The Union Territory of Pondicherry (Puducherry) is one of South India’s most popular getaway destinations not only because of its history but also because of its calm and serene atmosphere and pristine beaches. Regardless of how long you choose to stay, there’s plenty to do and see, which is why we recommend road tripping it to ‘Pondi’ from Chennai.
Also known as “The French Riviera of the East” let’s take a look at what Pondicherry is all about. Once a French colony, Pondicherry till today is the go to location if you want experience colonial heritage. For example, the French Quarters feature little yellow houses and French cafes that serve authentic food such as steaks. Even though Pondicherry was under French rule until 1954, the influence and culture is still very much present. Parts of Pondicherry are so different from other South Indian cities; it truly transports you to an alternate world.
So keep reading if you want to know how to get there, what to do, where to eat and where to stay! Keep in mind that the best time to visit is from October to February.
One of the more popular road trips in India is from Chennai to Pondicherry via the famous East Coast Road, known for its stunning drive. Indian author, Chetan Bhagat even wrote about this road! Built along the Bay of Bengal, the East Coast Road will give you a view of the water, its reflections, and the sun. Keep your camera ready because you are in for some scenic moments on this drive.
The distance from Chennai to Pondicherry is 160 kms, which takes an approximate of 3.5 hours. Apart from the scenic drive, taking the East Coast Road route allows you to pass well-known places such as Mahabalipuram – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kalpakkam a nuclear facility, Alambara Fort, and Mudaliarkuppam – famous for its water sports facilities.
What to see and do:
There are plenty of sites to take in while visiting Pondicherry. For example, you could see the famous Auroville (includes the popular Shri Aurobindo Ashram), Promenade Beach, Gingee Fort, and even the Jawahar Toy Museum! If you don’t want to explore, why not just hit the water for some sports? On the other end of the spectrum, Pondicherry is well known for yoga, meditation, and spirituality.
Where to eat:
Since Pondicherry has inhabitants from different backgrounds and cultures, the way of life is very diverse. People co-exist while speaking a variety of languages (English, French, Tamil) and eat different cuisines that are still considered local. This diversity reflects in the flavours that are French and South Indian. For example, the most popular things to eat are baguettes, croissants, dosas and idlis, and coconut curry to name a few.
For French food visit Baker Street located in the French Quarters and Café Des Arts, known for their authentic breakfasts. For Chettinad food visit Appachi and for thalis and a wide range of dosas visit Surguru.
Where to stay:
Due to the fact that Pondicherry gets visitors from out of India and Indians from Chennai and Bangalore, there’s a wide range of accommodation. From luxurious to budget friendly hotels, to hostels and B&Bs, there’s something for everyone.
Pack your bags, get those cameras out, and enjoy the scenic road trip to Pondicherry from Chennai.