Pondicherry + Auroville
When we decided to expand our India trip, many who heard we were visiting Tamil Nadu recommended a stop in Pondy, as the locals like to call it. Although it is officially named Puducherry, no one ever calls it that.
Pondy is the perfect place to dip your toe into India if you’re wary about all the warnings you’ve heard. It’s still got flairs of India, but it is relatively clean, walkable, and there’s decent Western food if you’ve had too much curry. It’s easy to get to and from Chennai by taxi/Uber/Ola or private bus. Speaking of private bus, we had a very interesting experience with our return ride as documented here.
YTo be honest, there’s really not much action “to do” or “to see” here, but we just relaxed and enjoyed. We recommend booking a spot in the French quarter so you can easily walk around the colorful architecture and pop in and out of shops and cafes. It’s also a good way to see kolam littered in front of doorways. Kolam are flowery patterns made with white and colored powders. One of our favorite things to do was sit in a courtyard of a colorful cafe. It helped that they tended to have good wifi and delicious food! Although there still aren’t sidewalks at most places, there’s less traffic and no traffic at all on the promenade by Rock Beach or in Bharathi Park.
SEE // AUROVILLE
Only half an hour away from Pondy, you could easily spend a few hours here learning about this international and experimental town. We watched a short film about the founding and building of their golden temple, the Matrimandir, which you can then walk a kilometer to see – it reminded us of Epcot!
To get here, you can rent a motorbike or taxi over (we used Ola) to the visitor’s center.
Alternately, they take home stays and longer term volunteers if you want to immerse yourself. One thing we would’ve liked to do is mediate in the Matrimandir, however, that must be reserved in person and with a few days’ advance, time we didn’t have.
RECOMMENDED // EATS
- Coromandel Cafe (★★★)
- I am especially wary of Western food in foreign countries, but the food is bonkers good. We visited a French bakery that did not meet my croissant standards, so I was wary when I ordered The Pink Plate, which was a clean and filling dish with beautiful colors. Just in time as I was a little sick of curries and spices after three weeks in India.
- Dilliwaala6 (★)
- A vegetarian North Indian spot, Y wanted one last Dal Makhani. I thought it was a bit salty, but had a great kick to it. However, they probably fall in the top three for most delicious flatbreads we’ve had in India. The plain naan and rotis were just perfect crispy and chewy bites.
- Cafe des Arts (★)
- A bohemian, chill joint, you’ll find lots of wanders stopping to snap a photo by the front door’s murals. Nice filling crepe and good espresso.
OTY’s ★ Rating System
Our rating is similar to the Michelin guide, but applied to attractions as well as restaurants. Most places won’t be Michelin-priced as we’re on a budget, and sometimes a star may reflect exceptionally good value (like free!). Since we don’t like to be negative, we don’t include any places that we wouldn’t recommend.
(★★★) Exceptional attraction/cuisine, worth a special journey. Wish we could go back again!
(★★) Delicious and/or delightful, this spot is worth a detour.
(★) Good pitstop, especially if you’re in the area.