Hotels in Puducherry, India
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Pondicherry’s distinct atmosphere and French influence
The former French colony of Puducherry is one of the prime tourist destinations on the southeast coast of India. Consisting largely of the city of Pondicherry, the region offers a unique feel with a distinct atmosphere thanks in part to its colonial routes. It is located just three hours south of the major city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu state and thus very accessible to international connections, enabling visitors to conveniently access Pondicherry’s blend of beach and nature alongside the cultural mix of France and South India.
Quickly accessible from Chennai
The region is interchangeably referred to Puducherry and Pondicherry but most international visitors refer to the city of Pondicherry and its French name. Following the end of French rule in 1954, the region became a Union Territory of India and consequently has various laws and regulations than the encircling state of Tamil Nadu. Many visitors head to Pondicherry from Chennai, as the smaller city has a vastly different vibe to most seaside towns in southern India and also has much more relaxed alcohol regulations. Therefore the transport links between Chennai and Pondicherry are very good; the modern inland highway provides convenient and quick access by car, plus there is also the scenic East Coast Road as a more attractive alternative. Public buses are very frequent, plus there are also a few daily trains between the two cities, ensuring visitors do not have to rely on private transport for access. Getting around Pondicherry is equally simple; there are several local bus routes, rickshaws aplenty, plus much is within walking distance, particularly if staying in a hotel close to Pondicherry beach.
Architectural highlights and an attractive beach
The clear focal point of Pondicherry is the beach and promenade; therefore, this is the easiest landmark to ascertain one’s bearings from. The Beach Road runs for a couple of kilometres along the coastline and contains a pedestrianised area which offers a relaxing place to walk, compared to the hectic streets of the city. As a result, it is a well-frequented area particularly in the evenings and a great place to socialise and unwind. Also along the Beach Road lies the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial complete with a large statue of the iconic Indian. Pondicherry is roughly divided by a small canal and main street that run north to south, the area to the east of this divide which is therefore in between the canal and the beach, is considered the old town. In this strip guests can find much of the old French colonial architecture and an array of small parks such as Bharathi Park. This strip also contains various Pondicherry hotels and guesthouses amongst small streets which house many restaurants and cafes still run by French citizens.
A bustling centre with an array of markets
To the other side of the canal and the street of H.M Kassim Salai lies the newer district of Pondicherry which is immediately more hectic. This is where most of the markets and shops are located along streets such as Ranga Pillai and Mahatma Gandhi Road. Exploring this district provides an excellent insight into everyday life in Pondicherry, greatly contrasting the French Quarter. Goubert Market is a fantastic example of this; a bustling bazaar selling a variety of local produce out of small cramped stalls but with many hidden gems to be found. This newer district also contains dozens of accommodation options, including most of the budget hotels in Pondicherry. Thanks to the small size of the city, walking between the two districts is often less than 15 minutes’ walk, plus there are always rickshaws waiting for fares. Some of the architectural highlights can also be found this side of the canal, for instance the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Moreover, there is an even greater choice of dining with hundreds of small restaurants and street food vendors providing local tastes to suit all desires.
Venturing out to Auroville and neighbouring beaches
In recent years one of the most popular attractions close to the Puducherry region is the international community in Auroville. This designed spiritual village lies six kilometres north of Pondicherry was formed in the late 1960’s as an experimental humanitarian settlement. Nowadays it is home to around two thousand people from over a hundred different nationalities and is a popular destination with spiritual travellers from across the globe. Visitors head to Auroville to learn about its project as well as taking part in various activities such as yoga and tai-chi. There is also a visitor’s centre and temple on site where guests can learn more about the project. Although not without its critics, Auroville is certainly a well-visited destination and highlight for many Pondicherry guests. Other day trip opportunities away from the city include several nearby beaches where it is possible to swim or surf, for instance in Mamallapuram or Mandavai. It is also possible to scuba dive or deep sea fish with tour operators based in Pondicherry.