Tour an attractive city on the Bay of Bengal known as the French Riviera of the East for its Gallic culture, cuisine and buildings.
From the cuisine and culture to colonial-style villas and street names, French influences are easily glimpsed in Pondicherry. The coastal town was under the control of France until 1954. Many people in Pondicherry still speak French and in some of the restaurants you can find French specialties. The town is officially called Puducherry, the original Tamil name, but it is still widely referred to as Pondicherry, or “Pondy.” A visit there will reward you with beautiful architecture, beaches and a delightful mix of Eastern and Western culture.
Start your exploration of the picturesque city by visiting some of its old churches, including the 18th-century Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the Church of Our Lady of Angels. Go to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for its stained-glass windows that depict the life of Jesus. Tour the town’s other religious buildings including Hindu temples and the Meeran Mosque that dates back to the 17th century.
Head to Promenade Beach for sunbathing and water sports. Swim, go fishing from a catamaran or book a scuba diving lesson. Enjoy a stroll along the promenade where you can see statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Joan of Arc.
Those who are into nature will appreciate a walk through the Botanical Garden. It was established in 1826 and is home to rare species of plants, a musical fountain, birds and a children’s train. For something a little different, take a Bollywood dance class or massage workshop at the Sita Cultural Center.
Save some time for a visit to Auroville, a small enclave located just outside of Pondicherry. It was established as a universal town where people of all faiths and backgrounds from dozens of countries can live in harmony. Among the architectural highlights is the large, gold-coloured geodesic dome called the Matrimandir. The structure’s spacious inner chamber is for people who want to sit quietly and meditate.
Pondicherry lies on the Bay of Bengal and can be reached by plane, train and car. There are also bus services from several cities, including Bangalore and Madurai.