The little coastal town of Puducherry (or Pondicherry) lists among the top tourist destinations in South India. Known as the French riviera of the East, its rich history and culture are very much evident till today. Take a walk around the French Quarter and you will experience the colonial hangover - from European-style architecture in vibrant hues to the best of classic French cuisine. Its close proximity to Chennai makes it a popular weekend getaway. For some soul searching you can visit Aurobindo Ashram or Auroville, or if you seek adventure, there are many activities you can sign up for - scuba diving, kayaking, surfing, etc. It's truly a perfect destination for all kinds of the travellers.
Planning a trip anytime soon? Here's a list of things that you should include in your itinerary to make the most of Puducherry:
1. Bicycle tour of French Quarter
Puducherry town is broadly divided into two segments - French Quarter and Tamil Quarter. The best way to explore the French Quarter is to hire a bicycle and ride around the old town. The bright walls and old-style colonial architecture have a charm that will make you fall in love with its laid back vibe. You can visit many gorgeous churches too.
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2. A trip to Auroville
Puducherry is popular for Aurobindo Ashram as well as Auroville, which was founded by Sri Aurobindo's spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa, also known as the Mother. The idea was to create a place where people could practise mindfulness and find inner peace. There are various workshops available at Auroville, but you can also go over for a tour of the place. While in Auroville, don't forget to head to Solitude Farm to try their delicious organic thali.
3. Boat ride to Paradise Beach
While there are many beaches in Puducherry, Paradise Beach is a favourite for its beauty and the fact that it's secluded. You need to take a boat ride from Chunnambar boat house, that sails through the backwaters to this pristine beach. Apart from watching a spectacular sunset, you can try water sports.
4. Pick a place to stay with the best sea view
There are many hotels, resorts and homestays available for all kinds of budgets. But if one were to pick an ideal spot to stay, it would have to be near Promenade beach. Not only does it provide fantastic views of the beach but easy access to explore the French quarters. Renowned places to stay include The Promenade, Palais De Mahe - CGH Earth, Le Dupleix and Villa Shanti. There's also Auroville Ashram where you can book a stay.
6. Cafe and bar hopping
It's not without reason that Puducherry is known as a paradise for food lovers. A herd of quirky cafes, bakeries and bars dot the old town that not just serve scrumptious continental food and innovative cocktails but also provide a great ambience to chill. Popular places include Cafe Carte Blanche, Rendezvous Cafe, Le Club, La Maison Rose, Kasha ki Aasha, Cafe Des Arts and Baker Street.
7. Surfing at Serenity Beach
Serenity beach lies closer to Auroville and is a popular spot for surfing. If you are looking to brush up your surfing skills, this will be the perfect pick for you. There are many adventure clubs in Puducherry that organise various adventure activities such as kayaking, sailing, etc.
8. Scuba diving
PADI centre offers certification course and training in scuba diving for beginners as well as advanced divers. The marine scape in Puducherry has much to offer - from coral reefs to marine life like lionfish, manta rays, sea snakes, moray eels etc. It's the only spot for diving on the eastern coast of India.
9. Shop for leather, ceramic ware and handmade paper
You can't leave Puducherry without splurging a little on shopping. There are many boutiques that house handmade leather products, gorgeous ceramic ware (plates, bowls, cups, candle stands, etc) and handmade paper (diaries, notepads). Look out for local cheese and chocolates too to take back home.
Apart from all the activities and feasting, don't forget to catch a sunrise or sunset by the beach. You will absolutely fall in love.