Situated on the seafront, the former French colony of Pondicherry has a distinctly European air, with wide boulevards and shady cobbled streets overlooked by charming colonial architecture.
Cycle around Pondicherry’s streets taking in the sea air and the smell of sweet French pastries baking in a café. After the hustle and bustle of many other Tamil cities “Pondy” feels like something of an oasis.
While the town’s name was changed back to its original Tamil “Puducherry” in 2006, it’s still widely referred to as Pondicherry. It was the largest French colony in India for around 200 years, from the mid-18th century. During that time, Pondicherry turned into a town that wouldn’t be out of place on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Get a sense of Pondy’s French heritage on a guided walking tour, run by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). During the hour-long Heritage Trail, take notes on the sights that interest you so you can make a return visit. Attractions you’ll pass include the Gandhi Statue, Romain Rolland Library, Pondicherry Museum, French Institute of the Far East and the Church of Our Lady of the Angels. Guided tours begin at the Tourist Information Centre, where you can pick up a map in English. Use this map to take a self-guided tour if you prefer to explore at your own pace.
One of the buildings you’ll pass on the Heritage Trail is the world-famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram. This ashram was established in 1926 by philosopher-poet Sri Aurobindo Ghose. While at the ashram, he developed a philosophy rooted in yoga. Contact the ashram’s Bureau Central to book a stay or to organise a guided tour.
The year-round warm climate makes a swim at Pondicherry Beach an attractive option whenever you visit. Dry off with a cycle along the promenade, admiring the colonial houses along the seafront. Head to the Botanical Garden, located in the city centre, for some shade and tranquility.
Pondicherry is 3 hours south of Chennai and is well connected by road and rail to most nearby cities. Come to Pondy to discover an interesting blend of European and Tamil influences and enjoy the coastal city’s beaches and relaxed atmosphere.