As one of the biggest and most diverse countries in the world, planning a holiday to India can seem a little intimidating. With so much to explore, from the sweeping Himalayan mountains to the ornate architecture of the big cities, it can be difficult to know where to start with this giant of a country.
With so much to see though, the country is hugely popular with tourists and is expected to make a full recovery in 2023 after the difficult years of the pandemic.
“All analysts who have studied the Asia-Pacific region predict that India will be the first country to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels in the Asia-Pacific region and we expect that to happen in this calendar year, 2023,” says Arvind Singh, Secretary of Tourism for the Government of India.
Many of the country’s tourism hotspots are world-renowned, with 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in total. But if you’ve already experienced the hustle and bustle of Mumbai or posed outside the Taj Mahal in Agra, then it might be time to explore India’s amazing islands and archipelagos.
“We have beautiful islands, Lakshadweep, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They have very good beaches with very good aspects and chances to see marine life , including coral reefs and beautiful lagoons,” explains Singh.
How many islands does India have?
India has over 1,200 islands to its name, with some of the most popular ones found in the Lakshadweep and Andaman island chains.
Lying off the southwest coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea, the tropical archipelago of Lakshadweep makes for an amazing island getaway, brimming with sun-kissed beaches lined with intricate coral reefs.
On the other side of India, in fact closer to Myanmar and Thailand , lie the Andaman and Nicobar islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal. You’ll find hundreds of islands and islets here, with white sand beaches, rainforests and mangroves in abundance.
So if you’re dreaming of a tropical island getaway, which islands should you pick? Here’s our guide to two of India’s most beautiful island regions.
What Lakshadweep islands can I visit?
Made up of 36 islands, 10 of which are inhabited, Lakshadweep is famed for its coral reefs, making it the ideal destination for watersports such as scuba diving , snorkelling and kayaking. If you want to visit Lakshadweep though, you’ll need to obtain a permit and foreign tourists are only permitted to visit three of the islands - Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat- while Indian nationals can visit all of the islands (but still need a permit).
This is due to change in the future though as Arvind Singh explains. “We are going to develop two islands in Lakshadweep, we’ve given out a long lease to a major leading hotel developer and you’ll see a good resort coming up there in the next three years.
“So the islands will continue and should attract more travellers for the very rich marine life they have to offer.”
What can I do on Agatti Island?
Luckily for tourists travelling in the near future, the three currently accessible islands are incredibly beautiful, with everything you would expect from a tropical island destination. Despite its tiny size - it’s only three square kilometres - Agatti island has its own airport , which makes it easily accessible from Kerala or other parts of India.
Once there, make sure to enjoy the crystal clear waters, especially if you enjoy scuba diving. If not, simply relax and appreciate the slow pace of island living.
If Agatti still isn’t remote enough for you, head to Bangaram, the only uninhabited island resort in Lakshadweep. This tiny island is the ultimate desert island getaway . After dark, make your way to the beach to witness phosphorescent plankton making the white sands glow.
What can I do in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands?
Separated from each other by the Ten Degree Channel, a body of water 150 kilometres in width, you’ll find around 836 islets in these two island chains. Most of these are covered in dense evergreen forest with rare flora and fauna.
If you want to avoid monsoon season, the best time to visit is October to May. Rich in biodiversity, some highlights of the islands include the mangrove forests , which cover some 1136 square kilometres and the active mud volcano of Baratang Island.
Tourists looking for a little more buzz should stay in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands. This is the only island with an airport, and has connecting ferries to all the other surrounding islands.