Looking to head out on a fun road trip from Chennai? How about you make your way to the very charming Pondicherry?
The most popular driving route from Chennai to Pondicherry is the picturesque East Coast Road (ECR) that runs along the Bay of Bengal coastline. Here’s a fab idea to make the most of your trip—hop in to a cab so you can focus all your attention on the scenery instead of keeping your eyes on the road all the time! With plenty to see and do before you reach your final destination, check out the perfect road trip guide from Chennai to Pondicherry. Safe travels!
Distance & Route:156 kilometres by ECR
Distance & Route: 169 kilometres by NH32
Distance & Route: 204 kilometres by NH48
The ECR route has some great places to stop along the way. As you make your way out of Chennai, indulge in some sightseeing en route.
- Cholamandal Artists’ Village: One of the largest artists’ cooperatives in the country, sculptures and paintings are on display at the art galleries here, and theatrical and dance performances are held in the open-air theatre.
- Kovalam Beach: Located in the small fishing village of Covelong, the beach boasts of some of the most pristine sands.
- Portuguese Catholic Church: This church dates back to the 18th century with its impressive grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and a bell tower that soars over 16 metres.
- Alamparai Fort: Built with bricks and limestone in the 17th century, remnants of the fort’s Mughal architecture can still be seen. There are also several vantage points from where you can see the scenic Backwaters.
The temple town of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)—a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its 8th century Shore Temple—should be your next stop. Explore this coastal town at leisure where awe-inspiring monolithic structures built by the Pallavas are framed against the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal. Enjoy an authentic seafood meal exuding regional flavours at one of the many restaurants along shoreline. Nautilus, Sea Shore Garden Beach Restaurant and Masala Café are some great options for both a local vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare.
What to Pack
Pondicherry is lucky to have moderate, tropical temperatures all through the year. However, it can also get very humid. Irrespective of when you’re planning your road trip, plan on packing the basics like cotton clothing, a sun hat or cap, sunscreen, sunglasses and comfortable shoes or sandals. Mosquito repellent may not be a bad idea either!
When to Go
The best time to visit Pondicherry is between the months of October and February when the climate is comparatively cooler and pleasant, and perfect for sightseeing. March, April, May and June can get extremely hot while July, August and September experience rainfall. Another idea is to plan your visit around festivals like Pongal, Christmas and Sri Aurobindo’s birth anniversary when the city comes alive with celebrations.
Where to Stay
From modest hotels to luxury resorts, Pondicherry has no dearth of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Most of the popular hotels are on and around the main Promenade area in the French Quarter while the beachside resorts are on ECR.
See the Sights
- Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Auroville: Located in the township of Auroville, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram is the most famous and popular highlight in Pondicherry. The Matri Mandir is covered with gold discs and surrounded by gardens called the Peace Area, which offer great views of the structure. The inner sanctum contains the largest optically-perfect glass globe in the world, and is open to a limited number of visitors daily.
- Botanical Gardens: Housing a variety of unique flora, the Botanical Gardens span 22 acres of greenery. In addition, there’s also a toy train and aquarium on the premises.
- Serenity Beach: One of Pondicherry’s sandy gems, Serenity Beach lives up to its name. Clean and clear waters along with pristine surroundings, this is one of the nicest places to enjoy the sun, sand and surf!
- French Quarter: A little piece of France in India, Pondicherry’s French Quarter is quaint in every way. The leafy boulevards with quintessential French names are dotted with French-style villas in shades of blues, yellows and pinks, complete with arched windows and cascading flowering creepers.
- Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple: Along with the golden chariot in the sanctum, one of Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple’s main attractions is the elephant that blesses the devout with her trunk at the entrance of the temple.
Give your cab driver a list of the places you’d like to visit so they can plan the most efficient route to take you there.