India’s most popular experimental township/community is often considered one of the destinations to visit within Pondicherry, with many spending less than a day here. However, in recent years, Auroville and the areas around it have really come into their own as a standalone offbeat destination that deserves more than just a passing visit. While visiting the Auroville township requires prior permission, the town around it too is now home to a number of great attractions. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Auroville.
The Matrimandir is the most prominent landmark within Auroville and it is located right in the centre of the township. While the Matrimandir’s inner sanctum is only open to Aurovillians, visitor passes are available for free and must be booked at least a day in advance. The Mandir is a dedicated meditation and concentration area and as such there are rules put in place to ensure meditators aren’t disturbed. Visitors can get up to the dedicated viewing area, which provides a great vantage point for getting a close look at the structure.
Auroville Bakery and Boulangerie is one of the most popular food joints in the region and is open to visitors without prior permission. Everything on the menu is made purely out of local produce from the Auro Farms and the bakery is particularly popular for its bread and dairy items, especially their cheesecakes made from the popular Auroville Cheese. The bakery also has a dedicated outdoor seating area situated in the midst of a sprawling garden space.
Located right off the East Coast Road leading to Pondicherry, Auroville Beach is one of the most peaceful and beautiful beaches in the region. While the water is restricted for bathing due to rough waves, it is a great destination for anyone interested in meditation and attracts both locals and Aurovillians in large numbers. The beach is also popular for being an important olive ridley nesting ground.
In recent years, this experimental township has come into its own as an offbeat travel destination and a major part of the credit for this ought to go to the number of cafes and hangout spaces that have opened up in the region. The Main Road and the market are in particular popular for their great cafes, bakeries and restaurants. Some of the most popular cafes in the area include Marc’s Cafe, The Greek Cafe and Bread and Chocolate Cafe. When it comes to eateries, the most popular ones include Ararat Restaurant, Tanto Pizzeria, known for its wood-fired pizzas, and Dharma Swasti, a vegan-specialty restaurant.
No offbeat destination is complete without a travellers’ market and Auroville is no different. The main market in the region is located on Auroville Main Road and boasts shops, pop-ups and stalls selling everything from khadi and linen kurtas to trinkets and ethnic jewellery. The market is also popular for handicrafts and home decor items, with most of the merchandise being sourced locally.
Started in 2000 on a barren piece of land, the Auroville Botanical Gardens have now become one of the most beautiful and largest botanical gardens of its kind in the region. The garden started as a project by passionate Aurovillians and now stretches over 50 acres, featuring a full-fledged artificial Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF), which is native to the region. The Auroville Botanical Gardens are an extremely popular spot among meditators and are among the greenest spaces within the township.
Auroville is exclusively populated by volunteers who have gone on to become citizens. One of the main mandates of Auroville is the practice of giving back to society. As a result, a number of citizens organize classes on things they are proficient in ranging from art and crafts to sculpting. There are also a number of great yoga and meditation classes that are extremely popular in the township. While most of these classes are only open to Aurovillians, there are more than a few that accept visitors as well.