15 Things that make Pondicherry Great for Solo Travel in Southern India
Pondicherry is one of those places that all of us want to visit someday. Mostly because of the various good things that we have heard about it. Be it the spirituality of the locals, the beauty of nature, or the humble and welcoming locals, or the French flair in cafes and restaurants – there are more than a few reasons that make Pondicherry unique in itself.
It doesn’t matter if you love this place for its simplicity or for its modernism, or both! This union territory, which is smaller in size than an average city, won’t disappoint you one bit. Before I visited Pondicherry myself, I questioned if this is the right place to travel solo. But tell you what, it is one of the safest destinations for solo female travellers. Not only that, there are a lot of things you can do here too, a lot more than you think! And if you don’t believe me, here are 15 things that make Pondicherry great for solo travel in southern India.
1. One of the safest places in India
Reports show that Pondicherry reported only 0.1% of all the crimes in India in 2019. Also, it was ranked 35 out of 36 based on crime rates, making it the second safest place in the country. This is reasoning enough for you to not worry about your safety during your travel to Pondicherry. During my solo trip, I had no trouble regarding anything related to safety. The local people were very welcoming, and I had no bad experience whatsoever.
2. Keep calm and go to the beach!
Pondicherry is known for its natural beauty, and the beaches here are a part of it. You must definitely visit the serene beaches of Pondicherry. The views of the sky above, sand below, and water in the front are perfect for relaxing. You shouldn’t miss the picturesque sunrise and sunset here either. If you are adventurous like me, don’t forget to try the water sports at Paradise Beach and Karaikal Beach. But if you like a quieter beach, do visit Mahe Beach.
The most famous beach in Pondicherry is Rock Beach. Instead of sand on the beach, there are rocks here, and it is the perfect beach for strolling and watching sunsets. During my solo travel, I visited a café near the beach and had my snacks while enjoying the stunning views of the sunset. Absolutely breathtaking!
3. Dive in the ocean with other creatures
While you can scuba dive at a lot of places in the country, Pondicherry stands out of the crowd. The reason for this is the abundance of marine life in the sea here. Not only will you find parrotfishes, kingfishes, manta rays, corals, and sea snakes, but also plenty of aquatic plants. Some good spots for scuba diving are Temple Reef, Aravind’s Wall, Four Corners, The Hole, Temple Adventures – PADI Dive Centre, and Ravines.
Even if you have aquaphobia, I would suggest that you try scuba diving at least once because the experience is just overwhelming! Looking at a variety of living creatures from such close proximity is one of the best moments you will ever experience in life. I did scuba diving from Four Corners, and it cost me ₹7500, and the cost ranges from ₹5000 to ₹12000.
4. Find your flow and row, row, row!
If you think that you cannot do scuba dive, or have an aquaphobia that you can’t overcome, worry not. You have the option of boating at the backwaters of the Chunnambar River. The boathouse here offers boat rides, and you can experience the surreal beauty of nature from here. The stellar views of plants and trees, the tropical birds, and calm waters are the perfect recipes for a sunny afternoon! There are different types of boats available to explore the river. And if you think that this amazing journey will burn a hole in your pocket, think again. A ride here costs just ₹300 + GST!
5. Never be afraid to be called a ‘plant lady!’
Boasting the French flair and 1500 floral special, the Pondicherry Botanical Garden is spread across 22 acres. That’s huge! Every plant and tree here has a placard that shows the information relating to that particular species. This is a beneficial thing as not all of us are botanists. You will not only find plants here but also some animals like lemur, rabbits, rats, porcupines, and mongooses which enjoy their time without having to pay for a ticket!
The best part about this garden is that you can visit during any time of the year, and you will be greeted with blooming flowers and trees full of life. The garden also houses some rare and endangered plant species, along with the common types of flowers. While most of the tourists would not know about it, the beauty of the garden should be the reason for your visit here. There is also a toy train ride which is actually quite fun! I tried it even though I was hesitant at first, but it ended out to be better than I expected.
6. So much to see and hear about this Union Territory!
Pondicherry is a place that draws attention to its eventful history. The Pondicherry Museum is one of the most interesting places in Pondicherry as it beautifully portrays its history. It is known for its unique and rare collection of artefacts from the Chola and Pallava dynasties who ruled during the 3rd and 13th centuries.
While it might be a boring trip for some people, reading a bit about the Pondicherry history will enhance your experience multiple folds. I also felt that a visit to the museum would be boring. But I spend about half an hour browsing the internet and reading stuff related to the history of Pondicherry. This made me understand the relics in a much better way, as I wouldn’t understand it had I not known anything about history.
7. Plenty of temples and churches
As I mentioned earlier, the locals here are very spiritual and devout. Due to this reason, there are a lot of religious places built here. Some display the brilliancy of architecture, while some stick out due to their simplicity. Visiting a temple or church here not only increases your vast knowledge but also makes you dive deeper into the rich history of Pondicherry.
Some famous churches here include Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus located in Subbayah Salai, Immaculate Conception Cathedral located on Mission Street, St. Andrew’s Church located in Reddiarpalayam, and Hallelujah Assembly of God Church on Thennanjalai Road. Some of the famous ones are Varadaraja Perumal Temple on MG Road, Kamakshi Amman Temple on Kamatchi Amman Koil Street, Sithananda Swamy Temple on SH 49, Karuvadikuppam and Panchavati Anjaneya Temple on Pondicherry-Tindivanam Road.
8. Aurobindo Ashram
Founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo, this is one of the most visited places in Pondicherry. The common perception of ashrams being ‘boring’ does not apply to the Aurobindo Ashram one bit. You can sit here peacefully and meditate or perform yoga asanas, away from the hustle-bustle of city life.
9. The true definition of communism – Auroville
In Auroville, everyone lives in harmony and works for one another. Nicknamed the ‘City of Dawn,’ people from all parts of the world, irrespective of caste, creed, culture, gender, and race, live here.
It is divided into many zones, and some of them include the Peace Zone, Cultural Zone, International Zone, Industrial Zone, Residential Zone, and the Green Belt. The Aurovillians welcome the visitors with a big smile on their faces, and you can spend time with them in the Residential Zone. This is truly a refreshing experience, a completely unique one too. If you wish to meditate here, you can do so in the Peace Zone. And click here to know more about Auroville.
10. You can never watch too many sunsets!
Ousteri Lake is not only one of the most famous lakes in Pondicherry but also the largest. It is perfect for an evening walk or watching the sunset, which is the reason for its popularity. It is also considered the wetland as it serves as a home to migratory birds throughout the year.
You can get a boat ride here for a very affordable price of ₹100. And if you are looking for a peaceful place while being surrounded by! I would recommend you visit here in the winter season as the migratory birds come here in these months, and the cool breeze is very relaxing.
11. French War Memorial
Bastille Day is celebrated, and the memorial is beautifully decorated on the 14th of July of every year. It is dedicated to the residents of French India who sacrificed their lives during the First World War. It was constructed in 1970 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Pondicherry.
While some might argue that it is not a very happening place, I would say that this place has a lot of positive vibe to it and teaches respect in the minds of the people for these soldiers. Because of its small size, it wouldn’t take a lot of time to go around the memorial. I would highly recommend you visit the memorial as it is considered one of the best memorials in the country!
12. Bike your way through the city
In my opinion, your solo trip to Pondicherry would be incomplete if you don’t take a tour on a bicycle. The tour starts at 7 AM from the Sita Cultural Centre, 800 metres from the railway station. And don’t worry, you will be accompanied by an experienced local guide.
My bicycle tour took around 2 hours to complete, and to be very honest, I was quite tired after the ride. Before taking up the tour, I didn’t think that I would be able to cycle all around Pondicherry for such a long time. But I enjoyed exploring the place, and it was worth it. After the ride, I had a delicious French breakfast, and that marked the end of the trip.
13. Shopping is the new cardio.
No trip is complete without some shopping. And your solo trip to Pondicherry is no exception. There are so many shops that sell various products like handicrafts, home décor, clothing, accessories, leather items, souvenirs, and much more. I suggest that you check the timings of the markets before heading out as some of these might be closed on Sundays or Mondays. And also, make sure that you bargain a little, as it can save you a lot of money.
I think the best places to shop in Pondicherry are Casablanca, Serenity Beach Bazaar, Hidesign, Muthu Silk Plaza, Sund’s Art, Anokhi, and many others. I visited all of these places during my solo trip, and I wasn’t disappointed with even one! Keep in mind that most of the shopping markets are located in White Town.
14. Earth is a potter’s playground.
The Golden Bridge Pottery Centre is open on all days except Sundays from 8 AM to 1 PM. If you love any form of art, don’t miss this chance as you will enjoy your time here. You can put your creative skills to the test and try pottery.
I tried this activity and totally failed at it at the start. After a little help from the nice people here, I tried my best and ended up making a pot, which was of no use, though. I bought this little pot back home, and these kind people also gifted me one that they made in front of me.
15. Good food, good mood
Pondicherry has a lot of restaurants and an endless variety of dishes too. South Indian, North Indian, French, English, and whatever you wish to eat! There are restaurants where a meal would cost you as little as ₹150-200 and also restaurants where you must spend ₹2000 on a meal.
While most of us like to eat comfort food when we are out on a trip, I tried out a few new dishes, and I was more than happy that I did. Simple dishes like chicken biryani or a masala dosa here have a flair of their own. I would suggest that you also try out new dishes along with eating your favourite food. Some of the restaurants that I visited and I would recommend you are Café Des Arts, Surguru Restaurant, Appachi Chettinad Restaurant, Les Alizes.
Pondicherry – A world of its own
After travelling solo to Pondicherry and exploring the place thoroughly, I feel that it is a vibe of its own! Be it the food, the beaches, the spirituality, the rich history, Auroville, or even little things like the hospitality of the locals. All of these add up and offer a great experience for you to cherish for the rest of your life. But do remember these things while travelling solo as a woman in India.
If you are already planning to travel alone to Pondicherry, you can check out my blog on the ultimate solo travel guide to Pondicherry, as it will allow you to make the most of your time here. And if you have any questions regarding your first solo trip to Pondicherry, do reach out to me in the comments below.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.