Once you are in Pondicherry, you will wonder whether you are in India or France. Pondicherry is located 160kms south of Chennai in South India. The coastal town has a French architectural colony. Even the road signs are in French along with Tamil and English. From chilling on the pristine beaches to pottery making, Pondicherry has a lot to offer you. In Pondicherry, you can explore and experience a fusion of Tamil and French cultures, cuisines and sights. Here, I am putting together 15 places to visit in Pondicherry, each a great reason to visit this lovely town.
- Remarkable Beaches and adventure sports
Pondicherry is best known for its beaches. There are mainly four beaches in Pondicherry Paradise beach, Auroville beach, Promenade beach and Serenity beach. The promenade beach is closest to the town and isn’t the best. However, the paradise beach does offer a sight devoid of many tourists. In addition to this, Pondicherry is also a great destination for different adventure sports especially scuba diving. The clarity of water and diversity of marine life might not be as good as what I witnessed at Gili Islands, Indonesia.
But, in India, Scuba diving in Pondicherry is a good option. Pondicherry has a popular scuba diving spot which is known as Aravind’s Wall and Ravines. This place even allows you to catch fauna and flora. The best time of the year for scuba diving in Pondicherry is February to April and September to November. These beaches and scuba diving locations top the list of places to visit in Pondicherry.
- Chunnambar Boat House
If you are looking for places to visit in Pondicherry which let you relax, Chunnambar Boathouse is a good option. Relaxing in the middle of a lake is always an unforgettable experience. If you want to enjoy a memorable holiday experience, then Pondicherry houseboats are your perfect choice. Chunnambar boat house is one of the most renowned houseboats in Pondicherry. This houseboat will take you for an outstanding ride across narrow water channels. It will give you a breathtaking experience amidst nature and take you past traditional villages, paddy fields, dense coconut groves and fishing nets. This is another definite addition to your list of places to visit in Pondicherry.
Something unique about this town is the number of places to visit in Pondicherry where you can enjoy some spiritual respite. You can visit the global peace city Auroville and know your spirituality quotient. This town was built by famous architect Roger Anger. Discover your spiritual side by spending some quality time at the guesthouses located at Auroville.
You can take an entire day trip or plan a trip with some nights and get to know the deeper you. One can be a participant of the meditation sessions conducted at the Matri Mandir to delve and discover your reality. You can also take part in the various therapies and workshops offered by them. The international community present here is dedicated to bring peace, harmony and preach divine consciousness among the people irrespective of caste, color and nationality. The institutions here aim to bring unity among the citizens of the earth. For me, I would recommend adding this in places to visit in Pondicherry due to the interaction with many travelers from across the globe.
- The Pondicherry Botanical Garden
Out of all the places to visit in Pondicherry, this place adds to the recreational value of the town. The garden gate has been built according to the French architecture and stands apart from the surroundings. This garden was established in 1826 and includes delightful flower beds, pruned trees, magnificent fountains and inscribed line paths. The garden is spread over 22 acres area and houses 1500 plus plant species.
There are placards placed near them that specify full details of the plant such as the common name of the plant, species, uses, medicinal value, and oxygen produced. Each plot in the garden has been designed with a different theme. A memorial has been dedicated to Perrottet who was actively involved in transforming the face of the garden and turning it into botanical in 1931.The garden presents you with Toy train rides, an aquarium, a Japanese rock structure and weekend shows of the dancing and musical fountains to lure its customers. If you are traveling with a kid, your list of places to visit in Pondicherry just grew by one.
- Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
The Varadaraja Temple is one of the many religious places to visit in Pondicherry. Also known as Thirubuvanai Temple, this is a shrine that is devoted to Lord Vishnu. The temple is situated the heritage region of the town and has been built according to the Dravidian architectural style. The temple also includes a store house that has been constructed as per the Chola architecture. The shrine is bordered by a granite wall and has five gateway towers, rajagopuram that have five storeys. The construction of this holy place is believed to be commenced by Cholas in 11th century and later expanded by the Pandyas. This is now a well-protected monument that is handled by the Archeological Survey of India. The celebrated festivals of this shrine are the annual Brahmostavam, Pavitrotsavam and Ramar. Visiting this attraction in Pondicherry during these festivals would extend a warm experience to you.
- Bharati Government Park
The Bharati Park is located at the green center of the town and has an ample number of lush green trees that provide a high level of comfort during the hot summers. It is an excellent place for recreation for children. The kids can enjoy playing in the ponds, in Traffic Park or the hills while the elders can take rest on the granite benches installed in the park. The place is perfect for small family picnics, occasional get-togethers like sit-ins or taking a random stroll around the garden. The park also includes historic statues. Aayi Mandapam is the central point which bifurcates the park into four lanes, generating equal sized parts of the park. The Bharati government Park is open for all from morning 9 to evening 6, 365 days of the year. This garden constitutes places to visit in Pondicherry with greenery to revel in.
- French Memorial
The French War Memorial was constructed in 1971. It is situated on the Goubert Avenue and has been built as a mark of respect for the soldiers who laid their lives for their nation in World War I. The French Memorial is situated right opposite to the Mahatma Gandhi Statue. The memorial is stunningly lighted on 14th July each year, which is the Bastille Day. On this day, people assemble and pay respects to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the safety of the nation. It is one of the most visited places by the tourists who visit Pondicherry. Although a small place, the memorial is an alluring place for the students, tourists and people living nearby.
- Chunnambar Backwater
If you are looking to spend some leisure time in the vicinity of marvelous beauty and a serene atmosphere, then Pondicherry is the best place for you. You can indulge in some fun activities, sports and spend quality time on the beaches. The Chunnambar Backwaters is a popular site that is a major attraction for the tourists. It is a fantastic place where you can witness the blue sea water transform into perfect white waves which get splashed on the people standing near the shore. If your luck is high, you will be able to see dolphins playing in a jolly mood in the sea. One can also go on a bike ride on the route along the seaside beach, Plage Pardisco and view some stunning visuals of the sea.
The backwater is surrounded by abundant palm trees and mangrove marshlands. One can enjoy a game of volleyball, or take part in swimming and take boat rides in the sea. This is a popular picnic spot in vacations, people can go fishing here and unwind themselves from the hectic lives under the exquisite tree houses making some great memories. This pristine place is located at 8 km from Pondicherry. The Chunnambar Boat House and Bouncing Castle are major kid attractions here. You can combine the Chunnambar Boat House and Backwaters in your list of Places to visit in Pondicherry.
- Pondicherry Museum
If you are enthusiastic about the history of our culture, add this attraction to your list of Places to visit in Pondicherry. The Pondicherry museum is situated in Bharati Park. It is a multipurpose museum that includes a variety of things. It houses some awesome collections that include sculptures from Vijayanagara, Chola and Pallava temples. The museum also comprises of paintings of Buddha and bronze items from the ancient Vijayanagara, Nayaka and Chola periods such as weapons and arms.
It has an outstanding gallery that has the archeological remains from the Arikamedu Roman era. You will also get to see the legendary details and history of the French colonies that one time existed in that region. The gallery section also has on display various types of paintings such as Tanjore, colonial prints, paintings from watercolors and more.The museum also houses an excellent collection of snail shells and bronze statues of goddess and gods. There are also many handicrafts, temple lamps and artwork in the museum that will surely make you go in awe of the collection.
- Old Lighthouse
This lighthouse was constructed by engineer L. Guerre in March 1836. This lighthouse was planned by French people in order to provide guidance of the route to the sailors at night time. The tower has been built on a rectangular base in the area around ‘mat de pavilion’. The height of the tower is 29 meters and the light house is said to have three openings. There is a place for the watchman, a staircase path on the inner side which leads to the top and a shop in this lighthouse.
The light from the lighthouse can be seen from 29 km distance. The existing fixed light was replaced by a 1000 watt revolving light on the 12th of September, 1931. The lighthouse has been renovated an ample number of times as it went out of function many times. Owing to this, a new lighthouse has been built to the south of the town in Kirapalaiyam. This old lighthouse is now abandoned and is partly converted into a museum. The open front space at the lighthouse is host to the different commercial activities, musical and cultural programs that are held throughout the year at this place.
- Gandhi statue
The Father of Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been given a place of remembrance in Pondicherry. Situated at Promenade this Gandhi Statue is located not far from the war memorial and said to be the biggest statue of the pioneer leader in the Asian continent. The statue measures four-meter square and has 8 magnificent pillars of granite encircling it that were brought from Gingee fort which lies around 70 km from Pondicherry. The inauguration of the statue was done on 26th January 1965.There is a secret tunnel below the statue which opens up at the Gingee fort. This tunnel was closed for the tourists because of incidences of suffocation and death. The square area in front of the Gandhi statue is known as Gandhi Thidal and it is host to a number of varied programs 365 days of the year.
An archeological site in Pondicherry, this place is situated at a distance of 4 kilometers from the capital. The archeological excavations at this site were conducted in the period 1947-1950 by Jean-Marie Casal and Sir Mortimer Wheel. The Arikamedu site is situated on the right side of the banks of the Ariyankuppam River. The place has a history that goes back to the second century B.C. This port town was said to be inhabited by the French, Cholas, and Romans who left a significant impression of their culture on this place. The ancient Roman treasures and cruise in the Arikamedu River will make you go down the history and explore fascinating facts of the yesteryears. Do add this attraction to places to visit in Pondicherry to admire some classic architecture.
- Aurobindo Ashram
A popular spiritual community, Aurobindo Ashram was set by the politician Sri Aurobindo after he got a major spiritual awakening realization on 24th November 1926. The Ashram has grown by leaps and bounds since its initial days when only a few disciples of Sri Aurobindo gathered around to connect with the spiritual work of the founder. Today the Ashram is famous for imparting a mind transforming experience to the attendees by focusing on yoga, tranquility, and peace. The Ashram also manages many guesthouses for its guests that are available for accommodation. But, you need an advance booking. Visit this attraction out of all the places to visit in Pondicherry to travel back in time and relish a spiritual odyssey.
- Matri Mandir
Located in Auroville, this sacred place is popular as a shrine that is not connected to any specific sect or religion. The name of the place is a literal translation of the Sanskrit words Temple of the Mother. The holy shrine was commenced by The Mother of Shri Aurobindo Ashram. The building took nearly 37 years for its completion. The foundation was laid on 21st February 1971 and was fully constructed in the month of May in 2008. The structure of the building is in form of a large sphere that is enclosed by 12 petals. The radiant structure has a Geodesic dome that is enveloped by golden tiles that reflect in sunlight. The Matri Mandir is located in a huge open space known as Peace. To visit here, you need a prior appointment.
- Ousteri Lake
If you are a nature lover, this goes straight to your list of places to visit in Pondicherry. This lovely place is definitely worth visiting and is situated at a distance of approximately 10 km from Pondicherry. The Ousteri Lake, also known as Osudu Lake covers an area of 390 hectares. It has been identified as one of the important wetlands of the Asian continent by The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The lake consists of mudflats and marsh along with water.
The lake is inhabited by 40 plus migratory birds that often visit this spectacular destination. You can get to view rare bird species such as Spotted Owlets, Painted Storks and Tailor Bird to name a few. The place is a visual treat with the different colored birds that visit here. This attraction can be a paradise for the bird watchers and nature photographers. You can also take part in boating at this lake.
I hope you liked this compilation of places to visit in Pondicherry. Do let me know if you can recommend some other attractions here.