Lagoons of crystal clear water and scenic beaches topped with a little bit of history make Andaman and Nicobar one of the most perfect choices for an enjoyable, laid-back holiday where you can go on long treks, laze around in the backwaters of the island, or if you?re feeling a little more adventurous, even go for a bit of deep sea diving. From the pristine, untouched beaches of Neil and Havelock Islands to the bustling town of Port Blair, the Andamans have something to offer to every tourist.
The history of Indian independence is closely linked to the infamous Kaala Pani or Cellular Jail, and this very jail (which is now a major tourist attraction) lies in Port Blair and attracts hundreds of tourists every day who want to get a feel of the old-world colonial era. There is a light and sound show that takes place every night, wherein the history of the jail is depicted in a very catchy and intriguing method.
Havelock Island is the major attraction of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the crystal blue waters along with white sand beaches, all of which are lined with green coconut trees lend Havelock Island a mesmerizing picture-perfect look. This island is one of the largest islands in the Andaman archipelago, and you can choose to either soak in the sun and sand on the beach or participate in the numerous adventure activities offered here, such as snorkelling and scuba diving. Port Blair is another famous tourist spot in the Andamans, and this multicultural town is the perfect place for you to get a glimpse of the local lifestyle and the traditions followed by the people of the town. A gorgeous escape from the bustle of the city life, Port Blair is steeped in colonial history and is the perfect place to lay back and spend an afternoon or two in.
HOW TO REACH
Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair is connected via flights to Kolkata and Chennai. Only domestic operators offer flight service to Andaman Islands.
Nearest Airport: Veer Savarkar International Airport (IXZ)
If travelling by sea, you can take a ship from Chennai, Vizag or Kolkata. The ships usually take 60-70 hours and have 3-4 sailings a month.
There are auto-rickshaws and taxis available in Port Blair and on Havelock Island and are the best means to move around. You can hire a car with a driver which roughly costs around INR 550 per 35 km. You can also hire motorbikes from Port Blair which cost approximately INR 300 to INR 400 per day. Buses also run south from Port Blair to Wandoor, and north to Baratang, Rangat, Mayabunder and to Diglipur.
The islands are also connected by ferries. Regular ferries to important tourist places like Havelock Island and Neil Island are available from Rangat, Mayabunder and Diglipur and other places as well.
PLACES TO VISIT
Havelock Island is one of the largest and most popular isles in the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands. Spread over a massive area of 113.93 square kilometres, Havelock Island is situated 57 km north-east of the capital city Port Blair. The island is named after a British General and comprises of Ritchie's Archipelago and a collection of five villages including Shyam Nagar, Vijay Nagar, Radha Nagar, Krishna Nagar and Govinda Nagar. It is one of the most developed islands when it comes to tourism, with a focus on eco - tourism.
The aspect of Havelock Island that draws so many tourists towards itself is its pristine natural beauty and serene atmosphere. A paradise of silky sand beaches, crystal blue water, rich corals and verdant forests, this place is a beautiful manifestation of the region's natural beauty. The southern coast of the island has the charming Radhanagar Beach, while the azure beauty of Vijayanagar Beach is situated towards the east of the island. Elephant beach and Kalapather beach are two other destinations where the sunrise and sunsets are absolutely divine. What's more, you can also indulge in a number of thrilling adventure activities and water sports, and when you're done with that, a long walk along the stretch of the sand is the perfect way to explore the island on your own.
The Cellular Jail, also known as 'Kala Pani' is an old colonial prison situated in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar islands. Constructed by the Britishers during their colonial rule in India, Cellular Jail was used particularly to exile political prisoners where they were subjected to many atrocities at the hands of the British. The construction of the jail began in the year 1896 and was completed in 1906, after which it was used to house many notable freedom fighters such as Batukeshwar Dutt, Yogendra Shukla and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The jail complex is now owned by the Government of India and it is recognised as the national memorial monument showcasing the life of prisoners during the British period
The jail narrates of the horrifying and darkest period in the history of India. Soon after the Sepoy Mutiny in the year 1857, Britishers began to use the islands of Andaman and Nicobar as the jails to put the independence leaders behind the bars. The secluded islands were chosen due to their distant location from the main parts of the country where the prisoners would be kept in the dark depriving them of the situation in the country and excluding them from the society. During the independence movement of India, thousands of Indians were imprisoned in the cellular jail, many of them died due to inhumane conditions, many were hanged till death and many simply perished. Today, the Cellular Jail is a solemn reminder of all the struggles that our freedom fighters fought through to win the independence of the country, and is an imperative part of our history that ought to be upheld.
Located just 2 kilometres east of Port Blair is the Ross Island; an island which was once the administrative headquarters of the British, but today is only a barren island that is recognised solely for its beauty and scenic views. Following an earthquake that hit the Ross Island in the year 1941, the British left the island and shifted their settlement to Port Blair. The island was not able to overcome the grief of this sudden withdrawal, and decay and neglect ultimately set in. One can see traces of a prosperous past in the rubbles of the church, swimming pool and the chief commissioner's home with its extensive gardens and magnificent ballrooms. There is also a cemetery and a small museum managed by the Indian Navy. The charming beauty attracts not only the adventurous crowd but also history buffs due to its historical significance. The food found here also has a regional influence and is a must try.
As in the case of its sister-islands, the Ross Island also has thick forests. At first sight of the island, it is tough to believe that this abandoned place was once the seat of British power and housed everything from a bazaar, a church, stores, bakery, a water treatment plant, tennis court, printing press, secretariat, hospital, cemetery and other vital institutions.
Today, everything has disappeared except a few buildings, which housed some of these landmarks. Large banyan trees have engulfed the other buildings and have successfully managed to replace the grand structures built by man. The island is enveloped with a sense of nostalgia and takes the visitor back in time. The Indian Navy has managed to rebuild some old buildings, such as the local stores and the bakery, to provide the visitors with a feel of the bygone era. Souvenirs can also be purchased from these shops.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
Located on the south-western coast of the Andaman Islands, Wandur National Park is a marine life conservation area situated at a distance of 25 km from the capital city of Port Blair. The wildlife sanctuary, which is also known as the Wandur National Park, consists of a group of 12 islands which are situated geographically in a labyrinthine shape and are home to some of the most exquisite marine wildlife in the world.
The national park and its surrounding areas are like heaven on earth with pristine white-sand beaches, azure skies and clear water which mesmerise the senses. Covering over 220 sq. km area, the national park is a great place to try some snorkelling and diving in the crystal clear water of the islands giving one an opportunity to see nature's glory from a close view. The coral reefs are the highlight of the park exhibiting their glorious forms and enchanting one and all. The famous islands to visit are Jolly buoy Islands, Redskin Island, Grub Island, Rangat Island, Neil Island and Long Island. The national park can amaze and dazzle everyone visiting especially those who hold wildlife close to their hearts.
Located about 135 kilometres to the northeast of Port Blair, Barren Island is situated at the intersection of the seismically active Indian and Burmese plates and is reported to be 1.8 million years old! As the name suggests, the island is largely uninhabited, thanks to the volcano eruptions that take place here at frequent intervals. The famous and breathtakingly beautiful Barren Island in Andaman houses the only active volcano that can be found in India and owes much of its reputation to this fact. Nevertheless, its scenic beauty and picturesque views cannot be undermined either, which enchant tourists from all over the world and tempt them to visit the island.
The island is just three kilometres wide, with a two-kilometre-wide caldera. The summit of the volcano rises to about 2,250 metres above the seafloor, while only 354 metres of it is visible above the water line. The volcano erupted here once in the year 1991 and then again in 1994-1995 after it had remained dormant for over 177 years. The first recorded eruption of the volcano on the Barren island dates back to the year 1787. Nonetheless, a few species can be found here, which includes a small population of goats, birds, bats and rodents.
The Barren Island is only about three kilometres in diameter, with the crater of the volcano about half a kilometre away from the shore. The black bedrock of the island lends the sand on the beach a deep purple-black hue and contrasts beautifully with the vibrant underwater vibrant marine life. What is interesting is that even though the existence of this volcano is not a hidden fact, and has been known since centuries; owing to little-publicised research and restricted and limited access, the island continues to remain an unresolved mystery.
Years before Cellular Jail was constructed, Viper Island was used by the British to keep the freedom fighters in exile. You can still see the remains of the jail which was built in 1867 by the British. The island is breath-taking and serene and got its name from the vessel in which Lt. Archibald Blair came to Andaman and Nicobar in 1789. Covering an area of 69 acres this beautiful island is situated at a distance of 23.6 kilometres from Port Blair. Legend also has it that there were numerous viper snakes present on the island which is how it got its name. It is said that the majestic island is sparsely populated due to the presence of these vipers.
Since Viper Island is a beautiful combination of significant historical elements and natural beauty, it is always crowded with enchanted visitors. It takes nearly 10 minutes to reach the island from the Jetty, and the view of the seven points of the harbour is a treat for the eyes to watch. On the way to the island, you will also come across the main port and the navy ships of Port Blair. You can also enjoy the view of the cellular jail and its tower from the boat. The island which is present in a secluded place offers you a perfect getaway from the fast-moving life. All the history lovers and the nature lovers out there should pay a visit to the island.
Baratang Island, a beautiful little island in the North and Middle Andaman Administrative district, is a part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, of the Union Territory of India. A small part of the Andaman islands, Baratang island, is situated about 160 kilometres away from the capital city of Port Blair. It is not explored as much as the other islands of Andaman and Nicobar have been; hence, it is a delight for the offbeat traveller. The ones who know the excitement and thrill of exploring the unknown and uncharted landscapes will enjoy a vacation here and take back memories no other journey would create.
The Baratang Island is also known as Ranchiwalas Island and is home to India's only Mud Volcano, Limestone Caves, Mangrove Creeks, Tropical Forests and the Virgin Beaches. The Andaman Trunk Road that connects Rangat and Mayabunder pass through the Baratang Island and is paved through the lush green rainforests. The island is home to the Jarawa Tribe who regarded the now non-existent Jangil Tribe as their parent clan. Some may come across a local Jarawa while exploring the island and even get to communicate with them.
Travellers coming here are the ones who look beyond luxury and comfort. It's not just the beaches and the fresh air that draws them to the island, but the adventure and the untapped culture of the surviving population. One needs to visit the island to get to know this unique region of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Anthropological Museum, situated in the heart of Port Blair, is an ethnographic museum detailing the lives and cultures of the various tribes that have lived in the Andaman islands. It is a delightful trip for those wishing to understand the history of the islands and explore the lives of the Islanders. Within the museum, one has the opportunity to learn about the history of the Jarawas, the Onges, the Sentinelese, the Shompens, and the Nicobarese, making it a cultural hotspot of this region. Spread across two floors, there is a great deal of importance given to the history and ancestry of the tribal people of the island, and is a testament to the indigenous human diversity that has coexisted here for centuries.
Inside the museum, one will come across various artefacts, tools, clothes, boats, leaf baskets, and weapons from different eras of the tribes of this region. Among the highlights of this museum are an ancient Jarawa chest guard, a skull originating from the Sentinelese region, and the shamanic sculptures created by the Nicobarese. A keen observation of these exhibits helps visitors understand the beliefs, traditions, and styles of adapting to the environment used by pre-historic tribals of this attractive island nation. For history buffs looking to learn more, the museum also contains a well-stocked library detailing the lifestyle of these cultures.
It's not a stretch to call Radhanagar beach India's best beach. With its turquoise blue waters and powdery white sands, it repeatedly features on lists of globally ranked beaches, rated Asia's best beach in 2004 by TIME Magazine. Its vast shores of endless white grains stretch across 2 kilometres, making it a prime attraction of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This pristine beach finds its place on the much-adored Havelock Island, a tourist's paradise and the largest of the islands present in this series of water-locked land masses.
If you've ever dreamt of the perfect beach vacation, set in the white sands meeting the glorious shades of blue of the giant ocean, then this luxurious beach will prove that a reality. Every angle of this beach holds a picturesque moment, causing travellers to lose themselves for hours in the surreal sights of the location. The road to the beach and the shores are crowded with rows of lush green trees, making this site a true natural bounty. The myriad of colours seen during sunsets here are heart-stopping in their magnificence and are unique to this marvel of nature.
Apart from enjoying the spectacle of the grand mix of rich natural colour, visitors can also enjoy water sports like boating, parasailing, and scuba diving. Food stalls and vendors may be seen on the fringes of the shores, keeping travellers refreshed with the provision of fresh and delicious seafood as well as coconut beverages. Tourists can also book beach beds, parasols, and umbrellas while they spend hours merely lounging at this exquisite wonderland.