Andaman islands were occupied by the British in the year 1858 to primarily isolate the freedom fighters. Today the dilapidated buildings stand testimony to what Indians endured for their freedom.
The archipelago of Andaman and Nicobar islands have over 570 islands but only 37 of these are inhabited. Some of these islands are open to tourists only during the day, while others have hotels to accommodate tourists for night stay and enjoy the pristine waters of the Andamans.
Number of Islands: 570+
Number of Inhabited Islands: 37
How to reach:
- Flight: There are direct flights from Vizag, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, and Bhubaneswar
- Passenger Ship: Ships depart from Chennai, Kolkata, and Vizag every fortnight. The journey is between 50-60 hours long.
Best weather: October – May
Entry formalities for foreigners:
Foreigners require a permit to stay in the islands and this can be easily obtained upon arrival at Port Blair. The permit is issued for 30 days and can be further extended for 15 days.
1. South Andaman (Port Blair)
Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is the entry point for tourists into the islands. Once the British headquarters, today we see the remnants of that time in the ruins. Ruins of buildings that were built by the freedom fighters who were brought to the island as prisoners.
Places to see in Port Blair:
- Samudrika Museum:
Timing: 9:00 am to noon, 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm. Closed on Mondays
The museum is maintained by the Indian Navy, Samudrika (the meaning of the ocean) true to its name houses over 350 varieties of marine life including shells, corals, and various colorful fishes.
- Anthropological Museum
Timings: 9 am to 4:30 pm (1:00 pm to 1:30 pm break). Open on all days.
The anthropological museum provides a detailed insight into the indigenous population of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Sagarika Emporium
Sagarika emporium is the recommended place to shop for local handicrafts like lampshades, shell jewelry, etc. without being cheated.
- Cellular Jail:
Cellular jail was built by the British in the early 20th century to keep the Freedom fighters. It is better known as Kaala Paani (Lit. Black waters) meaning exile in India.
The island was being used as a prison from half a century before the prison was built. As the freedom struggle gained momentum, the number of prisoners increased giving rise to the need for a high-security prison. Before Cellular jail was built, the prisoners were being used to build harbors, prisons, and other buildings for the British.
Cellular jail was built with seven wings originating from a central tower which was used as a watchtower by the prison guards. Giving it the shape of a wheel. Each building has three stories and the total number of cells were 698 built in a manner that prevented any interaction between the inmates.
Tip: Look out for the Light and Sound show at Cellular jail that happens every evening.
Light and Sound show timings: 06:00 pm Hindi, 07:15 pm Hindi (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday), 07:15 pm English (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
- Chidiya Tapu:
One of the most recommended places to see the sunset. Chidiya Tapu is the southernmost tip of South Andaman island.
Unfortunately, the high density of mangroves around means crocodiles in the water which restricts the swimming area in the ocean.
2. Ross Island
Closed on: Wednesdays
Deer and peacocks roam freely on the island giving it an unreal feel.
Located about 2 km from Port Blair, Ross Island used to be the administrative headquarters for the British until 1941 when an earthquake damaged nearly all the buildings. Today the Island is managed by the Indian Navy.
The Island has the ruins of buildings that once used to be a bakery, church, press, hospital, etc. It all paints a vivid picture of the life that the island has once seen.
Tip: The Island hosts sound and light show in the evenings which is highly recommended.
3. Jolly Buoy Island
Jolly buoy island is open only for day visits and depending on the weather. The island is perfect for glass-bottomed boat rides as if one is moving inside an aquarium. The marine life is rich and is protected by the government by restricting big motorboats from reaching the shore.
Jolly buoy island also makes for an ideal snorkeling place.
4. Havelock Island
One of the most popular islands near South Andaman. Havelock is a favorite among many Indian tourists. 50 km from Port Blair, Havelock island has beautiful beaches and most hotels being located by the beach, it makes for a stunning location to spend a few days, swimming in the ocean, sit on the beach under the stars, all this just outside your room.
- Radhanagar beach
Radhanagar beach was rated as one of the best in Asia by Times Magazine. It is beautiful but Andaman truly has so many stunning beaches that personally I did not find Radhanagar beach prettier by a huge margin. The popularity of the beach has caught on which means, it is generally busy.
Note: Rajan, the most popular resident of Andaman islands and the world’s last ocean swimming elephant passed away in 2016.
- Elephant beach
There are boats to reach there but had I been alone I would have preferred to hike to the beach which is roughly 2 km one way.
It’s a good place for snorkeling and underwater walk.
- Kalapathar beach
An ideal place to swim on a quieter beach.
- Vijay Nagar beach
5. Neil Island
Neil Island seemed like the less commercial version of Havelock islands. Beaches are stunning but the entire vibe of the island is more village-like, unlike Havelock island that has a lot more resorts and big restaurants.
- Laxmanpur Beach:
Also known as the sunset beach of Neil Island.
- Sitapur Beach:
Also referred to as the sunrise beach of Neil Island.
- Natural rock formations
A walk through sharp rocks ends in a rock formation forming a natural bridge. Locally called as ‘Howrah Bridge’.
- Bharatpur Beach
6. Middle Andaman Island
Middle Andaman island can be reached via Andaman trunk road which passes through Jarawa reserve. The island is home to many mangroves that make for beautiful boat ride locations.
7. Baratang Island
Baratang Island is located between the south and middle Andaman islands.
- Limestone caves:
One has to walk through fields to the limestone caves. A guide would help you see the shapes of birds and animals formings.
- Mud Volcano:
of the 11 mud volcanoes reported in Andaman islands, eight are found in Baratang and Middle Andaman and remaining in the North Andaman Island.
This is a rare phenomenon that involves vents in the ground emitting gas and mud. In India, this is the only place where mud volcanos can be witnessed.
- Parrot Island:
One can watch thousands of parrots settle on a small mangrove island as the sun starts to set.
8. North Andaman Island
A long way from Port Blair, North Andaman Island can be reached via Andaman Trunk Road which in 2018 was not in great shape and the whole journey was backbreaking. But the journey is rewarding in many ways, from giving a peek into almost the entire island, taking boats that allow for cars to get on, driving by the shoreline, it is a beautiful drive. There are many places along the way to stop and
- Saddle Peak:
The Island has the highest peak of Andaman Islands, Saddle peak. To reach the point, one has to walk through the woods.
- Kalighat Mangroves:
The creeks through the thick mangroves make for beautiful boat rides.
- Turtle Nesting:
Ramnagar which is 10 km from Kalighat is a turtle nesting ground.
9. Ross and Smith Island
Undisputably my favorite beach in all of the islands. A sandbar connects the two islands that sink into sea in high tide.
The islands can be reached through a 15-minute boat ride from Aerial bay jetty in Diglipur. The white sand beach has shallow water that allows for easy swimming in the ocean.
The islands can be visited only for a few hours. The tickets give access to three hours and then can be extended for a few more hours for an extra charge.
Other frequently asked questions:
Q: Do we need a passport to go to Port Blair?
No passport or special permit is needed to visit the permitted areas of Andaman and Nicobar islands for Indians. However, foreigners do require a passport with a valid Indian Visa to visit the islands.
Q: Is Andaman safe?
Andaman and Nicobar islands are one of the safest regions in India. Locals take pride in this culture and often claim things forgotten behind would be found exactly where you left them. It is also free from the street harassment rampant in other parts of India.
Q: How many islands are there in Andaman and Nicobar islands?
There are over 550 islands that are part of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. However, only 37 of these are habitable.
Q: Are Andaman islands expensive?
Compared to mainland India, Andaman islands are more expensive. A room by the beach in Havelock islands average around INR 3-4k. A shack costs around Rs. 1500. Cheap food options are not in plenty either compared to mainland India where every nook and corner had delicious food options for dirt cheap rates.