Plan your own trip to Andamans - The Andaman Odyssey
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the remote islands in Indian subcontinent, have some of the most exotic beaches, rich marine biodiversity, some of the best coral reefs and is a perfect holiday destination. Andamans gained popularity after Time magazine rated one of its beach - Radhanagar beach in Havelock island (Swaraj Dweep) as the best beach of Asia in 2004. An ideal tourist destination for Scuba certifications or relaxed vacations or nature lovers or an explorer, Andamans offer something for all kinds of travellers. Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a unique place you cannot afford to miss.
This series of travel blogs - The Andaman Odyssey will serve as a one stop travel guide to you and give you all details along with recommendations to ensure you can plan your own trip. In the first blog of the series - Introduction to the Emerald Islands in India, we had given you an introduction to Andaman and Nicobar islands with details around when and how you should plan your tip to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It would have given you a basic understanding of Andamans. In this blog we touch upon places to visit in Andamans and what your itinerary should look like.
The series of travel blogs - The Andaman Odyssey will serve as a one stop travel guide to you and give you all details along with recommendations to ensure you can plan your own trip.
Our other blogs of the series - The Andaman Odyssey will help you understand and plan your trip to Andaman Islands and give you a good idea of Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) with recommendation on places to stay and activities to do.
2. Plan your own trip to Andamans - Current blog
Places to visit in Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
The standard itinerary that most follow is a simple Port Blair - Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep) - Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) - Port Blair route. But frankly, that is just touching the tip of these emerald islands. The above route is just convenient and easy to organize for most travel companies and most people arriving on the island prefer coming via travel companies as there is little information available to plan things on your own. But hopefully that changes soon.
Port Blair - Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
Everyone who travels to Andamans has to visit Port Blair as it serves as an entry point to these islands, be it through air or by sea. And everyone does visit the cellular jail which is probably the most well known and we felt somewhat over hyped attraction. There are plenty of other attractions in Port Blair such as Ross island (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep), Viper island, North Bay, Mount Harriet, Jolly buoy, Chidiya Tapu, Corbyn's Cove, few museums, Cinque islands etc. which one can explore. Covering all of these would require around 4 full days.
Port Blair being the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands has many stay and food options across all ranges of budget. You can easily get a 2 wheeler on rent, an auto rickshaw or a cab for conveyance in and around Port Blair. We will be publishing a detailed travel blog on Port Blair and you can find more information in that article. Link will be posted here in due course.
Important tip - Ross (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep), Viper and Jolly Buoy islands are day trip islands. No one is allowed to stay overnight. A full day island trip for Ross (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep - Viper - North bay island or half day trip of Jolly buoy island starts from 8 AM and goes till 2 PM. It is preferable to book the tickets one day in advance during peak tourist seasons. As sunsets by 5 PM, reach most sunset points such as Chidiya Tapu, Amber sunset point etc. by 4 PM.
North and Middle Andaman - Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
One can hire cabs or travel through government buses which will take you to North Andaman. Occasional government ferries are also available. Hiring cabs is preferable option as it gives you flexibility to visit all attractions which come on the way.
Going northwards from Port Blair via Andaman Trunk road, one can cover Baratang island which has mud volcanoes, limestone caves and mangrove forests as major attraction. Note that you should ideally leave Port Blair early in the morning around 4-4:30 AM to reach Jarawa area check post by 6 AM. Jarawas are tribals of Andamans for whom a 50 kms stretch is reserved. A police convoy takes all vehicles from one end to another end of this reserve at 6 AM and 9 AM. This is the only way of crossing this area so you should reach this area before 6 AM and park your vehicle in queue.
Going further upwards in middle Andaman, one can cover Dhani Nalla beach with mangrove walkways, Aamkunj beach park and Karmatang beach. Rangat and Mayabunder are major towns of Middle Andamans. There are very few stay options in Baratang or Middle Andaman. Koh hee homestay or Green valley in Mayabunder and Hawksbill Nest operated by tourism department or Priya international in Rangat are the only stay options in this area as of now. Booking your stay in advance is definitely advisable.
Further upwards one reaches Diglipur in North Andaman. North Andaman is famous for a twin islands called Ross and Smith islands which are separated by sea in high tide but connected via sand during low tide. North Andaman also has the highest peak of Andamans called Saddle peak at 732 m (2400 ft). Ramnagar beach in North Andaman is famous site for turtle nesting. Mud volcanoes are also found in North Andamans. In terms of itinerary, one can either reach Mayabunder or sometimes Diglipur in one day starting from Port Blair while covering Middle Andaman on the way. Ross & Smith Islands take another half day usually done on 2nd day and people usually head back to Port Blair on 3rd day but if you want to cover Saddle peak and some beaches here, another day in hand is required. Saddle peak takes a 3-4 hour one way trek to reach the top.
Across the entire Great Andaman mainland from North to South, there are many tiny adjoining islands named as Long, Interview, Guitar, Parrot, Button, Stewart, sound, North reef, Landfall etc. Some of these are inhabited by handful of locals while others are not inhabited. Some requires special permissions to visit while others may not require any permission. All of these are remote isolated areas rarely visited by tourists but most of them would have pristine beautiful isolated beaches.
Interesting tip - While most Indian tourists spend around 3-4 days covering North and Middle Andamans, many foreign tourists spend more time exploring islands and their underwater sea life. The major inconvenience while covering North and Middle Andaman comes from the fact that you spend a lot of time on road. A good solution to cut down on this could be that while returning, instead of coming all the way back to Port Blair, one could reach Rangat and take a government ferry directly to Havelock (Swaraj Dweep). The frequency of this ferry is on alternate days and though one might have to pay full return amount to the cab driver, it will cut short on your time reaching Port Blair by evening and then taking a ferry to Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) the next day. See the schedule of government ferries here.
Little Andaman - Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
If you go southwards from Port Blair via government ferry, you can cover Little Andaman islands. Little Andaman is known for some amazing waterfalls in the middle of tropical rainforest - White surf and Whisper wave waterfalls. Apart from this, elephant safari, surfing and scuba are popular activities here. Couple of beautiful beaches - Butler Bay and Netaji Nagar beach are a delight and couple of dams - Ramakrishnapur and Vivekanandapuram can also be explored. In terms of itinerary, government ferry takes 7-9 hours to reach Little Andaman and hence 2 full days are spent in reaching and coming back. One can cover most important tourist destinations here in one day so a minimum of 3 days is required to cover Little Andamans.
Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Islands (Shaheed Dweep)- Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
Lastly, the major tourist attraction in Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the exotic beaches of Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Islands (Shaheed Dweep). Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) is the larger of the two and it was also opened to tourists much before Neil, hence it is the more preferred one. However we personally liked Neil (Shaheed Dweep) a lot more due to its turquoise blue water and exclusivity it provided. As such there is only one sightseeing spot in these islands which is present in Neil - The Natural bridge. Apart from this, beaches is the main attraction and sunrise, sunsets a must see. Scuba diving and Snorkeling are main activities here and we highly encourage you to experience these activities to see the magical world of marine life and coral reefs.
A minimum of 3 days for Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and 1 for Neil (Shaheed Dweep) is required to cover them, however, we definitely recommend spending more time in both. This is also considering the fact that ferries to and fro these islands will take up close to half of your day. You can easily get 2 wheeler on rent, cabs and rickshaws in each of these islands for commuting within them. You can read our detailed blogs on Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) along with our recommendations on stay and food. We recommend travelling to these islands through Makruzz.
Important tip - Due to lack of internet, you cannot really use your credit card on Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Port Blair has adequate, Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) has 2 and Neil islands (Shaheed Dweep) has 1 ATM. So it is suggested you carry enough cash with you during your entire trip. We found everyone on the island to be genuinely good and helpful so unless you do something really stupid, you need not worry about being robbed.
Activities in Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
While visiting the best beaches, watching sunrises and sunsets and relaxing in crystal clear turquoise waters is what you would be doing in Andamans, your trip will be incomplete without going under water and seeing with your very own eyes the natural beauty bestowed here. The remoteness provides undisturbed opportunity, the tropical climate provides ideal temperatures and the crystal clear shallow coastline provides the ideal ecosystem for corals to grow around these islands. And these coral reefs inhabit some of the most diverse range of marine species. Your trip to Andaman can be called wasted if you do not snorkel or Scuba dive and see these magical world under water with your own eyes.
A lot of diving operators are present mainly in Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil islands (Shaheed Dweep) which can give you an experience of a lifetime. If you are older or your health does not allow you to dive, there are options of sea walking or taking a glass bottom boat to see these in select places. We highly recommend Scuba Lov for Scuba diving and Snorkelling. Read our detailed travel blog on our experience with Scuba Lov and you will know why we recommend them.
Now that you have gone through the introduction to Andamans and this article, you must be convinced why you cannot afford to miss visiting these emerald islands of India. You should now have a very good idea to start planning your trip to Andamans. As you may have realized by now, at least 2 weeks are required to fully cover Andamans. In case you get permissions to travel to Nicobar islands or want to head towards Barren Islands, you would require more. While you might choose not to visit few places based on your interests, anything below one week is simply not advisable. To further help you, here is a tourist map to summarize this article. You can also check out attractive Andaman tour packages with variety of options to suit your needs.
Hope this article was useful to you in helping you decide your itinerary. Let us know your thoughts or queries in comments section below. You can also directly email us your queries and we will surely respond back. Do keep reading our travel guide series - The Andaman Odyssey as we cover Port Blair, Neil island (Shaheed Dweep) and Havelock island (Swaraj Dweep) in detail with recommendations for stay, food and transport.
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