A Complete Guide To The Lakshadweep Islands

From secluded spots, coral reefs, old architecture, and eerie shipwrecks, explore all the useful bits before you visit Lakshadweep Islands
Lakshadweep islands has become a popular tourist attraction in the last few months
Lakshadweep islands has become a popular tourist attraction in the last few monthsShutterstock

The waters of the Lakshadweep Islands are known to do wonders. Renowned for their crystal-clear clarity and therapeutic properties, these pristine waters have a magical touch that refreshes and rejuvenates visitors.

Recently, away from the polity cradle of Delhi on a break, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was found snorkelling in Lakshadweep. The photos from his water sports and his stay on the island betray his age and he looks as if in the flower of his youth. The serene and untouched nature of the islands that allow people to think and contemplate had a similar impact on the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Modi after his snorkelling session in Lakshadweep
Prime Minister Modi after his snorkelling session in Lakshadweepnarendramodi/instagram

With such an eye-opening charm that goads individuals into self-discovery, Lakshadweep stands as a rather sought-after destination. Explore all you need to know about the city's history, geography, local attractions, culinary delights, activities, shopping hotspots, and more, helping you make the most of your visit to this Indian gem.

History

Huts in Lakshadweep Island
Huts in Lakshadweep IslandShutterstock

Lakshadweep is a group of 36 coral islands in the Laccadive Sea, a part of the Arabian Sea. The term Lakshadweep means "a hundred thousand islands" in Malayalam. These islands are a Union Territory of India and are renowned for their unspoiled beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life, which make them a hidden treasure in the Indian Ocean. Lakshadweep's history is intertwined with ancient maritime trade routes and cultural exchanges across the Indian Ocean. A Greek sailor mentioned the islands as a source of tortoiseshell in the 1st century CE. The islands were also mentioned in the Buddhist Jataka stories of the 6th century BCE. The islands have been referenced in Sanskrit texts and were influenced by Arab sailors and traders, which shaped the local culture. In the 16th century, the Portuguese and the British also left their marks, resulting in the islands becoming a Union Territory in 1956 after India gained independence. Since then, the authorities have dedicatedly preserved Lakshadweep's unique cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty.

Geography And Biodiversity

Triangle butterflyfish in Lakshadweep
Triangle butterflyfish in LakshadweepShutterstock

Lakshadweep archipelago is located approximately 200 to 400 kilometres off the southwestern coast of India. It consists of three coral atolls, namely Amindivi, Laccadive, and Minicoy, along with numerous islets. These islands are known for their white sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs. The coral atolls act as natural barriers, creating lagoons that support a diverse marine ecosystem. The island ecosystem is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. With more than 140 species, the coral ecosystem provides an ideal habitat for various flora and fauna. Lakshadweep boasts 400 species of plants, 101 species of birds, and 603 species of marine fishes.

Places To Visit

Agatti Island

Agatti Island
Agatti IslandShutterstock

Agatti is a 7.6 km long island on a coral atoll known as Agatti Atoll. This island is renowned for its stunning beaches, perfect for sunbathing, beachcombing, and water sports. If you are a snorkelling or scuba diving fan, you can explore the vibrant coral reefs surrounding Agatti, where you can witness an array of colourful marine life. In Agatti, you can find coral growths and multicoloured coral fishes in abundance in its lagoons. Fishing is the most crucial industry of Agatti, which is perhaps the only island besides Minicoy, getting surplus fish.

Kavaratti Island

Kavaratti Island
Kavaratti IslandShutterstock

Kavaratti is a tropical island known for its white sand beaches and views. It houses the Kavaratti Aquarium, a must-visit destination for those who are interested in exploring the diverse marine life of Lakshadweep. The aquarium showcases a variety of exotic fish and coral species, giving visitors a glimpse into the rich marine biodiversity of the region. Another popular attraction in the area is the Ujra Mosque, known for its exquisite architecture and serene surroundings. Built in the 17th century by Sheikh Mohammad Kasim, it is one of the island's oldest and most striking mosques. Visitors can take in the mosque's beauty and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the surrounding area.

Bangaram Island

Bangaram Island
Bangaram IslandShutterstock

Bangaram is an uninhabited, teardrop-shaped atoll in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, India. It's located about 7 kilometres northeast of Agatti and 25 kilometres southeast of Perumal Par. Bangaram Island is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. It offers opportunities for kayaking, windsurfing, and deep-sea fishing. Visitors can also explore the lush greenery and coconut groves while strolling on nature trails. Monsoon and winter seasons are the best times to visit.

Minicoy Island

Minicoy Island
Minicoy IslandShutterstock

Minicoy Island, also known as Maliku, is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep. Isolated from the main group of islands, it lies around 200 km south of the northern group. Minicoy is famous for its coral reefs and white sand beaches, and it's home to the only linguistic minority in India that speaks Mahal, in addition to Hindi, English, and Malayalam. As of 2023, the population of Minicoy is estimated to be around 14,300. While on the island, visit the Minicoy Lighthouse, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding seascape.

A stamp portraying Minicoy Lighthouse
A stamp portraying Minicoy LighthouseShutterstock

Designed by James Nicholas Douglass, the lighthouse was opened on February 2, 1885, and it's one of the oldest in Lakshadweep. There are plenty of water sports to indulge in, and you can witness underwater shipwrecks, too. Additionally, you must experience the vibrant culture of Minicoy through traditional dance performances and local music.

What To Eat

Lakshadweep's cuisine is heavily influenced by Kerala's Malabar cuisine, featuring coconut oil and curry leaves. Dishes borrowed from Kerala include Idli, Dosa, Aviyal, Biryani, and Malabar parotta. Local delicacies include Maasu Podichath, made from dried tuna, shredded coconut, onion, garlic, chilli, turmeric, and salt, and Mus Kavaab, a zesty tuna curry. Sweets include Dweep halwa and Bisfarata, a sweet snack. Fenvarabondi is a popular snack made with tender coconut, rice, and jaggery, steamed in a banana leaf.

To enjoy these culinary delights, you can head to places like Cafe de Saina in Kavaratti Island, a popular cafe and favourite among tourists, or Akshaya Mess and Food Court, reputed for catering to the local palate. You can also check out the Heavens Treat Beach, famous for its dinner and delicious coconut water and Al Barath Restaurant, which caters to cuisine choices ranging from Indian to Chinese and continental.

Where To Shop

Lakshadweep houses several markets and shops where you can head for shopping various items. You can head to the China Bazar Kavaratti which is famous for gifts, souvenirs, and eatables, or go to the Fiber Factory for top notch fabrics. There is also the Muhammad Musthafa Supper Market known for catering to the day to day needs and dealing in grocery items and the Thavakkal Clothing Stores, boasting an extensive choice of beachwear and other local attires.

Where To Stay

Travellers retain a large variety of stay options when in Lakshadweep. You can go for Bangaram Island Resort (MG Road Near Poshaak, Bangaram 682553 India) that offers basic rooms and top notch amenities close to the beach, or Kadmat Beach Resort (Resort Road, Near Helipad, Kadmat, Lakshadweep 682556), close to Bangaram Island offering various varieties of room within affordable price range. There is also Minicoy Island Beach Resort (CORALROUTES, Rasheedias, sedivalu village, Minicoy Island, Minicoy, Lakshadweep 682559) located on the beach and reputed for its luxurious rooms and services as well as Kalpeni Tourist Hut (Kalpeni, Lakshadweep) offering great rooms, beach side table arrangements tasty food, and nice folk dance performances.

How To Reach Lakshadweep

Air: The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport. From Cochin, there are Air India flights that reach Agatti in one and a half hours and these operate six days a week.

Sea: The most common way to reach Lakshadweep is by sea. Seven ships, MV Arabian Sea, MV Dweep Setu, MV Kavaratti, MV Bharat Seema, MV Minicoy, MV Lakshadweep Sea, and MV Amindivi Sea, transport people to Lakshadweep. The journey can be fun and interesting, with Deluxe Class, First Class, and Tourist Class accommodations available. The ships offer a variety of entertainment options and health services. The trip takes 14-20 hours. Cruises are also available from Mumbai, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, and Cochin.

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