Pondicherry is an Indian gem. A small seacoast town in southeast India, it contains a unique blend of Indian and European cultures. You’ll find Hindu temples within walking distance from Catholic cathedrals, and Indian restaurants serving food from distinctly colonial French buildings.
Pondicherry remains one of India’s best-kept secrets. If you Google, “best cities to visit in India”, you’re likely to see heavy hitters like Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, and much more pop up long before you see Pondicherry. What does this mean for you? Is Pondicherry a “meh” place no one wants to go to? Far from it.
Pondicherry actually offers a near-perfect blend of the qualities many travelers often seek. Because it’s a smaller city and not too well-known yet, it has tons of “off-the-beaten-track” attractions and activities. You shouldn’t be surprised when you go to some of the places on this itinerary and you find that you’re the only foreigner in sight.
But what’s so nice about Pondicherry is that it’s just touristy enough; so you’ll still have the ease and convenience that are present when a city is accustomed to dealing with visitors. It’s easy to get around, easy to find accommodation, and easy to make friends—but at the same time, it’s absolutely not overly touristy.
But if you’re reading this article, chances are you already know all this. So let’s proceed.
- A Little Bit About This 3-Day Pondicherry Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Pondicherry for 3 Days
- Pondicherry Itinerary Day 1: The Spirit of India
- Pondicherry Itinerary Day 2: The Sands of Time
- Pondicherry Itinerary Day 3: Everything Else
- What to Do With More Than 3 Days in Pondicherry
- Best Time to Visit Pondicherry
- How to Get Around Pondicherry
- How to Prepare Before Visiting Pondicherry
- Final Thoughts
A Little Bit About This 3-Day Pondicherry Itinerary
I’m sure you want to get right into the details, but first, there are some important, general things about Pondicherry, and this itinerary, that I want to tell you about.
Pondicherry is a small city, which means that lots of the “city center” attractions are clustered right near each other. But this also means that some of the best highlights are in the surrounding countryside. So this itinerary is going to take you on a bit of a zigzagged course around (and slightly outside of) the city. I tried to give each day a bit of a theme, so you can really immerse yourself fully in the character and culture of this wondrous city.
As I said, Pondicherry isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still pretty important to choose a nice area to stay in. You can find a variety of options, ranging from luxurious hotels to unique cottages that perfectly match your needs.
You’ll be taking buses and tuk-tuks, but you’ll also be doing a lot of walking, as this is the best way to really see the main areas of the city. Also, not every area has the same number of hostels and guesthouses. So it can’t hurt to do some research and find your favorite area, both in terms of vibe and in terms of convenience—more on this in the next section.
Finally, why 3 days? Why not 5? Or 2?
I don’t really have a good answer for you. When you’re dealing with romantic matters such as exploring new cities and countries, answers aren’t always so cut-and-dried. What I can say is this: if you really want to “get to know” Pondicherry, you shouldn’t try to do it in less than three days.
In fact, you could easily spend a week here and not run out of things to do in Pondicherry. I’m nearly certain you’ll discover more amazing things and meet more amazing people. For that reason, you’ll see that I’ve included some additional highlights near the end of this article. Definitely don’t miss out on these if you’re going to spend more than 3 days in Pondicherry.
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3-Day Pondicherry Itinerary Overview
- Day 1 in Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram | The Promenade | French Quarter | Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple | Goubert Market
- Day 2 in Pondicherry: Paradise Beach | Arikamedu | Pondicherry Museum | Pondicherry Lighthouse
- Day 3 in Pondicherry: Immaculate Conception Cathedral | Matrimandir | Auroville | Pondicherry Botanical Garden | Cluny Embroidery Center | French Quarter | Le Club
Where to Stay in Pondicherry for 3 Days
If you’re really serious about seeing the best of what Pondicherry has to offer, you’ll have to accept the fact that you’ll be traveling all over the city and surrounding regions. It’s not really ideal to just stay in one tiny neighborhood for most of the time.
The reason? Many historical and religious attractions are located to the east, near the sea. But the main bus station is to the west, closer to the geographical center of the city, and other small towns and some of the most famous sites are located a bit outside of the city, either to the north or south.
So you’ll inevitably be zigzagging and crisscrossing your way all around Pondicherry and the surrounding areas. Nonetheless, it’s just a fact that the French Quarter, to the east, contains the densest grouping of must-see places, especially if you’re visiting Pondicherry for the first time.
Therefore, I highly recommend you stay in White Town. It’s right next to the beach and right in the heart of the city. It’s also a major cultural hub, containing some of the most prominent colonial French architecture in the whole city.
The only downside of White Town is that it tends to be a bit more on the expensive side (but let’s be real—India’s “expensive” is still super cheap). If you’re planning on renting a scooter or a car, you have the luxury of staying either on the outskirts of the city or in a more off-the-beaten-path area like Orleanpet, Mudaliarpet, or Vandrapet. It will probably be harder to find hostels or guesthouses in these areas, but if you do, prices are sure to be lower than in White Town.
But trust me, White Town is awesome—you can’t go wrong here. There are so many accommodation options to choose from hostels to villas in Pondicherry, but below are three of my personal favorites.
Best Hostel in Pondicherry – Eness Hostels
Eness Hostels is cheap, but also clean and modern. It’s located right in the heart of White Town, which means you’ll easily be able to walk to many of the main attractions on the itinerary. This chill Pondicherry hostel also has the ultimate “cool kids” hangout spot: a rooftop terrace!
The dorms are the cheapest, but they also offer private rooms for extremely reasonable prices. Overall, Eness Hostels is your best bet for a budget option in White Town.
Best Budget Hotel in Pondicherry – Maison Blanche
For those who are looking to save money, but whose noses instinctively turn up at the thought of stooping so low as to stay in a hostel, check out Maison Blanche. Also perfectly located right near White Town, it has a cozy, homely feel. The hotel offers around-the-clock front desk service, and every room has a nice flatscreen TV. Pretty hard to beat, given the low prices!
Best Luxury Hotel in Pondicherry – La Villa
Maybe you had a tough week at work, and your vacation needs to be pure tranquility and relaxation. I get it. In that case, you’ll want to book yourself a stay at La Villa Hotel – one of the most luxurious in the region. Whether you’re swimming in the pool, reading in your room, or even just sitting on the porcelain throne, you’ll feel like you’re living in a magazine; it’s just that nice.
Pondicherry Itinerary Day 1: The Spirit of India
Day 1 is a headfirst dive into the authentic, spiritual side of Pondicherry. The pace is a little more laid-back, so take your time, enjoy coffee and tea breaks as you see fit, and begin your stay in Pondicherry with some quiet moments of respect and devotion.
Every map that you see in this article includes a hyperlink to an interactive version on Google Drive. After clicking the map image, the interactive version will be opened in a new tab.
8:30 am – Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Sri Aurobindo Ashram is first on the list because it’s one of Pondicherry’s most iconic places.
To give you a bit of background, Sri Aurobindo was a revered Indian philosopher and yoga teacher. His long-time collaborator and companion was a mysterious woman known as The Mother. Together, they built some remarkable places of spiritual reflection, yoga, and meditation—the Ashram is one of them.
Pranam and meditation are performed every morning from 8:00 am to 11:30 am. If you feel comfortable, channel your inner monk and meditate with the members of the Ashram. If that’s not your thing, just have a look around and explore the grounds. Regardless, be sure to wear appropriate clothing and conduct yourself with respect—you’ll be on holy ground!
- Cost – Free from 8:00 am to 11:30 am, and from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. After that, you will need to get a visitor’s pass.
- How long should I stay here? – 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – If you’re staying in White Town, it’s a short walk. If not, there’s a bus stop on H.M. Kassim Salai, the big road just outside the Ashram.
10:30 am – Brunch at The Promenade
For totally different reasons, the Promenade is also one of Pondicherry’s most iconic places. It’s basically a long, wide walking path that runs parallel to the shoreline. There’s a gigantic selection of cafés and restaurants along the entire length of the street. You’ll have no trouble finding a tasty brunch spot that suits your fancy. And that brings up another one of Pondicherry’s perks. Because of the combined Asian and European influences, food of every variety and nearly every culture can be found here.
After you eat, feel free to make a little detour to Promenade Beach, which is right off the Promenade. There are rocks bordering the sea, so it’s not the best for swimming—but for a serene beach walk? Yes, please!
- Cost – It depends on where you eat. Cheap Indian food will be ~$3, whereas some Western food restaurants can run up to $10 or more.
- How long should I stay here? – As long as you feel like it!
- Getting there – It’s less than a 10-minute walk from Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
12:00 pm – French Quarter
Pondicherry was colonized by the French for a total of 150 years. France, and other European nations, clearly left their marks on this Asian city. The French Quarter is perhaps the most distinctly European area of Pondicherry; and actually, White Town and the Promenade are both located within the French Quarter.
I recommend you rent a bicycle and just explore. A bike allows you to see the city the same way you can while walking—you’ll be going slow enough that every street corner, every facade, and every little boutique store will stand out to you. But it’s a lot easier and less sweaty than walking.
From the architecture to the landscaping to the people, the French Quarter is seriously stunning. Take pictures, because it’s definitely postcard material! You’ll be in one of the most unique places in all of Asia.
Once you’ve seen enough, stop at a local restaurant (there are a lot) for a late lunch, an iced coffee, and maybe a quick afternoon doze in your chair.
- Cost – Food can be anywhere from $3 and upwards.
- How long should I stay here? – 2-3 hours.
- Getting there – The Promenade is technically in the French Quarter already—so just start walking!
3:30 – Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple
Try saying “Sri Manakula Vinayagar” three times quickly. Yeah, I can’t even say it once. No matter how you choose to pronounce it, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple remains one of Pondicherry’s most hallowed religious sites.
This temple was built around 500 years ago for the Hindu god Ganesha. Aesthetically, it’s a marvelously ornate jumble of past pinks, blues, greens, yellows, and oranges. One of the main highlights is the golden chariot, located inside the temple. Generous donations from devout Hindus yielded more than 16 pounds of pure gold, which was used in the construction of the chariot. Trust me, it’s a sight to see.
Don’t be shy about offering something to Ganesha, or even just praying and meditating quietly on your own. If you’re respectful about it, the locals usually love to see foreigners who take their religion seriously. If you don’t want to do that, just sit and think about the resources and manpower needed to construct such a prestigious building way back in the 1500s.
People from nearly everywhere in India have been known to make pilgrimages specifically to visit this temple. As you remove your shoes and enter, think about how lucky you are to be here!
- Cost – Free!
- How long should I stay here? – 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – No matter where you are in the French Quarter, the temple shouldn’t be more than a 15-minute walk away.
5:30 – Goubert Market
At this point, I’m thinking you’ll be feeling a little bit too calm and peaceful inside—so we’re changing things up with your final stop of the day. Get ready for a shock (the good kind!)
Goubert Market is a sprawling wonderland of streets and tiny walking paths, every spare bit of space crowded with food stands. Local merchants are hawking every sort of edible good you can think of; fish, vegetables, rice, spices, etc. Different items are available in different sections, with some people even selling clothing, jewelry, baskets, and more.
If you’ve never been to an Asian market like this before, it will probably be a bit overwhelming. You’ll also find that it’s very easy to get lost. When you’re a foreigner in a place like this, the best advice I can give you is to just get lost in the experience.
Of course, be safe—but don’t worry so much about keeping your bearings or even understanding everything that’s going on all around you. You’ll be bumped into, coughed on, and sneezed on. And whether it’s fish or just bodies that haven’t seen the inside of a shower for too long, your nostrils will be assaulted by some seriously questionable smells.
But that’s just the magic of these types of places. If you need the comforts and familiarity of home everywhere you go, then why even leave?
- Cost – Free, unless you buy something. And don’t be afraid to haggle!
- How long should I stay here? – 1 hour is plenty.
- Getting there – From Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple, it is a 10-minute walk to the market.
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Pondicherry Itinerary Day 2: The Sands of Time
Day 2 in Pondicherry is going to be very sandy, very historical, and very fun. You’ll be starting off at the beach, and even though there are tons of shops nearby, it always helps to be prepared. So make sure you bring plenty of water, towels, and anything else you deem essential for a beach day.
9:00 am – Paradise Beach
Pondicherry is a coastal town, so there’s really no shortage of pristine beaches. But among all the pristine beaches surrounding the city, Paradise Beach stands… pristine.
First off, even getting to Paradise Beach is an adventure. You have to go to Chunnambar Boat House, where you’ll purchase a cheap boat ticket and take a beautiful, 15-minute ride over to the actual beach. Before you do that though, you might want to hang around the boat house for a bit.
The best way to experience the coast charm of Pondicherry is by opting for a stay at a beach house. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the sunshine and nature while also being just steps away from the beach.
Outdoor sporting enthusiasts will have a field day in this place. You can rent a kayak and peacefully paddle the morning away, or rent a jet ski or go for a speed boat ride if you want to start the morning off with a bang.
Once you get tired of these hardcore activities (if you ever do!) snag a ticket and head to Paradise Beach; the boats start taking people across at 9:00 am. Once you arrive, you’ll find yourself in a serene, natural beach area with a nearby mangrove forest and powder-fine sand. Work on your tan, or just float in the warm, aqua-blue waters of the Indian Ocean—tough choices, I know!
Once you start getting hungry, buy yourself a delightful little lunch (or a delightful big lunch—no judgement here) from the myriad of little restaurants and cafés surrounding the beach. And definitely make sure to sample some bhaji, which is a classic Indian vegetable fritter. Just make sure they don’t make it too spicy for you—the Indian standard of spicy is on another level entirely from what you’re probably used to.
- Cost – ~$0.20 for a boat ticket to the beach. Kayaks and jet ski rentals vary, starting around $5 and going up from there depending on what you rent and for how long. Food will be around $3-4 for a meal.
- How long should I stay here? – 3-5 hours.
- Getting there – To get to Paradise Beach, take the 15-minute boat ride from Chunnambar Boat House. To get to Chunnambar Boat House, your best bet is going to be flagging down a tuk-tuk (these are usually never in short supply). Transport is an area where it’s normal to haggle, so don’t feel pressured to accept the very first offer from your driver.
2:00 pm – Arikamedu
I know you’ll probably be dying for a shower and a change of clothes at this point, but trust me—make a pit stop at Arikamedu first.
Arikamedu is one of the great treasures of archaeology. It’s basically an ancient coastal trading post, established over 2,000 years ago by the Greeks. Hordes of ancient relics have been uncovered at this site, including ones from even before the Greeks arrived!
Today, what remains of Arikamedu is a still-elegant network of stone walls and buildings. It’s all outside, so this is a perfect place to go for a little while on your way back from the beach. It won’t matter that you’re probably damp, sweaty, and sandy.
- Cost – Zero. Did you get that? Z E R O!
- How long should I stay here? – Around 1 hour is plenty.
- Getting there – Arikamedu is conveniently right in between Paradise Beach and the city center. So grab a tuk-tuk for a 10-minute right from Chunnambar Boat House.
4:00 pm – Pondicherry Museum
I hope Arikamedu whetted your history appetite because Pondicherry Museum is really where it’s at. First, head back to your hostel or hotel, shower, and change, and then head out in the cooling afternoon to the museum.
The Pondicherry Museum has so much variety. There are relics here from numerous cultures and numerous eras. Many artifacts are from the Pallava and Chola dynasties, which began around 275 AD. You’ll find relics from ancient Greece, colonial France, and of course ancient India! There are sculptures, pottery, weapons, coins—even old vehicles like palanquins and pousse-pousses, which are essentially different takes on tuk-tuks.
The Pondicherry Museum really is one of the richest sources of culture and history to be found anywhere throughout the city—so take it all in!
- Cost – ~$0.65 per person.
- How long should I stay here? – 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – The Pondicherry Museum is located right off the Promenade. If you’re staying in the area, it’s a short walk. Otherwise, there’s a bus stop a few blocks away, on the big road H.M. Kassim Salai.
6:00 pm – Pondicherry Old Lighthouse for Sunset
There are two lighthouses in Pondicherry. The old one was built in 1836 but became obsolete upon the creation of the New Lighthouse in 1971. They’re both beautiful, but the old one is just more aesthetically pleasing—and assuming you like to take pictures, I must recommend the old one.
After the New Lighthouse was built, the Old Lighthouse was converted into a museum. Now, I’m sure your museum battery is depleted at this point, so you’ll probably want to chill outside nearby. The views from the lighthouse area are truly spectacular, especially around sunset. You’ll have the deep orange glow of the setting sun on one side, and the endless blue of the sea on the other. If you ask me, there’s no better way to end a day than with a sunset.
Don’t forget to bring a camera if you have one. You’re likely to get some perfect golden-hour lighting—and a lighthouse during sunset sounds like any outdoor photographer’s dream to me!
After you leave the lighthouse, grab some dinner and head to bed early—the next day is going to be a busy one (and an early one)!
- Cost – Free as long as you don’t go inside the museum.
- How long should I stay here? – 1 hour.
- Getting there – the Old Lighthouse is a three-minute walk from the Pondicherry Museum.
Pondicherry Itinerary Day 3: Everything Else
In many ways, I’ve saved the best for last. Today you’ll be spending most of the day in the magical, one-of-a-kind township of Auroville, before heading back to the city center to finish off your trip with a bang!
6:00 am – Sunrise at Immaculate Conception Cathedral
So, I want to be clear that you don’t have to get here for sunrise. In fact, the doors of the Cathedral don’t open until 7:00 am anyway, so you’ll have to just admire the outside until then. But I tend to be a morning person, and I love the still, quiet hours at the day’s inception. For me, there’s no better time to visit a beautiful religious building. But if that’s not you, feel free to visit a little later.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral has a crazy history, a testament to the devout persistence of the early Jesuits. The Cathedral was built and subsequently destroyed three times before the final construction in 1770. The four separate construction attempts took place over nearly 100 years.
Though the Cathedral isn’t huge the way the Cathedral of Notre Dame is huge, it’s beautiful in its own fashion. It’s intricately detailed both outside and inside, with a white, pillared facade and vibrant interior ceiling art.
The devastating history of the Cathedral, as well as the fact that it’s in Asia, makes it quite a profound site.
- Cost – Free!
- How long should I stay here? – 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – The Cathedral is right next to White Town, so if you’re staying anywhere in the French Quarter, it’ll be a short walk. Otherwise, there’s a bus stop about one block away on the big road, H.M. Kassim Salai.
8:30 am – Matrimandir
If you’ve done any sort of research on Pondicherry, you’ve definitely seen a picture of Matrimandir. It’s a huge, golden, dome-shaped, wondrous feat of architecture.
Matrimandir was built over the course of 37 years, again by The Mother. The building itself is gorgeous; you could spend a good amount of time just admiring it from all angles. The grounds are no less beautiful, the grass and bushes being trimmed into sunning geometrical shapes. Especially when viewed from overhead, the attention to detail is astounding.
Matrimandir was created as a place for serious practitioners of meditation and yoga. In fact, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (who also founded Sri Aurobindo Ashram) created their own type of yoga, known as Integral Yoga, which is still practiced there today.
Inside Matrimandir is the Inner Chamber, which is truly one of the most aesthetically marvelous places I’ve ever seen. It’s an empty room of pure white walls and white columns, and in the center is the largest flawless glass globe in the world. Bear in mind that the Inner Chamber is a serious place for meditation—so don’t treat it like any old tourist attraction.
You can visit Matrimandir and just walk around and look at it from the outside, or you can go into the Inner Chamber. The viewpoint is open from 9:00 am, and you will need to get a pass from the Visitors Centre. The Inner Chamber is open to visitors at 8:30 am every day except Tuesday and Sunday. You will need to request a booking at least a few days in advance.
- Cost – Visits to both the viewpoint and the Inner Chamber are free of charge.
- How long should I stay here? – 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – No public buses reliably run from Pondicherry to Matrimandir, so book a tuk-tuk. The ride is about 20-25 minutes.
10:00 am – Auroville
I can say with relative certainty that there is no place on earth like Auroville.
This township was created about 50 years ago, with the express purpose of being a “Universal Town.” Today, it certainly is a Universal Town; the 3,000 residents come from 195 different countries! Again, The Mother was the main spiritual genius behind this place.
The town is, and was always meant to be, a place of true peace and serenity. Beyond this mindset of the people and their incredible diversity, it’s mostly a normal town. There are guesthouses, cafés, restaurants, and stores.
I recommend sitting down for a nice late breakfast here after leaving Matrimandir. As you can probably guess, the huge variety in the nationalities of the town’s residents results in you being able to enjoy a huge variety of different food types. So just pick a place that suits your fancy, and enjoy!
After breakfast, explore for a bit and chat with the locals; they’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about living in this remarkable town.
- Cost – $0 to visit the town. Breakfast will be anywhere from $3 and up.
- How long should I stay here? – 2-4 hours.
- Getting there – Matrimandir is right smack in the center of Auroville, so just pick a direction and start walking!
1:00 pm – Pondicherry Botanical Garden
Grab lunch before leaving Auroville, or pack yourself a nice picnic lunch, and then head over to the Pondicherry Botanical Garden, a sprawling paradise of lush greenery.
The Garden was initially created as an experiment, to test the performance of different plant types in Pondicherry’s climate. Today, there are over 1,500 different species of plants in the Botanical Garden. Throughout 30 separate sections, you’ll find everything from flowers to shrubs, to trees, and even fossils of plants!
After the Botanical Garden, chill out for a bit, drink some coffee, read a book, or head back to your accommodation for an afternoon nap. You might need one after the day’s early start!
- Cost – ~$0.15 for entry into the Garden.
- How long should I stay here? – 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – You’ll need to take a tuk-tuk back from Auroville anyway, so just tell your driver to drop you off at the Botanical Garden.
4:00 pm – Cluny Embroidery Center
Cluny Embroidery Center began when a French woman donated a 200-year-old building for the purpose of helping disadvantaged local Indian women.
Today, the center houses a multitude of these wonderful women, all employed and happily embroidering tablecloths, towels, bed sheets, and other fabrics with gorgeous, artful patterns. Chances are you won’t buy something out of pity—the designs are actually stunning, and the quality of the products is top-tier.
Cluny Embroidery Center will give you a unique, authentic look into the lives and vocations of the locals—and it’s also bound to warm your heart!
The Center has also added a guesthouse more recently, due to the increased amounts of tourists. It might be a fun idea to stay here for your last night in Pondicherry.
- Cost – Free unless you buy something (hint: you should buy something!)
- How long should I stay here? – Around 1 hour should be enough.
- Getting there – The Center is a 7-minute walk from The Promenade, which is also where the nearest bus stop is.
6:00 pm – Dinner in the French Quarter
Now it’s time to return to the French Quarter for a fancy dinner! Here are some of my favorite places:
- Les Saveurs is a modern French and Italian restaurant.
- 1 Rue Suffren is a French restaurant in a beautiful historical building.
- Celine’s Kitchen serves North Indian and Continental dishes.
- La Maison Rose is a boutique restaurant with French-centered bistro cuisine.
- Cost – If you decide on a cheaper restaurant to save money, the floor is around $3 per person. For the more expensive restaurants like the ones on the above list, expect to pay around $10-$15.
- How long should I stay here? – As long as you like!
- Getting there – All of these restaurants are only a brief walk from Cluny Embroidery Center.
8:00 pm – Drinks at Le Club
Totally optional, but grabbing some drinks seems like the perfect way to conclude your journey through Pondicherry.
Le Club is a well-known restaurant right in the French Quarter that specializes in a large variety of cocktails, mocktails, imported whiskeys, and wines.
Hopefully, at this point in your trip, you’ve made some new friends. Or if not, maybe you’ve grown closer with the people you’re traveling with, whether that’s a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, or just a group of old friends!
Take the time to talk about your favorite parts of the trip, reflect on your favorite moments, and prepare for your journey home!
- Cost – Beers and standard cocktails range from $4-$8, with the highest-quality bottles of wine capping out at around $70.
- How long should I stay here? – As long as you want. Head home early, or party the night away!
- Getting there – Walk here from your dinner restaurant.
What to Do With More Than 3 Days in Pondicherry
As I mentioned earlier, there’s really no reason to leave Pondicherry after only 3 days—in fact, I’d encourage you to stay a bit longer and really sink your teeth into everything this city has to offer. If you do decide to extend your trip, here are a few other sights you won’t want to miss out on:
1. Gingee Fort
I would have included Gingee Fort as a must-see in the itinerary, but it’s about an hour’s drive outside of the city, so it’s tough to squeeze in if you’re staying for only 3 days. Although some hostels in Bangalore can help you out with this.
Gingee Fort was built in 1190, making it about the same age as the famous Angkor Wat and other Asian temples. A nearly impregnable fortress with a serious reputation, the Fort was only taken one time—and it took the attacking army eight whole years to do so!
Today, the Fort is a meandering series of ancient walls and towers, perched on the top of a sparse range of hills. The views from the Fort are remarkable!
- Cost – ~$1.20 per person for an entry ticket.
- How long should I stay here? – I recommend heading out in the morning, bringing a picnic lunch, and heading back in the early afternoon.
- Getting there – Hop on a bus heading to Bangalore by way of Krishnagiri—any of these buses will go right past Gingee Fort. Alternatively, take a tuk-tuk or private taxi for more money.
2. Serenity Beach
While not quite as iconic as Paradise Beach, Serenity Beach is undoubtedly a highlight of Pondicherry’s coast.
Just like Paradise Beach, it’s incredibly quiet and tranquil. Aptly named, Serenity Beach is a great destination for couples and people who are less interested in activities and more interested in swimming and working on their tans.
- Cost – Free!
- How long should I stay here? – At least 2-3 hours.
- Getting there – Take a bus to Kottakupam Bus Stop and then walk 15 minutes to the beach, or just take a tuk-tuk for a 12-minute ride from Pondicherry.
3. Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple is in many ways the “little brother” of Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple.
It’s dedicated to the Hindu Lord Vishnu, whereas Sri Manakula Vinayagar is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Both temples are equally beautiful, and Sri Varadaraja Perumal in particular has a striking, tower-like appearance, with every surface covered in ornately carved designs.
Walk around outside, or go inside and perform an offering with the locals—it’s up to you!
- Cost – Free!
- How long should I stay here? – 1-2 hours.
- Getting there – This temple is only a 15-minute walk from Sri Manakula Vinayagar. Marapalam Bus Stop in White Town is your best bet if you’re coming from farther away—the temple is a 7-minute walk from there.
Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.
It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)Hide Yo’ Money!
Best Time to Visit Pondicherry
As with any destination in the world, there are good times and bad times to visit India—both in terms of the weather and in terms of the crowds.
Pondicherry has a summer season, a monsoon season, and a winter season. March, April, May, and June are the summer months, with temperatures averaging around a pretty toasty 84 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can deal with this heat, you’ll have the bonus of fewer crowds.
Check out the table below for a more detailed look at the best times to visit Pondicherry. You’ll notice that generally speaking, better weather = more tourists. Since Pondicherry isn’t as popular as some of the other famous cities in India, I wouldn’t worry too much about crowds.
|Chance of Rain
How to Get Around Pondicherry
Pondicherry has a public bus system and a substantial amount of private buses as well, but the network isn’t quite as extensive as you’d hope for. When you’re traveling around the main areas of the city center, flagging down buses is pretty straightforward.
Because of the language barrier and the chaos of Indian buses in general, I always like to check with some locals or the bus driver to confirm that the bus I’m about to board is in fact going where I think it’s going. For the most part, Indians are beyond friendly, so they’ll be delighted to assist you. You’ll pay in cash once you board the bus.
When you’re trying to get to some of the less frequented areas, and some of the more rural places like the beaches, flagging down a tuk-tuk will be your best option. It may take a little while for you to get a feel for what the going rate is. Asking some friendly locals about this is also a great idea, as they’ll be able to tell you if you’re overpaying. And never be afraid to good-naturedly haggle a bit before you get in—it’s normal here!
I’d recommend checking out the homestays in Pondicherry, these are run by locals who are often super friendly and offer up lots of tips for making the most of your time here.
How to Prepare Before Visiting Pondicherry
Pondicherry is hot no matter which season you visit, so when packing for India, only bring a long-sleeve shirt for the ferocious air conditioning inside certain restaurants and buildings. Definitely bring a pair of flip-flops or sandals, plenty of sunscreen, and maybe even a bucket hat or baseball hat to block out the sun. And don’t forget your camera! Pondicherry is especially photogenic.
Here are some other final considerations to make:
- Pondicherry is generally very safe, but try not to walk around abandoned areas alone at night.
- Keep your valuables when you’re on crowded buses; these are every pickpocket’s dream!
- If a local is ever trying to scam you or cheat you out of a few dollars, don’t freak out at them. It’s okay to be firm—but in general, keep a cool head, gain some perspective, and let it go.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Pondicherry!
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.
Pondicherry is one of the most unique places in Asia. Authentic Indian culture can be found in the myriad of temples and markets, and places like the French Quarter offer a strikingly European feel.
Beaches, churches, temples, quaint towns, old forts, and amazing food—there’s truly no shortage of entertainment in Pondicherry.
This itinerary has been carefully curated to help you make the most of 3 days in Pondicherry—but I encourage you to use this itinerary as a foundation for your own.
Step out, open your mind and your heart, make friends with some locals, and chart your own course.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!