The tiny Union Territory of Lakshadweep (One Lakh Islands) makes an exotic tropical holiday destination for anyone who loves the sun, sea and sand, plus a relaxing ambience away from the mainland! This compact conglomerate of scenic islands located just off the coast the Kerala replete with beautiful beaches is a perfect getaway if you are looking to spend quality time with loved ones or simply enjoy your time alone, most importantly without active nightlife and alcohol! Not all islands are inhabited but require special permissions to visit them. Foreigners are not allowed to visit islands other than Kadmat, Bangaram and Agatti. Comfortable accommodation, lip-smacking local cuisine, island hopping, water sports and the picturesque settings make your time away from the hectic cityscape both enjoyable and memorable as well.
Do make sure that these places figure in your itinerary when drawing up your travel plans for Lakshadweep.
Agatti is literally the gateway to Lakshadweep as it has the only airport on this archipelago, but is also accessible via sea. This immensely scenic island with pleasant blue beaches and impressive coral reef is an ideal setting to relax on the sand or enjoy a rush of adrenaline by indulging in water sports of your choice- snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking or even fishing in the sea. You can also play safe by cycling through the terrain, or exploring the marine life along coast in a glass-bottomed boat. Allow yourself at least a day to revel in the beauty of this island.
Facilities – Limited Accommodation (Reserve in Advance), Eateries and Washrooms
Minicoy Island – Lagoon
Closest to the Maldives, the unique culture, matrilineal society, and Lava dance of this erstwhile Maldivian territory, pristine white beach leading to turquoise waters that house a vibrant coral ecosystem, quaint cluster of villages, lush terrain filled with coconut and palm trees, colourful traditional racing boats “Jahadhoni” and exciting water sporting activities make this island a must visit in Lakshadweep. A tuna canning facility also is active on this island. Minicoy’s large captivating lagoon, hardly few meters deep, makes a great wading/swimming pool. Staying at a beach resort often proves a luxurious experience! Foreign nationals are not permitted to visit Minicoy.
Facilities – Bathing huts, changing rooms, water sports
Minicoy Island – Lighthouse
The ancient Lighthouse on Minicoy Island dating back to 1885 offers impeccable views for those who dare to climb nearly over 200 steps to the viewing point. Visitors can also find interesting displays that trace the history of the Lighthouse over the years, in the gallery area. Spruced up with a Differential Global Positioning System and Radar Transponder, the unit is still very much functional, flashing a bright ray of light every 15 seconds. You may want to check out a smaller lighthouse on the other end of the island as well!
Kavaratti Island – Lagoon
The administrative headquarters /capital of Lakshadweep, Kavaratti is reportedly the most-developed of all inhabited islands. Submerged banks, coral reefs and atolls housed in aquamarine waters of the placid lagoon make just the perfect setting to sit back and relax, or indulge in water sports – kayaking, wind-surfing, canoeing, or snorkelling in the shallow waters. The scenic beauty of the surroundings is simply captivating.
Facilities – Beach Front resorts, water sports, food-stalls, sun bathing, changing and wash rooms
Kavaratti Island – Ujra Mosque
Interestingly Kavaratti is home to over 50 mosques – not surprising as Islam is the religion widely followed. However Ujra Mosque in the south-east of the island, is unique as it is more of a meditation center, structured similar to the temples of Kerala, with four carved pillars each sporting different designs, ornamental verandah and sloping tiled roof to prevent damage by rains. The ceiling of this 17th-century structure is reportedly crafted out of a single piece of driftwood. No regular prayers are organized at this Mosque, but the surroundings are still calm and serene to soothe a troubled soul.
Facilities – Eateries, accommodations and washroom facilities are available nearby.
Kavaratti Island – Dolphin Dive Center
A perfect haven for Scuba diving enthusiasts, beginners or professionals, this dive center in Kavaratti offers professional PADI Scuba diving programs and courses to aspirants. While the shallow lagoon bound by coral reefs makes ideal learning ground for beginners and tourists, the open waters are a treat for seasoned divers. Rays, Turtles, tropical fishes and the occasional reef shark are but few marine species that you encounter in this part of the waters.
Facilities – All essential facilities are available here.
This uninhabited island with spectacular settings, with just the waves, nature, birds and your loved one(s) for company is a dream destination where time literally comes to a stop. There is a resort on this island, should you wish to enjoy the calm and solitude for longer. The beauty of the place is further enhanced at night when the phosphorescent plankton washed ashore light up the sands with a bluish glow. Of course a host of water sporting activities – snorkelling, deep sea fishing, canoeing, do break the monotony and make life more exciting. You can reach Bangaram on ferry boats or helicopter from nearest island of Agatti.
Facilities – Water sports, accommodation, eateries
The Kalpeni atoll is a group of three tiny islands – Thilakkam, Cheriyam and Pitti separated by shallow lagoons is indeed a pleasure to explore on foot. The key feature of Kalpeni is a vast mound of coral wreck created around the eastern shores by a fierce storm back in 1847. Boating or snorkelling at the lagoon is enjoyable and so is reef-walking. The Tip beach is a great place to unwind and relax and catch up with some swimming too. The 37-metre tall Lighthouse at Kalpeni offers panoramic views of the island and surrounding waters. The entire terrain is filled with coconut trees, so all you can see is a vast green patch set in blue background!
Facilities – Water sports, food joints, accommodation, changing huts and washrooms at Koomel Beach resort.
The off-beat coral island Chetlat is yet another serene and secluded piece of beautiful land, amidst the vast oceans with picture postcard shores, verdant coconut tree farms, and native fauna including giant tortoises and marine life. There’s not much scope for activity here but to laze on the beach or stroll around the place, enjoy the ambience and the local cuisine.
Facilities – Food, Shelter and washrooms are available.
Flanked by impressive lagoons and coral ecosystems on the eastern and western shores and beaches and sand banks to the south, the island of Kadmat is an adventurer’s paradise where tourists can enjoy the best of water sport activity – different boat rides, snorkelling and scuba diving. Tourist huts overlooking the sea and nestled amidst lush groves of palm offer a great view of the setting. A Water Sport Institute and a fully-equipped Scuba Diving Center are active on this island. Rich marine life and excellent visibility make diving more rewarding. This island is open to foreign nationals as well.
Facilities – All essential facilities and water sports.
Andretti aka Andrott/Androth, is the Island closest to India, largest in the archipelago and runs east-west unlike other atolls in Lakshadweep. Though inhabited, the scenic setting and charm of the island remain uncompromised. Stunning beaches, swaying palms, vast turquoise lagoons bound by white sandy shores awash in sunlight, impressive views at dawn and dusk and an opportunity for close encounters with aquatic life make Andretti an appealing destination for beach buffs. An ancient Buddhist site of archaeological relevance and the tomb of Hazrat Ubaidullah, the Arab Saint who propagated Islam in Lakshadweep are other places of interest here.
Yet another impressive, captivating island with the largest lagoon (45 sq. km.) in Lakshadweep, Bitra is the smallest and thinly populated atoll here. The well-preserved ecosystem today has managed to still attract a large number of sea-faring birds, but never quite restored to the glory it enjoyed earlier before the habitat was disturbed by human activities. Travel responsibly! Colourful fishes darting through intricate web of corals make a pretty picture. Snorkel or dive into the waters for a closer look at the rich marine life. You can also visit the shrine of an Arab saint Malik Mulla, a significant religious site that draws pilgrims to Bitra.
Facilities – It is possible to stay on the island as accommodation, food and washrooms are available.
Situated right opposite Bangaram, Thinnakara shares the same lagoon and natural settings as Bangaram. Impressive coral formations, inviting beach front, coconut palms dotting the terrain, facilities for water sporting including scuba diving, plus rustic yet comfortable non-a/c tent accommodations over-looking the sun-kissed shores are in store for travellers who wish to stop by. Thinnakara is open to foreign tourists as well.
Facilities – Essential facilities are all here.
With harsh climate except for winters, storm-prone shores, and hardly any attractions except for a lighthouse, the lagoon area, coral colonies and calm beaches, Kiltan is home to few Muslim families. Off the tourist-trail, Kilton is still worth a visit if you are a die-hard fan of beaches, lagoons and solitude! The terrain has its unique vegetation, apart from the usual coconut palms. Summers are exceptionally warm, forcing people to spend most time on the beach.
Facilities – Basic food/accommodation/wash is available for tourists wishing to spend time here.
Juma Masjid, Minicoy
The Juma Masjid holds special religious significance in Lakshadweep, where most people follow Islam. Believed to be constructed in medieval times using remains of a wrecked ship, the structure houses an array of interesting and valuable ancient artefacts of yesteryears including a well- preserved stone anchor. Similar to other mosques on the archipelago, this one also has typical Kerala-style sloping, tiled roofs. The religious, cultural, architectural and historical value of this structure has its own appeal. Footwear is prohibited in places of worship.
Facilities – Minicoy Island can comfortably host visitors.
Pitti Bird Sanctuary
Lakshadweep isn’t just about corals and aquatic creatures, but also about several species of birds that are an integral part of this ecosystem which you can observe at the Bird Sanctuary in Pitti. This tiny coral island is a pit stop/breeding ground for many (over 70 species) migratory birds such as the Terns. Pitti sits on the same atoll as the Amini island, with the major part of the landmass submerged under the sea. The absence of a prominent reef surrounding the island keeps it clean as the waves wash off bird waste quite effectively!
Facilities – Uninhabited hence expect limited facilities. Sanctuary is open between 10 AM and 5 PM.
Kavaratti Island – Marine Museum/Aquarium
Marine life enthusiasts will find this small Museum/Aquarium at Kavaratti quite interesting as it houses quite a few preserved specimens of aquatic creatures, a sperm-whale skeleton, displays of coral, several captivating live ornamental fish, plus live sharks at the shark pool. A glass-boat ride at the aquarium is bound to help spotting different fish when out snorkelling or scuba diving in the lagoons. Visitors are allowed between 10 AM and 5 PM. Entry and photography attract a small fee.
Facilities – Best of facilities, food, water-sports, and accommodation are available at Kavaratti.
Golden Jubilee Museum, Agatti
One of the key attractions of Agatti is this museum, which is a treasure trove for history and culture enthusiasts as it highlights the influence of Buddhism on Lakshadweep, before Islam became more prevalent. Standing two-storeys tall, the structure houses impressive bust-sized Buddha sculptures from 9 -12th centuries A.D in the ground floor. On display are a great set of gold coins, antique jars, chests made of wood and other items of historical value. The museum is open to visitors between 10 AM and 5 PM and definitely is a must visit.
Facilities – Agatti has all facilities to accommodate and engage tourists on the island.
Minicoy Dive Center
The Dive center in Minicoy offers diving certification courses and classes to aspirants. Home to 3 ship wrecks all submerged underwater (roughly 8-meter depth) and colourful array of fish, Minicoy makes an excellent diving destination. Dive sites at Rabberufarai, Ragganmathi, Mulimatti guarantee sightings of Manta Ray during Sep-Oct and Jan-Feb. Other species such as sharks, barracudas, bull rays, snappers, wrasses and hump-back parrot fish can be spotted at Boduhavaligang, Murambu and Bose Point.
An idyllic group of 2 islets Suheli Valiyakara and Suheli Cheriyakara connected by thin long strip of sand aka Suheli Pitti, set in a vast lagoon bound by a banyan reef go by the name of Suheli Par. Valiyakara or the larger island is a turtle rookery, while Suheli Pitti is a nesting ground for several migratory birds. Fisherfolk temporarily camp out on this atoll to process their tuna catch during the dry season. Suheli par is uninhabited and makes a great secluded excursion spot, provided you carry your supplies and plan the trip in advance.
Getting here – Boat trip from Agatti (75 km South), Kavaratti (47 Km South-West)
Facilities – None!
Believed to be one of earliest inhabited islands, Amini, apart from its natural beauty and richness is also well-known for its culture, markets, and quality coir products churned out by the local communities. You are likely to find daily-use items crafted out of coconut ad tortoise shells that make excellent souvenirs. There’s no dearth of water sporting opportunities – scuba diving, surfing etc., here. It is also the hometown of Saint Ubaidullah, a revered Islamic preacher in Lakshadweep, and hence enjoys a religious significance as well.
Facilities – Accommodation, food joints, water sports, and markets
The Ajara Mosque in Kavaratti, apart from being a center of worship also is a place of architectural interest. This impressively structured 17th century edifice with ornate ceilings and exquisite pillars crafted out of driftwood is a pleasure behold. Similar craftwork can also be observed at the Jamnath and Ujra mosques as well.
Viringili is a small gravel-fringed islet off the south-western end of Minicoy, with hardly a few bushes and short coconut palms dotting the uninhabited terrain. The place is ideal for a short excursion, but make sure to carry supplies. A plunge into the shallow waters, a stroll through the 200 meter stretch, and resting on the waterfront completes the visit. The island reportedly housed lepers who were banished from the inhabited parts of the archipelago.
This coral atoll, comprising a large lagoon and spectacular reefs has three small islets of sand on the eastern side, with rest of the feature submerged underwater. A 2-hr boat trip from Bangaram, brings travellers to this uninhabited atoll, which makes a great secluded deep dive site; one that can be explored without much disturbance. Pelagic birds, especially Terns are spotted at Perumal Par. The surrounding waters abound with fish.
Yet another spectacular coral reef in the region, Byramgore is accessible by boat from Bitra and makes a great spot to enjoy the lagoon, a deep dive into the lively waters, and relax on whatever part of the sandbank that is not submerged! The northern half of the atoll is submerged and most of the structure is flooded during high tide leaving very little land above the sea. The reef has an abundance of aquatic life attracting Terns and other migratory birds to the place.
Getting to Lakshadweep
By Air :
From Kochi – 1.5 hours
Agatti Island is well connected by flights to all major cities in India
By Sea :
From Kochi – 14 – 20 hours
There is no rail or road connectivity from India as Lakshadweep is located in the Arabian Sea.
Island hopping :
Helicopter services are available from Agatti to Kavaratti all year round. The service is extended to Bangaram Island only during monsoons.
Speed boat ferry services from Agatti to Kavaratti, Kadmat are available.
Boats/Ferries regularly ply between the different islands.
It is important for travellers to note that collecting/plucking corals for souvenirs is a criminal offense that attracts severe penalties. While major islands do boast of luxury accommodations, availability likely to be limited and in few cases rooms/tents/homestays with just basic amenities may be available.