Pondicherry is a Union Territory renowned for its French settlements, colonial architecture, and cafes scattered along picturesque lanes. The area also includes beautiful temples, churches, statues, historic sites, and more in addition to its numerous beaches and Instagrammable lanes. Read on to know about some popular and lesser-known spots to add to your itinerary.
Matrimandir, Auroville Road
Matrimandir is a popular tourist spot located in the Auroville township. In the middle of the grounds is a giant spherical structure with golden discs adorning its exterior walls. A meditation chamber with white marble walls and floors is housed inside the structure, which is a beautiful fusion of Indian and contemporary Western architecture. The campus also features expansive gardens, an art gallery, a cafeteria, and several boutique stores to indulge in shopping.
Timings: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: Auroville Rd, Auroville, Bommayapalayam, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
Sri Aurobindo Ashram, White Town
Renowned Indian poet, philosopher, and nationalist Sri Aurobindo's ashram, is a must-see while in Pondicherry. The heritage property, which is situated in the French neighbourhood commonly known as White Town, opens to a tree-shaded courtyard with interconnected blocks of homes where the philosopher once resided. You can choose a calm spot to meditate, visit the library, purchase books, or find out more about the history of the ashram.
Timings: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Address: No. 9, Marine Street, White Town, Puducherry
Arikamedu, an archaeological site on the outskirts of Pondicherry, was once a significant Indo-Roman port for trade. The site is a brick building with moss-covered walls, old columns, and crumbling formations situated alongside the Ariyankuppam river, about 5 km from Pondicherry. If you love history, Arikamedu is a must-visit spot.
Timings: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Address: Ariyankuppam, Puducherry
Jawahar Toy Museum, near Old Lighthouse
It is a lesser-known tourist spot that is close to Gandhi Maidan and Pondicherry’s old lighthouse. At the Jawahar Toy Museum, which has a collection of more than 120 toys from around the country, you can go back in time and relive your youth. It displays a wide variety of toys in a range of sizes, shapes, and fabrics. You can expect to see stuffed cuddly toys, wooden and porcelain toys, toys dressed in various attires of the nation, figurines of various tribes, cars, train sets, and more.
Timings: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Mondays
Address: Near Old Lighthouse, Goubert Avenue, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
Auro Beach, Auroville
Auro Beach, formerly known as Auroville beach, is a less crowded beach located 12 km from Pondicherry in the township of Auroville. While Rock Beach and Serenity Beach top the list of beaches in Pondicherry for their sunrise and sunset views, this beach is covered in soft black volcanic sand mixed with golden sand and has shallow waters that are ideal for swimming and surfing.
Address: Bommayapalayam, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
If you want to stay in and around Auroville, check out our list here
Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple, White Town
One of Pondicherry's most well-known temples Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple features Lord Ganesha resting atop a golden teakwood chariot. The temple is adorned with lovely friezes and figurines and showcases a Dravidian style of architecture. You will also find a few other idols, including Murugan, Krishna, Shiva, and Parvati. Lakshmi, an adorable elephant stationed outside the temple, blesses people with her trunk in exchange for a coin.
Timings: 5:45 a.m. to 12: 30 p.m., 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Address: WRPM+8F7, Manakula Vinayagar Koil St, White Town, Puducherry
The Sacred Heart Basilica, MG Road area
Built by French Missionaries in 1908, Sacred Heart Basilica is the largest church in Pondicherry. The church holds daily mass in Tamil in the morning and English and Tamil in the evening and celebrates festivals in a grand manner. It is built in the Roman-Byzantine style, features Gothic architecture, and is adorned with stained glass interiors while red and white walls form the exterior.
Timings: 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Address: Door No, 132, South Boulevard, near Railway Station, MG Road Area, Puducherry
Cluny Embroidery Center, White Town
For those who are interested in learning about the art and history associated with handicrafts, there is the Cluny Embroidery Centre situated on the renowned Rue Romain Rolland. It is a heritage home with arched doorways, a portico, and an entrance covered in climbers. The centre, which was originally established to help underprivileged women in need, has evolved into a facility run by Catholic nuns that produces fabrics with exquisite embroidery, as well as intricate needlework and other handmade items.
Timings: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays
Address: WRHM+39F, White Town, Puducherry
Once you have toured the centre, you may want to stop somewhere for a meal. Check out these places to eat in White Town.
French War Memorial, Mahe de Labourdonnais St
Another site of historical interest is the French War Memorial, referred to in French as "Monument aux combattants des Indes françaises morts pour la patrie." It honours the French soldiers who sacrificed their lives in World War I. The memorial features a white structure amidst fresh greenery with a pebbled pathway. Additionally, you can also visit the statue of Mahatma Gandhi located right opposite.
Address: WRJP+Q49, Mahe de Labourdonnais St, White Town, Puducherry
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest, Pichavaram
The second-largest mangrove forest in the world, Pichavaram is situated in Chidambaram, Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Despite being two hours away from Pondicherry, this location is on the itinerary of many who visit the town. More than 400 boatable waterways can be found in the lush mangrove, and the canals are home to 200 different bird species. If you have a big group, you might prefer to use motor boats or row boats to explore the narrow waterways.
Address: CQJJ+QC3, Chidambaram, Killai, Post, Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu