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A Guide to Auroville: Slow Life, Volunteering and Organic Food.

Auroville matrimandir

There’s more to Auroville than Matrimandir and Auro Beach. Over a month, I found that visiting Auroville can be more meaningful. Featured image by Okramesh (CC). Post 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 township dedicated to the same ideology. That township is Auroville.

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.

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 and stay here awhile, indulge in delicious organic food, volunteer, cherish the freedom and live a little.

Also read: Auroville: Utopia or Something Like it

AUROVILLE ESSENTIALS

The Auro Card

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 to Auroville. Most guesthouses include this in their lodging costs, but some don’t, so check ahead.

Connectivity

Airtel and Vodafone don’t work too well; BSNL might. Cafes like La Terraza, Farm Fresh and Tanto have an Auroville 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.

WHERE TO STAY IN AUROVILLE

Arka Guesthouse

Conveniently located in the residential zone, Arka is where we stayed almost a month. 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 in Auroville with an internet room. It gets booked out weeks in advance though, so call early.

Gaia’s Garden

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.

Other places to stay

You can also browse guesthouses and apartments to see the various offerings while visiting Auroville.

Also read: Awe-Inspiring Hideouts in Uttarakhand to Tune Out of Life and Tune Into the Mountains

Arka guest house
My hideout – Arka guesthouse.

WHERE TO EAT IN AUROVILLE

Well Cafe

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

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 Sushi

Sakura and sushi – the two things that can tempt anyone to drop everything and go to Japan! Well, in Auroville, a little slice of Japan comes to you at 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.

Le Morgan

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!

Gelato factory

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 in Auroville close by 5:30 pm.

Well Cafe
In Israeli food heaven at Well Cafe.

TEA and WIFI

La Terraza

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 in all of Auroville, and the half and half mushroom and hummus sandwiches are delightful too. Note that you can only pay with the Auro Card here.

Kopi Bar

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.

La Terraza auroville, Auroville food, Auroville blog, Auroville cafes
On the open air terrace of La Terraza.

WHERE TO VOLUNTEER IN AUROVILLE

Buddha Garden

I spent time learning about the sustainable food practices at Buddha Garden, owned by an English lady who moved to Auroville 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.

Sadhana Forest

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 of Auroville, 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.

sadhana forest
Photo: Sadhana Forest.

THINGS TO DO IN AUROVILLE

Visit the Matrimandir

The giant ferrero rocher-like building that the township of Auroville is built around, is an experience in itself. 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!

Local events

There are plenty of things to try, learn and experience while visiting Auroville. 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.

Auroville Beach

The coast of Auroville 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?

Auroville beach, Auro beach, Auroville photos
The soft sand beach.

HOW TO GET AROUND

Motorbike

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.

Bicycle

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.

Taxi

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.

peacock crossing road
Driving along the red sand roads of Auroville.

AUROVILLE RESOURCES

Guest Houses 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 while visiting 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 at Auroville. Also keep an eye out on the notice boards at various cafes.

Auroville volunteer, Auroville photos, Auroville blog
Clean energy initiatives to check out while visiting Auroville. Photo: Abhijit Shylanath.

Would you like to spend some quality time in Auroville?

auroville, auroville guide, auroville township, matrimandir, volunteering auroville
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70 Comments

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. Thank you for this, Shivya. I am currently planning my trip/volunteer program with Auroville and this is more than helpful 🙂

  4. peaceful place ,have been to this place years ago …..could love to be part of the volunteering program …..post is quite useful and informative 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. klesha nashini says

    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.

  8. Ruchi says

    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..

  9. 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 :/

  10. Neel Shah says

    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 🙂

  11. 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.

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  13. George says

    Dear Shivya,
    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…

  14. 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.

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  16. parule says

    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!

    xoxo!

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  18. sam says

    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 )

  19. Yunus says

    Our next trip will surely be here, looks crisp.!! Thanks Shivya

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  21. Hey Shivya,
    Great article and info, I’m travelling to Auroville for a yoga certification with Qi Yo Yoga, and am wondering what immunizations you got?

    Namsate,
    Melanie

    • 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!

  22. Srinivas says

    Hi Shivya,

    Very informative..and helpful to plan for anyone..

    Thanks for this wonderful effort..

  23. I was always searching for where to eat in Auro. Tried only the pizzas in Tanto but now I know where else to eat.

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  25. 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.

  26. Roshan says

    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

  27. Hello,
    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.

  28. Akash says

    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?

  29. Blake wilkinson says

    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.

  30. Rahul Patel says

    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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  32. ruchika says

    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 🙂

  33. 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!

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  38. 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.

  39. Kishor says

    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.

  40. Sunanda says

    Thanks shiya beautiful guide ur article is.m planning in 12th november 2016,thanks irs a grt help!!bless u
    Sunanda

  41. Jerrin Thomas says

    Thank you for inspiring me to think beyond a normative life. God bless.

  42. Sourabh says

    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.
    Thanks
    Ar.Sourabh

  43. 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?

  44. 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!

  45. 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?

  46. Pallavi says

    This is great, thanks for sharing. I was planning to do a short solo trip of 3-4 days to Auroville, any suggestions?

  47. Pratiksha Mohanty says

    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. 😀

  48. Vaibhav says

    this info is really helpful…can u tell me how much money required for a week.?

  49. 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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