Puducherry, known more popularly by its former name Pondicherry (or Pondy for short), is a Union Territory located 165 kms from Chennai.
Located on the South Eastern coastline of India, near the Bay of Bengal, the territory consists of 4 scattered districts/enclaves:
Puducherry and Karaikal in Tamil Nadu, Yanam in Andra Pradesh and Mahé in Kerala.
Pondicherry, the capital city within this Union Territory is a popular stop for tourists. It exudes a Mediterranean charm, with its distinct French architecture, boulevards, promenades, and typical colonial style villas. No wonder it is known as the French Riviera of the East. There is still a sizable French immigrant population, and French is the official language, apart from English. The other local languages, depending on the district, are Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
Pondicherry is well connected to all the states and towns by road, and is best reached by bus or taxi. Having your own transportation be it a car or a cab is very convenient, as there are lots of places to visit while in the area. The east coast road (ECR) via Mahabalipuram is far more scenic as the road hugs the Coromandel Coast and makes for a pleasant drive. The alternate road is via the National Highway.
The Union Territory also has a reputed educational system in its midst. The Pondicherry University is a popular and highly recognised amongst other Central Universities in India.
There are many different places to visit while in the Pondy area. If coming for a short stay, visitors can pick and choose where
they would like to go depending on their interests.
Following are some of the major attractions:
Pondicherry is a place of many faiths, and many a devotee can make a visit to the temples, churches or mosques scattered over the enclave.
Temples: Around 10km from the city, in a town called Villiannur, is located the Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple. It is an architectural beauty and is known for its 10 day annual Brahmotsavam festival. Other temples within in Pondicherry include Manakula Vinayagar Temple and Vedapureeswarar temple. Many temples built during the Chola Dynasty are located in the Karaikal enclave which is a 120km drive from Pondicherry.
Churches: Eglise de Sacre de Jesus at the South Boulevard, is an oriental example of Gothic splendour. The church is decked with stained glass panels depicting the life of Christ. Eglise de Notre Dame de la Conception Immaculate on Cathedral Street is another must-see church, which was initiated in the 17th Century. Eglise de Nortre Dame des Anges at Rue Damas build similar to the Badilica at Lourdes, France, is remarkable for its stonework.
Mosques: One of the most popular mosques is the Dargah of Masthan Saheb Syed Dawood Buhari at Karaikal. He was a Sufi saint who died in 1829 and for more than 170 years the Kandhuri Festival is celebrated each November in his honour.
JN Street is the most popular commercial street in Pondicherry. It is a shopper's delight with world class textile showrooms and a
variety of products ranging from local to Anglo-French. Some of the items to select include local textile mill products made of satin,
twill, corduroy, poplin, khadi and oxford material. Others are handmade paper, pottery, jams and pickles, leather products and dolls.
Nehru Street and MG Road are other places to shop. There are a number of good restaurants located here as well.
Cuisine-wise, Pondicherry has a multitude of options. You can select the restaurant of your choice depending on which attraction you are visiting. Around the Alliance Francais, there are Chinese restaurants and Le Club, a French restaurant. Bistros offer international cuisine like the 'Rendez-vous' restaurant. Other places include 'Statsanga' serving French - Italian fare, 'Le Cafe' situated close to the seafront, 'Aristo' an open air roof garden whose menu list Indian, Asian and Continental food and 'La Terasse' , not far from the Sri Aurobindo park Guest House.
These are a few of the many available options to eat-out. Other than these, there are many other regular eateries, serving exclusively vegetarian fare located all over the city.
The ideal time to visit the Puducherry area is during the cooler months between December and February. Summers can get very hot and
humid, with temperatures even reaching 40 degrees centigrade. The Monsoon rains bring temporary relief, but might not be a very
convenient time to visit with the frequent wet weather. If visiting during this time, do remember to carry an umbrella/ rain coat.
While in the city, there is also the option to hire 2-wheelers, to ride within the city or go for a breezy drive along the coast. One will need atleast 2 days to travel around Pondicherry. A longer stay is advised though to appreciate the local culture and beauty of the former French Colony and do justice to the various tourist attractions spread across its enclave. Some tour packages offer exclusive Pondicherry visits; others include it in Tamil Nadu or South India tours.
Hotels are spread all over the territory. Make sure you check out the options before you visit the place. Good reviews for accommodations are available on the internet, be it hotels, resorts or service apartments. Shop around for something that fits your budget.
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