It is important to note that Auroville is a unique location. It can be a difficult place to understand and get a true sense of, especially as a tourist visiting for the first time and without a local showing you around. A lot of people clump Auroville along with Puducherry, but these two places are actually extremely unique not just in terms of geography but also in terms of vibe, aesthetics, and history.
It is easier to get a sense of Puducherry than Auroville, since the former is state-run and doesn’t really have any restrictions towards visitors, with more information readily available online than Auroville. Both Pondy and Auroville have an excellent assortment of restaurants, stores, and interesting activities and attractions. In this article, as a local “child of Auroville” (which basically means, a local of Auroville), I will share some of my favourite things to do in both Auroville and Puducherry.
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Activities | Auroville
There’s actually a lot of things that one can do in Auroville. A lot of times, people come here thinking that all they can do is visit the Matrimandir (the famous meditation chamber) and the Visitors Centre. I do highly recommend doing those two things, but I’ll also lay out a few more options.
Red Earth Riding School:
As a child this place was like a second home to me. Come here to learn how to ride horses, watch others ride, or just to be around animals. The riding school not only has horses, but also dogs, cats and peacocks roaming around! There are classes for both absolute beginners and advanced riders. I suggest taking a few classes and going for a ride out to get a sense of the beautiful Auroville terrain.
Kallialay Surf School:
Ever wanted to learn surfing? Well now you can! Auroville has an impressive surf school, and classes are mostly held by locals. This is a great way to meet people, enjoy the ocean, and learn a new hobby.
If you want more beach time or just want to plan a lazy day, check out Shrima Beach. Tanto Pizzeria is located near to the ocean. Have a laid back, delicious lunch and enjoy the pool or head over to one of the cleanest and most accessible public beaches you’ll find near Auroville or Pondy. Another great beach option is Paradise Beach.
Other newer activities that I’ve heard are great but haven’t gotten the chance to try out yet myself is the relaxing “sound bath” organized by the Auroville music store Swaram, and the “chocolate tour” given by the same people who run Bread & Chocolate.
Go on a walk on the Promenade Beach to see the Gandhi statue and the pier.
A visit to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram is highly recommended.
Go for a tour in the French town to get a sense of colonial Puducherry. Contact Intach or Wander Trails to learn more.
Learn how to dive with Temple Adventures– the diving school.
There are a number of awesome stores in Auroville. Check out Visitors Centre to get a sense of Auroville-made clothing, pottery and crafts. There are a few different boutique stores all located here in the same area.
The relatively newer Totem & Taboo has some unique Auroville products and is conveniently located right next to the restaurant Bread & Chocolate. Here you’ll find clothing, eclectic jewellery and more.
Definitely check out Swaram, a musical instruments and research store. They have a beautiful assortment of unique instruments like xylophones and also sell products like wind chimes. It’s super fun to visit even if you’re not a musician. Be sure to ask what activities they are hosting and if there are any sound baths or sound healing sessions happening soon. It’s located conveniently right next to Naturellement Garden Cafe if you want to grab a meal before or after.
Shopping | Puducherry
One of the most entertaining and rewarding forms of shopping in Puducherry is the street shopping, particularly for women’s clothes. You will find a lot of export surplus, branded clothes here. Check out the crossing of Nehru Street and Mission Street, and the end of Nehru Street towards Surguru Spot. There is a Sunday market that forms around these areas too, and is worth checking out.
Puducherry also has an impressive range of antique stores. Check out the antique shops on the ECR from Auroville to Puducherry. Here you’ll find incredible antiques (if you take the time to search for them), and prices that range from really cheap to really expensive.
The Ashram also sells its own products. See the Ashram Handmade Paper Store or the perfume store.
Casablanca is a department mall that has been around for a long time, and has a huge range of different products including international brands, as well as Auroville and Puducherry based products.
Opposite to Casablanca, you will find Kalki, a smaller department store that focuses on clothing and Maroma products (an Auroville based natural skincare, candles and incense brand).
You will also find my own store, Ayesha Accessories! Check it out to find funky jewellery and accessories designed in Puducherry.
The Hidesign flagship store is also located nearby. This store is larger than a typical Hidesign store and also tells a bit about the story and history of this brand that was founded in Puducherry.
I personally recommend visiting the Garcon store located nearby to Casablanca. Garcon is a young streetwear fashion brand based out of Puducherry.
Casablanca, PY Cafe, Kalki, Hidesign and Garcon, as well as many of the street stalls are all located nearby to each other, so you can plan combining these store visits.
Cheers y’all. Hoping that all of these tips help and that they make your holiday even more awesome.
Remember though, Pondy’s speciality is to “give time a break”. So as much as you want to go enjoy your activities and your food, remember to breathe, take a step back and relax.