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Experience a lesser-known side of India in Pondicherry. Once ruled by France, the city’s colonial history is clear to see – it still has a French quarter. Take a walk and marvel at the distinct transition between French and Indian food, culture and architecture. You can also head to the shore for a dip in the Indian Ocean. Pondicherry, now often known as Puducherry, is lined with beaches: ideal for relaxing or getting out on the water to try your hand at windsurfing.
There are both premium and budget hostels in Pondicherry. You can lodge right in the centre of town at an upmarket hostel, or go back to basics and stay on a farm or in a traditional hut on stilts. If you want to centre your mind and body, you can find Pondicherry hostels that offer meditation, yoga and astrology classes. Make the most of your trip by choosing a Pondicherry hostel with a terrace, a roof garden or a restaurant. Some hostels also offer free Wi-Fi.
There are two distinctive neighbourhoods in Pondicherry you’ll certainly want to discover, and where you might choose to stay. The French Quarter retains its grandeur with straight streets of colourful villas, abundant greenery and serene pockets of nature. Across the canal is the Tamil Quarter, where you’ll find a more familiar version of India. Find your way through the markets and temples or blend in with locals on the bustling streets.
Pondicherry sits by the Indian Ocean, so there’s plenty of opportunity for beach activities. Watch the sun go down at Promenade Beach, a long stretch of golden sand that's a peaceful spot for an evening walk. For water sports, head to Paradise Beach and hire a surfboard. There are places to scuba and snorkel, too. Temple reef is a popular spot for seeing colourful coral and sea life. For a morning inland, you can rent bikes and take a tour of the vibrant French Quarter. The impressive Manakula Vinayagar temple is also well worth a visit, and is famed for its golden chariot and carved walls.
The closest airport to Pondicherry is Chennai International Airport. The journey takes around two to three hours, and a pre-booked taxi is the best option. Intercity buses run from the main bus station to surrounding cities including Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai. Rickshaws are on hand to get you around the city, and there are public buses too.