Pondicherry's Best Kept Secrets: 10 Offbeat things to do

The most popular beach retreat on the East Coast, the tiny town of Pondicherry is the perfect place to seek peaceful vibes and the perfect coastal landscape. Whether you are a traveler, explorer, an adventure-seeker, or simply someone with the wanderlust bug, this colonial town has something for everyone. Hidden in the nooks and crannies of its colonial town coated with a modern finish, you will discover experiences that will make your trip truly memorable.

How to reach

Pondicherry is strategically located on the coast of Bay of Bengal and is easily accessible from the neighboring metros and towns. If you want to do a road trip, you can book a comfortable and cheap cab from Chennai to Pondicherry or from Madurai or even Bangalore.

Make the best of your Pondicherry trip with these travel ideas.

Explore the food trail

Whether you are an experimental foodie or a gourmand, this town is the perfect place to find gastronomic happiness. The city’s food scene is heavily influenced by the early French, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and native Tamil settlers. Rent a car in Pondicherry with a reliable driver and go café hopping. From dainty bakeries to the classic French savoir-faire, Pondicherry makes for a culinary joyride. Dine off the luxurious menu at Villa Shanti or drop by the Grand Bakery in the morning for their hot-off-the-oven baked goodies and confections. For a taste of Creole food, head to the Hotel De L'Orient, one of the rare places in the country serving classic Creole cuisine.

Enjoy a yacht ride

While you can always go sailing in other coastal towns, there’s something about the shores of Pondicherry which makes it an entirely different experience. Give yourself a luxury treat with a fancy yacht ride. Or go for sailboat rides on the bay, soak the ocean air, and sail through the sunset.

Shop for local, handcrafted goods

Pondicherry is a major hub of cottage industries in Tamil Nadu and you can find hundreds of local artisans and traders selling hand-made soaps, candles, paper products, herbal goods, and essential oils. But the most unique place to stop by is the Cluny Embroidery Center. This small business community supports women with embroidery skills and you can find people engaged in needlework and creating beautiful draperies and linens.

Get the taste of a French boutique

The French influence on Pondicherry is quite prominent in its culture. And you will find it not only in its cafes and book shops but also in the quaint boutiques. One such place to definitely visit is the Ooh La la at the La Maison Rose. Owned by French expat Agathe Gerin Lazaro, the boutique sells the daintiest umbrellas and chic cotton apparel designed by the entrepreneur herself. Colorful and vibrant, the shop gives you a taste of the French countryside with a touch of Indian tradition. And as long as you here, also hop into the Domus boutique next door and browse through their exquisite dinnerware and collectibles.

Bike it through the town

The excellent roads and well-managed traffic make it easy for those who love to ride bicycles. Rent one and snake through the narrow cobbled-stone streets of the cozy French colonies with colorful villas and classic buildings. And as you breeze through the town, you will discover the city from a very different angle. Stop by the local shops or sit down for a cup of coffee. Or bike all the way to the beach before sunrise and watch the daybreak along the Bay of Bengal; we promise it will be worth all the early rise.

Explore the Tamil quarters

Like its French colonies, the Tamil quarters of Pondicherry is also a place to discover the city’s heritage. The bright-colored villas with spacious verandas, wooden windows, and carved doors are sure to make you nostalgic and bring you back memories of R.K. Laxman’s stories.

Try your hands at traditional pottery

The Golden Bridge Pottery Center offers hands-on lessons and workshops on traditional clay pottery. An idyllic place to spend the afternoons, you can learn clay art and create your own potteries. It might be a difficult art to master, but the journey of molding lumps of clay into something meaningful can be exciting.

Indulge in ecotourism

If you thought Pondicherry is all about the sea, then you have to explore its farms and forests, which make for a great camping ground. The Dune Eco Village with its organic farms, artistic spaces, relaxing massages, and a pure natural surrounding is sure to make your holiday worthwhile.

Explore the relics of Arikamedu

An archeological site dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries, Arikamedu hosts ruins from the Roman era. It was once a busy maritime center with the Romans, French, and the Cholas frequenting it for sea trade. The relics of Roman-style columns and archways speak of the influence of one of the greatest civilizations of history and also show the Indo-Roman relationship, which is rarely known of.

Start the day with bird watching

There cannot be a better way or place to start the day than the enormous Osudu Lake and its stunning panorama. The freshwater lake and its surrounding mudflats are home to a huge variety of migratory and resident birds. If you are an avid birder, then plan your timings to spot seasonal birds and enjoy the biodiversity of Pondicherry.

Please note: The article is contributed by Archana. Opinions expressed by Free Press Journal contributors are their own.

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