Hello people !
If you have done your Goa trip enough number of times and Andamans not even once then you must read below and pack your bags to witness the beauty of one of the real gems of Indian Ocean- Andamans. Virgin beaches, aqua blue waters, magnificent marine life ! And one of the best places for water sports in India.
This blog is a complete guide to travel to Andamans including top 5 islands in Andaman, how to reach Andaman, when to go, where to stay, where to eat and more.
Andaman Video – Please click here to watch
About Andaman Nicobar Islands
Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the largest archipelago system in India comprising of 572 islands, of which 38 are inhabited. These islands lie at the junction of the Bay of Bengal on west side and the Andaman Sea on the east side. The costal belt surrounding these islands is home to one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world.
Andaman Nicobar archipelago comprises of two island groups, the Andaman Islands towards the north and the Nicobar Islands towards the south, separated by the 150 kms.
The islands have a tropical climate. The South-west Monsoon sets in Andaman Nicobar islands towards the end of May and the North-east Monsoon in November. No hot summer, no chilling winter & no traffic jams. What else, one can ask for? If you are an adventure lover who wants to do snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, parasailing and similar fun activities in India, look no further.
In addition, if you are into birding let me inform that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been declared as two of the 218 endemic bird area of the world. As many as 270 species and sub-species of birds have been reported existing in these islands, 106 of them being endemic.
The capital of this Island territory is Port Blair, the gateway to the pristine islands. Port Blair, also offers water-based activities like snorkeling, scuba diving & sea cruises
History – While the island’s archeological history suggests really old times, I believe for Indians the history starts from Kaalapani and ends at that. Kaalapani because when Britishers came to India, they started treating this island as the penal colony where culprits (mostly freedom fighters) charged with life sentence were kept in most inhuman conditions and it was impossible to escape death or the prison due to waters all around.
The dreadful stories of torture and pain that freedom fighters went through in Andamans still haunt our memories of the past and freedom struggle. Yes, for the same reasons going to Andamans was a taboo once but times have changed now.
Today, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the most coveted destinations in Indian tourism. Not only known for the sheer beauty of its islands & beaches, Andamans also has historical landmarks like Cellular Jail, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Island, Viper Island, Hopetown and Mount Harriet .
Top 5 islands of Andaman
Havelock Island (Swaraj dweep)
One of the largest and a must go to Island as this is where lies the famed Radhanagar beach, the best beach in India today. Times Magazine has awarded it the title of the ‘7th best beach in the world’ in 2014.
It is gorgeous no doubt. Long white stretches of sand that meets the emerald blue sea at one end and lush green forests on the other. Tranquility & natural abundance at its best. Thankfully unlike Goa, there are no shacks on the beach and so you wouldn’t find beach bottles lying here & there or buried in the sand. There are changing rooms and a few shops to provide snacks, fruits, water and tea but all outside the beach area.
Apart from Radhanagar beach, Havelock has many other worth visit places like Vijaynagar beach, Govindnagar beach, Mangrove forest, Kalapathar beach (popular for sunrise) & most importantly Elephanta beach (popular for water sports). Elephanta beach has clear water, variety of live corals & colorful fishes.
One should stay for at least 2 nights in Havelock as one full day would be required for Elephanta beach trip involving water sports activities as Elephanta beach is near Havelock island and one has to take the boat to get there.
We did try snorkeling, jet skiing, para sailing & the inflated sofa boat ride as you can see in the picture above. Would say, there is so much to do in Havelock from lazing around the secluded beaches to exploring the mangroves to swimming among exotic coral reefs, to trying Scuba Diving to going on long Jungle treks that Havelock should definitely be part of your Andaman itinerary.
Neil Island ( Shaheed dweep)
At 37 kms south of Port blair, this tiny island has an area of just 13.7 sq kms. You can cycle the complete island if you wish. What I precisely remember is the maggi & cut mangoes that we had while watching the sun go down at laxmanpur beach here at Neil Island. Loved those moments and the down seating arrangements with candles and red flowers. The sea is shallow and calm on this beach, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling apart from the fact that the beach offers a stunning panorama, especially the sun sets in the horizon.
Most beaches in Neil Island get their names from Ramayan here. Bharatpur, Sitapur, Ramnagar and laxmanpur as mentioned above. The Bharatpur Beach is a beach of a low tide located just half a kilometer from the jetty, considered to be the best beach in the Neil Island popular with various water activities like swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Neil Island is also famous for its naturally shaped rock formation known as the Howrah Bridge. It has two living natural corals that form the bridge & is best seen during low tide.
The erstwhile capital of Port Blair during the British regime, Ross Island is a tiny island situated few Kilometers away from Port Blair city can be reached within 15 min by boat. The island presently houses the ruins of old buildings like Ballroom, Chief Commissioner’s House, Govt. House, Church, Hospital, Bakery, Press, Swimming Pool and Troop Barracks, all in ramshackle condition, reminiscent of the old British regime. This island is an ideal destination for nature walk with deers, peacocks & exotic birds around. The trip to Ross Island can be done within a day. Not necessary to stay there.
North Bay Island
Also called the Coral Island (North Bay) is popular for coral reefs, exotic varieties of ornamental fishes and other marine life. This is an ideal place for water sports and snorkeling as this sandy beach coupled with clear water creates a breathtaking sight.
North bay Island is towards the north of Port Blair approximately at 45 min boat ride and is home to the lighthouse which features on the back of the Rs. 20 note. This also is a day drip from Port Blair.
While the visit to all other islands would bring lots of blues, emerald waters and white sands coming in your album as trip memories, adding Baratang to your trip can be fascinating if you love greenery and would want to experience the greener version of Andamans.
The major attractions at Baratang are The Limestone Caves and Mud Volcano. Apart from these there is delightful Parrot Island that can be visited. But one has to stay back for the night at Baratang to visit Parrot Island as the distance of Baratang from Port Blair is around 120kms. And it takes 3 to 3.5 hours to cover this distance each way. I remember talking to a friend who has been a regular visitor to Andaman about his favorite places in Andaman and Baratang Island continues to be one of his favorites till date.
Suggested Itineraries for Andaman
Port Blair(1 night)- Havelock (2 nights)- Elephanta beach ( day trip from Havelock) – Neil (1 nights) – PortBlair (1 night)
Port Blair ( 2 nights) – North Bay island day trip – Ross Island day trip – Havelock ( 2 nights) – Elephanta beach ( day trip)- Port Blair ( 1 night)
PortBlair (3 nights) – Baratang island (day trip) – North Bay Island (day trip) – Havelock ( 2 nights) – Elephanta beach ( day trip)- Niel Island ( 1 night) – Port Blair ( 1 night)
How to reach Andaman – Best way to reach Port Blair, the capital of Andamans is by flight. It is well connected to Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru. It takes about 2.5 hours to reach Port Blair from these cities by flight. For other places, you can take connecting flights. From Port Blair one has to take ferry/cruise to travel to different islands.
When to go to Andamans – You can travel to Andamans anytime between October to April. During these months, the weather is not as hot and is well suited for adventure and outdoor activities. May beginning & September end could be the shoulder seasons. Divers can enjoy the best during December to April and bird watchers during winter times.
How safe is it to travel to Andaman- Most of Andaman is very safe to travel to except the tribal areas which are strictly forbidden for both Indians and foreigners. These aboriginal tribes restrict themselves to their homes in the remote islands of Andaman & Nicobar and they keep themselves distant from the civilization. So, places like Port Blair, Havelock, Niel Island, Ross Island, North Bay Island, Jolly buoy and more are absolutely safe for tourism.
Minimum no of days required for an Andaman trip– Would suggest min 5 to 6 days for a first time visitor, ideal would be a week. The more the better depending on how much you would like to explore and the water activities you would like to indulge in.
Where to stay in Andamans – Most places in Andamans have enough options for all budgets. Since the to and fro flights are from Port Blair, you would need to have a stop over there. In Port Blair, stay near the ferry boarding point if possible . If you have a dedicated vehicle, then you can also stay at places like Chidiya Tapu or Bay Island for better stay options.
Havelock and Neil Island too have various options depending on the budget. Ideal would be to stay near Radhanagar beach in Havelock. The islands are not very big so as long as your hotel has restaurants nearby, you will be good to go. Diglipur and North Andaman have relatively lesser options.
Where to eat in Andamans – Please go by trip advisor reviews. You would find most famous restaurants on the main road of the islands but unlike Goa, Andaman doesn’t have shacks and the options are not as many. Besides the food is expensive. If you get meal inclusive travel options, you can choose the same atleast for breakfast and dinner part.
Would specifically like to recommend one place in Havelock Island called Anju Coco. We had most of our dinners and lunches here. Food is amazing. Other options are Barefoot Bar and Restaurant, Full Moon Café, Black Beard’s Bistro & Red Snapper. Niel Island doesn’t have such options but we truly enjoyed the maggi & cut mangoes at Laxmanpur beach while watching the sun go down.
How to travel between Andaman Islands – Ferries/Cruises are the most suitable options to travel between the islands. Both Government and Private cruises are available in Andaman to travel from one island to another at specific times. Tickets can be booked online or through an agency.
Network, Wi fi, Atms in Andamans – Please do not expect great connectivity in Andamans. Data connection will not be available in most places. Wi fi will only work in hotels if they provide that too mostly in designated areas. ATMs are available in Port Blair, one in Havelock near Jetty and may be a couple of Atms in Niel Island. Carrying cash is advisable.
For Packing tips relevant for beach destination, please read here
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