The Corona travel restrictions had just been relaxed and I was eager to hit the road. After mulling a lot on the place to visit, we just randomly picked up Pondicherry as our weekend getaway destination. In no time, we were accompanied by our little one - Alto & hit the highway straight to Pondicherry from Hyderabad. Sometimes, the best trips are the unplanned ones and this was true in our case! It was a thrilling 800 km drive filled with wonderful sights through the Ongole-Nellore route along the coastline. The drive started at 10 pm and the destination was in sight at 2 pm the next day. Since it was a family trip & corona relaxations had just come in, we took pre-packed eatables with us so that there was no need to halt anywhere except for a little rest breaks.
Route we Took:
Our onward route from Hyderabad was the Nalgonda-Miryalaguda-Narasaraopeta-Addanki-Ongole-Nellore-Gudur-Sullurupeta-Gumudipoondi-Chennai route - NH65, then 167A which took us about 16 hours & around 800 km journey
Pondy is a great weekend getaway from Chennai and one can easily drive through the ECR to enjoy the serene and the picturesque road ahead in the journey. (Appx. 3 hrs drive)
One cannot be disappointed with the options available for stay in Pondy - be it the hotels, the homestays, the budget rooms. However, we came across this 150 year old heritage property - Maison Perumal, managed by CGH Earth Group situated on Perumal Koil Street of the Tamil Colony. (Note - Not many are aware of the Tamil Quarters as tourists). Being a Tamilian myself, this was a delight! It is a wonderfully managed property with all modern amenities and elegantly maintained rooms. The property is centrally located and within walking distance from the French Colony. Food though was limited in terms of choice, but was tastefully prepared. We loved it totally!
Best Things to do in Pondicherry
Enjoy the Sun 'n' Sand
A walk to the Promenade was the evening agenda after a quick freshening up and was much required to soak in the charm of the sea. The Gandhi statue and the buildings adorning the opposite side were a sight to behold. A seaside avenue lined by charming colonial and heritage buildings, this place is ideal for morning and evening jaunts. Though Pondicherry boasts of wonderful beaches, we had paucity of time, we could visit 2 beaches - Promenade and Paradise beach.
Explore the Life of Pondy on Wheels
An early morning guided rickshaw tour arranged by the hotel was like a breath of fresh air as we were shown around Pondicherry French township, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Aurobindo Ashram, Promenade beach (once again), French embassy, Sacred Heart of Basilica. We were just in time at the hotel for a lovely breakfast. Just for a quick info, French colony is separated from the Tamil Colony by a narrow canal.
Walk by Yourself
When in Pondicherry, do take a stroll in the evening and explore the by lanes on your own as well. You will get a feel of the town, the bygone architecture and food. We explored a lot of Pondicherry on foot just to get a flavour of the city along with places to eat out.
Where to Eat?
Pondicherry has some interesting places to eat, both at French colony as well as Tamil colony. Since we are vegetarians, we found wonderful vegetarian treats at these places:
The Indian Kaffe Express, located in French colony - For some wonderful waffles, hash browns & smoothies
Suruguru, located in Tamil colony - For yummy South Indian treats
Cream Affair, located in French colony - All those icecream lovers out there - this is a must place visit ! I bet, you wouldn't regret..
Baker's Street, located in Tamil colony - A lovely French styled bakery where in you can fill your tummy with wonderful bakery & confectionary items. We actually hogged all the available vegetarian items!
Le Cafè - Located on the Beach road, this cafe is a seafront joint serving delicious croissants, cakes, salads and South Indian coffee and a popular café with the tourists.
We took a day to visit Chidambaram, a temple town which is 65 km drive from Pondicherry. This trip has been separately covered for your leisurely read. Apart from the wonderful beaches,
Get spiritual @ Pondicherry
Pondicherry is also home to some wonderful temples:
1. Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple - An ancient temple dedicated to God Ganesha which predates the French occupation, just 10 min walk from the Promenade beach. The temple is said to be more than 500 years old which was once closer to the shore where sand ('manal' in tamil) often swept into its pond ('kulam' in Tamil), giving the temple its name. One visits this temple to seek the blessings of the Temple Elephant, Lakshmi.
2. Varadaraja Perumal Temples - A Chola architecture marvel which is the home to Lord Vishnu located in the heritage region of the city. This temple dates back to around 12th century and has a separate shrine for Lord Narasimha
3. Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Founded in 1926 from a small group of disciples under Mother's guidance. The visiting time is 0800-1200 & 1400-1800.
Pondicherry has dedicated market lanes dedicated to individual requirements, such as Jewelry, Clothes, Books etc. Goubert Market in MG Road, is one of Pondicherry's bustling market sprawled in a large area offering varities of fish, fruits, vegetables, and groceries. One can find everything from woven basket to leather goods, footwear, jewelry and garments in the main market. Since we visited Pondicherry around the festive time, the lanes were full of shops selling beautiful clay toys which are used in Tamil households as part of Navaratri Golu. We also ended up buying a couple of toy sets for our household too!
A visit to the well maintained Aura Shop by the Promenade beach which sells handmade items made by the Aurobindo Ashram was also made by us. You may also keep your foot at Sri Aurobindo Handmade paper factory run by Aurobindo Ashram since 1959 and sells finest handmade papers and cards.
If you are visiting Pondicherry over a weekend, then one can find Sunday market selling almost everything. Look in for the details and enjoy shopping!
Ours was truly an impromptu trip with nothing major planned to do in Pondicherry but it turned out to be a wonderfully relaxed and a rejuvenating trip for us. We could not make it to Auroville but it is surely there in our agenda the next time we plan a trip to this place.
Hope you enjoyed reading the post. Do let us know how would you like to spend two days in Pondy!