Auroville was a vision of The Mother from Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry. She envisioned a town where unity will be celebrated and all will have a spiritual vocation.
Approximately 2200 people from 43 different countries live in the city. Although the official langage of Tamil Nadu is Tamil, the official local languages of Auroville are English, Tamil, French and Sanskrit. Tamil is the dominant language spoken at home, followed by French and German. English is the lingua franca.
By Rickshaw (Rs 250-300) or Taxi (Rs 300) from Pondicherry. Many buses between Chennai and Pondicherry pass the turn off to Auroville - you can get down here and into one of the waiting rickshaws at the junction.
You can also take a taxi from Chennai Airport. It costs Rs. 2100 (price quoted November 2013). Taxis are less expensive if you don't have the AC on so if you're trying to save on rupees, keep the windows down. If you call a taxi service in advance: +91-413-2622400 AV Transport, +91 413 2623200 Auro Cabs, +91 413 2623586 Om Travel (companies are run by Auroville township near Puducherry), they will be at the Arrivals exit with a sign with your name on it.
You can also rent scooters in Pondicherry and drive yourself for a day trip or arrange to keep the scooter for a few days or more.
Best by motorbike, also possible by bicycle. Rickshaws and taxis can be ordered for trips out of the town. If you have a guest card than you can use the community's bus to Pondicherry (for free).
You can hire motorbikes for Rs 50-150 per day and in some guesthouses you'll get a bicycle for free or a small daily fee with your rent. Center Guest House has both motorbikes and cycles for rent. If you plan to stay a while, make sure to let them know and try to negotiate a lower price for your rental. Ask around for who rents motorbikes if you're interested in a petrol bike. Most people will suggest Kumar, who has a bike shop off Auroville Main Road right in front of New Creation community.
Auroville is very spread out and large, so if you want to get around freely, rent a scooter or motorbike. Even if you've never ridden a motorbike, it is easy to learn. If you can ride a bicycle, you can learn to ride a motorbike. If you get in trouble, just slow down and come to a stop.
The challenging part is navigating the busier roads in around the village of Kaluipalayam, the largest Tamil village in or near Auroville. In addition to other motorbikes, you will encounter pedestrians, bicycles, cows, dogs, small tour buses, and the occasional ox cart loaded with hay. Traffic can be heavy at dusk, when the herds of cows head home and everybody else seems trying to get some place else.
Remember to stay on the left and look both ways before turning or crossing a road. If you make a right turn, be sure to end up on the left side of your new road.
The nearest petrol station is on the sea front road (aka the Beach Road) just north of the Auroville turnoff. If you find yourself low while in Kaluipalayam village, a few of the shops have 1 liter water bottles filled with petrol for sale. Petrol goes a long way, but keep an eye on the level because running out can be very inconvenient and possibly unsafe.
Always travel with a charged cellphone, and know how to use it to call your moped supplier, your guest house, and your fellow travellers. Motorbikes have a way of breaking down or not starting, so it's better to travel in pairs or groups. That way you can always catch a ride on the back of someone else's bike.
Matrimandir - Meaning "Temple of the Mother" in Sanskrit, this is the geographical and spiritual heart of Auroville. The outside is plated with gold, while the inside houses a space bathed in warm colored light, with white marble and geometric patterns. Following the paths in this space, you're led into the inner chamber, a stark white cylindrical hall centered around a gigantic crystal sphere. Endless columns are arranged in a circle around the room and appear to dissolve into the space above. In the center a beam of light enters from the top of the chamber, piercing the crystal. Around the room, meditation cushions are placed and concentrators sit in absolute silence.
How to Experience Matrimandir First head to Visitor's Center to watch a short film about the history of Matrimandir and Auroville (this is required for going to see the Matrimandir inside or outside). Then you can ask at the desk for a viewing point pass. They will direct you along a walking path to the viewing point where you can see the Matrimandir from a distance. If you want to go inside the Matrimandir, you must then go to the Matrimandir Tour Booking at Guest Accommodation Services (upstairs at Visitor's Center) and get a pass for the tour. You must do this at least a day in advance, and you must do the booking in person, so make sure you give yourself time. You'll be told to come the next day (or whatever day you booked) in the morning for another short video and a guided walk through the Park of Unity to the Matrimandir to sit inside in the Inner Chamber. After you've gone through this initial process you can then go book (at least a day in advance) for a 45 minute concentration in the Inner Chamber which takes place 10:45 - 11:30am. If you're a registered volunteer and you work during those times, talk to the staff at the Matrimandir and they will help you find a time for concentration.
Saturday and Sunday can be particularly busy and you may need to wait in line for 30-40 minutes. Bags, cell phones and cameras are not allowed in Matrimandir.
Auroville's birthday celebration
If you have a guest card you can get a pass valid for all the days of your stay, otherwise you'll get a one day pass. Aurovilians can also take you in as a guest, though this isn't likely unless you have friends there.
Auro Beach - Located at walking distance from the Auroville Busstop on ECR (East Coast Road), Auro Beach is considered one of the best beaches on India's Eastern Coastline although it it is still very polluted. Most of the people found on the beach are either Europeans or Tamils.
Auroville Botanical Gardens is a work in progress. It aims to highlight and present through a number of themed gardens, species and varieties indigenous to the area and to Dry Tropical Evergreen Forests, Including an Orchid Garden, Plumeria Garden, Cactus Garden, Ornamental Garden, etc. The Botanical Gardens are also home to a nursery and educational center for school groups from the area. Volunteers are also welcome. Just show up and ask about volunteering. You can find the Gardens by turning off the Main Road onto a dirt road, just before Udavi School. They're a kilometer down on your left.
There are a lot of activities in Auroville like Yoga, Tai-Chi, Watsu, different kinds of alternative healing and courses. The variety is wider during the visitors' season (December to March), such as attending the classical Indian dance performances of young virtuosos organized by Auroville Cultural Exchange. Kottakarai Organic Food Processing Unit is a small little shop that makes things like cookies and pasta from local and organic ingredients in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It is located next to Ganesh Bakery, a cafe/restaurant that is popular with tourists.
There are always things to do in Auroville. Aurovillians and guests alike regularly offer workshops and classes as well as other experiences for the community to take part in. Check News and Notes, released every Friday, for the latest information.
Sadhana Forest Every Friday at 4:00pm there is a bus from Solar Kitchen to Sadhana Forest, a reforestation/permaculture/sustainable community project started by an Aurovillian family across the main highway. It includes a short talk about the project, its history and the community, a walk through the forest, a movie, and a free vegan dinner.
Cinema Paradiso Every night there is a movie showing at Town Hall or Sri Aurobindo Auditorium. They range in genre and language. Usually the movies start promptly at 8.
Auroville tends to attract a lot of people interested in sustainable living practices, which for most people has come to be synonymous with farming. There are at least 14 farms in Auroville, any of which will take daily volunteers for gratis or longer term ones in exchange for housing and food. For updated listings, you could reach out to the Farm Group office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also plethora of social/economic/environmental projects going on regularly. Many of them welcome tourists, and many tourists welcome the opportunity to spend a week or more volunteering to get a much more intimate look at what goes inside Auroville. There are also many schools that can accommodate volunteers, environmental restoration projects, and village action initiatives, just to name a few.
Sadhana Forest is probably the most popular of all projects. It is a reforestation project started by an Israeli couple who have gone on to inspire similar initiatives in Haiti and Kenya. They welcome all volunteers who simply show up provided they commit to staying at least couple of weeks (4 weeks in peak season). They do prefer volunteers to arrive on Mon, Tue, Wed & Fri and that too before noon. Otherwise there might not be any of the long term folks to welcome them. Also note that you will be contributing Rs 300 per day for food, which is made in a vegan kitchen with all the love and care of volunteers!
Buddha Garden is a good option for people looking for sustainable farming practices. It is a smaller community compared to other farms which could mean deeper friendships with fellow volunteers and deeper garden work! The farm is located very close to the Visitor Center.
Solitude Farm is a small farm run by a fun crazy man named Krishna who bases his natural farming practices on the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka, the author of the One Straw Revolution. People wishing to volunteer should send an introductory letter about their interests to email@example.com.
Svaram is a musically inspiring place started by Aurelio that makes unique musical instruments from local ingredients. They welcome volunteers with or without musical experience by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are also into Sound Healing and Sound Baths for people interested.
The Solar Kitchen is the main cafeteria and most popular place to eat. Everyone pays the same price - no matter how much you actually eat. The food is really yummy and it's a great place to met people! Upstairs you can find the cafe La Terrace serving coffees, salads, sandwiches and changing international dishes. It should be noted that both do not accept cash: you must apply for a guest card at the visitor's centre, fill it with credit, and pay using that account. Both, La Terrace and the Solar Kitchen try to use organic products whenever they can! At La Terrace try the delicious mushroom pasta with egg and don't miss out on the amazing ice-cream!!
Naturellement Garden Cafe serves home-made pastas, salads, galettes, and parfaits. If you're looking for a taste of western food, this is a safe bet. It's a little expensive (100-300), but worth the price. Make sure to try a soda with one of their syrups, which are prepared and packaged by Naturellement and sold all over the area. It's located near Verite community. If you're riding north past town hall, take the left toward Kotakarai and then take your first right toward Verite. You should see a sign for a road on your right pointing you toward Naturellement. They also have free wifi.
Well Cafe, located in Sve Dame, just past the turn-off to Kotakarai on the Town Hall Road, is a little tough to find. Park outside the community and walk in but keep right at the butterfly barn. You'll see a small opening with a terrace cafe. The restaurant serves Israeli dishes, and has great hummus and falafel.
Ganesh Bakery is very popular, serving full meals and baked goods, with a well-stocked market attached.
Visitor Centre has an excellent cafe (The Right Path) with daily specials and a wide range of Indian and European food including great vegetarian food, drinks and desserts. They also make pretty good pizza for dinner. Open 'til 9. Cash or Aurocard accepted.
Dreamer's Cafe located in Visitor's Center pavilion offers good coffee/espresso beverages, smoothies, and snacks.
Le Morgan at the Town Hall is a French restaurant which is open for lunch and also some dinners, please check. They often serve delicious fresh fish.
Repos cafe is situated on the beach and has amazing salads, check out sunbliss salad or the houmous platter. It is open to people staying in Auroville and is closed on Mondays and open til 5 every other day.
Aurelec serves breakfast and a wonderful buffet lunch for a fixed price of mainly north Indian food. It is also an art gallery.
Momo Cafe is a roof-top thatched hut over Auroville Transport on the Main Road in the same stretch of shops as Kofi Bar. Serves momos and has wifi.
Tanto has to be the most popular restaurant along the Main Road (between Kuilapalayam and Certitude Corner), serving Italian food and good pizzas. You can pay either by cash or by Aurocard.
Mark's Coffee - if you drive too fast you won't see it. It's right across from the small strip of shops with Sri Travel, just west (on Auroville Main Road) of Tanto. Look on the left side of the road if you're heading toward Auroville. Offers excellent coffee beverages, some baked goods and delicious Natural brand Ice Cream from Pondy.
New Creation Corner is on the main round from the beach to Matrimandir and serves great vegetarian dishes, crepes and has a great atmosphere.
Paradise Pizza is an amazing pizza restaurant where the pizzas are cooked on a clay oven and taste delicious. They also offer some daily specials of pasta.
Aurovelo, a cycle repair and supply shop, is also home to a small cafe. It is located just off the Main Road on the right between Certitude corner and Udavi School. It's hidden a little -- there's a complex that says eco-pools, but take a quick left and enter a small gate and there's Aurovelo. It's a cool little spot to work, grab a snack, coffee or tea, and surf the web with their free wi-fi.
Solitude offer a vegan meal cooked from produce on the farm. This is available at lunch times and you must book in advance and make a donation.
Lhasa Tibetan Restaurant a family restaurant on the main road into Auroville center, at right hand (surrounded by some Pizza places). Don't be scared, the house looks unpromising from the outside, but the place is actually very spacious and the food is amazing and affordable too.
Kofibar a sweet and funky little cafe near the Auroville Bakery (just ask). It's a locally driven project that works with the Sapney Permaculture Farm and is locally minded. They serve fresh food and have wifi. Ask for Snehal if you wanna get involved.
There are more than 450 beds in different guesthouses in Auroville, and many more in the non-Aurovilian hotels around the township, which are generally less expensive. The best way is to go to the visitors' center  in Auroville and browse through their book in which you can see the rooms and get details about them. Prices range from Rs 150-4100 per person per day.
Some well know guest houses include Aspiration(with great food) , Shringa, Verite, Youth Camp(cheap), New Creation, Athithi Griha (inside Bharath Nivas), Afsana Guest house, Bobby Guest House etc. The amenities and condition varies from place to place, so it is a good idea to take a rickshaw/bike and tour all the potential guest houses before choosing one. Of course, doing this in the daytime is more useful than after dark.
Information about particular Auroville Guest Houses can be found at AurovilleGuestHouses.Org .
Overnight guests in Auroville's guest houses are expected to pay a daily contribution of Rs 150 (cheaper for students/volunteers), which is often included in the guesthouse rate. For this contribution you receive a Guest Card which allows you to use the services of Auroville, like the Solar Kitchen, classes and some shops. Some guest houses like Gratitude does not offer the Guest Card facility - so need to check upfront.
December through February is the guests' season - the busiest time in Auroville. Plan your trip in advance for this period.
The Auroville Handbook is the official guide to Auroville. It can be bought in the Visitors' Centre, the local bookshops or on Auroville's website. A map of the town can be bought in Pondicherry at the Boutique de Auroville and at the visitors center in Auroville.
You can take a taxi to Chennai airport for Rs. 2100 from Auroville.
Or you can take a taxi to Pondicherry bus station for Rs. 300, then take a regular bus for Rs. 45 to Tambaram , cross the highway through an underground and get a train connection from there to Chennai Airport for Rs. 4 (just a few kilometers away).
There are also overnight private buses to Bangalore from Pondicherry. Tickets can be purchased online or through the travel agents near Auroville Bakery.