Imagine walking down the dreamy streets of France, with the sweet aroma of freshly baked confectioneries coming from the authentic bakeries and quaint cafes. Dreamy isn’t it? Well, you can get a similar version of this magical experience right here in India, without having to travel abroad. The cobbled paths of Pondicherry have a French fairytale to offer with a touch of Indian subtlety. And, to help you embrace it we have come up with a 1 day walking tour of Pondicherry, so you can spend an impeccable day at the French Riviera of the East!
Route: Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple - Puducherry Museum - Rock Beach - Mahatma Gandhi Statue - The Sacred Heart Basilica - Botanical Garden
Pondicherry Walking Tour Distance: 3.3 km
Tour Duration: 40 minutes
Sri Aurobindo Ashram would be the perfect place to start the tour, as you start your day with some mindful yoga and meditation here. This place would help you to spend some quality time with yourself and get away from the everyday chaos. The Ashram is filled with serene views and offers you the right tangent to seek spirituality and attain inner peace against a beautiful backdrop.
Going back in time, this ashram was founded by Aurobindo Ghosh after he retired from politics and was joined by other disciples who believed in his ideals. They lived at the ashram and took care of all the chores, like reading, writing, and meditating. In 1920, he was joined by Mira Alfassa, who was known as “The Mother”, and together they worked for the ashram and took it to greater heights. After the death of both Aurobindo Ghosh and Mira Alfassa, their bodies were buried in a Samadhi within the Ashram. Visiting the Sri Aurobindo Ashram would leave you awe-struck not just by its laid-back atmosphere but also by the positive energy.
You can visit the ashram any time between 8 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm, on any day of the week. And, there are no entry fees to visit the ashram. Winters are a good time to visit as Pondicherry is very humid during summers.
Things to do: You can ease your mind and forget about all your worries in the peaceful surrounding. Watch a short movie to learn more about the history of the ashram and read books on the ashram from its library. Later, you can visit the samadhi, sit back, and meditate there.
You can then head to the Senteurs-Fleurs en Flacon and buy fragrances, sarees, handkerchiefs, and other Ayurvedic products. They also have a bookstore with CDs, DVDs, photographs, gift cards, and other things for your loved ones. For souvenirs, you can always visit the local market.
How much time to spend: 2 to 3 hours.
After the ashram visit, you can walk a distance of less than a kilometer that would take you to the Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple. It is an ancient temple, built for the devotees of Lord Ganesha.
You would find the history of this temple astonishing. They say when the French came to Pondicherry, they built a fort near the temple however, they could not create a significant impact. So, they decided to demolish the temple and throw the Ganesh idol into the sea, but every time they threw the idol it reappeared at the shrine. Eventually, the French gave up and became ardent patrons of the Lord. Interesting right? So you definitely do not want to miss out on this one.
There are no charges to enter the temple. And, the timings to visit are from 5:45 am to 12:30 pm and from 4 pm to 9:30 pm on all days. The best time to visit is from October to March, as the weather is pleasant then.
Interesting fact: Legend has it that, once a person with bright eyes and a broad forehead attained samadhi (meditative consciousness) at this temple. And, since then it is believed that the temple is auspicious for newborn babies.
Things to do: Seek blessings from the divine Lord Ganesha and several other gods and goddesses, get to know more about the history of the temple and admire the fabulous ancient architecture of the temple built.
How much time to spend: 1 hour.
Also Read: 5 Interesting Temples In Odisha
From the Temple, you can move on to your next location and reach the famous Puducherry Museum. Located in the White Town area, right by the popular Bharathi Park the museum has magnificent architecture. Filled with a plethora of bronze statues, stone sculptures, and other artifacts, this museum was established in 1983. It also exhibits coins, jewels, and statues depicting the time when Pondicherry was an important trade port serving traders Rome, the Cholas, and the French.
The Puducherry Museum houses a collection of many historic displays representing three different eras. It includes the early period of the 1st to 4th century, the rule of Pallavas and the Cholas, and the European era i.e. the times when the French ruled. It offers you the chance to be in awe of the diversity of Pondicherry's history and appreciate its effect on the local culture. Once you’re done admiring the historical gems at the museum, you can take a breather at the nearby Rock Beach or the Bharathi Park and enjoy the lush greenery.
The museum is closed on Mondays, but you can visit on the other days any time between 9 am to 6:30 pm. To enter the museum you need to pay a fee of INR 10 for adults, INR 5 for kids, and INR 50 for foreigners. Visiting Pondicherry in summer helps to avoid the usual rush at the museum.
Things to do: Look at the huge bronze statues from different dynasties, read through the labels under the exhibits, know their history, and about the various means of transportation during ancient times.
How much time to spend: 1 to 2 hours.
A 2-minute walk from the Puducherry Museum would lead you to the largest statue of Mahatma Gandhi in all of Asia. It was built to pay respect to the Father of the Nation. Located at the prominent site of the Promenade beachfront, the statue attracts thousands of tourists. Placed right opposite the historic landmark of Old Port Pier, this statue is surrounded by eight white carved pillars.
These pillars were brought from the Gingee Fort which is around 70 km away from the city. The 13 feet statue was built by a renowned artist named Roy Choudhary in the year 1965. And, it took almost a year to complete its construction. Apart from visiting the statue, you can also be a part of the cultural and musical activities that take place at the Gandhi Thidal throughout the year.
There are no entry fees to visit the Mahatma Gandhi statue, and you can see this place at any time on any day. However, winter would be an excellent time to visit to escape the scorching summer heat.
Things to do:
How much time to spend: 1 to 2 hours.
To witness the perfect blend of French and Indian architecture you need to visit the Sacred Heart Basilica, which is just 4 mins away from the beach. With an aerial view of the church depicting a Latin-rite cross shape, it is one of the most beautiful churches in India. Enhancing its beauty are 24 main columns and stained glass windows with pictures of 28 saints on the glass.
It was a dream of Archbishop Mgr. Gandhi to dedicate a church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And, to fulfill his dream, two Parish Priests, Rev. Fr. Telesphore Welter, and Rev. Fr. Fourcaud, helped in preparing the building plan and the construction of the church. The architectural excellence you will witness here is really gratifying.
You can visit the church from Monday to Friday between 6 am to 6 pm, on Saturdays between 6 am to 5:30 pm, and on Sundays between 5:30 am to 7:30 pm. There are no entry fees to be paid.
Things to do:
How much time to spend: 30 minutes to an hour.
To end your walking tour of Pondicherry on a colorful note, you can visit the elegant French Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden (or Jarden Botanique) is well known for its educational and recreational activities. Situated in the middle of the old Tamil Nadu town, it reflects the French culture. Right from the entrance to the surroundings of the garden, you can notice the ornate French-style architecture.
The garden has over 1500 plant varieties and is divided into 30 sections across the garden. You can also find giant trees and fossils, which are a highlight of the garden filled with endangered and exotic plants. Though the main objective is to spread awareness on the conservation of plants, the botanical garden is also a place of fun and relaxation. You can sit back and enjoy the serene views of the garden and end your tour with a fun toy train ride! The Garden is open on all days from 10 am to 5 pm. And, the entry fees is INR 10 for adults and INR 5 for kids.
Things to do:
How much time to spend: 1 to 2 hours.
There is no better way of exploring these wonders of Pondicherry than walking through its bougainvillea-laden streets. So get ready to take your trip to Pondicherry, and let this walking tour bring you closer to your dream of making the most of your time here!
How To Spend 1 Day In Pondicherry?
The best way to spend a day in Pondicherry is by exploring some of its delights like Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Manakula Vinayagar Temple, Puducherry Museum, Rock beach, Mahatma Gandhi Statue, Promenade beach, The Sacred Heart Basilica, and the Botanical Garden.
Is One Day Enough To Visit Pondicherry?
You would need at least 2 days to cover all the popular places of attractions in the enchanting city of Pondicherry. Its French grandeur would surely make you want to stay a little longer than 2 days.
How Much Does It Cost For Pondicherry Trip?
A trip to Pondicherry would cost you somewhere in the range of INR 10,000 to 40,000 or more. However, this would depend on different factors like the accommodation you choose to stay at and the number of days of your stay.
Is Paradise Beach Worth Visiting?
It is one of the best beaches in Pondicherry and is also close to the railway station. You can even get into the water, as there are only a few beaches that allow getting in the water. It is also one of the cleanest beaches surrounded by white sand and beautiful huts.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Pondicherry?
October to March is the best time to visit Pondicherry, as the weather is pleasant during this time. With the temperature ranging from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius. Visiting at this time would help you avoid the scorching summer heat.
Is Pondicherry better than Goa?
Both Pondicherry and Goa are great choices for a beach vacation. Goa with its abundant lovely beaches is the more popular one and can be touristy. Pondicherry on the other hand has not attained that much attention yet and hence remains a calm city of beaches.