Pondicherry has a plenty of things to do and see that will keep you busy for days on end. But if you’re based in the former French capital of India and seeking a quick escape, there are lots of interesting destinations within easy reach. Here are some of the top weekend getaways from Pondy, offering everything from historical and architectural gems to beaches and wildlife.
Located on the Coromandel Coast along the Bay of Bengal, Mahabalipuram is a perfect getaway for spiritual seekers and beach lovers alike. The most popular tourist sight is the UNESCO World Heritage Group of Monuments that comprises several intricately carved temples and rock-cut monuments dating back to 7th and 8th centuries. The Five Rathas and the Shore temple are the major places of interest, and you should definitely see the carvings on them that continue to amaze visitors to this day. Another important sight is the Krishna’s Butterball, which is a huge natural rock that rests on a hillside, apparently defying all laws of gravity. After a day out sightseeing, head to the beach – a long stretch of white sand edging the calm waters, bookended by casuarina trees, making it a picturesque spot to spend a relaxing evening. Here, you can also get active with activities like water sports, including surfing, boat rides and deep sea fishing.
Distance from Pondicherry: 99.1km (61.5 miles)
One of the historic seashore towns, Pulicat is home to Fort Geldria, which was the first Dutch fort in the country, built in 1613. In addition to that, there are several buildings and churches that illustrate the Dutch and Portuguese influence in the region. Simply strolling its streets and shorefront punctuated with colonial-era structures will be a delight for any architecture or history buffs, while nature lovers won’t be disappointed either. There is the Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary, which is the country’s second largest brackish water lagoon. It is particularly known for its photogenic greater flamingos, along with several migratory birds that flock to its shores between October and March. You can also visit the nearby villages of Nelapattu and Vedurupattu, both of which are blessed with abundant nature and picturesque landscapes.
Distance from Pondicherry: 215.4 km (133.8 miles)
Just a three-and-a-half hour drive from Pondicherry, you’ll find the fort town of Vellore that has now become an education hub with some top-notch tertiary institutions. However, its charm lies in its historical and architectural treasures, most notably the Vellore Fort that dates back to the 16th century, depicting the royalty of different kingdoms that have ruled over it. The fort’s intricate artistic detailing is quite impressive as are the huge ramparts and a wide moat. The fort comprises of a mosque, a church, a temple and several other structures. However, the most striking of all is the Jalagandeeswarar temple that stands out with its stunning sculptures. Another famous attraction is the Sri Lakshmi Golden Temple, which is surrounded by water, and boasts intricate carvings and a gold exterior, thus making it popular among spiritual seekers and architecture aficionados alike.
Distance from Pondicherry: 165.9 km (103 miles)
Thanjavur is approximately four hours drive away from Pondicherry and is a popular destination for religious and cultural tourism with folks of South India. But its rich history, stunning traditional architecture, royal palaces, beautiful paintings, local art and handicrafts, and spectacular paddy fields make Thanjavur a perfect weekend option for any type of traveller. Must-visit sights include the 17th century Thanjavur Maratha Palace, and the 11th century Brihadeeswarar temple that is adorned with wall paintings of Nayak and Chola periods. Those who want to delve deep into the city’s historic past may visit the Saraswathi Mahal Library that houses more than 30,000 European and Indian manuscripts, many written on palm leaves. Art lovers should visit the Rajaraja Chola Art Gallery that features a vast collection of bronze and stone images and paintings from 9th to 12 centuries. Make sure to check out the Thanjavur paintings (classical South Indian painting style) – they make for a perfect souvenir.
Distance from Pondicherry: 165.8km (103 miles)
Distance from Pondicherry:116km (72 miles)
One of the popular weekend trip options is Chennai, which is nearly three hours drive from Pondy. Whether you’re a culture seeker, history buff, a beach bum or an adventure enthusiasts, there is something in store for everyone. Shopaholics and party people are also not left out in this city, as there are a plenty of malls, flea markets and nightclubs to explore. Check out our 48-hour guide to make the best of your Chennai trip, from gazing at the historical masterpieces to lazing around on the beach and soaking up the local atmosphere at the street markets. And of course, do not leave without trying the authentic Chennai fare that is suitable for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Distance from Pondicherry: 169.9km (105.5 miles)
Located about four-and-a-half hour’s drive from Pondy, Yercaud is a great getaway where pristine nature and fresh air prevails. Tourists can marvel at the spectacular Killiyur Falls, trek to the Yercaud hills and enjoy the panoramic views of the hill station, take a tour of the coffee plantations, explore the Bear’s Cave (that was once considered to be the home of bears), or take to the waters of Emerald lake by renting a boat. An unmissable spot is the National Orchidarium and Botanical Garden that houses several species of flora and fauna. Needless to say, it’s an ideal place for naturalists, trekkers and wildlife lovers alike.
Distance from Pondicherry: 236.7km (147 miles)
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.