A stunning destination located merely three-hour drive from Chennai; Pondicherry charms many with its majestic vistas. The city outshines with a melange of Indian and French colonial heritage which makes it stand out. One can find a range of tourist attractions here that speak the rich cultures, legendary heritage, and pristine beauty of the city.
The locals of this city are multi-national and multi-ethnic. The culture of Pondicherry is cosmopolitan which charms the travellers visiting here. The locals can be spotted in beautiful traditional clothes with men wearing pants and shirts, and women dressed in saris, long skirts and blouses. Also, music and dance form an integral part of Pondicherry. Popular dance forms like Yakshgana, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Chau, Mohininattam, etc. are highly influenced by the rich heritage of the Tamil tradition. Also, Bhairavi is a popular Carnatic music circle in Pondicherry performed using instrumental as well as vocal skills. Locals of the city are bilingual and speak both French as well as Tamil.
The crafts of the city are both traditional and contemporary. Puducheri bommai, a handmade doll, is a popular local craft made from terracotta, papier-mache and plaster. Modern crafts include handmade paper, rice paper, incense sticks, candles, hand woven cotton textiles, hand embroidered and painted fabrics, which make perfect souvenirs to take back home.
Pondicherry is dotted with a number of attractions where even the winds ooze serenity. Start with the Botanical Garden featuring six stunning fountains, a large aquarium with ornamental fish, dancing fountain and a gorgeous children's train. The garden is home to 1500 species of plants, making it a treat for the worshippers of nature. The Promenade is another beautiful area perfect to relish leisurely stroll amongst nature. This lively area is nestling with few cafes and restaurants where the travellers can unwind with a beer in hand.
To grab perfect looking sunset, visit the Ousteri Lake. Spread over an area of 390 hectares, this lake is recognised as one of Asia's important wetlands by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. In addition to this, for the lovers of beaches, Paradise Beach and Serenity Beach are perfect retreats. As their names, both these beaches are havens to steal some time from busy life and take a plunge in the powers of Mother Nature.
Pondicherry brings a pleasant surprise for the devotees of wildlife. The Ousteri Wildlife Sanctuary is the most popular destination to eye wildlife from a closer perspective. It houses over 160 species of birds apart from 60 species of butterflies and 25 species of fish.
The seasonal Bahour Lake, a freshwater wetland, is another great destination to spot beautiful birds. The coastal waters of Pondicherry house a variety of corals, fish and crustaceans. Also, few places in the city like the Karaikal region act as nesting spots for Olive Ridley turtles.
Scuba diving is one of the most popular sports in Pondicherry. The city’s marvellous beaches like Paradise Beach and Karaikal Beach are home to brilliant coral reefs that are worth exploring. Travellers visiting these beaches can also partake in boating, jet skiing, canoeing, kayaking and backwater sailing to eye the unearthly beauty of the underwater world.
Pondicherry is home to numerous religious spots that charm devotees from all over the country. No traveller visiting the city ever misses a chance to explore the Manakkula Vinayakar Temple, an ancient holy place beautified with forty incarnations of Ganesha carved on the stone walls.
Thirunallur Temple is another known temple of the city devoted to Lord Saneeswaran (Saturn). Sri Gokilambal Thriukameswara Temple is also a prominent shrine famous for hosting Brahmostavam, a popular ten day long festival celebrated with the appearance of the full moon. Those who wish to experience the deeply-rooted belief of the locals in their religion must visit the Karaikal Ammaiyur Temple. The temple houses a sanctum dedicated to Lord Vinayaka and narrates a beautiful tale about Lord Siva.
Other than temples, churches like Eglise de Sacre Coeur de Jesus also deserve a visit to experience the Gothic charm. Dedicated to the sacred heart of Lord Jesus Christ, the church is renowned for its Gothic Architecture and stained glass panels with paintings depicting the life of Jesus.
A shopping spree is a must in Pondicherry. The local vendors can be seen selling home decor items and junk jewellery. There are also many Auroville shops and boutiques exhibiting artistic and intricate work handicrafts. Most of the beaches in the city are nestling with vibrant stalls, good enough to bag local gift items. In addition to this, one can also buy Southern silks and fabrics - a unique speciality of the city.
Pondicherry is extremely popular for its food. It is perhaps the best place in the country to buy bona fide French baguettes, brioches and pastries. Do not miss a chance to taste delectable French dishes like Salad Ni?oise (a healthy salad), Quiche (open baked tart with a savoury egg custard filling), Coq Au Vin (chicken casserole), Sole Meuni?re (flat fish called Sole) and Croque Monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich). Apart from the French food, the local restaurants also serve Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati and Punjabi cuisines.
The city remains soaked in the waters of festivities all year long. Pongal, a popular festival of Tamilians, is celebrated with much fervour in Pondicherry. The locals also pay much devotion to MasiMagam, another Tamil Hindu festival in which idols of god are taken in a procession to a water body for a traditional bath. Another vibrant festival that presents the multihued cultures and traditions of the locals is Villianur Temple Festival. It is celebrated at the Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple where the devotees flock to worship lord Shiva.
Veerampattinam Festival is also a big festival of the city celebrated in the village Veerampattinam - the biggest coastal village in the Union Territory of Pondicherry. This village is also known for its 6 weeks long Car Festival that attracts travellers from all over the globe.
In addition to this, travellers also love to partake in the Fete De Puducherry where the Government of Pondicherry organizes free evening cultural presentations. Food lovers must not miss a chance to participate in the French Food Festival - a one stop destination to taste delectable French delicacies.
The best time to visit Pondicherry is between October and February. October turns the city in a beautiful heaven. December and January are also perfect to explore the charms of Pondicherry. May and June are the hottest months and thus, must be avoided. The weather gets calmer soon after July when the showers of the southwest monsoons wash away the humidity and scorching heat.
The closest airport to reach Pondicherry is at Chennai from where travellers can take a 3-4 hours taxi ride. The city is also connected with Chennai, Trichy and Villupuram via rail. Also, travellers looking for bus ride can find numerous direct bus links.
The streets of Pondicherry are well organised and thus, getting around is extremely easy. Bicycle and moped rentals are available in abundance and are great to explore local attractions. Auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws are also great for short distances.
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