India’s sliver of the Francophonie, the region where French is still the official language, occupies a grid of tree-lined boulevards just south of city of Chennai along the Coromandel Coast, facing east toward the Bay of Bengal. Streets bear names like Rue de la Campaigne and Rue Labourdonnais. Buildings in the White Town (also called the French Quarter) are still graced with long verandahs and elegant compound walls, a genteel French-colonial vision straight out of Indochina, inflected with the pastel calm of India’s palm-fringed south. Since 2006 the town has officially been known as Puducherry, but most people here and across India still call it by its original name, Pondicherry, or its loving diminutive, Pondy.
– MICHAEL SNYDER / T Magazine / New York Times
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PNY). Rail connection available from Pondicherry Railway Station (
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What to see
The Puducherry Museum provides an ambience typically unique and presents glimpses of its passage through the geological, archaeological and historical periods and seeks to highlight the many facets of its arts and crafts which have now become part of Puducherry’s rich heritage. This multi-purpose Museum was established in the year 1983. Museum is open from 9 AM to 6:30 PM all days except Monday.
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Notre dame des Anges
The Capuchins from Chennai came to Pondicherry in 1676 and had built the Church of Our Lady of Angels at Pondicherry as an annexe to the St. Louis Church inside the Fort in 1707. The Parish of Our Lady of Angels was reorganised and recognised by San Thome in 1738. The Church was destroyed in 1761, but was rebuilt. The present church was built in 1855. The parish was originally under the Capuchins of Madras, but it was later brought under the Holy Spirit Fathers and remained so till 1887, under the Apostolic Prefecture of Pondicherry. The Foreign Mission Fathers took over from 1887.
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Pondy is a seaside town, but that doesn’t make it a beach destination; the city’s sand is a thin strip of dirty brown that slurps into a seawall of jagged rocks. But Goubert Ave (Beach Rd) is a killer stroll, especially at dawn and dusk when half the town takes a romantic wander. In a stroke of genius, authorities have banned traffic here from 6pm to 7.30am.
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Institut Français de Pondichéry (IFP)
Established under the terms of the Treaty of Cession of French Territories in India, the French Institute of Pondicherry was founded in a grand 19th-century neoclassical building on 20 March 1955. It was initially engaged in the study of Indian civilization and culture, and more particularly in the history and the religions of South India. Visitors can browse books in the beach-facing library. IFP has a collection of more than 65,000 books and 200 live journals. A manuscript collection comprising 8,187 palm-leaf bundles, 360 paper codices and 1,144 recent paper transcripts is the largest collection in the world of texts on the Saivasiddhanta philosophy.
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Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Pondicherry
Since 1791 the Cathedral stands in the middle of the town surrounded by its four boulevards. On the western side of the street called formerly: Rue Des Missions Etrangers, and now called either Mission Street or Cathedral Street, stands the Cathedral Church facing the Bay of Bengal. Though the general plan was one of the French XVIII Century Church, the façade kept the classical Portuguese ordinary style of the Portuguese Colonial times.
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Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Founded in 1926, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram has grown, under the Mother’s guidance, from a small group of two dozen disciples into a large diversified community with almost 1200 members. The Ashram is located in the eastern part of Pondicherry. Ashramites live and work in a large number of buildings spread throughout the area. The focus of community life is the Ashram main building, usually called simply “the Ashram”, which consists of an interconnected block of houses, including those in which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for most of their lives. At its centre, in a tree-shaded courtyard, lies the Samadhi, a white-marble shrine where their bodies are laid to rest.
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Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO)
In 1955 Jean Filliozat, the eminent Indianist who would later serve as the Director of the EFEO for twenty years, with the encouragement of the Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, set up the French Institute in Pondicherry. The IFP is dedicated to the broad study of the Indian world. For a long time EFEO members directed the Indology program of IFP, (philology, history of art and architecture, etc.).
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