Puducherry or Pondicherry is an Indian city with French flair; it was once the largest French colony within the subcontinent. There is a long history and unique culture to explore in what is nicknamed the French Riviera of the East. You can go to the beach in the morning, shop for hand-painted silk or go to a yoga class in the afternoon, and finish the day by sampling the best of French and Indian cuisine.
Where else can you enjoy the charms of the French Quarter, visit the beautifully ornate Varadaraja Perumal Temple, and take yoga or Bollywood singing and dancing lessons at the Sita Cultural Center, all within walking distance?
The combination of Indian and Mediterranean influences creates a wealth of options for foodies, including the best of Indian cuisine along with French wines and foods you wouldn't expect on the subcontinent.
The city offers a shop-till-you-drop experience, including local goods such as silk clothing, shoes, candles, jewelry, handmade paper, and many more local specialties, along with outlet shopping malls full of international goods.
The beach and promenade are among the city's most popular attractions, where you can swim and enjoy water sports, including scuba diving.
Just outside the city of Puducherry, Auroville is a utopian community founded as an experiment in universal living. You can visit and view marvels like the Matrimandir lotus-shaped dome gleaming with golden discs, shop, and much more.
Thanks to the diligence and efforts of Jesuits nearly 300 years ago, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral still stands tall as a monument to the faith and the industrious nature of the French Jesuit Fathers who came to the then-French colony of Pondicherry. However, the church has received a number of additions and undergone some remodeling since it was consecrated in 1791. Nonetheless, you can expect grand splendor and exquisite sacred hangings in this vaulted interiors of this exquisite church. Visit during a popular service or during quieter hours, when you can view the stunning ceiling painting over the altar in peace.
You may think the Puducherry Museum is going to focus entirely on French culture - but you'd be wrong. The collections and exhibits feature, rather, the interplay of French influence and local, South Indian Culture. Artifacts like terracotta elephant statues coupled with quaint French antique teak furniture, rare bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties seem to ask a larger question about the place of colonialism in the legacy of South India in general. Once you're done touring the exhibits and pondering this question, make your way to the courtyard where there awaits the remains of a fossilized tree trunk.
Located at the edge of the waters of Rock Beach, right in White Town, is this old and iconic 95 foot lighthouse, which was erected in the 1830s. Today, this 19th century relic attracts many visitors seeking the opportunity to climb to its very top and take in views of the water on one hand and of the shimmering city of Pondicherry on the other.
This is the largest urban park in the town of Pondicherry and sits right at the heart of White Town. With multiple activities, various monuments scattered about the park and pleasant facilities for joggers, families and children, this is the perfect space for a time-out or a green oasis from which to begin a new adventure. While at Bharathi Park, enjoy its lush fountains, a play area for kids, activities such as biking and rollerblading, as well as a well-cultivated garden.
Nearly 4 miles long, this generous stretch of beachfront rests right on the edge of the Bay of Bengal and provides visitors with a clean and well-maintained spit of land on which to relax, take a stroll, or head out for a dip. Take in a sunrise, a moonrise, or simply come at the sunset to wade into the waters or sit on the rocks and take in the waves crashing on the shore. This beautiful area is lined with the shade of palm trees so you can cool off out of the sun.
With monsoon season from October to December, and summer temperatures that routinely hit above 100 degrees from April to June, many tourists choose to visit the city in the more moderate spring and fall seasons.
Chennai International Airport (MAA) is the closest to the city at a distance of about 84 miles. There are bus connections to Puducherry starting at ₹1,500.
The Puducherry Railway Station is one of India's oldest train hubs, with daily connections to Chennai and Tirupati, weekly service to Bhubaneswar, and overnight service to Bangalore.
The city is connected to other major centers throughout the region by well-maintained highways, including the picturesque ECR or East Coast Road to Chennai.
The Puducherry Road Transport Corporation or PRTC provides intercity bus service, with connections throughout Puducherry union territory and other major centers in the country, including Chennai and Hyderabad.
Enjoy the beach and seaside views in luxury at The Promenade Hotel. The Villa Shanti offers upscale accommodation with continental style in a convenient location in the French Quarter.
French Quarter - this is the main tourist area of the city, lined by charming Mediterranean-style buildings, with many places to shop and eat as you stroll along the street.
Indian Quarter - separated from the French Quarter by a canal, this is where you will find Indian/Tamil markets, shopping, and dining.
Promenade Beach - this is the city's most popular beach area, stretching for just under a mile along the Bay of Bengal.
Local bus service is provided by PRTC. Fares vary by zone, starting at ₹4.50.
Taxis are reasonably plentiful throughout the city, with fares that start at ₹6 per 0.6 miles.
The city is small, with most attractions within walking distance. There are a few local car rental companies, with rates that start at ₹300.
Mission Street is where you will find outlet shopping centers, including Kalki for local goods, and Casablanca and Titanic for international brands.
F&F and Go Pondy are two of the supermarket brands in the city. A gallon of milk costs ₹145 and a dozen eggs is ₹67.
You'll enjoy the menu of upscale Indian and Asian cuisine in the elegant rooftop dining room at Lighthouse, with views of the water. Mains start at ₹600. Enjoy the cafe atmosphere and French classics at Cafe des Arts, where main dishes start at ₹385.