Ultimate Travel Guide To Andaman & Nicobar Islands
If you’ve got sunny skies, pristine beaches, water adventures and quaint environs on your mind, get your bags packing for a trip to Andaman & Nicobar Islands!
Owing to the ever-welcoming weather and the amazing shorelines there’s a wide array of fun and outdoorsy things to do in Andaman. Not to mention scrumptious seafood and the long list of mind-boggling places to visit that’ll make your holiday a memorable one.
Why Andaman & Nicobar Islands?
If I have to tell somebody the main reasons to visit this group of islands, I can go on but for this post, I would keep it to the top 5 reasons:
- Pristine Beaches
Beach lovers will definitely fall in love with this place! Some of the beaches in Andamans have been crowned as “Asia’s Best Beach” by the renowned TIME magazine. Famed for the crystal clear water, picturesque scenery and turquoise waters, Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island is among the most beautiful beaches to visit in Andamans. Water Sports & Adventures- Andamans is the ultimate destination for water sports & adventures, the most famous being scuba diving, snorkeling & sea walking and other adventures like parasailing, windsurfing, kayaking, and water-skiing,
- Numerous islands to explore
One can actually do an island hopping in Andamans. There are more 20 islands that you can visit. Some of the popular ones are Ross & Smith Island, Havelock Island, Neil Island, Hut Bay Island, Campbell Bay Island, Avis Island and much more. Every island is different from each other and has its own charm to offer.Rich flora & fauna- Andamans is covered with dense rain-fed, damp & evergreen forests and endless varieties of exotic flora ad fauna. There are about 96 Wildlife Sanctuaries, nine National Parks and one Biosphere Reserve in the Islands. The Andamans & Nicobar Islands have been declared as two of the 218 endemic bird area of the world.
- Warm-hearted people
People of Andamans are hospitable & super friendly. Apart from Hindi a wide variety of languages like Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi and Bengali are spoken here. People are kind hearted and once you are here, you know you are in a safe place.
How to reach Andaman & Nicobar Islands?
Andamans, being an island, is accessible only by air & water.
Flights are certainly the faster and most comfortable options to visit Andamans. Direct flights are available from Kolkata and Chennai to the capital city of Andamans called Port Blair. There are five Airlines – Indian Airlines, Jetlite, Jet Airways, Spicejet and GoAir, which operates regular flights to Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The traveler can hire foreign charter flights also.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands stand in the midst of Bay of Bengal. Therefore, one should not miss the fascinating experience of reaching Andamans by ship. Passenger ships connect Kolkata, Chennai and Vishakhapatnam, which are the major cities of mainland India with Port Blair. The voyage can be covered in 3-4 days. Also remember that these are passenger ships with no luxury facilities. To check ship schedule and tariffs click here.
Entry Formalities for Indians & Foreigners
Indian nationals need no permit to visit the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. However, visiting tribal areas in the Islands is prohibited.
All foreign nationals require a permit to visit the Andaman Nicobar Islands, which is easily available on arrival at Port Blair from the Immigration Authorities for 30 days. The Restricted Area Permit can also be obtained from the Indian Missions overseas and also from the Foreigners Registration offices at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and from the Immigration Authorities at the Airports of the above-mentioned cities. For more details about places covered under Restricted Area Permit read here.
What’s the best time to visit Andaman?
The best time of the year to visit the Andaman & Nicobar Islands is between October and May. It is also the time for the annual tourism festival. The waters are clear and relatively placid after the monsoons making them perfect for snorkelers and swimmers.
How’s the climate like?
The islands have a tropical climate with only minor fluctuations in temperature (23-30 degree Celsius) and 80% humidity all around the year. There is medium to heavy rain during the monsoons twice a year from the month of May to mid-December and November to mid-December. Average annual rainfall is about 3000 mm at Port Blair.
Which are some good places to see?
Let’s take a look at the best places and must do activities in the Andamans & Nicobar Islands:
Islands and Beaches
1. Havelock Island
Havelock is a picturesque natural paradise with beautiful white sand beaches fringed with a green canopy of rain-fed forests and fan at the azure sea. Some of the must visit beaches here are- Radhanagar beach, Vijaynagar beach, Elephant beach, Kalapather beach.How to reach- Government ferries connect Phoenix Bay, Port Blair to Havelock daily. Private luxury boats also ferry tourists to Havelock. Seaplanes and helicopter services also operate between this route regularly. To explore Havelock Island you can use different modes of transport like auto-rickshaws, taxis, buses, motorbikes etc.
2. Neil Island
Neil, with its very relaxed vibe and long, deserted beaches is a place to chill out after the “bustle” of Havelock Island. Neil is quite small compared to Havelock. Its widest part is about 5km in length, which can be covered on foot in about an hour or two. Places to visit in Neil Island are- Neil Kendra, Lakshmanpur Beach I & II, Bharatpur Beach, Sitapur Beach, and Sir Hugh Rose Island.How to reach- From Port Blair Phoenix Bay jetty, regular speedboats operated by Government and Private boat operators are available. It takes approximately 1hour and 45minutes to reach.
3. Long Island
Long Island, spread across an area of about 18sq. km is a modern village with a population of around 2000 having many facilities generally not available in other villages of Bay Islands. Long island is home to one of the loveliest beaches called Lalaji Bay Beach. How to reach- There are regular boats from Port Blair to Long Island thrice a week with stopovers at Neil Island & Havelock. Click here to see the boat schedules.
4. Baratang Island
This Island between South and Middle Andaman is known for the beautiful beaches, mangrove creeks, and mud volcanoes and limestone caves. Places to explore included- Lime Stone caves, Mud Volcano and Parrot Island.
How to reach – Baratang Island is 100kms away from Port Blair. One has to travel by road and cross a creek on a vehicle ferry at Middle Strait to reach Baratang Island.
5. Barren Island
The only active volcano in India is located on the Barren Island. This island is about 3 km in diameter and has a big crater about half a kilometer away from the shore. True to its name this island is uninhabited by humans. The waters surrounding Barren Island are reputed to be among the world’s top scuba diving destinations. Major attractions here are the crystal clear visibility, Manta Rays, interesting basalt formations, the topography of past lava flows and fast growing coral gardens.
How to reach- The island can be visited by charter boats and seaplanes after getting permission from the Forest Department. Foreign nationals are restricted to be onboard the vessel only and landing ashore is not permitted. The island is accessible by:
- Seaplanes fly from Port Blair to offer an aerial view of the Barren Island. Click here for more details.
- Infiniti live-aboard offers guided diving trips to Barren Islands from February to April from Port Blair. For details check here
- Tour packages to Barren Island are also offered by experienceandamans.com, knowandamans.com, barefootholiday.com.
6. Little Andaman
Little Andaman island offers a perfect mix of white sandy beaches bewitching Waterfalls, Boating through the Creeks, exciting Elephant Safari, Elephant lumbering, Elephant calves training, Surfing etc. Little Andaman has an evergreen rain forest which has paved way for a rich biodiversity. It is also becoming a popular destination for surfing in India. How to reach- Government ferries run by the Directorate of Shipping Services connect Phoenix Bay jetty/Haddo Wharf, Port Blair to Hut Bay, Little Andaman every day. The journey takes about 7 to 9 hours. For the schedule of boat services click here.
7. Great Nicobar
This place is 540 km by sea from Port Blair open for only Indian tourists. The southernmost tip of India, ‘Indira Point’ is located on Great Nicobar Island. Great Nicobar is home to some unique species like the Megapode bird, and the Giant Robber Crab. Campbell Bay is the head quarter of Great Nicobar Island. The only Biosphere Reserve in A & N Islands –the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve is close to Campbell Bay. How to reach- Campbell Bay can be reached by Helicopter from Port Blair or by sea. Sailing from Port Blair to Campbell Bay would be available on an average once in ten days.
Heritage buildings & tour
1. Cellular Jail National Memorial
Also known as Kaala Paani (black waters), the cellular jail located in Port Blair is perhaps one of the most infamous remnants of India’s struggle for independence. The cellular hail & museum is open for public from 09:00 AM to 12:30 PM, 01:30 PM to 04:45 PM every day except national holidays. For more details check here.
2. Ross Island
The Ross Island is about 2 km east of Port Blair and can be reached by a short boat ride from Phoenix Bay Jetty. 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 a dilapidated condition, reminiscent of the old British regime. The Ross Island is controlled by the Indian navy, which requires every visitor to sign in on entering. Timing to visit this place is from 8:30 in the morning to 16:30. Also, note that this place is closed on Wednesday.
3. Viper Island
The Viper Island gets its name from the snakes that inhabit the island. The islands are famous for the ruins of a jail that precede the cellular jail or the Kaala Paani. The place no matter how notorious it was during the colonial period is a picturesque location which is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Currently, the trip to Viper Island is operated on demand based upon the number of travelers who are willing to reach this destination. This part of the journey is to be completed before evening as boats are not allowed after 5 PM.
4. Balidan Vedi
Located on the way to Wandoor (Jolly Bouy Island) / Baratang Island, “Balidan Vedi” the State Martyrs’ Memorial stands as a mute symbol of the Japanese reign of terror in the islands.
5. Param Veer Chakra Memorial
A Param Vir Chakra Memorial, first of its kind, erected at the picturesque Marina Park, Port Blair is another place in the Island that evokes patriotic feelings.
Water Sports & Adventures
These pristine islands offer some of the best water sports activities. The facilities for these water sport activities are available in Port Blair and other islands. Some of them are:
1.Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex
Also named as Andaman Water Sports Complex, Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex at Port Blair, offers safe water sports activities and also adventure water sports activities such as joy rides on speed boats, jet ski & banana rides, row boats, paddle boats, etc. It is open from 9 a.m to 5 p.m.
2. Glass bottom boating
How cool is it to have a glimpse of the water life as it sails through the sea, that’s glass bottom boating for you. You can take glass bottom boat rides from Water Sports Complex to North Bay Coral Island or Port Blair is to Jolly Buoy Island.
3. Seaplane ride
Andaman is the first place in India to recently introduce, commercial Seaplanes. A ride in one of those is something you just can’t miss. These seaplanes can carry 9 passengers at a time and ply between Port Blair and Havelock Island. The ride takes only 15 minutes which otherwise by ferry would take 2 hours.
4. A day with Rajan
The Swimming Elephant- Snorkeling or diving with superstar Rajan is one of the most thrilling water sports in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He is 63 years old and like any other elephant is friendly and loves the company of people. Diving or snorkeling with Rajan needs to be booked ahead of time. You can make your bookings here.
5. Snorkeling & Scuba diving
There is no other better place than Andamans to plunge into the water and try snorkeling & scuba diving. Put on your snorkeling gear and head out to the North Bay Island to see the underwater marine life and view the rarest of corals while enjoying one of the best water activities in Andaman.
There are numerous scuba diving centers in Andaman from where you can get your PADI certificate and no, you don’t have to know swimming for that. For other tougher levels and to go into open waters you have to be a little skilled in swimming but not for PADI. So, what are you waiting for, those colorful corals and enchanting water life is waiting for you!
Another the incredible water sports activities in Andaman that non-swimmers can enjoy is Parasailing. Parasailing is a sport that is a wonderful mix of water and airborne adventure. So, you fly like a kite behind the boat as it speeds off into the sea and get a wonderful birds-eye view of the sea and surrounding area.
7. Underwater walking
Undersea walking is another superbly fun adventure sports in Andaman. Absolutely no experience required, no complicated equipment to handle and you get to walk on the smooth and clean sand of the sea floor with a helmet which offers a close-up view of the marine life without any hassle.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are blessed with the magnanimous presence of many marvelous hillocks which is perfect for trekking. Best Time to Trek in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is from the month of November to the month of April. The peak season to visit this place is December and January. Some of the famous trekking spots are Mount Harriet, Chidia Tapu, Havelock mangroves, Baratang Limestone cave, Saddle Peak & Raman Caves in Diglipur Island.
2. Mangrove Creek Safari
The lush green mangroves abundantly seen on either side of meandering creeks in the North and Middle Andamans offer excellent scope for creek safari. One can experience this unique eco-friendly activity at Yerrata creek, Dhaninalla Mangrove creek, Sabari Village –Rangat Middle Andaman. The Sabari village Panchayat organizes eco-tourism activities including creek safari, accommodation, etc at reasonable rates.
Hang out in Aberdeen Bazar, Junglighat & Bathubasti to get a feel of the place and interact with islanders. Purchase shell ornaments, Map scroller, articles made from padauk and other curios from government emporium named Sagarika at Port Blair.
Best tour packages to visit Andaman & Nicobar Islands
1.Tour Packages by Andaman & Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corp. Ltd. (ANIIDCO)
ANIIDCO is a Governmental Undertaking providing six different tour packages to visit the Islands. Also, two resorts -Megapode Resorts & Dolphin Resorts and one floating restaurant are listed under ANIIDCO. For complete tour itinerary and tariff details visit www.aniidco.and.nic.in
IRCTC Tourism provides 5 days Andaman Holiday Tour Package covering Portblair–Ross Island Or North Bay Island-Havelock–Neil-Portblair. For tour package details check here.
3. Amazing Andaman by Makemytrip
MakeMyTrip offers a wide variety of tourism packages to Andamans. Amazing Andaman is a 4 nights package covering Port Blair and Havelock. The package includes accommodation & car facilities but does not include flight charges. For more details check here.
4. Andaman backpacking tour by Experienceandamans
Experienceandamans.com, offers 6 nights and 7 days customizable backpacking tour for the backpackers & adventure lovers. This tour includes trekking, walking, scuba diving, sea walk, and much more. The idea behind this tour is to experience Andamans by spending very minimal on accommodation. For detailed itinerary and cost check here.
5. Family Tour Package by Andamanexcursion
Andamanexcursion.com offers 4 nights & 5 days family tour package. The package cost includes airfare and some other costs. For more details read here.
Things to keep in mind before visiting Andaman & Nicobar Islands:
Traveling to a remote tropical island without the right kinds of stuff and proper preparation can leave you frustrated and spoil your entire vacation. It’s always better to be prepared than being sorry later.
- Book your flight tickets as early as possible. Suggested time is 72-90 Days in advance.
I would suggest putting a price alert on skyscanner.com to get an idea about the ticket price. The second option is to consult local travel companies in Andaman who do group flight bookings. These companies have better deals on the flight tickets as they purchase some tickets in advance for a group.
- The Andaman Islands fall under the tropical belt.
Owing to its’ position, the islands receive rains from both the southwest monsoons and the retreating northeast monsoons making it a high rainfall area. The weather here is unpredictable and carrying a rain jacket or an umbrella would be useful. Carry zip-lock bags for cameras and other gadgets to keep them safe from moisture.
- The tropical sun is sharp & harsh and the salt in the air could add to burning of the skin.
Carrying a good sunscreen and a cap for the trip is highly recommended. Do not forget to carry a waterproof sunscreen for water sports.
- While the tropical forest region is known for its’ mosquito and insect diversity, the beaches of Andaman Islands can get unpleasant due to sand fly attacks.
An insect repellent would be handy. Citronella oil based repellent works well against mosquitoes, sand flies, and insects.
- Carrying cotton is recommended.
Shorts, airy light clothes helps in keeping dry in the warm humid environment.
- There are only two ATMs on Havelock – SBI and Axis bank out of which SBI is reliable.
There are days when both ATMs do not work. Being stranded on an island with no money is the last thing you would wish for. Therefore, carrying adequate cash is advisable.
- It is quite impossible to find pharmacies anywhere except for Port Blair. So stock up necessary medication for the trip.
- Internet connection is very poor in the islands.
Apart from BSNL most other carriers have limited connectivity in Port Blair and Havelock with some connection around Rangat.
- If you are a seafood lover then Andamans is the place for you.
The local dishes are mouth-watering. Try out different cafes in and around Havelock, you’ll find the dishes to be different here from what you get in Port Blair.
- Make sure to get a window- seat on the left side on the aircraft.
Hope for clear skies as you land, look out of the window-shield (don’t forget to click!) and yes, you can thank me later once you get back 🙂
Emergency Helpline Numbers
- Crime & Traffic Related Emergency- 100
- Fire Control- 101
- Ambulance- 102
- Women Helpline- 1091,1144 or 18003451144
- Coastal Security- 1093
- Marine Police Control Room : 03192 – 239247
- Child Helpline- 1098
- Also, install A&N Mobile Police App and SAJAG App for updates
For more information visit www.police.andaman.gov.in
Have an awesome trip! Got questions? Comment below or in the forums.
Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC’s to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I’ve learned in life, through this blog. It’s read today by more than 150K people world over! I currently live in LA, California and visit India occasionally. Here’s my full story on who I am and why I blog. Connect with me on FB, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). Happy to help! 🙂