Pondicherry is a small union territory , roughly 160kms from Chennai. A scenic coastline alongside the beautiful East Coast Road, accompanies you all the way to Pondy from Chennai and you could reach in less than 3 hours. Hence it comes as no surprise that a Pondicherry Weekend Itinerary is always on the cards for most people in Chennai.
Pondicherry was earlier a French colony (handed over by the Dutch in 1699). Despite a British rule in India for 200+ years, the Treaty of Paris forced them to return the Pondicherry quarter back to France. This led to a French rule until the late 1954 ( 7 years after India’s Independence) . So it comes as no surprise that you can find traces of French history everywhere around you. Be it the buildings, people or even food , you’ll find it associated with France someway or the other. In fact, everyone who lived in Pondicherry District during the old times was granted a dual citizenship (India & France) and this included my late grandmother too.
Why is Pondicherry the Go-To Destination ?
Pondy , as the local calls it, serves as the perfect weekend destination for folks both in Bangalore and Chennai (given the distance & location). With a plethora of beaches (with almost no crowds) and beautiful resorts built along the coastline, you can get to spend an amazing weekend here with friends or a loved one. Also referred to as the Goa of the South, alcohol is sold at super cheap prices, thanks to its union territory status. Additionally, almost all the hotels are couple friendly , which comes as a huge relief for many people. Apart from beaches and liquor, Pondicherry is also a great place to explore French food & Pizzas and you get to visit the famous Ashrams as well.
2-day Pondicherry Weekend Itinerary
Being a small town, you can cover this place in a day or two quite easily, though there are plenty of neighboring towns that warrants a visit too.
Day 1 morning
- Morning – Paradise Island
Chunnambar Boat house is located in the road connecting Cuddalore to Pondicherry. A short 15 mins boat ride takes you to a small island called Paradise island. This is small beach located on the other side of the river with picnic camps, water activities, water zorbing among others. A ‘to & fro’ boat ride costs 300/person (rates are fixed by the Government).
Lunch : A visit to Pondy should definitely include lunch at one of the organic wood-fired pizza places near Auroville. Some of the famous pizza places include Tantos Pizza & Auro Pizza.
- Managula Vinayagar Temple
A visit to the Managula Vinayagar temple is pretty much mandatory for every visit to Pondicherry . It is located opposite to the Governor’s office and shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes inside. (Open from 6-12noon and 4-8PM)
- Aurobindo Ashram
Walk down couple of streets to the famous Aurobindo Ashram from the Ganesha temple and visit the house converted museum of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their Samadhi’s are also present here with a open courtyard, where you can meditate and pray. ( It’s recommended to visit the temple first and then the ashram as it’s not advised to visit a Hindu temple directly after going to a Samadhi).
Once you are done with the temple & Ashram visit one among the many French cafes famous in Pondicherry.
- French Cafes
Have a freshly brewed coffee at any of the famous French cafes. Some of the recommended ones include : Cafe Des Arts and Le Maison
The first thing you see while entering Pondicherry from East Coast Road is the township of Auroville. This beautiful French colony contains the famous Matrimandir, a huge golden dome built for peace, unity & spirituality , initiated by The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Once you are briefed on an orientation video of the place , you are given a free entry pass to visit the Matrimandir (from a distance). However , if you are lucky, you can secure yourself a pass to enter the dome itself . It’s usually allowed early in the morning and passes are available a day before. For more information, do check out their official site here: https://www.auroville.org/contents/252.
The Auroville area also has small French cafes, organic restaurants and shops selling hand-made items.
- Shopping & Leisure
Spend your day shopping for some funky clothes and accessories. You can also get to visit Hidesign’s factory outlet and have a coffee at Madras coffee House . Spend your day in leisure in your hotel/resort and probably go for a drink at night.
Day 3 : Nearby to Pondicherry
If you have an additional day to spare, do visit Karaikal & the Danish town of Tarangambadi ( otherwise known as Tranquebar). Both Karaikal and Tranquebar are close to each other, at a distance of 115 kms (from Pondicherry) and roughly takes 2.5 hours to visit.
- Tranquebar was an old Dutch ruled town from 1620 to 1845. Later handed over to the British East India company. However even today , you can get to see the beautiful Tranquebar fort built near the sea , along with its mammoth cannons. However during the course of the years, the fort has also seen substantial damage due to various reasons.
- Karaikal : Located 13kms from Tranquebar, Karaikal is also a part of the Pondicherry district and a major port city. The beautiful Karaikal beach is the main attraction. With almost no tourists and the waves splashing across the rocks and stones, you might find yourself in a picturesque setting. Many movies have been shot here in the beaches. Other tourist spots include Karaikal Ammayar temple and the Kailasanathar Shiva temple.