Perhaps, one of the most picturesque places in South India is Puducherry (earlier known as Pondicherry), a sea port is about 160 kms from Chennai. This tiny state could pass for a quaint French town and the large number of tourists just add to the effect. This place is a haven for all those who need a break from the stress and flurry of the city life. Not only is it perfect for a much needed break, the beauty all around is overwhelming. Unlike most of the sand beaches, the Puducherry beach is a rocky one, but, not one bit less beautiful. In fact, it can be a welcome change from the dirty Marina Beach of Chennai.
The focal point of the city is definitely the Aurobindo Ashram, which attracts people from all over the world. The calm interiors of Mother’s Ashram can really take one on a spiritual high. There are many beautiful churches too, hailing from the times when Puducherry was a French colony, as late as 1962. The Anglo-French textile mills, the Bharathi Park, the Chunnambar boat house and the Romain Rolland Library are other places which one should not miss out on.
Puducherry is well-known for its myriad handicrafts industries, from incense sticks to candles embossed with dried flowers to handmade paper or even aromatherapy products. Charming but tiny shops specializing in these articles, dot the whole market, making for a great shopping experience. The popular markets are situated on J.N Street and Mission Street.
A visit to Puducherry is incomplete without a visit to Auroville, a township developed in the forests. Funded by the Aurobindo Society, it is based on the vision of his disciple, popularly called the Mother. With the sea in the east and lakes in the north and west, amidst the forests, this is the best place for nature lovers. The Matri Mandir and the 1000 year old banyan tree make for the must-see places.
For the gourmets too, Puducherry has a lot to offer, be it sea food or traditional south Indian fare or Continental.
An idyllic place for a nice, relaxing holiday on the sea side with family or all alone!
How to get there: Puducherry does not have a commercial airport and the best way to go there is from Chennai by road. The drive from Chennai is about a little over three hours and buses or taxis are the best options. The bus service is efficient and cheaper and buses leave almost every 15 minutes.
Best time to visit: The winters are pleasant and mild, from December to February. October too is a favorable time with the monsoon just about to end.
Accommodation and lodging: There is a wide variety of options to choose from while staying at Puducherry. Depending on your budget, you can choose between high end resorts or hotels to low cost government guest houses. A single room in an upmarket hotel would cost you about Rs. 2000-2500 per night, while a low end place would cost anything in between Rs. 800-1500 for a night.