai, Thanjavur, Trichy, Coimbatore, Bangalore, and Madurai.
Villupuram is the nearest railway station, which is about 35 km from Pondicherry and is well connected to cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Trivandrum.
The Pondicherry airport has frequent flights from Hyderabad and Bangalore. However, if you’re coming from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, then you’d need to take a connecting flight from Chennai international Airport.
Understanding the city
The plan of the city is based on the French grid pattern with beautifully laid roads cutting across each other at right angles. The city is divided into two parts: The French Quarter/ White Town and the Indian quarter/ Black Town. Many streets retain French names, and villas in French architectural styles are quite common to find here. The two are separated by a Grand Canal that still runs through the city today.
Where to stay
Pondicherry undoubtedly has a wealth of suitable hotels to stay in, whatever your budget! We decided to stay in White Town which is very rich in both heritage and beautiful surroundings! We stayed at this gorgeous beachfront property- Promenade Hotel. A hotel by Hidesign, one of India’s top fashion brands.
It has 38 stylish rooms and suites with classy decor and colonial style building. It’s one of the most lavish beach hotels in Pondichery. There’re all range of hotels so you may choose as per your choice. You may consider the below mentioned properties like Palais De Mahé, Le Dupleix, Le Pondy, The Windflower Resorts Spa, Ocean Spray for a fabulous time in the town.
Places to visit
It’s called “City of Dawn” and is a place where people from all over the world stay together in peace and harmony. To visit the Matrimandir one needs to make the booking fee days in advance. It’s 10 km from the city. Also for shopping go to Kalki boutique there which is in the premises and is just wow! Kalki specialises in incense sticks, essential oils, massage & aroma therapy oils, natural soaps & bath works, pottery, hand painted home accessories & paper lamps. And I shopped here for almost till I dropped!
- Aurobindo Ashram-
- It’s a perfect place for meditation amidst deafening silence and if inner peace is what you seek, this is where you should be headed.
- Soak up the sun, sand and sea at the beach. There are four main beaches, Promenade beach, Serenity beach, Auroville and paradise beach. But hey, these aren’t the cleanest or the amazing beaches but well, the sea is the sea, right? So ya visit these to get your dose of ‘Vitamin- Sea’!
- White town-
- A glimpse of France in India, A place to relax, stroll & soak it all in. White Town is like every photographers dream.
- We simply enjoyed just walking around the streets here, So ya just roam around and catch the French feels!
- The Promenade-
- The 1.5 km long stretch is one of the most happening places and called the Sunset Boulevard of Pondicherry. The traffic is allowed during the daytime but from evening onwards and early mornings traffic is restricted to allow visitors to enjoy.
- Old lighthouse-
- It’s one of the oldest structures of Pondichery. Although it’s no longer in function but is a very important architectural and historical landmark for the visitors.
Places to eat
- Cafe Xtasi-
- Pizzas of Xtasi are some of the best you’ll find at Pondichery. They serve pastas and salads as well, but wood-fired pizzas are just too good! And here, they have not four, five or six but more than 25 different types of them! The service is a little slow, we had to wait for almost an hour! Having said that, the cafe has super delicious pizzas so I wouldn’t mind visiting this place again.
- Coromandel cafe-
- We chanced upon this beauty randomly while exploring the white town. And so glad we did because both the ambience and the food is beyond awesome!
- Wow and how I absolutely loved this place!
- Tantos Pizzeria-
- One of the many specialities of this place is that it rolls out most authentic Italian pizzas you would ever have tasted! Omg I’ve started feeling hungry after seeing this picture lol!
- If you’ve had your share of French food and would want to taste some authentic South Indian cuisine then Surguru is the place. The rates are way too economical and they’ve super fast service!
- Cafe des arts-
- This is another hidden gem in white town! The service is a little slow and the food too is average but the ambience is really amazing. The prices are slightly high but it’s worth a try. It’s good for taking some Instagram worthy pictures though!
- Villa Shanti-
- It’s located in the heart of old French town, has a spectacular patio and a lush green courtyard. Want to have delicious lunch with a laid back vibe? Well, this is the place for you!
- The ambience is nice, it’s a quiet cafe where you can get your book to read and sit for hours. However, I didn’t quite like the food here.
- Kasha ki Aasha-
- It’s a colonial-era-house-turned-craft-shop-and-cafe, where you’d find amazing fusion food like ‘European thalis’ and ‘Indian enchiladas’! It’s run by an all women team and is a perfect place for leisure breakfasts and lunch outs.
- The food is delicious with beautiful set up. It’s an old home converted into a restaurant just like many other places in Pondichery.
- Bay of Buddha aka Lighthouse-
Want to have some breathtaking views of the lighthouse with soothing sea breeze and sound of the crashing waves along with delish Asian cuisine? Then you must come to this place, the prices are slightly on the higher end but the place is to die for! It’s in Promenade, the same hotel where I stayed, and made frequent visits to this restaurant even during the day time to enjoy the view! Now who wouldn’t do that when the place is spectacularly beautiful! Isn’t it?
Pondicherry, is a quiet town with almost no nightlife. So if you’re going there for happening parties then Goa should be on your cards and not Pondichery!
Go there to taste a little bit of France in India. For me, it was a good experience. It had everything, From beaches, to culture, delicious food to friendly locals. So make sure to add Pondicherry to your South Indian adventure!
Have you been to Pondicherry already? Did you explore the city differently?
Kindly spill the beans! I’d love to know and for any Pondicherry related query, you may email me or ask in the comments below.