If you are planning on taking a backpacking Pondicherry trip, then you are in the right place. This is an easy to follow Pondicherry travel guide.
Pondicherry is one of the top destinations on most people’s bucket lists. We get to see a glimpse of the French influence through this beautiful union territory located on the coast. It is also not too huge where you have to stay for weeks to complete exploring the place. This is why a backpacking Pondicherry trip is most likely to be a success.
This ‘French Capital of India’ is located in the south India. It offers a bit of everything you would like to see. It has beaches, churches, French buildings, cafes, restaurants with multiple cuisines from various cultures, temples, churches, ashrams, bars, pubs, golden spheres and numerous workshops and activities that you can take part in.
With all that said, it could be confusing to find your way around the place. This is where this complete travel guide to Pondicherry comes in. Use this guide to make your backpacking Pondicherry trip one of the smoothest trips you have ever been on.
A Complete Pondicherry Travel Guide
How to get there?
Your backpacking Pondicherry trip is best on the road. Road travel is going to really help you reduce your Pondicherry travel cost. It is one of the most budget-friendly and convenient (and fun) ways to reach Pondicherry. The roads to the coastal town are pretty well-maintained. It could make for a great road trip too, if you plan on taking your own vehicle.
Otherwise, there are a number of state and private buses which would help you get there. Fortunately, if you are travelling from south India, you might find buses more frequently. Make sure to be on the lookout for ECR, East Coast Road if you like visual treats. It is truly a wonderful experience to drive through this picturesque highway.
In case you are interested to know the distance to Pondicherry from your location, here are a few major cities:
- Mumbai to Pondicherry: 1290 km (around 23 hours)
- Chennai to Pondicherry: 151 km (around 4 hours)
- New Delhi to Pondicherry: 2350 km (around 40 hours)
- Ahmedabad to Pondicherry: 1808 km (around 32 hours)
- Pune to Pondicherry: 1156 km (around 20 hours)
- Kolkata to Pondicherry: 1847 km (around 36 hours)
- Bangalore to Pondicherry: 308 km (around 7 hours)
- Visakhapatnam to Pondicherry: 960 km (around 18 hours)
- Kochi to Pondicherry: 563 km (around 11 hours)
- Goa to Pondicherry: 903 km (around 18 hours)
- Ooty to Pondicherry: 427 km (around 9 hours)
- Mysore to Pondicherry: 445 km (around 9 hours)
- Alleppey to Pondicherry: 581 km (around 12 hours)
- Vellore to Pondicherry: 154 km (arround 4 hours)
- Vijayawada to Pondicherry: 613 km (around 11 hours)
- Hyderabad to Pondicherry: 786 km (around 14 hours)
- Mangalore to Pondicherry: 667 km (around 14 hours)
- Thiruvananthapuram to Pondicherry: 645 km (around 12 hours)
- Madurai to Pondicherry: 334 km (around 6 hours)
- Salem to Pondicherry: 218 km (about time 4 hours)
- Coimbatore to Pondicherry: 378 km (around 7 hours)
If you choose the train to get to Puducherry, the Puducherry railway station is what you must keep in mind.
In case you are planning on travelling from Bangalore, there are trains that ply on a regular basis and only take about 9 to 10 hours.
You can get to Pondicherry via the Chennai International Airport. However, the airport is about 150 km away still, and you would have to either take a cab service or the bus to Pondicherry. This is obviously going to increase your Pondicherry travel cost.
The airport is well-linked with not just Indian cities but international ones too. So, if you are looking to travel to Pondicherry internationally, then there are good international carrier flights like AirAsia, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa willing to make it happen.
Also Read: When To Find Cheap Flights
Where to stay while you are backpacking Pondicherry?
There are a few hostels around to make your backpacking Pondicherry adventure cost-effective.
1. Nomad House
Nomad House is reviewed as one of the best places to stay in Pondicherry. A definite add to the Pondicherry travel guide. It is located about 2.3km from Promenade Beach and 3.7 km from Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Hence, staying at Nomad House could cut financial costs on travelling about. It is close to many places you would like to visit.
The accommodation provides a shared kitchen and a shared lounge area. It can also help you with currency exchange, in case you need it.
The facilities offered are free parking, free WiFi, terrace. Nomad House also allows pets, in case you are travelling with your animal buddy. The prices start at about 300 INR. There are a variety of rooms and dorms to choose from. The Nomad House is designed to make your backpacking Pondicherry trip a fun one!
2. Micasa Hostels
Micasa Hostels is quite a fancy hostel to stay in Pondicherry. It is located at the heart of the city. It has about 10 rooms. Micasa Hostels is termed to be one of the backpacking hostels that meets international standards. It is one of the best hostels to stay in while you are backpacking Pondicherry.
Micasa, along with 10 rooms, has 4 common spaces you can use, a kitchen, laundry provisions and a home theatre. There are plenty of dorm room options to choose from.
Since Micasa is located on MG Road in the heritage town, you can experience city life without much effort. On Sundays, you can visit the old flea market.
The facilities offered are free WiFi, air conditioning, terrace, kitchen, laundry facilities. The rates of the rooms start at 629 INR.
3. Valentine Hostel
Valentine hostel is located only within 800m of Promenade beach and about 1.6 km from Sri Aurbindo Ashram. Valentine hostel provides accommodation with a shared lounge and free WiFi. This is a cosy and comfortable hostel for digital nomads in Pondicherry. You can work near the beach and you do not have to worry about finances either.
One of the greatest things about this hostel is that each room comes with its own private bathroom and shower. There are also so many types of rooms to choose from. There is an option to even accommodate in a tent!
Facilities offered by Valentine is free parking, free WiFi, terrace, kitchen, luggage storage.
4. Routard Pondicherry
Routard is situated only about 400 m from Promenade Beach and 400 m from Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The property is located about 800 m from Pondicherry Museum. This means that inhabitants at this hostel could literally walk to their destinations. Bharathi park is about a km away from this hostel. Botanical gardens also happen to be quite close at about 2.4 km.
This hostel offers a vegetarian breakfast every morning.
Many tourists remark this hostel as a great place to stay for a workcation because of the facilities that they over. The location of the hostel is also great for travellers.
5. Vagabond Pondicherry
Vagabond Pondichery is an accommodation which is situated around 6 km from Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is also within a 6 km radius from the Consulate General of France and Mankula Vinayagar Temple.
Each room in Vagabond has a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Some rooms have a balcony. A fridge is also provided in reach. The common space in Vagabond has large French windows. It is a recommended stay for workcations.
The hostel is located at a walkable distance from Auroville beach and Serenity beach.
The facilities available are free parking, terrace, air conditioning, dining table, fridge. In case you are travelling with a pet, there are no extra charges for its stay here.
6. Malar Residency
Malar residency is located at a distance less than a km of Promenade beach and at a walkable distance from Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The accommodation offers a common lounge and free WiFi throughout. There is also free parking available for guests.
There are plenty of rooms to choose from at Malar. Each room comes with air conditioning, a TV, kettle, a shower, free toiletries. Each room also gets its own private bathroom and bed linen. They also provide vegetarian breakfast options.
The facilities available are free parking, free WiFi, room service, ATM/cash machine on site, common lounge.
7. Anantha Heritage
Anantha heritage is a property from the 18th century. It is a member of Dravidian Hotels. This property has been renovated and kept with architectural changes made to the property with antique furnishings.
The rooms are air-conditioned and provide a TV, kettle and private bathrooms. Ironing facilities are also provided.
The facilities available are free parking, free WiFi, family rooms, restaurant, room service.
8. Gurukulam Hostel
Gurukulam hostel is in close proximity to several attractions. It is 1 km from Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 500 m from Botanical Garden and less than a km from Bharathi Park. It is also at a walkable distance from Promenade beach. Gurukulam hostel is a great budget hostel to stay in while you are backpacking Pondicherry.
Gurukulam hostel has a tour desk, a garden, free WiFi and a terrace. There is also a shared kitchen available. Continental breakfast is available every morning at the hostel. The area is popular for cycling. Extra beds are available but depend upon the rooms you choose.
9. The French Villa Elite
The French Villa Elite is an accommodation located in the White Town district. It offers a smokers lounge, an elevator and a parking lot. This is not your everyday backpackers’ accommodation.
However, if you do want to just relax and enjoy your vacation to Pondicherry, this is one of the best places to stay.
Some rooms feature a TV, refrigerator and a writing desk. A shower is included in each room. Towels are also included. Each room comes with its own terrace and sea view.
The facilities available are free parking, garden, terrace, housekeeping, air conditioning.
10. The Dreamcatcher Hostel
The Dreamcatcher hostel is located in Auroville. This is a nice peaceful accommodation if you do plan on skipping through Auroville. It provides accommodation with a garden, free private parking and a terrace. One of the most-opted hostels in Auroville while backpacking Pondicherry.
This hostel is located near some famous eateries like Bread & Chocolate, Tantos, Marc’s café. The Auroville beach is about 2.6 km away.
The facilities are an outdoor fireplace, terrace, garden, kitchen and games room, free WiFi, daily housekeeping, car hire and classes like yoga.
What to do on your backpacking Pondicherry trip?
1. White Town
The White town is known for its French aesthetic rues. It is a must-visit location in your Pondicherry travel guide. The serene, vibrant yellow and white walls, European style cafes, the beautiful trees on either side of the roads, coloured doors, balconies, bougainvillaea hanging around archways make it a great atmosphere to be around.
This town was once a secluded part of Pondicherry, which was only reserved for white French people. The main walks to take on this French Quartier is through four streets- Rue Dumas, Rue Romain Rolland, Rue Suffren and Rue la Bourdonnais.
This part of Pondicherry is closely located to the seaside of Promenade, facing the Bay of Bengal. It is not just the colourful French residences that create the lovely atmosphere, the graffiti on the roads and the walls add a certain something to the vibe. Your plans of backpacking Pondicherry is incomplete without a visit here!
2. Café Des Arts
This 19th century building needs to be on your Pondicherry travel guide. Another historical location with vintage décor and garden seating offers French café and coffee.
Café des Arts is a unique ‘Antique Art’ inspired café. It is located in the middle of Pondicherry. Luckily, to explore more, the café is located on Rue Suffren. It is an old, historical Franco Tamil residence that was converted into a chilled-out café.
All the dishes made here are made with fresh ingredients. So, this is not just a pretty café, the food is pretty good too.
The café is meant to help you unwind and chill you out with its open environment and garden. There is very little that is formal about it. However, the place does close down at 7 PM. This is not a terrible thing as you get to leave when the mosquitos begin to visit.
3. Rock Beach
Rock beach, also known as promenade beach, has got to be on your Pondicherry travel guide. It is one of the famous beaches and is also the most visited. It is about 1.2 km long. The beach expands from War Memorial and ends at the Duplex Park on Goubert Avenue.
There is a grand statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the coastal line of the time. This statue is four-meter high. It is made up of black stones and is surrounded by granite pillars.
The promenade beach is known for the ‘promenades or the leisurely walks. The long coastal line makes it the perfect spot. There is a gelato shop nearby too. So, imagine spending your time in Pondicherry with leisurely walks on a hot day with smooth Italian ice cream in your hands.
4. Coffee in le café
Le café is one of the iconic cafes to add to your Pondicherry guide. It is located along the Promenade beachfront. You can visit this café for a great dining experience. Your food is going to be served with a view of the waves hitting the coast.
It is the wonderful location and the unique and original set-up of the café that makes it worth it. le café used to be a port office during the times when the railway used to be running. It used to stretch from South Boulevard to the old Boulevard. However, in the middle 20th century a cyclone made the piers collapse causing a shutdown.
Le café also offers terrace seating. Unfortunately, one of the biggest cons of the place is the access of crows to the place. This could get annoying—nonetheless, a great place to keep on your Pondicherry guide.
5. Visit churches
Visiting churches is another great idea to add to your Pondicherry guide list. There are about 7 churches scattered around the town. Each one is different in its own way. Churches are a great way to discover the architectural influence of the town.
Churches are one of the best places to visit during the winter months, especially in December. You can be a part of the Christmas processions in Pondicherry. The churches are decorated with bells, Christmas trees, lights, cakes, carols, and everything that you would expect Christmas to be (without the snow, of course)
Some of the churches in Pondicherry that you need to visit are:
- Hallelujah Assembly of God Church
- Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Zion Methodist Church
- Immaculate Conception Cathedral
- Our Lady of Angels Church
- Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, Villianur
- St. Andrew’s Church
6. Serenity Beach
Serenity beach is one of the most loved beaches in Pondicherry. Obviously, beaches are a must-see and must-visit on your travel guide to Pondicherry, but this beach is truly beautiful. It has palm trees on the shore, and the Bay of Bengal striking it.
This beach is not overcrowded and so you can enjoy your privacy in peace and quiet. It is a beautiful place for photographs with palm trees as your background.
The beach is not the only one near this area. There is a market located quite close to the beach. It is a handicrafts bazaar which is open on weekends from 10 am to 5 pm. The market sells handmade crafts of India, garments, accessories, bags. Also, Auroville is only 3 km away from this beach. If you plan it right, you can make a short visit to the beach before you head there.
Auroville is located 15 km away from Pondicherry city. It is located in the Viluppuram district. This place is known for its peace and tranquillity. Trees are all around Auroville. You can feel the hippie vibe just stepping into the place. The carefree environment is really meant to bring you into the spirit. There are many stores around Auroville to help you shop for clothes that fit the ambience. Pondicherry and Auroville are completely different. While Pondicherry is commercialised to make you feel like you are in a French quartier, Auroville makes you feel like you are in a spiritual sanctuary where you can lay yourself out.
You cannot miss out on Auroville if you want to go backpacking Pondicherry. There are so many places in Auroville that would be great to visit. It is truly a must-visit place on this travel guide to Pondicherry. However, Mantri mandir is probably one of the top places to pay a visit to.
8. Mantri Mandir
Mantri mandir in Auroville is one of the greatest tourist attractions in all of Pondicherry. On the exterior, it looks like a large golden sphere appears to come out of the ground. Even though the Mati mandir is not actually made of gold, it is made of stainless steel which is later gold plated. It symbolises the birth of a new consciousness.
There are 12 gardens surrounding the golden sphere. The names of the gardens are Harmony, Bliss, Perfection, Progress, Consciousness etc. These gardens have their own variety of flowers, shrubs, trees and make it the perfect garden to find some peace among nature.
The name ‘Mantrimandir’ means ‘Temple of the Mother’. The concept of ‘Mother’ here is said to be the conscious and intelligent principle of Life, the Universal Mother. This is an important spiritual concept in Auroville.
9. Sri Aurobindo Ashram
This ashram is on every travel guide to Pondicherry out there and rightfully so. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual or monastic community or an ashram. It is a favourite place to visit for backpackers from all over the world. People gather here to attain eternal peace and harmony. This is why Pondicherry is loved by many; you can find what you came in search for, although time is an indefinite factor.
Sri Aurobindo was a man in politics who has retired from it in 1910 and began the ashram with some of his disciples to spread his awareness. He devoted the ashram to inner spiritual life and work. He evolved a new method of practise called Integral yoga.
The ashram provides its guests with all they need for a healthy and peaceful life. It looks after your basic requirements of food, clothing and shelter. Medical care is also taken care of. There are libraries for study, facilities for cultural pursuits in music, dance, theatre and even physical health activities like sports, asanas, strength training and swimming.
Backpacking Pondicherry can be really fun! Fortunately, Nightlife in Pondicherry exists but is deeply underrated. Surprising since alcohol prices are extremely low in this coastal town. This is even going to help with your Pondicherry travel costs.
Nightlife is the best way to measure how the town is and truly understand its dynamics. You can see how the locals or the youth of the city enjoy their nights here. Pondicherry is always beautiful at night with the voice of the seas whispering constantly.
Some of the popular bars in Pondicherry are
Le Club at White Town
The bamboo bar at MG Road
Paradise Lounge at Saram
Ecstacy at SV Patel road
Zero House Bar
Pondicherry In A Nutshell
With its old-world French charms, Pondicherry is able to give you an almost real taste of French culture and allure while being thousands of miles away from the country of its origins. Famous for its brilliantly painted residences, vast boulevards and street signs with French names, gothic churches and colonial structures, peaceful backwaters and pristine beaches, Pondicherry has a lot to offer. The city’s authentic French cuisine is the cherry on top.
The above-mentioned details will help in the best way possible to find the traveller in you while exploring Pondicherry.