Best Budget Weekend Getaway to Pondicherry, India
January 30, 2019
by Saniya Surana
Puducherry (earlier Pondicherry), a Union Territory located in Tamil Nadu, India is popularly known as the ‘City of Spirits’ on account of the spiritual bliss one can experience and the high that alcohol can provide on a shoestring budget!
It is truly the city of polar tastes and personas. A few people visit the place exclusively to bask in the peace and glory of the world-renowned Aurobindo Ashram, while others to enjoy the solitude and beauty the beaches, the French colonies and the Cafés provide. The city aides in the journey to discover oneself and enjoy one’s own company. So whether you are a culture geek, a beach enthusiast or a person searching for solitude and solace; the place is just the perfect weekend getaway.
Choosing from a pool of attractions, here are the top 7 things to do and live the experiences that the city has to offer:
Find Peace at The Promenade / Rock Beach
The Promenade in Goubert Ave, White Town is the best place to watch the sunrise or for an evening stroll along the waters. Sitting on the rocks near the Jetty is the farthest point you can reach and the spray from the waters and the wind howling in your ears is just fantastic. The beauty of it all easily compels you to appreciate the quiet, gawk at the rough waves and get into peaceful introspection mode.
The place has been barricaded for all kinds of motor vehicles and is open to only pedestrians. Many restaurants and eateries line the road and provide a pleasant experience whether you are going solo or in company.
Meditate at Matrimandir, Auroville
Auroville City was built as per the 1965 sketch by the Mother and the Matrimandir is the soul of the place. Get yourself the passes to visit Matrimandir (it often takes a day to obtain them). The chambers of Matrimandir offer peace and solitude which is often refreshing for the soul. Immerse yourself in the soulful presence of the Mother, meditate and revel in the bliss.
There’s also the Auro Beach and the Sadhana Forest for the nature enthusiasts and many eateries to get the best of international food. If one isn’t short on time, head to the Visitor’s Centre to get a full guided tour and don’t miss the solar kitchen!
Rejuvenate with Retail Therapy
One can enjoy the local street shopping, or visit the stand-alone designer stores or even check out the quaint little boutiques. From incense, essential oils, handmade paper knick-knacks to garments, stoles, scarves and leather bags and accessories, there’s something for everyone!
Fun Fact: The famous Hidesign is based out of Pondicherry and is a must-go-to for the premium to luxury leather goods.
Go Café Hopping to savour the flavours!
Treat yourself with freshly baked bread, tarts and waffles, wood-fired pizzas and don’t miss out on the authentic French spreads the many cafes offer.
Pro Tip: Get to Café Des Arts, Le Club, Auroville Bakery, Café Xtasi (for Pizzas) during your time there to experience the very best.
Take a Trip to Pichavaram – the World’s Second Largest Mangrove Forest!
About 85kms from the main city lies the world’s second largest mangrove forest, right after the Sunderbans in West Bengal, India. It would be best to pack some food, water and head for a 1.5-hour drive early morning to get the best boat rides and enjoy the morning.
Pro Tip: Get tickets offered by the Forest Authorities to walk inside the forest area. This is not quite popular with the general public as yet as most people often prefer the boat rides offered. If you are up to try out something new, this is just for you.
Alternatively, if you prefer the popular choice – opt for a rowboat, strike a conversation with the boatman, cough up a few extra monies, and have him take you a little further into the area to enjoy the music in the rustle of the leaves, in the chirping of the birds, in the soft breeze caressing your cheeks and in the ripples in the waters. If you know the local language i.e. Tamil, it’s an added bonus! Your boatman will double up as a tourist guide and you’ll get to hear stories of movie shooting instances and know of the habitat, geography and much more about the place.
Go Surfing and Scuba Diving!
Picking up new skills during a holiday is just the best remedy to spice up life, get the adrenaline rush going and having fun. Try out surfing at the Kallialay Surf School or scuba driving with Temple Adventures at the Pondicherry Swimming Centre. One can even become a certified scuba diver with the various courses offered. However, note that the authorities have constructed an artificial reef and one may not find extraordinary marine life as in other parts of India.
For the adventurer, there is also the Covelong Beach en route to Pondicherry and the Karaikal Beach, which is a three-hour drive from Pondicherry. Water sports activities such as kayaking, canoeing etc. are available here. One can also just set up camp at the beach and enjoy the glorious sunsets.
Feel Awestruck at the Aurobindo Ashram
The Samadhi of Aurobindo Ghosh – a freedom fighter, writer and spiritual thinker is situated in the main city. One can visit the Ashram and find extraordinary peace. One may also visit the library inside the Ashram to learn more about the lives of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and engross oneself in their teachings. Don’t forget to visit the Mother’s room, Sri Aurobindo’s room (open to the public at specified timings only) and get their blessings.
Pro Tip: Dine at Ashram’s Dining Hall for at least one meal to taste not only the authentic, organic and healthy food but have a sneak-peek at the serene lives of the ashramites. Ensure that you avail tickets to the dining hall from the Aurobindo Information Centre well in advance of your meal and keep up with the timings and rules.
Note: Admission is purely subject to the permission of the authorities.
Best time to visit
Escape the otherwise hot wrath of the sun during the summer, and plan your trip during the months of October – February. Witness the Christmas and New Year Celebrations and treat yourself to a great beginning to the New Year!
How to get there
If you are with a group of friends, one mustn’t miss the road trip through the East Coast Road (ECR). What are you waiting for? Rent a car and get zooming. If you are on a budget, don’t hesitate to opt for the public buses, some costing as low as INR 150.