If you are looking to experience a different culture and still want to party like crazy? This is your stop. No, we are not talking about Goa. We are talking about this beautiful city that too often is undermined compared to Goa. This article is for the people who are tired of hearing about Goa and are willing to give this former French colony a chance. Pondicherry is located 160 kms south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The Frenchmen have left their eternal touch on this city; the architecture is French, the road signs are in French (along with English and Tamil), a lot of people speak French fluently and the restaurants serve the finest wine (uff!)
Here are a few places you must include in your itinerary-
Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa, also known as the Mother, founded Auroville in 1968. Her aim was to create a town where people of all nationalities could live in peace and progressive harmony, and true to her ideal, the place is a study of calm and composed. This city within a city, a vision of The Mother, was inaugurated in 1968 with youth from 124 different nations and 23 Indian states, depositing a handful of their native soil into the Urn–the Auroville website will reveal to you. It is meant to belong to humanity as a whole, to bridge the gap between the past and the future. Localities correctly say, “At Auroville you’ll find what you want, even if you don’t know you need it.”
2. Aurobindo Ashram
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual ashram. This peaceful and holy place has made Pondicherry a favorite tourist venue for many people all over the world. The ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926 when he decided to withdraw from public view and continue with his spiritual growth. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Pondicherry for those who wish to attain eternal peace and harmony. One can visit the samadhis of Sri Aurobindo & his mother or participate in collective meditation in Ashram around the Samadhi in the main building on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
One of the best things about Pondicherry is the beaches. There are 4 main beaches: Promenade beach, Paradise beach, Auroville beach and Serenity beach. They are never too crowded and, compared to other beaches in India (Ahem, Goa), the beaches in Pondicherry are pretty clean and well kept. And there is nothing quite as refreshing as sitting by a beautiful beach! It is equally popular amid locals and tourists and is ideal for swimming. Popular as a paradise for swimming enthusiasts, Karaikal beach offers various water sports activities such as kayaking, canoeing, boating and beach games such as Volleyball. Perfect for early risers, the beach offers memorable sunrises and is known for its wonderful scenery. Surfing and swimming are popular activities here.
There are some things in life that you can never get tired of, and watching the sunrise is right on top of that list. And if you want to behold a magical sunrise, you have to be in Pondicherry. That feeling of the sun coming out of the deep blue sea can lift your heart and make your day! The tiny coastal city boasts of some beautiful and untouched beaches. So wake up early morning or stay up all night long. But do not miss the sunrise for watching the sun rise from the vast expanse of the Bay of Bengal!
There is a lot of seafood that can be enjoyed in Pondicherry and, being in the south, the traditional South Indian fare of idli-dosa is available too. And thanks to the French influence, good steak and wine are served in most restaurants. Pondicherry is a piece of heaven for food lovers. Trying out various cuisines is one of the best things to do in Pondicherry for food junkies. One can explore all kinds of cuisines; the speciality being French food, continental delicacies, and traditional south Indian cuisine.
6. French War Memorial
The French War Memorial is majestic in its simplicity. By the beach on Gobert Avenue, it is a simple construction of four pillars erected in memory of all the French soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. Not too far away is the Statue of Dupleix, installed in honour of Joseph Francois Dupleix, a Governor General of the French Establishment in India.
7. Pondicherry Museum
At various points in time, Pondicherry was under the control of the French, the British and the Dutch. The Pondicherry museum houses various relics and artefacts from those periods. There are also sculptures and other archaeological findings from the Arikamedu Roman settlement.
8. Scuba Diving
You don’t need to go abroad to do something as surreal as scuba diving. You can have your breath taken away by going underwater in Pondicherry. Scuba diving is one of the most enthralling and fun things to do in Pondicherry. In fact, Pondicherry is the only diving spot on the eastern coast of India. The place is characterised by natural coral reefs, rocky pop-ups, man-made folds, and a plethora of marine organisms. The marine life includes corals, lionfish, grouper, kingfish, moray eels, eagle, manta rays, parrot fish, sea snakes, banner fish, and crustaceans.
9. Botanical Garden
Founded in 1826, with ornate French architecture, Botanical Gardens of Pondicherry spreads in an area of 22 acres, and is a treasure trove of more than 1500 plant species boasting of several valuable properties. The garden is segregated into 28 plots withy varied theme. Children’s train, 6 fountains, a dancing fountain, Japanese rock and an aquarium with ornamental fish are the other attractions here. Do not forget to spot colourful birds
Isak Dinesen once said, the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. Don’t believe him? Go find out!
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