Pristine beaches, clear blue waters and exquisite marine life – when you think of all these the place that comes to the mind is Andaman. The archipelago is a wonder of nature and provides a lot of attraction for the tourist and backpackers alike. Andaman has the best of beaches, most virgin natural trails, mesmerising sunsets and its history; the place has been one of my favourites. Andaman is one of the most beautiful places in India and we strongly recommend all pay a visit to the place. So here is our complete Andaman Travel Guide that has all the tips for the best places to visit in Andaman, best things to do in Andaman islands and all the major Andaman tourist places and attractions.
- 1 About Andaman & Nicobar Island
- 2 History of Andaman
- 3 Top Places to visit in Andaman
- 3.1 Port Blair
- 3.2 Day Trips from Port Blair:
- 3.3 Ross Island (Netaji Subhash Chandra Dweep)
- 3.4 Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)
- 3.5 Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep)
- 3.6 Baratang Island
- 3.7 Diglipur and North Andaman
- 4 How to reach Andaman?
- 5 Island Hopping: How to get around in Andaman?
- 6 How to get around within the islands?
- 7 Some amazing things to do in Andaman
- 8 Where to stay in Andaman?
- 9 What to eat in Andaman?
- 10 Is any permit required to visit Andaman?
- 11 What is the best time to visit Andaman?
- 12 Network and wifi
- 13 ATMs in Andaman
- 14 Is it safe to travel in Andaman?
About Andaman & Nicobar Island
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of 572 islands lies at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Out of these 572 islands, only about 38 are inhabited. The Andaman group is separated from the Nicobar group by a 150 km wide channel known as the Ten Degree Channel. The Andaman group has 325 islands while the Nicobar group has only 24 islands. North, middle and South Andaman are collectively known as the Great Andaman. The islands include Landfall Island, Interview Island, the Sentinel Islands, Ritchie’s Archipelago, Rutland Island and Little Andaman in the south, which is separated from Nicobar group of islands by the Ten Degree Channel.
The main islands of the Nicobar group are Car Nicobar in the North, Camorta, Katchall and Nancowry in the centre and Great Nicobar in the south.
Interestingly, Andaman Island is close to Myanmar (190 km) and Sumatra (150 km) in Indonesia than it is to mainland India (almost 1200 km).
The islands are quite unexplored mainly due to the distance and accessibility from the mainland. And that is where the beauty of the place lies.
History of Andaman
Usually, before visiting any place, we look about the history of the place. It helps us to understand the place and people better. Andaman was no exception. While delving into the history of the place, I did find out some interesting facts. That Andaman was a British penal settlement in the colonial era is known to all, but the place seems to have historic evidence older than that period.
It is not actually known when the first inhabitants came to this group of islands. It is believed that Andaman had a population over 30,000 years ago. The earliest archaeological evidence dates back to 2,200 years ago.
Between 1014 to 1042 AD, King Rajendra Chola I of the Chola Dynasty was the first one to colonize these islands and formed a naval base to launch expeditions against the Sriwijaya Empire of Indonesia.
Later the islands came under Danish East India Company and were under them till 1868. Finally, these islands were purchased by the British East India Company in 1869 and they later formed a penal settlement in these islands.
Top Places to visit in Andaman
As we said before, the place is a delight for both the conventional tourists and the backpackers alike. The list is quite a long one, but the places are all worth your time. We will start with the conventional places and then go to the offbeat ones.
Port Blair is the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Also the largest town, it is also the entry point for all the other islands. There are a few places of interest in the town like the Cellular Jail, Samudrika Marine Museum, and water sports complex among others. And if you want to visit a beach, you can head towards the Corbyn’s Cove Beach. You can also enjoy water sports here.
Things to do in Port Blair:
- Visit the Cellular Jail to see and understand the struggle of the freedom fighters who were sent to this penal settlement for serving punishment. Do not miss the light and sound show in the evening. . It shows the story of the India freedom fighters and how India got independence through the light and sound show.
- Visit the Samudrika marine museum, water sports complex to enjoy water sports.
- Visit the Corbyn’s Cove to get a vibe of the beach.
Day Trips from Port Blair:
Chidiya Tapu is around 30 km from Port Blair and the place is famous for its sunset and bird watching. You can make a day trip from Port Blair to Chidiya Tapu.
Wandoor Beach and Jolly Buoy Island
These 2 places can also be covered on a day trip from Port Blair. Jolly Buoy Island is a part of Mahatma Gandhi National Park and the place is famous for its crystal clear water and underwater coral reefs. Boats to Jolly Buoy start at 9 am in the morning from Wandoor and come back by 3 pm. So, if you are planning to take a ride to Jolly Buoy, please reach Wandoor before 9 am.
Chatham Saw Mill
Chatham Saw Mill is the oldest and largest sawmill in Asia. But this is not the only reason that you should visit the sawmill. The history of the mill starts from the time when Lt. Archibald Blair landed at Port Blair in 1789 to establish a British settlement there, more so as a deportation centre for the convicts. The sawmill was earlier used to cater to the needs of the west.
Mill Timings: 8.00 AM to 2.30 PM except for Mondays and Thursdays.
North Bay Island
Take day trips to North Bay Island and Ross Island. North Bay Island is known for water sports. You can do scuba diving, snorkelling, jet ski, sea walk and speed boat ride here. The island is an hour ferry ride from Port Blair Jetty.
Ross Island (Netaji Subhash Chandra Dweep)
Ross Island is another place that will leave you spellbound. This island was the erstwhile capital of Andaman until 1941 when an earthquake destroyed the island. Ross Island was the headquarters of the Indian Penal Settlement for nearly 80 years. The island had markets, bakery, stores, workshop, water distillation plant, church, tennis court, printing press, secretariat, hospital, cemetery, open air theatre and others. Today, everything has disappeared except some old dilapidated buildings, which housed some of these landmarks.
Usually, North Bay Island and Ross Island tour is done together in a day.
Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)
Havelock Island is the most popular island and also receives the highest footfall of tourists. Havelock boasts of beautiful and pristine beaches, turquoise sea and some of the best diving sites in South Asia. In fact, Radhanagar Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of Asia. You can rent a motorbike or scooty like we did and explore the island. We recommend you to spend at least 2 nights at Havelock Island. Havelock Island is also a backpackers’ delight.
Things to do in Havelock Island
- Visit and enjoy a great time on the beautiful beaches of Havelock Island. Visit the Radhanagar Beach during the sunset and Kalapathar beach during the sunrise. Other beaches are Vijaynagar beach and Govindnagar Beach.
- Go for scuba diving. As already mentioned Havelock has some of the best diving sites in South Asia. It is better to take a dive from the diving schools that are near Beach no 3 & 4.
- Laze around the Elephant Beach: Elephant Beach is about 20 minutes boat ride from Havelock Island. With white sand and beautiful coral reefs, the place is an absolute winner. Also, you can indulge in water sports like snorkelling, sea walk and glass-bottom boat ride here.
- You can also trek to the Elephant Beach from Radhanagar village.
Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep)
This beautiful island is a backpacker’s paradise. The turquoise blue sea waters and golden sandy beaches are a treat to the eyes. Apart from the pristine beaches, there is a natural bridge at Neil Island. Shaheed Dweep is a small island and you can explore the entire island in a day on a two-wheeler. Like in Havelock, you can hire a motorbike or scooty here too and explore the island.
A visit to Neil Island or Shaheed Dweep can be done in a day trip, but staying for a night is highly recommended. We loved the place so much that we wanted to stay back there.
Places to visit in Neil Island
- Visit the beautiful beaches of Neil – Bharatpur Beach, Sitapur Beach, Laxmanpur Beach and the natural Beach.
- At Bharatpur Beach, you will find a diving centre. You can go for scuba diving, glass bottom boat ride and snorkelling here as well.
Baratang Island is situated between South and Middle Island. It has beautiful beaches, mangrove creeks, limestone caves and mud volcanoes. Baratang Island is about 100 km from Port Blair and it takes almost 5 hours to reach and the conditions of the road are quite poor. We are not discouraging, but visit this place only if you like to explore the unknown and are not intimidated by long hours and poor conditions of the journey.
Please note, that you will need a permit to visit the limestone caves.
Diglipur and North Andaman
This is perhaps the best-kept secret of Andaman. North Andaman is yet an unexplored region of the island. It takes almost 12 hours to reach Diglipur by road from Port Blair. But once you are there, you will be mesmerised by the virgin beauty of the place.
Places to visit in Diglipur:
- Ross and Smith Island: Ross & Smith islands are actually two islands – Ross & Smith joined together by a sand bar to make a single group of islands. The water is crystal clear and the sand bar appears during low tide. During the high tide, the sand bar disappears leaving a trail of water between the two islands.
- Lamiya Bay Beach: Lamiya Bay beach marks the foothill of the Saddle Peak, the highest peak in North Andaman.
- Mud Volcano at Shyamnagar & Limestone cave at Diglipur: Like in Baratang, you will see mud volcanoes in Shyamnagar in North Andaman. Limestone caves in Diglipur are also known as Alfred caves and located near Ramnagar Beach.
How to reach Andaman?
Port Blair is the gateway to Andaman. You can reach Port Blair either by flight or ship.
By Air: You will get flights to Andaman from all the major cities of India.
By Ship: If you wish to experience the life at the seas, then you can reach Port Blair by ships that are available from Kolkata, Chennai and Vishakapatnam. It usually takes 4 days to reach Port Blair.
Flights are thus the easiest and convenient option of getting to Andaman.
Island Hopping: How to get around in Andaman?
Once you are at Andaman, you cannot escape island hopping. There are two types of trips.
Islands for Day Trips
These islands are nearer to Port Blair and you can make a day trip to these islands. Simply head towards the Aberdeen Jetty and pick up an operator to make your bookings instantly. Your hotels can also do the bookings for you. Ross Island, North Bay Island, Jolly Buoy Islands are some of these islands where you can make a day trip.
Islands for Night Stay
If you want to visit the Havelock and Neil Island, then you have to go to the Phoenix Bay Jetty. There are Government boats as well as private operators. You cannot pre-book in a government boat. You have to stand in a queue in the morning to book your tickets. Among the private operators, Makruzz is the best.
We had travelled in both the government ships and Makruzz. Very obviously, Makruzz is faster than the government counterparts, but what I liked in the government ferry is that you can simply roam about everywhere in the ferry and can enjoy on the deck watching the endless blue seas.
How to get around within the islands?
You can hire 2 wheelers at both Havelock and Neil Island to explore the places. Also, you can get cabs if you travelling greater distances. We had hired a scooty at both Havelock and Neil Island to move around.
Some amazing things to do in Andaman
Water Sports in Andaman
Andaman is heaven for water sports. Bestowed with beautiful coral reefs and clear waters, the archipelago boasts of the best underwater activities. You can go for scuba diving, snorkelling and sea walking. For water sports like jet ski ride, banana boat etc, North Bay Island is a good place. You can also do scuba diving and snorkelling here. But we would recommend you to do scuba either in Havelock Island or Neil Island.
Scuba Diving in Andaman
Andaman has some of the best diving sites in the country and this we have been reiterating for long. Well, it is not without reason, because the beautiful coral reefs and marine life is simply amazing. For Scuba Diving in Andaman, we will recommend Havelock and Neil Island.
If you are doing scuba at Havelock, don’t do it at Elephant Beach, but do it at the diving sites near Beach No. 3 & 4. There are a number of operators and you can take a pick. We had done with Barefoot Scuba in Andaman. For Scuba diving, don’t forget to take the guidance of certified PADI instructors.
Where to stay in Andaman?
Andaman has plenty of options for hotels and in all possible budgets. For your trip to Andaman, we would recommend you to stop for the night at Port Blair and Havelock Island. If time permits, spend one night at Neil Island too. Both Port Blair and Havelock has a lot of options. Diglipur and North Andaman have relatively lesser options. Sio it would not be a bad idea to book beforehand.
Camping at the beaches is not allowed at Andaman unless the resorts arrange it with permission.
What to eat in Andaman?
While at Andaman, it will be a sin not to try the seafood. At Havelock, you will find some great food at Barefoot Bar and Restaurant, Full Moon Café, Black Beard’s Bistro, Red Snapper and Anju-Coco Resto. Neil Island has very limited options in regards to food.
Is any permit required to visit Andaman?
Indian nationals do not require a permit for visit to Andaman.
For Foreign Nationals
All foreign nationals required a RAP (Restricted Area Permit) to visit the Andaman Nicobar Islands, which is easily available on arrival at Port Blair by flight or ship from the Immigration Authorities for 30 days subject to availability of valid visa. This is extendable for another 15 days in certain cases with permission and the delegated authority to extend permission is the Superintendent of Police, FRO/CID, Port Blair.
The Restricted Area Permit can also be obtained from the Indian Missions overseas and also from the Foreigners Registration Offices at New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and from the Immigration Authorities at the Airport of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
Recently, to promote tourism in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, foreign tourists will not require RAP for visiting the following 30 Islands in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
(1) East Island (2) North Andaman (3) Smith Island (4) Curfew Island (5) Stewart Island (6) Landfall Island (7) Aves Island (8) Middle Andaman (9) Long Island (10) Strait Island (11) North Passage (12) Baratang (13) South Andaman (14) Havelock Island or Swaraj Dweep (15) Neil Island or Shaheed Dweep (16) Flat Bay (17) North Sentinel Island (18) Little Andaman (19) Chowra (20) Tillang Chong Island (21) Teressa (22) Katchal (23)Nancowry (24) Kamorta (25) Pulomilo (26) Great Nicobar (27) Little Nicobar(28) Narcondum Island (29) Interview Island and (30) Viper Island (Day visit only).
Visiting the tribal areas is strictly forbidden for both Indians and foreigners. So if anyone is trying to sell such trips, refuse.
What is the best time to visit Andaman?
Andaman can be visited throughout the year. However, the best season of the island is from mid-November to early March. This is considered to be the best season to visit Andaman.
Network and wifi
Although you will get mobile services, the data connection at Andaman is very poor. Internet and wifi services are quite bad here. Both Neil and Havelock Islands had very poor mobile network connection also. So enjoy the place without internet and wifi. We were quite happy to spend a few days without these so-called “essentials”.
ATMs in Andaman
You will find a number of ATMs in Port Blair. Havelock too has a few ATMs near Beach No 1 or the Jetty. There are a couple of ATMs in both Neil Island and Diglipur. It is better to carry cash with you while travelling to Neil and Diglipur.
Is it safe to travel in Andaman?
Yes, Andaman is quite safe to travel. The island is quite a peaceful place with not many instances of problems of safety. Of late, the news of the death Christian missionary in North Sentinel Island has been going around. Be aware that a few aboriginal tribes have their home in the remote islands of Andaman & Nicobar and they have kept themselves distant from the civilization. They do not take intrusion in their land and life lightly. So as travellers, we would request you not to visit the tribal areas without a guide. Also, most of the tribal areas are strictly forbidden for both Indians and foreigners.
Secondly, do keep in mind about the safety measures at the sea. Do not go out to swim all alone even if you are a great swimmer. Also please adhere to your instructor or trainer while scuba diving and snorkelling. Stay safe and have a great trip.
That is all from our side for your visit to Andaman. Book your tickets to Andaman for enjoying the most memorable experience. Believe me, visiting this beautiful island and discovering its secrets is going to be quite exciting! If you like the post, please let us know by commenting below. And share the post with your families and friends. Pin it for a later read.