The best way to explore Pondicherry’s colourful neighbourhoods, interconnected roads and canopied streets is like a local. This is perhaps one of the most laid-back destinations in India, where being in a hurry will take you nowhere. You can enjoy the nuances of the place on foot or on cycle, just like a local does, hang out at the beachside or in one of the many cafes here.
Pondicherry is a modern Tamil town with 20th-century French influences, and it’s best to stay in one of the central locations such as Missions Street or MG Road so that all parts of it are easily accessible. If you’r looking for slow, immersive travel and plan on being in Pondicherry for a while, there are innumerable home-stays you can choose from.
That way you get to interact with your lovely local hosts, and eventually get introduced to more people around through them. For those looking to explore the silent allure of nature in Auroville, there are tons of accommodations available just outside the township.
However, no matter the length of your stay in Pondicherry, there are a few things you cannot miss. For example, the churches are a must-visit, both for their architecture and the quietude they offer for those who wish to sit alone and pray. The Dumas Church is a great place to start.
There are tons of place where you can get a good cup of coffee and probably catch up on some reading or pending work on your laptop. The top ones to consider are Baker’s Street, Coromandel Cafe, Frite’s Corner or Bread & Chocolate.
If you want to get insight into how most women in Tamil Nadu earn their living, head to Cluny Embroidery Centre run by a local convent. The nuns teach women from the state the art of doing intricate needlework by hand. Even Sri Aurobindo Paper Factory is a great place to visit if you’re interested in learning about small-scale businesses. The factory is mostly known for its completely recycled cotton rag papers among other varieties such as marbled paper and screen printed paper.
In the evenings, take to the streets of Pondicherry for some shopping. From interesting home decor to second hand books, gorgeous clothing to fashion accessories, MG Road especially is a shopping paradise. If you’re in the mood to splurge, dinner and drinks is highly recommended in places like The Promenade or Blue Line.