There’s more to Auroville than Matrimandir and Auro Beach. Upon visiting Auroville and staying for a month, I discovered some meaningful ways to experience the township and its essence. This is my Auroville guide. Updated 2020.
Back in 2011, when I quit my corporate job to follow my dream to travel the world, I didn’t imagine I would one day land up in a place dedicated to the same ideology. Welcome to the Auroville township – and my Auroville guide to experience it meaningfully!
A place where people come to live their dreams.
I’ve come across countless stories. A market researcher turned organic farmer. A policeman turned village school headmaster. A corporate honcho turned teacher. A teacher turned mechanic.
This is a place to ditch the life you’ve lived, and live the life you’ve always wanted, even if for a few days. Here your conviction to follow your passion holds more value than your salary or title.
Also read: Try These Cafes and Restaurants in Auroville for Divine Food!
Visiting Auroville on a day trip from Pondicherry is a bad idea. It is a place to stay and soak in the spirit of doing the things you really love. Take my guide on how to stay in Auroville a little longer and indulge in delicious organic food, volunteer, cherish the freedom and live a little.
Auroville Essentials: How to stay in Auroville a while
The Auro Card (aka Auroville currency)
The Auroville community give off the impression that other than the visitor’s centre, no cafes or restaurants accept cash. We quickly got our guesthouse to make us an Auro Card, against a 500 rupees deposit, and loaded it with cash at the financial services centre.
A few days into our stay however, we realized that the Auro Card system is dwindling. Barring Solar Kitchen and La Terraza, all other eating spots accept cash. While cashless living is fun, it’s not necessary.
The daily contribution
All outsiders living in Auroville are required to make a contribution of 100 rupees a day. Most guesthouses include this in their lodging costs, but some don’t, so check ahead. This is the basic cost of living in Auroville – don’t begrudge it.
Airtel and Vodafone don’t work too well; BSNL might. Cafes like La Terraza, Farm Fresh and Tanto have a hotspot for internet, for which you can buy vouchers. Arka and Kopi Bar offer Wifi at 20-25 rupees an hour.
Best time to visit Auroville
The region experiences really hot days throughout the year. I loved my time here in the northeast monsoon season (late October to November). It rained at night and remained breezy and cloudy all day.
Also read: Auroville: Utopia or Something Like it
Where to stay in Auroville
How much does it cost to stay in Auroville? Depending on which guesthouse you pick, anywhere between INR 1000 – 6000 a night.
Conveniently located in the residential zone, Arka is where we stayed almost a month – one of my favorite places to stay in Auroville. The guesthouse campus is beautifully landscaped with grassy hills and natural wilderness. The rooms are spacious, minimalistic and airy. The staff is very helpful. It is one of the few guesthouses with an internet room.
It gets booked out weeks in advance though, so call early to book this Auroville stay.
A bit further from the main town area, Gaia’s Garden is a beautiful hideout set amid a lush garden. The rooms are small but come with big airy windows. You wake up to the fresh smell of the greenery and gentle sunlight pouring into the room. A relatively secluded Auroville guesthouse.
Other places to stay
You can also browse guesthouses and apartments to find your perfect place to stay. An Auroville ashram stay is not so common, but most guesthouses have a peaceful, spiritual vibe.
Also read: Awe-Inspiring Hideouts in Uttarakhand to Tune Out of Life and Tune Into the Mountains
Where to eat
Slow, organic, vegan food is an Auroville specialty. A quick collection of my favorite eats:
Well Cafe is my absolute favorite lunch hangout, in the forest zone of Auroville. Their homemade bean burgers, falafels, hummus, salad – everything on the Israeli menu is to die for. They also work to empower women from nearby villages, by retailing funky accessories handmade with recycled materials.
Naturellement Garden Cafe
Also hidden away in the forest zone, Naturellement is a haven for homemade pastas. Transport yourself to Europe with their pesto pasta and open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches, in an open air garden setting.
Solitude Farm takes the goodness of organic food to a whole new level. Fresh produce from the organic farm is cooked in South Indian style and served up with the local rice. I had one of my best local meals here, of banana flower, curries and rice. Prior reservation is needed.
Sakura and sushi – the two things that can tempt anyone to drop everything and go to Japan! Well, here’s a little slice of Japan: Sakura Sushi. In the open kitchen, an array of vegan sushi is whipped up to delight all tastebuds. Fermented dips and dressings are also available for sale.
Located at the Town Hall, Le Morgan has an eclectic combination of simple South Indian fare and french dishes to sample, starting with fresh idlis for breakfast. Finger licking good!
I can’t wait to go back and try all the new treasures in Auroville. Of those, Gelato Factory is high on my list for its 18 vegan gelato flavors and vegan cones! I can’t wait to dig into some hazelnut gelato and fruit sorbets on a hot day.
*Note: Most restaurants and cafes close by 5:30 pm.
Tea and Wifi
On the terrace above Solar Kitchen, Le Terraza was my favorite cafe to read or write. You can buy a Wifi voucher from the Blue Light Browsing Centre next door. They serve up possibly the best iced tea, and the half and half mushroom and hummus sandwiches are delightful too. Note that you can only pay with the Auro Card here.
As the name suggests, it’s a coffee bar. Famed to have the best cold coffee in Auroville, Kopi’s is a quiet hangout near Farm Fresh, with super fast Wifi at 20 rupees an hour.
Where to volunteer in Auroville
If you’re really thinking of how to join Auroville, or even how to make the most of your Auroville trip, consider volunteering with one of the brilliant initiatves in the township:
I spent time learning about the sustainable food practices at Buddha Garden, owned by an English lady who moved to India 19 years ago, after 25 years in market research. Her journey is inspiring, as is learning about and volunteering on a farm that is 100% organic.
They make their own compost, experiment with pest control remedies, and have plenty of work for volunteers. Volunteering hours are from 6:15 to 9:00 am, and every Monday morning, Priya holds an ‘introduction to sustainable farming’ session.
They offer rustic accommodation for volunteers at 200 rupees a day, and can customize volunteer programs for long term volunteers and big groups. If I was staying in Auroville long term, you’d definitely see me here often!
I haven’t spent time there myself, but heard so much about them. They have quite a structured volunteer program, that focusses on reforestation on severely eroded land.
Sadhana Forest is located deep in the forest zone, so the only way to volunteer is to stay there. They charge 9,500 rupees for a month long stay, covering basic accommodation and food for volunteers.
Things to do in Auroville
Visit the Matrimandir
The giant ferrero rocher-like building that the township is built around, is an experience in itself – and one of the main attractions of Auroville. It’s a bit like being in a spaceship themed on the color white. The ceiling, walls, pillars, carpets, cushions, everything is white. A single ray of sunlight streams through the roof, upon a crystal that sits in the centre of the meditation area. Absolutely beautiful!
Unfortunately, outsiders can only visit Matrimandir with a prior booking, which often gets full 2 days in advance. Registration must be done at the visitor’s centre, and visits only happen in a big group. Not ideal for meditation, but a worthwhile experience nonetheless!
There are plenty of things to try, learn and experience. Foreign movie screenings at the town hall. Eco movie screenings at Sadhana Forest. Pizza nights with the Youth Club. Discussions on Auroville-related subjects. Pottery classes. Yoga classes. Short term volunteering in schools, farms, forests and conservation initiatives. Language and dance classes, and more.
Refer to the resources listed below to find these opportunities.
The coast of the township is lined with soft, golden and black volcanic sand, on the shores of a roaring sea. Know a better way to spend an introspective evening?
How to go to Auroville and get around
Many people are still curious about where is Auroville in India! The township is located in the state of Tamil Nadu, about a 3 hour drive from Chennai, home to the closest airport and train station. The Auroville to Pondicherry distance can be covered in about an hour.
Here are the best ways to explore Auroville:
The easiest way to get around Auroville, though not the most eco-friendly. Your guesthouse can arrange a bike (Activa or moped) for 100 rupees a day for over a week’s rental.
My stay in Auroville coincided with the monsoon season (November), and given that most routes in Auroville are unpaved mud roads, cycling wasn’t a very practical option. In drier days, you can rent a local bicycle at your guesthouse or from the kiosk at the visitor centre.
I found David and his car to be very reliable to transfer us and our backpacks from Pondicherry to Auroville. He charges 300 rupees per trip and is a great guy. Call him with my reference, at +91 9443 278 029 for all your transport needs within the region.
Auroville India resources
Guesthouses in Auroville
A list of Auroville-approved guesthouses in the township, along with their contact information.
Auroville News and Notes
Auroville news and notes carries events and screenings happening during week, essential where you’re visiting or thinking about how to settle in Auroville. Updated weekly.
Volunteering in Auroville
Visit the Guest Services centre above Solar Kitchen for a list of all on-going initiatives and volunteering opportunities. Also keep an eye out on the notice boards at various cafes.
Would you like to spend some quality time in Auroville?
*Cover image by Matthew T Rader (CC).
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, instagrammer, social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes in the transformative power of travel.
Such a comprehensive guide to Auroville. Thanks for sharing Shivya! Love your quaint little hideout by the way! I would love to while away my time here with a book and a hammock 🙂
I’m sure you’d love it, Pallavi. Plan a trip soon 🙂
This is great. Auroville really does represent the lifestyle so many of us long to live. Maybe it will spread 😀
Thanks for the volunteer info. Both the options look damn good!!
Absolutely! When do you plan to head there and volunteer? I planned to do it this time, but somehow ended up spending most of my time just bumming around, soaking it all in.
Maybe mid-Feb or early-March. I sure hope so!!! I can’t blame you for bumming around… There must have been so much to absorb!!
Thank you for this, Shivya. I am currently planning my trip/volunteer program with Auroville and this is more than helpful 🙂
Glad to hear that, Amrita! All the best 🙂
peaceful place ,have been to this place years ago …..could love to be part of the volunteering program …..post is quite useful and informative 🙂
Glad you found it useful! Let me know how it goes if you end up there 🙂
awesome read lady !!!
Thanks Rohit 🙂
Frankly, Auroville doesn’t sound like an exciting place to me, but the way you have presented it intrigues me a little bit. 🙂 It’s a very helpful guide for anyone who would like to visit Auroville. Thanks for sharing.
I have been to Auroville on a flying visit and, like you say, it isn’t the best way to visit the place. I got only a feel of the place, but could not really understand it. I got very good vibes from Auroville though, and would love to stay there for a while and really delve deeper into it.
Your guide is wonderful and I am sure it will prove very useful. Thanks!
A Lovely read ! I have been meaning to stay/volunteer here for sometime now. Your write up has answered most of my questions. Thanks loads for the guidance.
Hey…perfect timing…I have planned a trip to Pondy..in Xmas week…and seems its just 8-9 kms to go to Auroville from Pondy…Hope I can go for a day …food is a big welcome…and I m a veggie too…so 🙂 hope this is going to be fun. thanks for all the information..
Great post Shivya! so much awesome information, i already have it bookmarked for when i finally make it there! It’s a shame we didn’t get to meet in Goa, now I’m actually driving better and could have made it to meet you :/
I will be visiting Pondicherry early Jan. Should I cancel my hotel for a day in Pondicherry and stay in Auroville or will a day trip do?
Much appreciated 🙂
Very good write up on Auroville. ‘The Centre for Third Gender’ is a place to visit when you are in Auroville. It is situated at Kottakarai village and is close to Ganesh Bakery.
Minor correction: Its ‘Kofi Bar’. Good read.
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Thank you for your informative article on Auroville. I am visiting Auroville earth institute for a week in February 2014. Do you recommend to stay in Puducherry or Auroville? I found a non a/c room in auroville and an a/c one in Puducherry matching my budget. Could not decide which one to take. I have travel by auto to auroville if i stay in the city.
Thanks in advance…
Excellent! This is a complete guide. The bakery at Auroville is excellent! Wonderfully fresh, delicious breads, pies and so on. Easy on the wallet too. Not to be missed.
I want to visit this place & now your post makes the urge stronger……I hope I get to go soon! 🙂
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Hey, Thanks for the comprehensive blog on Auroville. I am planning to visit there for 10 days in the month of August. 😀 Meanwhile, I have also sent you a mail regarding the details. Do check and reply soon!
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Hey really nice review … I wanted to know how I can or where I can rent an active for 100rs. Will be great if u have sum contact number. I will be travelling from Bangalore alone )
Our next trip will surely be here, looks crisp.!! Thanks Shivya
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Great article and info, I’m travelling to Auroville for a yoga certification with Qi Yo Yoga, and am wondering what immunizations you got?
Hi Melanie, sounds interesting! I am from India so don’t have to bother with immunizations (already got the ones I needed as a child). But maybe you can refer to Lonely Planet / Wikitravel to get the list of immunizations recommended for India. Sorry can’t be of much help here, but I’m sure you’ll have a good time in Auroville!
Very informative..and helpful to plan for anyone..
Thanks for this wonderful effort..
I was always searching for where to eat in Auro. Tried only the pizzas in Tanto but now I know where else to eat.
Thank you ! Very nice guide.
Just got here via quora and am enjoying reading your blog.
Will def put this on my list.
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I was a student of SRM university, Chennai so Pondi was a place frequently visited. Things I loved most were the auro beach and cycling around Auroville. It was great reading your blog about our pondi.
GREAT HELP ..
Hey Shivya Nath,
I like to idea of being a traveller, I think everyone dreams of travelling ( a lot ). I just wanted to understand where do get the money to pay your expenses, since you say you have quit your job.
Please don’t be offended, just wanted to understand as I am fond of travelling myself
Kindly let me know will it be worth to go Auroville for 2-3 days. I understand more time we spend more willl be better. I am from Bangalore.
I don’t think you can soak up much in just 2-3 days to be honest. It’s not a place to visit and see, but to stay and feel.
We are a group of 7-8 students travelling to auroville earth institute , auroshilpam. Suggestion regarding accomodation for 2-3 nights. Should be cheap …Priority!!! What will the rough cost of accomodation per night?
Might be a stupid question, but do they allow liquor/smoking in any of the stays at Auroville?
I have just had the pleasure of visiting. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I plan to return for 14 days the next time I visit. I highly recommend to everyone who reads this to go.
Thank you for sharing it Shivya. The way you have presented it is truly amazing. I am more excited to visit the place now.
Cheers to life and keep up the spirit!
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Reblogged this on Divine Life Foundation.
Hey just booked my trip …going to be there for 15 days …..thanks for the article…needed that one push and i got it from here 🙂
This is such a helpful post! I’m planning a solo trip there – not too far along now – and still figuring out my stay options… Thank you!
really its very helpfull,thanks a lot
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I am reading elaborately about Auroville now only. Thank you for your helpful article. Now I am to GO and stay there for some time.
I considered volunteering here, but I ended up volunteering with a British organization. I’m happy that I did. I think everyone should. Well, great post.
i felt pity on myself, not knowing this wonderful place, Definitely will visit this place.
Thanks shiya beautiful guide ur article is.m planning in 12th november 2016,thanks irs a grt help!!bless u
Thank you for inspiring me to think beyond a normative life. God bless.
Hi Shiva, we ( 4 architects ) are visiting to Auroville on 4th of Dec.2016.for one day only.
lets us get the 24 hours experience to share with you. We are from North of India, and heard a lot about Auroville. Thanks for the above information.
Sounds like an amazing place to visit… I heard it is the longest running ‘commune’ in the world and it’s surely rated high on my to-do list… i wonder how many people actually live there?
Hey Shivya, It’s a great blog you’ve written. Lot of information. I wish I had read this before traveling to Pondicherry. However, I have made a note of certain things from your blog, so that I complete the unfinished visit on my next travel to Pondi.
One more thing, you are an inspiration to lot of solo travelers 🙂 I have recently started traveling and writing about my experiences. If you get time to read, do visit my blog.
Would appreciate your comments!
Shivya thankyou so much for this wonderful guide! Auroville has called me! Im coming out on wednesday (18th) for 10 days from the UK at a time when I just need to not have a schedule! cant wait! are you still in auroville yourself now?
This is great, thanks for sharing. I was planning to do a short solo trip of 3-4 days to Auroville, any suggestions?
It’s such a happy feeling to bump into your post every time I am researching on a place. Your blogs have become a home to my pre-trip investigation for any place 🙂
Cant thank you enough for making life so easy. 😀
this info is really helpful…can u tell me how much money required for a week.?
I have a farm house about 40 kms from Auroville, but haven’t been there. Your post has kindled such an interest, that I am waiting to rush there next week. Thank you Shivya.
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