The charming city of Pondicherry has a distinctly European feel with its seaside promenades, fine restaurants and colonial-style villas.
Pondicherry has a faded elegance dating back to its time as the largest French colony in India. This legacy is particularly prevalent in the cobbled old French quarter where you can wander wide, leafy boulevards lined with bakeries, Catholic churches and Mediterranean-style townhouses with shuttered windows. In fact, many of streets here still have their Gallic names and the policemen don gendarme-style caps.
You can explore the city at a leisurely pace, enjoy a guided walking tour of the Tamil and French quarters and take pleasant strolls down the seaside promenade. You can even go fishing, play a game of petanque or relax on a quiet beach. Other attractions include the Pondicherry Museum, home to an impressive display of bronze and stone artefacts, the ornate Hindu temple of Manakula Vinayagar and the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
If you have time, it’s worth venturing just beyond Pondicherry to the spiritual ashram of Auroville, founded in 1968 as an experimental ‘utopian’ township where people from all walks of life could live together in harmony. Centred around the geometric Matrimandir, a plated gold dome located in an open space called ‘Peace’, the town welcomes visitors and offers various workshops from yoga to sculpting and meditation.