Back to Listing

Insider View: Pondicherry

Insider View: Pondicherry

Puducherry, or Pondicherry as it is still called by everyone, is an unexpected corner of southern France perched on the balmy Bay of Bengal. A minor outpost of the French Empire for almost 300 years and only made independent in 1954, 'Pondi' charms and surprises with a distinct Indo-Mediterranean flavour. The pastel-coloured houses, friendly locals and stylish boutiques make for an ideal gentle landing to India. In this unhurried sun-drenched haven, seek out the remnants of the city's colonial past, indulge in glorious seafood and shop for silks and crafts. Stroll along the promenade, take in the Botanical Gardens and watch the light turn the buildings burnt ochre as the day draws to a hazy close.

Pondicherry is also home to the renowned Sri Aurobindo Ashram, whose buildings pepper the town: visit the international community Auroville, founded in 1968, 10 km away from the city. The ashram's spiritual centre is a golden meditation dome called Matri Mandir and the place is suffused with a sense of peace and purpose. There is plenty to experience – in a typically Indian melange fashion, east and west blends with spirituality and commerce. Fans of organic, locally-sourced food should seek out the (divine) raw chocolate and homemade bread from wood-fired kilns. For a unique meal, dine in the silent Goyo restaurant serving authentic Korean food. Follow it up with a reviving beachside massage facing the Indian Ocean at the Quiet Healing Centre.

Our insider guide seeks out some of the most special corners of Pondicherry to experience this unique destination like a true local.

Pondicherry Pots
EAT

VILLA SHANTI
Set in the tranquil French Quarter, Villa Shanti has the unassuming charm of a Provençal cafe. Tables are romantically set with candles and fresh flowers while the friendly staff are unfailingly hospitable. The seafood options include grilled lobster and green coriander swordfish along with vegetarian dishes such as stuffed mushrooms and paneer.
14 Rue, Suffren Street, White Town, Pondicherry, 605 001 | www.lavillashanti.com

CAFE DES ARTS
Whimsically bohemian, this small French cafe, hidden by lemon yellow walls, is a place to linger, read and meet other explorers. The French owner has charming taste and visitors are greeted by a vintage bicycle rickshaw and eclectic decor that delights. Come here for a breakfast of croque monsieur and ricotta crepes – a light-hearted slice of Montmartre in the tropics.
10, Suffren Street, White Town, Pondicherry, 605001

LE DUPLEIX
Old world chic in the governor’s former mansion – dine under the stars in the courtyard of Le Dupleix and enjoy the timeless atmosphere. The fine cuisine is matched by the superior drinks menu and the faultless service. The scene is further enhanced by an ancient mango tree, tinkling granite fountain and the delightful Governor's Bar, dominated by a tableau from French designer Jean-Francois Lesage. A jewel in Pondicherry's crown.
5, Caserne Street, Pondicherry, 605001 | www.ledupleix.in

THE BAY OF BUDDHA BAR
A front row seat on the majestic Bay of Bengal, this terrace bar is a salty-scented beachside haven, watched over by the town's iconic lighthouse. We love the cut of (equally iconic) bartender Mr Tamil's jib and his cocktail-making genius. Go for dessert gold with the lemongrass crème brulee and homemade ice-cream.
23, Goubert Ave, White Town, Pondicherry, 605001 | www.thepromenadepondicherry.com

CAFE COROMANDEL

A heritage property turned classy, cosmopolitan restaurant, The Coromandel serves delicious food within an elegant ambiance. A favourite dish of ours being the unforgettable juicy Prawns accompanied with a plate of risotto!
8, Romain Rolland Street, White Town, Pondicherry, 605001 |  www.coromandel-restaurant.com

LA VILLA

Take a seat under the arches surrounded by tea lights and elegant flowers in La Villa’s courtyard to experience al fresco dining at its finest. Enjoy excellent French cuisine in a romantic setting, hosted by delightful locals. Here, you can indulge in the rich flavours, colours and textures that change with the seasons.
11, Surcouf Street, White Town, Pondicherry, 605001 | www.lavillapondicherry.com 


SHOP

PLAY CLAN
The Pondi branch of this design-forward brand is called the coolest store in town. Find colourful graphics and India-experimental vibes splashed on bags, textiles and fashion. We covet the irreverent artwork and unique offerings such as the Mughal-inspired playing cards. With collaborators including Sir Paul Smith and a joyful and dynamic approach – Play Clan encapsulates the new wave of creativity in contemporary India.
6 Rue, Surcouf Street, Pondicherry, 605001 | www.playclan.com

SUNDAY MARKET, M.G ROAD
A truly authentic local experience – lose yourself in the hurly burly of this weekend market. The cacophony of noises, sights and smells is reminiscent of a carnival and lots of bargains can be found. Go early in the morning (it opens at 8am) and click away – the flash of saris, jasmine-bedecked heads and piled-up produce is instagram heaven.
Mahatma Gandhi Road, Chinnakadai, MG Road Area, Pondicherry, 605001

LA BOUTIQUE D'AUROVILLE
The Pondicherry outpost of the Auroville boutique is a great place for unique mementos, textiles and leather goods. The store is infused with the considered approach that makes Auroville such a unique hub – seek out the flowing cotton garments, handmade paper and deliciously fragrant soaps.
No. 38, Jawaharalal Nehru Street, Heritage Town, Pondicherry, 605001 | www.auroville.com

VIA PONDICHERRY
Classical dancer turned designer Vassanty Manet's diminutive boutique is a hidden treasure in the old town. Dive under the entrance canopy of Bougainvillea into a world of antique armoires filled with sherbet-hued silks, tables of delicate handcrafted jewellery and chic souvenirs to bring home. Manet, who returned to Pondicherry from living in Paris, is great company and loves meeting visitors – her fascinating family history is a glimpse into the city's complex colonial past.
Shop No. 38, Near Bussy Street, Romain Rolland St, White Town, Pondicherry, 605001

CLUNY EMBROIDERY CENTRE
In a beautiful setting right at the heart of the French quarter, this beautiful 250-year-old building is famed for its embroidery of the highest quality. Trained by the sisters of the Cluny convent, the products are made by vulnerable women to help provide them with a sustainable living. Watching the women stitching the delicate and intricate work is a joy to behold. Do ask for Sister Augusta, the serene hostess, and stock up on exquisite linens, towels and cushions to take home. 
46 Rue Romain Rolland, Pondicherry | www.cluny.in


EXPERIENCE

PONDICHERRY MUSEUM
Immerse yourself in the history of the region at this well-stuffed museum housed in a 100-year-old building. We are fascinated by the ancient Roman pottery and burial urns found at the Arikamadu Roman settlement, just south of Pondicherry. France's ancien regime is brought to life with 18th-century paintings and hand-painted porcelain mingling with antique furniture including Governor Dupleix's four-poster bed and carriages.
No. 2, St Louis Street, Near Raj Nivas, White Town, Pondicherry, 605001

CATHEDRALS AND TEMPLES
Let your spirits soar at the majestic Notre Dame Des Anges Church, a tropical echo of Lourdes Basilica and boasting a history harking back to 1686. The rose pink edifice is guarded by a rather ferocious statue of Joan of Arc and contains a wonderful central dome and Doric columns. Look out for the painting of Our Lady of The Assumption donated by Napoleon III during his visit. Opposite the church, old men still gather in the shade to play the uniquely French game of pétanque – a timeless scene. A contrasting experience is the magnificent Hindu temple of Manakula Vinayagar. Come and be blessed by the temple elephant and gaze at over 40 incarnations of the Lord Ganesha.
Eglise De Notre Dame des Anges, Rue Dumas, Pondicherry, 605001
Manakula Vinayagar Koil Street, Opp Governer Office, Pondicherry, 605002

For more information or to start planning your tailor-made holiday to South India please contact us:

info@ampersandtravel.com // +44 (0) 207 819 9770



Client Testimonials

Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had dealings with. Everything – from the individual care and attention in helping to plan the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round.
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India

From our Instagram

Wander through the bustling fruit and vegetable markets in #Pondicherry to experience the true essence of #TamilNadu 🇮🇳🥬🍎
.
Follow our stories for live updates!
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
🇨🇳 Drift down the #LijiangRiver while touring #China with us to find yourself surrounded by towering karst mountains, mirror-still waterways and sunsets like this 🌅
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
.
📸 @joelsantosphoto
💧#WaAle is calling our name this Monday
.
Set on a secluded island in the #MerguiArchipelago, this eco resort makes for the perfect tropical escape
.
If you’re also tempted by these shots of the aquamarine #AndamanSea, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to start planning your trip!
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
A luxury holiday to #Goa feeds the soul and the senses 🇮🇳🌅
.
Discover a kaleidoscope of baroque architecture, whitewashed churches, crumbling forts, tropical beaches, intoxicating spices and the warmth of #SouthIndia ⛪️☀️🌶
.
#AmpersandTravel 
#LuxuryIsInTheExperience
As you travel through #Cambodia’s countryside you’re bound to come across some friendly faces like these! 🧡
.
If you’d like to go off the beaten track in this wonderful country and meet some lovely locals along the way, then please get in touch!
.
📸 @alesmartan
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
A team of Ampersander's have officially landed in #Rajasthan. First stop, the Capital - #Jaipur 💗
.

Also known as the Pink City because of its trademark colour throughout, its hard to miss a picture perfect moment in front of one of Jaipur's landmark doorways.
.

For more inspiration and to follow the teams journey through the Golden Triangle, keep an eye over on our Instagram stories and get in touch if you want to begin your trip!
. 📸 @chrsschlkx
.

#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
As the year begins to draw in, here at Ampersand HQ we've been thinking about where our adventures in 2020 will be, but where will be yours? 🌍
.

Will it be on the soft white sand beaches of #Cambodia @songsaaprivateisland, indulging in the colourful cuisine of #Vietnam, rejuvenating at @vanajourney, #India, hiding away beneath the #okavangodelta or exploring the endless shrines and Temples found in #Japan...
.

It's never too early to start planning! For inspiration, get in touch with one of our experts today to start your 2020 adventure.
.

#AmpersandTravel
#LuxuryIsInTheExperience
🇮🇳Reminiscent of a French village, with its bright Mediterranean architecture and flower-laden balconies, it’s no surprise that #Pondicherry (or #Pondi) is nicknamed the ‘Indian Côte d’Azur’ 🇫🇷
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience 
#SouthIndia
Welcome to the gateway to #Asia! #Singapore is the perfect stop over destination 🇸🇬
.

A colourful city packed full of contrast and a variety of ethnic districts ready to be explored!
.

#LittleIndia, originally a division of colonial Singapore. Today a vibrant district with a mix of Hindu and Chinese Temples and The House of Tan Teng Niah - one of the last surviving Chinese villas in the Indian enclave
.

If you'd like a taste of #India and #Singapore on your way to #Asia, get in touch to start planning your multicultural trip!
. 📸 @bellabellalara @travel_with_han @melbrammer_travel @climbintogether
.

#AmpersandTravel
#LuxuryIsInTheExperience

Let us keep you up to date

Sign up to our newsletter and never miss out on unmissable exclusive luxury experiences

Condé Nast Top Travel Specialist Award 2019
Condé Nast Readers Choice Award 2019