An island represents a breaking away from convention. A chunk of land, through various geological movements, either dismantles itself from the mainland or sprouts up suddenly in the middle of a waterbody. Several countries have, in addition to their mainland, island territories that have characteristics of their home country but, at the same time, revel in their own identities.
India is no different. Here, we have islands that dot our coasts, lakes and even rivers! Visiting an island is the real definition of a getaway, because you are taking off from one land and traveling to another…without leaving your country! Read on to choose which Indian island you should head to for your next adventure.
1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Just off the south-east coast of India, the archipelago of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are like jewels in the Bay of Bengal. Shiny beaches with sparkly-clear waters are the hallmark of each of these islands. There’s some mystique associated with some of the islands because they are home to indigenous tribal people who have no contact with the outside world. Hence, these are strictly no-entry zones.
From the ones that you can visit, Port Blair has amazing history on offer – you can visit its Cellular Jail or kaala paani which the British would use to imprison political activists – one of the most famous being VD Savarkar. Enjoy the white sands of Radhanagar beach and snorkelling at Elephant Beach on Havelock Island. Jolly Buoy Island abounds with coral reefs and, if sea-walking is on your mind, head to North Bay Island.
Ross Island houses the illustrious Naval Museum and Neil Island is the place to be, to enjoy a quiet sunset. With so much on offer, we are sure this will be a different kind of party – one that involves island-hopping for sure!
2. Lakshadweep Islands
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India is flanked by gorgeous groups of Islands on both sides. On its south-west side, adorning the Laccadive Sea is the archipelago of Lakshadweep. The name is inspired by the Sanskrit word ‘Lakshadweepa’, which translates to ‘one hundred thousand islands’. Going by the name alone, it means you will have one hundred times the fun here compared to any other place!
The islands have passed through the hands of the Portuguese, the Chola Dynasty, Tipu Sultan and the British, ensuring its cultural atmosphere is a melange of different elements. You can enjoy water sports at Agatti Islands and swim through its coral-laden lagoons, take in the vibrant flora, fauna and white sand beaches of Kavaratti, and experience the market culture of Amindivi Islands that are famous for coir products.
3. Diu Island
Off the southern coast of Gujarat’s Kathiawar Peninsular lies Diu Island, famous for its Portuguese history. The island abounds with churches that resemble those found in Goa. St. Paul’s Church, whose construction was completed in 1610, is one such example. Gothic architecture coupled with one of the most beautiful wood carvings are the hallmarks of this property.
Beach bums can head to the golden sands of Ghogla Beach, lazing and lounging away under its swaying palm trees. Learn about the history of the islands by spending a day at the magnificent Diu Fort, which was built by the Portuguese to protect the island from Humayun’s forces. Near the fort are the enigmatic Naida Caves that are worth a visit.
Finish your evenings in style by enjoying a sun downer at Sunset Point, which is located on a hillock near Chakritirath Beach. Get the glimpse of portuguese style of living, Book Hotel in Diu.
4. Majuli Island, Assam
The magnificent Majuli Islands call the waters of the Brahmaputra home. Interspersed with beautiful hyacinth flower beds, are its two most famous villages, Kamalabari and Garamur, which offer delightful sights to visitors. Hundred-odd species of birds grace the islands, which make them a bird-lover’s paradise. When you are not spending time in their company or simply relaxing in the idyllic setting, do visit the many satras that dot the islands.
These are Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries and art centres that are representative of the ancient Ahom empire and neo-Vaishnavite philosophy that were dominant in the area. Uttar Kamalabari and Auni Ati are the most popular ones. Don’t forget to befriend the monks while you’re at it.
5. St. Mary’s Island, Karnataka
St. Mary’s Islands, also called Coconut Islands, are a small group of four tiny islands located in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Karnataka’s Udupi. The islands are known for their unique geological formation of columns of basaltic lava, a feature that earned them a position on the Geological Survey of India’s list of 26 Geological Monuments of India.
Folk tales suggest that Vasco Da Gama landed on one of these islands in 1498 and named it O Padrão de Santa Maria, in honour of Mother Mary, which is considered the origin of the current name of the group of islands. Regular ferry rides from Malpe fishing harbour take visitors to the islands, where you can relax on pristine beaches, learn about its unique topography and photograph the many gulls, sandpipers, great white egrets and other birds and flora here.
One thing to keep in mind is that you have to wade a little bit to approach the island once you get off the ferry, so make sure you’re wearing slippers. Book Udupi Hotels at best prices at Cleartrip.
6. Loktak Lake, Manipur
About an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Imphal is the awe-inspiring Loktak Lake. It is the largest fresh water lake in the whole of the North East of India. Legend has it that it was the meeting spot of two lovers, Khamba and Thoibi, who fought against all odds—including one of them being exiled to Burma—to be together.
The speciality of the lake is that it has many river islands. But they aren’t ordinary masses of land, they’re in constant motion! Called phumdis, these islands are actually large chunks of biomass—made of thick branches, leaves, twigs, roots and vegetation—that are moved by the water current and winds. Walking on them feels like you’re walking on a sponge soaked with water.
This means that the fishermen living in tiny hamlets on these islands have ever-changing addresses! If you thought that was cool, the lake has more in store for you: it is home to the world’s only floating national park! Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is located in the south-western portion of the lake, is home to the endangered sangai, the state animal of Manipur, which has hooves that are adapted to walk on these unique phumdis.
7. Divar Island, Goa
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Situated in Goa’s Mandovi River is Divar Island, representing quintessential Goan countryside, replete with paddy fields and forested hills. Piedade, Malar, Naroa and Porne Tirth are the tiny hamlets that call this island home. Each have distinct cultural traits. It has an interesting blend of Christian and Hindu architecture and houses the Church of Our Lady of Compassion, Our Lady of Candelaria and the Shri Ganesh Sateri Temple.
There is also the Naroa Fort which was built by the island's Muslim inhabitants. Talk about major cultural assimilation on such a small piece of land! The islanders sure know how to party, too (can you blame them? They live in Goa!).
They have their own carnival called Bonderam in which each village is represented by a float and a lot of music is played. Interestingly, they celebrate their own version of Halloween and call it Potekar in which young people wear masks and costumes, ask the elders for whatever they want and have the license to scare little children! Find your Hotel near Divar Island, Goa at best prices.
8. Munroe Island, Kerala
Situated about a half hour away from Kollam is Munroe Island shaped by the backwaters of Ashtamudi Lake and Kallada River. Imagine the life that its inhabitants must be living – to be constantly surrounded by the mesmerizing backwaters! It is named after Colonel Munroe who lived in the erstwhile state of Travancore. He put in a lot of effort into building canals all over the backwater areas.
Spend an afternoon enjoying a country craft cruise here, which also offers a peek into the daily life and working of a typical backwater island village of Kerala. But beauty is not the only thing to behold here. A lot of stone age tools and megaliths have been discovered here as well proving that the region has historic significance as well. Get best deals of Hotels in Kollam and enjoy an adventurous stay.
9. Elephanta Island
Also called Gharapuri Island, the Elephanta Island is located within the Mumbai Harbour and can be reached via daily ferries from the city’s jetty at Gateway of India. The island grew in popularity because of its rock-carved Elephanta Caves. Once you get off the ferry, there is the luxury of getting onto a charming toy train that’ll take you up to the foot of the steps leading to the caves.
On the way, beware of the monkeys though – they are notorious for snatching things from people’s hands without much warning! The island was given its name by Portuguese sailors who first saw a monolithic basalt sculpture of an elephant near its entrance. There are five Hindu and two Buddhist caves, which date back to the late 5th to 8th centuries AD.
Walk into each cave to unearth why even Leonardo da Vinci mentioned them in his Manuscript. When you are not exploring the caves, make sure to cool off under the shade of the various palm, mango and tamarind trees that adorn the island. A weekend getaway to cherish, book a Hotel near Elephanta Island!.
10. Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu
Situated in the Gulf of Mannar is Pamban Island, home to the famous holy town of Raameshwaram. It is considered one of the holiest cities for Hindus and is included in the Char Dham pilgrimage. Raameshwaram is believed to be the spot where Lord Ram started building a bridge in order to reach Lanka and rescue Sita. Considering Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island is 50km away from this place, that would have been one tedious task!
Especially when you have to take into question the choppy waters of the Indian Ocean. When you are here, visits to the Ramanathaswamy Temple, Thirtas or temple tanks, the Gandhamathana Parvatham, which is the highest point of the island, and Dhanushkodi are unmissable. Choose from a range of budget and luxury Hotel in Rameswaram.
Whether its India’s coastline or the various rivers running through it, you will be surprised at all the places where islands have sprouted up over the centuries. Historical, geological, or architectural, each has a distinct trait that can be experienced only by visiting it. And one thing is for sure, every island adventure is not about parties or leisurely walks on the beach. They can be packed with activity and be educational too. All you need to do is book your ticket and head to the one that calls out to you the most.