Pondicherry: Cliff Jumping & more with Simran
Updated: Feb 14
It's more than just a pretty French Town, it's an epic cliff diving destination.
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Some Highlights (or Spoilers)
We were playing “Who is most likely to?” and the question “Who is most likely to go cliff jumping tomorrow?” popped up.
You can go cliff jumping in Pondicherry!
Cliff Jumping was not on our “Things to do in Pondicherry” list. Had it not been for a random article (about abandoned granite mines in the Vapur District of Tamil Nadu) that I came across while preparing for my law entrance exam, I wouldn’t have realized the true purpose of my life (& 3 million views on my Instagram reel :P) The day after the game night, we asked our surfing instructor (Yes, you read it correctly. You can learn how to surf in Pondicherry, continue reading for all the details) about the mines. He guided us and soon enough, there we were. A 14-feet tall cliff. And in the blink of an eye - I jumped.
(Disclaimer: There was due diligence involved, and the site was deemed safe.)
I fell in love with taking chances and grabbing opportunities. Saying yes to adventures is not a motto, but a lifestyle that I realized I want to have. I have always liked travelling but this felt different – this felt like love.
Getting down to the basics
Pondicherry/Puducherry (aka Pondi) is a dreamy mix of beauty, history, food, fun and waves. This picturesque French town nestled on India's southern coasts has a lot in store for you to experience.
This blog covers everything you need to keep in mind before you go and during your stay - it focuses on the nuts and bolts of traveling in Pondicherry as a female traveler and what to expect from Pondicherry.
By the end of it, you will just need to pack your bags and reach Pondicherry.
Best Time to Visit
The months spanning October to February are ideal for visiting Pondicherry. The temperature ranges from 15 to 30 degree Celsius throughout this time. It’s perfect to take out your summer dresses and linen shorts!
Late March to June, Pondicherry is at its hottest - with the peak temperature exceeding 41°C sometimes. The town experiences heavy to light rainfall in the months of September and sometimes November.
TIP: I would recommend carrying a foldable umbrella and a windcheater for your convenience. You can wait out the rain as it is not usually continuous.
How to reach Pondicherry
The closest and most convenient travel base to Pondicherry is Chennai. Chennai International Airport, the nearest airport, is located around 135 km away from Pondicherry.
You can pre-book a taxi online, or from the airport. I chose to take an uber/ola. It takes roughly 2 hours to reach White Town, Pondicherry by car. There are two roads that you can take, one with a green patch one by the coast. The latter is not always open though.
I was traveling with one more person and my share for the taxi came out to be ₹1500 (40 Airport Parking Entry + 500 Permit + 160 Fast Tag + 2300 Uber fare)/2 = 1500.
TIP: Save the number of the driver for your return to the airport from Pondicherry, as it will be cheaper than what the Uber app would show. My share for the return journey was ₹1250.
Also, if you are travelling solo, you can take Express buses from Chennai to save money. But keep in mind - they take around 3.5 hours to reach Pondicherry. Plan accordingly, it is always best to reach a new destination in daylight.
Where to Stay
Book your accommodation in WHITE TOWN, a French neighborhood located next to the Rock/Promenade Beach. I try to save money on accommodation and spend on adventures and food in a place (unless it’s a family vacation :P). I stayed at the Police guest house for 800/- per night. It was a small but clean room with an attached bathroom.
We had access to fresh drinking water and a hot water kettle. The caretakers of the guest house were welcoming and helpful. The best part - it was literally just 10 steps away from the beach. Being that close to the beach made all the difference. We could go for long walks after dinner and relax at the beach with our book after a long day of exploring.
So, I highly recommend booking something that’s near the beach. (If you are unable to book the Police Guest House, you can look for options in a similar price range on Booking.com)
White Town is a small French quarter, and everything (hospital, ATM, cafes) is just a few steps away. For not even for a second did I feel unsafe, and you can easily walk around at any time of the day or night. Just be sure of the stray dogs and don’t try to pet all of them.
TIP: If you are going for more than a week, you can stay & relax in a hotel by the beach (like The Promenade Hotel) for a day or two and can explore more budget-friendly options like a guest house/Airbnb for the remaining days.
My total share of the 10 days spent in Pondicherry, including flights and surfing, came out to be 40-42k.
Here is a breakup of my share:
· Stay: Roughly ₹500 per night throughout
· Scooty: ₹170 per day
· Overall petrol: ₹200
· Food and drinks: ₹6000/-
· Surfing: ₹9500 (₹2000 per day)
· Flights: ₹17000/- (round-trip)
· Taxi from and to the airport: ₹2750/-
· Miscellaneous: ₹1500/-
TIP: A well-planned trip is supposed to cost you less as there will hardly be any last-minute decisions and you can negotiate well if you have an idea of the place. Look out for adventures and activities that bring you meaning and joy.
Pack light! You will be more mobile if you pack light.
CLOTHES: Carry 5-6 dresses as they make comfortable outfits and look beautiful in photos. Linen shorts are must as they are super comfortable and can be paired with dressy tops and normal t-shirts. Carry extra T-shirts as you will be needing it before and after surfing lessons. I always recommend packing a pair of yoga pants, a denim jacket, and a steady pair of shoes for any spontaneous plan. It might get a little chilly at night. So, a shrug or a denim jacket will come handy.
FOOTWEAR: As far as footwear is concerned, carry flip flops and a durable and comfortable pair of flats.
You can dress up however you like in Pondicherry, just be comfortable for all sorts of activities. (Can take inspiration from the photos I have shared in this blog).
Carry a first-aid kit, equipped with band-aids, cotton, anti-septic, medicines for UTI, Loose motion, period cramps, fever, headache, body ache etc.
Carry a book or a doodle notebook to write/read at a café or beach.
Carrying an extension cord and a power bank is a must for all travels. Always have battery in your phone, ALWAYS.
Don’t wear a maxi dress if you want to ride a cycle, learn from my mistakes :P
If your period date is due during the trip, take it easy and provide for enough time to rest and recover. If you experience intense cramps, I suggest packing all your necessities rather than buying from there.
Pack some ORS packets to stay hydrated on days you feel a drain of energy
Surfing in Pondicherry
Kallialay Surf School (KASS) was created in January 2009 as one of the first surf schools on the South-eastern coast of India. Having surfed on these waters for the past 14 years, Juan and Samai know all about their surf spot. The sandbanks provide waves suitable for both beginners as well as advanced surfers. The professional, imported equipment along with the brothers' knowledge of the sport gives beginners from all around the world the perfect opportunity to catch their first waves and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
I always found surfing interesting & guess what - now I am in love with it. The credit goes to the Kallialay Surf School, Serenity beach, Auroville and the best instructors (especially Edgar). Not only did he motivate us and boost our morale but also helped us understand the simplicity behind the complex-looking connection of the surfboard and the body.
I am missing surfing and all the fun that we had. I highly recommend Kallialay Surf school. Sending all the instructors a virtual hug❤️
Check this site out for all the options available for surfing lessons and cost.
You don’t have to necessarily sign-up for a 5/10-day course. It depends on you - can book a private lesson for a day as well. Duration of a lesson is 1 hour.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to surf. Even if it is a short trip, include at least one surfing lesson.
Wear a full-sleeves swimming costume to avoid any rashes.
Wear a costume that you are comfortable in as it shouldn’t be a pain while surfing.
Even if it rains, surfing won’t be an issue. As Juan says - you are anyway going to get wet.
If you wear specs, take your lenses with you to the surf spot, but only daily disposable ones as the other types can cause infections.
Try practicing posture after the lessons also, to get your form right for faster learning of this art.
Surfing can be tiring. So plan your days accordingly - rest properly, stay hydrated.
Cliff Jumping in Pondicherry
From the introduction of this blog, you know how I ended up doing it.
Here are the location details and how to reach. I don’t have the exact coordinates to give but I can give you some directions. Please take a local along and don’t go solo as the roads are not cemented and can be dangerous. Since the place does not have very strong network coverage, please plan accordingly.
You have to drive for 1-2 hours to reach Viluppuram district, coming from the Auroville side NH 32.
Leave NH 32 at the TIRUCHITRAMBALAM cross point to take road 136
Ask for quarries in the granite mines from any local on R 136. In the Vanur area of Viluppuram, you will find these mines with water.
Follow these tips to check the site and take calculated risks:
1. Explore the water - Before diving, swim around your landing area to check the depth of the water and search for any obstacles.
2. Plan your exit - Before you plunge into the water, plan where you'll get out and how you'll get back.
3. Use the buddy system - Don't dive alone.
· Take a big towel to dry afterwards. Wear shoes even if they get dirty as the path is rocky.
· Jump from the lowest height possible first, and take all the precautions. Ask the locals if the site is safe or not and check it for yourself by using the above ways.
🔴 This place is risky as there are rocks in the water. Also, it is very tough to reach (we almost gave up). The water seems clear, but it is stagnant and not that clean.
If you don’t know how to swim and dive underwater to check the rocks, please don’t attempt cliff jumping.
If you reach this place, please leave it better than you found it.
For the Foodies
Would you call me a food expert? Well, I’m an expert at enjoying good food.
I believe that food is a very important aspect of travel and one that helps me to truly immerse myself and connect with the place. I look out for good spots to eat and drink and believe that a good meal can really make your day.
For the ten days that I stayed in Pondicherry, my share of food and drinks came out to be approximately ₹6000. Also, I am a vegetarian so don’t get disappointed that I am unable to give you the best places for sea food.
Here’s a list of the places that I visited and the food that I ate, and loved:
1. Café des arts – Amazing food and good for the gram too :p
2. Coromandel Cafe (@jayjaychef ) - Try the Green Mango Pad Thai salad, Cookie and Nutella cake & Flower cooler
3. Le Café - right at the beach
4. Dilliwala6 Cafe - The best North Indian food in South India - try the Dal Makhni and you will say the same thing
5. Cafe Xtasi - Take pizza on the go and have it at the beach
6. GMT for the best gelato in town
7. Masala Puri from the local market
8. Coconut water from this cute lady right outside a post office run by women
9. Bay of Buddha – A rooftop cafe
1. Auroville Bakery and Boulangerie - Go here as early as possible
2. Cafe 73 - Try the mango juice, vegan chocolate ice cream, samurai burger; this cafe is run by @ami_van_official
3. Solitude Farm - This is a must visit. Talk to Krishna and get to know more about the culture of Auroville. I had the Thali for ₹250/-. It had the farm salad, millet dosa, a fresh chutney and papaya from the tree right beside me. Try all the smoothies, especially the papaya smoothie.
4. Tanto’s - The best pizzeria in town. Do not miss out on the in-house ice tea.
5. Bread&Chocolate – For breakfast (try all the yum cookies)
For the Party Animals
On a general note - alcohol is very cheap in Pondicherry because the taxes on liquor are much lower than those in most states.
Try the local liquor called “Kahlua”.
If you are looking for nightlife, here is the list:
1. Catamaran Brewery
3. Flaming Dragons
Do it for the Gram
Here’s a bonus inspiration list to up your Instagram game:
o Stand on the rocks with a scarf in hand, taken from way behind
o With an auto (White Town)
o Coming out of a cafe (candid)
o Scooty photo with a view
o Photo with colourful boats
o Photo of a postcard
Simran's Tips & Tricks
1. The Locals I interacted with in Pondicherry speak Tamil, French, Hindi, Spanish and English. I know French so I got to practice it in India. I was elated.
2. As far as Covid is concerned, the Tamil Nadu Govt. keeps changing the guidelines to enter the state, so do checkout their website regarding the same.
3. No document is required as such to enter Pondicherry, only a permit for cars which your driver can handle.
In case of emergency, take note of the below helpline numbers:
Women helpline number = 1091
Covid helpline number = 1075
5. Buy a book on Auroville and read about The Mother. Learn why and how Auroville came into existence.
6. Have conversations with locals and be respectful. Ask about their lives and what they do for a living, for how long they have been in Podicherry or Auroville. Ask them if there are any offbeat things to do and what they recommend the most.
7. As a female traveler, always have a detailed itinerary and a checklist of things to do. Of course, leave room for spontaneous plans and aimless exploring. But know the place and read about its culture.
TLDR - Day-wise Itinerary
I went to Pondicherry for 10 days and it felt like it was all over way too soon. I plan my travels around some activity/workshop at a place, and this time it was Surfing.
So here is my detailed day-wise itinerary for your reference:
Stroll at the Rock beach
Grab a bite at Le Café and ice cream from GMT (both of these are by the beach only)
Catch the moon rise from the east end of the beach
Wake up early to catch the sunrise
Roam around White Town and get Instagrammable pictures in the colourful streets (Main streets to visit: Rue Dumas, Rue Romain Rolland, Rue Suffren, Rue La Bourdonnais)
Visit Sir Aurobindo Ashram and the Library
Send a postcard back home and have coconut water
Go near the waves after 1 PM
Checkout Café Des Arts for lunch and Bay of Buddha for Dinner
Have a night stroll at the beach
Go to Auroville (It is around 30 mins away from White Town)
Stay at the Lotus Guest House run by Dinesh ( HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
Sign up for a painting/yoga class
Go to Solar Kitchen for Lunch
Check out the Youth Center
Do window shopping at ‘La boutique d’Auroville’
Socialise with Aurovilians and the host
Have dinner at Dinesh’s Restaurant only
Rent a cycle for ₹150/- per day and explore Auroville
Experience “Farm to Table” at the Solitude Farm and checkout the Tree House (If you are going for a staycation, you can volunteer at places like the Solitude Farm in Auroville)
Go to the Visitor’s Centre to get a ticket to go to Matrimandir’s Viewpoint (It is FREE of cost)
Have a relaxing time at the Matrimandir compound and see the historic Banyan Tree (It is a 15 mins walk from the Visitor’s Centre to Matrimandir viewpoint, and that is the only way to reach. But on your way back, you can take the free bus service from Matrimandir to the Visitor’s Centre)
Cycle to the Sound Garden and have fun with the musical instruments. People are learning the art and science of music at Savarm. You can also buy these top-notch instruments, but they are somewhat costly.
Try the croissant from Ganesh Bakery (outside the Sound Garden).
For Dinner, eat at your guest house. I had biryani made specially by Dinesh’s Mother. It was mind-blowingly delicious.
Have Idli-Sambhar and Dosa at Dinesh’s Restaurant for Breakfast
Checkout Auroville’s small businesses like EcoFemme, Auroville Paper etc in the morning
In the afternoon, go for your DAY 1 of Learning how to surf! Book your Surfing Lessons at Kallilay Surf School for the 5-Day Course beforehand, for your final days (Surfing details are above)
Learn the basics of the surfboard at the Serenity Beach
Come back to White Town
Must checkout Coromandel Café for their food and deserts
On Tuesdays, there are open Bazars in White Town. Explore the Bazar and the old lighthouse area.
End the night at the beach by your book
Rent a scooty for ₹300-350/- per day
Day 2 of Learning how to Surf (Serenity beach is a 15-min scooty ride from White Town)
Have brunch at Café 73. It is run by Ami, a Motorcycle racing champion (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
Go to Paradise Beach for the golden hour
Checkout places like Our Lady of Angels Church in White Town and stores like Chintz for a burst of aesthetics.
Make friends at the Surfing School and checkout Catamaran brewery for dinner and drinks.
Have breakfast at Bread&Chocolate
Go to Osudu Lake/ Oustery Lake and see the beautiful outskirts of Pondicherry ( 40-50 min scooty ride away from White Town)
Book Day 3 of your Surfing lesson for late afternoon
Grab a bite at Coromandel Café in the evening and hop party places afterwards
Book an early Day 4 Surfing lesson
If the weather condition is great, go to Pichavaram and enjoy a boat ride in the world’s second largest mangrove forest (Unfortunately we couldn’t go because there had been recent flooding in that area)
Have pizza by the beach
If you are into shopping, go crazy in White Town :p
The last day of the Surfing lesson. Book a morning one so that you get to spend some time with the instructors. I actually can’t wait to go back and spend time with them.
Go Cliff Jumping.
Have brunch at Tanto’s and dinner at Dilliwala6
Have one last night stroll at the beach
Book taxi for tomorrow
Wake up early and catch the last sunrise
Have breakfast in White Town
Catch your flight/bus back home.
Goodbye, until next time! Thank you for going through this blog, hope that it was helpful! The reason why it is so detailed is that I was looking for a similar guide before planning my Pondi trip but was not able to get my hands on one. I also believe that exploring a new place by yourself is a whole new experience. So, in the spirit of travel and adventure, I urge you not to strictly adhere to this guide and create your own path along the way. Lastly, I would like to emphasize – Explore and Travel, but sustainably. Please be sure to keep your surroundings clean and educate yourself beforehand on the traditions/norms of the place you’re visiting