A calm, serene township on the outskirts of Pondicherry, Auroville has been an interesting destination for tourists and visitors looking for some peace and quiet. An offbeat destination, the town also has many little hidden gems that are great to visit, as you can see in this guide to Auroville.
Auroville means ‘City of Dawn’ and was founded in 1968 by a French woman called “The Mother”. She was the successor of renowned spiritual leader Sri Aurobindo. His teachings relied on the concept of internal yoga and surrendering to a higher consciousness.
With a strong spiritual core, the township of Auroville strives to be free of religion, politics, and nationality. As a result,it openly welcomes people from around the world. The land around Auroville is lush with greenery, covered in a thick jungle. The entire community has 5,000 employees working towards its upkeep.
Getting to Auroville and Travelling Within
The town of Auroville is about 12 kilometres from Pondicherry. The most convenient mode of transportation would be a car. Renting bikes is also a hassle-free option. Bike and car rentals are available in plenty within Pondicherry.
Once you enter Auroville, the roads are a little muddy and uneven. The best way to get around would be on motorbikes or bicycles. Rental shops are present within Auroville at reasonable rates.
Things to do in Auroville
The highlight of Auroville is undoubtedly the beautiful Matrimandir. Situated right at the centre of the township, this temple-esque structure is dedicated to meditation and concentration.
There are rules in place to ensure that no visitors are disturbed while they are meditating. The viewing area is a terrific spot to get a closer look at the structure. The inner sanctum is open to all residents of Auroville but visitors have to obtain a visitor pass (free of cost) at least a day in advance.
Visit Auroville Beach
Pondicherry’s beaches are absolutely gorgeous. Auroville has its own beaches to offer which aren’t as crowded. Auroville beach has tranquil blue waters that you can gaze at as you walk along the shore. Swimming is restricted because of the rough waves but you can nevertheless visit the beach on your day out and spend some time unwinding.
Shop at Auroville market
No trip is complete without a quick shopping spree. The traveller’s market at Auroville has so much to offer! There are shops, pop-ups and stalls selling all kinds of delightful goodies. Clothes, trinkets, accessories are some of things you could shop for at the market. The locally sourced handicrafts are great souvenirs you could take home with you.
Volunteering with the community
One of Auroville’s tenets is its belief in giving back to the community. As a visitor, you can volunteer at several places and be an active part in contributing to the community. Short term and long term volunteers are accepted at organic farms, schools, gardens, construction sites, organizations, and small industries. Some even offer free stay and food for volunteers in exchange for their work.
Auroville Botanical Gardens
Started as a project by passionate residents of Auroville, this beautiful botanical garden stretches over 50 acres. It was set up in 2000 and is now one of the largest gardens in the region. The area features full-fledged artificial Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF). It is a wonderful space to meditate and is one of the greenest areas within the township.
Staying at Auroville
Most visitors come to Auroville for the day from Pondicherry. They visit famous sites within the township and return. However, if you wish to truly experience the way of life within Auroville you can choose to stay within the township.
There are many guest houses and homestay options available for tourists to choose from. Given that it’s a small town, luxury staying options are not readily available. During your stay, you can choose to volunteer for certain projects and even dabble in organic farming.
Where to eat in Auroville
Cafes, restaurants and bakeries are galore in Auroville. Auroville Bakery and Boulangerie are perhaps the most famous. Choose from a delectable range of home-made pastries, chocolates and other confectionaries at this cosy establishment. Other popular cafes are Marc’s Cafe, The Greek Cafe and Bread and Chocolate Café. If you’re looking for some delicious wood-fired pizza head to Tanto Pizzeria. Dharma Swasti is a vegan-speciality restaurant you could also try out.