After visiting Gingee Fort, we followed Google maps and headed towards Pondicherry (Puducherry), one of the union territories of India. Pondicherry is just 70 kms from Gingee and we reached there at around 12.30 PM. The first thing we noticed as soon as we entered Pondicherry was its neat and clean roads and buildings. It reminded us the Mysore city which is considered as the cleanest city in India as of today. Pondicherry is popular for its serene beaches and the attractive buildings depicting the French architecture. You can easily find the French influence everywhere right from streets and building names to names of coffee shops and bakeries.
Since it was lunch time, we thought of having food at A2B. Sadly, the hotel was fully crowded, so we had our lunch at Bombay Ananda Bhavan. The city was crowded with tourists which made us little disappointed. After having not-so-good lunch, we checked in to hotel Ram International. After taking rest for an hour, our sightseeing in Pondicherry started.
- Visiting Hours: 9 AM to 1.00 PM and 1.30 PM to 5 PM (Ticket counter is open only till 4.30 PM). On Sunday: 9.30 AM to 1 PM, afternoon closed.
- Parking fee: 50 Rs for car
Since we knew that the ticket counter in Auroville closes at 4.30 PM, this became our first destination in Pondicherry. Auroville is a township situated around 15 km from Pondicherry city. It was founded in the year 1968 by Mirra Alfassa also known as “the Mother”. It started off as a place where people from all over the world can live in peace irrespective of religion, cast, nationalities, etc. Supporting to its purpose, Auroville now attracts huge crowd from the entire world. The place is maintained very well. You can see various images of the township and the construction of Matrimandir in the visitors’ center and also, you get to see 15 minutes video which shows the history and purpose behind Auroville and Matrimandir.
The main attraction of Auroville is Matrimandir, a building in the form of golden metallic sphere situated in the center of the town. This is an ideal place for practitioners of integral Yoga. This building does not belong to any religion, cast or creed. Matrimandir took 37 years to complete in the year 2008. Free entry to Matrimandir is allowed after viewing the video which I mentioned earlier. The building is around 1 km from the visitors’ center. There is a free shuttle service, but we preferred to walk in the shade through the thin forest to reach the place.
Sited on a large open ground, the building looks magnificent. Entry inside the Matrimandir is restricted; however, you can get a clear closer look from the view point. To get entry inside Matrimandir, prior booking is required. You can get more information about it from the information desk located in Visitors’ center. After clicking few photos with Matrimandir in the background, we returned to the visitors’ center via the shuttle service. At around 4.45 PM, we left the place and proceeded towards Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
- Visiting hours: 8 AM to 12 noon and 2 PM to 6 PM
- Entrance fee: none
Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual community founded by the great spiritual Guru Sri Aurobindo in 1926. The Ashram has a courtyard which houses the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo. You must maintain pin-drop silence inside the Ashram and pay respect to the Samadhi. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is very peaceful and is one of the most visited tourist places in Pondicherry. The Ashram also has a library which holds good number of spiritual books.
Rock Beach/ Promenade Beach
- Visiting hours: any time of the day
- Entry fee: none
- Vehicle entry: 7.30 AM to 6 PM
Our next destination was the most visited and the must visit place in Pondicherry, Rock Beach. The road that leads to Rock beach traverses through white town, streets with amazing old French buildings. Also called as Promenade beach, this 1.5 km stretch along the Bay of Bengal coastline offers fantastic view of pristine blue sea. The black rocks along the sea shore give the beach its name Rock Beach. The street along the beach is very well maintained despite the huge crowd that it accommodates. There are several landmark structures as well – Gandhi statue, war memorial, Joan of Arc’s statue, the heritage town hall, Dupleix’s statue, the old Light House, and so on. Among these, Gandhi statue is the most popular one for obvious reasons. This statue is surrounded by eight beautiful pillars, which as I mentioned in my earlier post, are brought from Gingee during French occupation. Vehicle entry is allowed only between 7.30 AM to 6 PM to help the tourists enjoy the place without any worries.
Things to do at Promenade beach
There are many things you can do in Promenade beach.
- Since the beach is on the east coast, you can experience the gorgeous sunrise in the early morning.
- Take a walk along the sea shore or on the beautiful street or go cycling.
- Pay a visit to the wonderful statues. Have snacks in the cafes while adoring the sea breeze.
- Capture the beauty of Pondicherry in your camera.
- Silently sit on the rocks at the upper part and stare at the horizon for hours together.
Trust us! None of this will bore you in Promenade beach. After spending some time, we thought to have snacks in any of the cafes, but unfortunately, every cafe was bustling with tourists, so we decided to return to our hotel. Apart from these attractions, there are few parks, museums and temples that you can visit in Pondicherry.
While returning, there was heavy traffic jam due to large number of tourist vehicles. We heard from few localites that such traffic congestion is the usual scene in Pondicherry during weekends especially on long weekends. After reaching hotel, we did not dare to go out for dinner and had our food at the hotel where we stayed and then retired for the day.
Day 2 – Sunrise in Pondicherry
We woke up early morning the next day and went to Rock Beach at 5.30 AM to see the sunrise. There were many people walking/jogging on the streets of Promenade beach on that early hours. We also saw many tourists sleeping on the sea shore itself. We do not know whether it was due to hangover or due to not getting accommodation in any of the hotels :-). The sea waves were violent compared to the previous evening, but the place was absolutely peaceful. We spent time clicking photos till the sun appeared. At around 6 AM, the sun slowly came out of the horizon and started spreading his light. As expected, the nature looked at its best and our day started off with a pleasant scene. After seizing these precious moments of sunrise in our camera, we started from there at around 6.30 AM. Since the streets were empty, we took photos of the beautiful French buildings in white town and then returned to hotel. We checked out of the hotel at 8.15 AM.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
After having tasty breakfast at A2B, before leaving Pondicherry, we visited Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This 110 year old church is a fine example of Gothic architecture. The colorful glass panels inside the church looked magnificent.
Since we did now know the formalities of Chistrian religion, we spent only few minutes and left from there and headed towards Gangaikonda Chola Puram.
- Route Traveled: BTM Layout > Krishnagiri > Chengam > Thiruvannamalai > Gingee Fort > Pondicherry > Auroville > Aurobindo Ashram > White town > Rock Beach > Gandhi Memorial
Day 2 > Rock Beach > White Town > Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Distance: 337 km
- Photos: Pondicherry Album
- A Mega Nano Trip to Kanyakumari
- Day 1 – Gingee Fort (Senji Fort)
- Day 2 – Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram Temples
- Day 2 – Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur
- Day 3 – Rameshwaram
- Day 3 – Dhanushkodi
- Day 4 – Kanyakumari
- Day 5 – Madurai