Auroville, 'the City of Dawn', is a place that anyone with idealistic leanings will find compelling. It's an international community dedicated to peace, sustainability and 'divine consciousness', where people from across the globe, ignoring creed, color and nationality, work together to build a universal, cash-free, nonreligious township. Some 7.5 miles (12km) northwest of Puducherry, Auroville was founded in 1968 by 'the Mother', cofounder of Puducherry's Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Tucked into the jungle are more than 100 scattered settlements, with about 2500 residents of 52 nationalities – some 60% of Aurovillians are foreign. Visiting offers a glimpse into this self-styled utopia, where you can bliss out on the peaceful setting, the oddly beautiful Matrimandir and the easygoing friendliness. What's more, you'll find some excellent restaurants and cafes within Auroville and surrounding villages. The community benefits the area with a variety of projects, from schools and IT to organic farming, renewable energy and handicrafts production, employing 4000 to 5000 local villagers – but like most idealistic endeavours, it has a shadow, too, and some outsiders accuse Auroville's inhabitants of self-indulgent escapism.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Auroville.