Also known as Puducherry, Pondicherry is a Union Territory comprising four French India districts - Pondicherry, Karikal, Mahe and Yanoan. The area was inhabited for thousands of years before becoming a French colony in 1674 and remained so until 1954. Pondicherry features elegant colonial buildings juxtaposed against ancient temples and sun-drenched beaches overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
Things to do in Puducherry
Still referred to as the “French capital of India”, Pondicherry has an atmosphere like nowhere else on the Indian subcontinent.
Sightsee in Pondicherry. Spend a day exploring the leafy streets of Pondicherry’s French Quarter to admire elegant colonial villas that have transformed into designer boutiques and upmarket restaurants. Admire the Gothic architecture of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the colourful exterior of Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswar or make a pilgrimage to the Manakula Vinayagar Temple. In the evening, join the locals strolling the seaside promenade with its memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.
Birdwatch on the shores of Ousteri Lake. On the western outskirts of Pondicherry is this man-made lake, which was originally built by the French as a source of drinking water. It has since been designated as an Important Bird Area due to the migratory species that flock to its wetlands. Rent a boat to explore its picturesque shores, where white ibises, golden orioles and greater flamingos can be spotted.
Relax on the beaches. Pondicherry is fringed by several beautiful beaches, which cater to all types of travellers. You can enjoy an early morning yoga class on Promenade Beach or get active with a range of water sports at Paradise Beach. Auroville Beach is popular with surfers while Mahe Beach attracts local fishermen. Memorable sunrises and sunsets can be enjoyed from Veerampattinam Beach, one of the territory’s quieter stretches of sand.
Getting around Puducherry
Pondicherry Airport is a 20-minute drive from the city centre and has flights to destinations across India. The much larger Chennai International Airport is three hours away. Inter-city trains connect to the Pondicherry railway station while buses travel throughout the city. Rickshaws are also readily available for getting around.