Pondicherry, India

Pondicherry, India

a name as pretty as Pondicherry, you know you’re in for a
treat. Although officially called “Puducherry”, most refer to the
city by its former name.

Located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, this former French
colonial settlement seems something of a cultural anomaly in

Although French rule ended in 1954, tree-lined allées,
boulevards and boulangeries are a clear marker of the city’s

Rejecting any negative associations with its formerly occupied
state, Pondicherry flaunts its bohemian-chic aesthetic with pride.
Known as the “French Riviera of the East”, there is a tangible
sense of joie de vivre among locals.

Walk through the French Quarter to see Mediterranean and
colonial architecture, and pop into pretty boutiques for a spot of
shopping. Admire the pink domes and turrets of
Notre-Dame-des-Anges, one of the oldest churches in

In the evening, go for a stroll along the beach promenade. Here,
traffic is banned between 6pm and 7.30am, so pitch up at dusk for
tranquil views across the Bay of Bengal.

Don’t miss…

Drag yourself away from the colourful French Quarter to visit
Sri Aurobindo ashram. This community was founded in 1926 by Indian
philosopher Sri Aurobindo, and focuses on spiritual progress and
evolution. During the week, take a tour round the ashram and visit
workshops on yoga, meditation, weaving or hand-printing saris.

For more history, the École Française d’Extrême-Orient is just a
15-minute walk further south. A heritage library housing over
11,000 works of ancient literature and almost 2,000 Sanskrit and
Tamil palm-leaf manuscripts, enter to wander round the shelves in
open-mouthed awe.

Who to take with you

An Ang Lee fan. Much of his award-winning film, Life of Pi, was
shot on location here, perfectly capturing the beauty of this
coastal town.

When to go

Go in autumn for vivid, rich colours while avoiding peak
temperatures of the summer season.

Where to stay

In the depths of the French Quarter lies
Hotel Dune de l’Orient
, a beautiful hotel set inside a mansion
dating back to the 1760s. Choose between 14 heritage rooms,
complete with four-poster beds and Indian artwork. Down the road,
dine at La Maison Rose, a pink 18th-century colonial villa which
also houses a boutique shop and art gallery.

Most likely to bump into…

Interior design fiends. Colourful buildings and architectural
mishmash aside, Puducherry Museum has a whole
floor dedicated to vintage furniture for you to while away the
hours in.

Essentials to bring with you

Saint Laurent sandals
offer a stylish twist on

How to get there

Fly direct to Chennai airport, where you can rent a car or hop
in a taxi for a three-hour transfer.

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