Done with the mainland from the chilly hills of the North to beaches in the south? India is not just that! Offering a variety of destinations and landscapes to tourists, here are some of the most beautiful islands in the country that should mention on every traveller’s list.
Majuli Island, Assam
Beached amid the mighty Brahmaputra River’s ever-shifting puzzle of ochre sandbanks is Majuli, which at around 450 sq km is India’s largest river island. For a place continually ravaged by the primal forces of nature, Majuli flaunts unparalleled scenic beauty. The island is a relaxed, shimmering mat of glowing rice fields and water meadows bursting with hyacinth blossoms.
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Diu Island, Gujarat
Tiny Diu Island, linked by a bridge to Gujarat’s southern coast, is infused with Portuguese history. The streets of the main town are clean and quiet once you get off the tourist-packed waterfront strip; and alcohol is legal here. The northern side of the island, facing Gujarat, is tidal marsh and salt pans, while the southern coast alternates between limestone cliffs, rocky coves and sandy beaches. It is fun to ride a scooter, zipping along the coast with the wind in your hair is a joy.
St Mary’s Islands, Karnataka
This group of four tiny islands off Malpe is where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama supposedly landed in 1498. The curious hexagonal basalt formations jutting out of the sand make the landscape of these islands unique. Also making an important site for ‘Geo Tourism’, these islands are accessible only via boats that ferry depending on the number of tourists.
Havelock, Andaman Islands
With sublime silken beaches, twinkling teal shallows and some of the best diving in South Asia, Havelock has the well-deserved reputation of being a travellers’ paradise. Indeed for many, Havelock is the Andamans, and it’s what lures most tourists across the Bay of Bengal, many of whom are content to stay here for the entirety of their trip.
Little Andaman, Andaman Islands
As far south as you can go in the islands, Little Andaman has an appealing end-of-the-world feel. It’s a gorgeous fist of mangroves, jungle and teal, ringed by beaches as fresh as bread out of the oven. It rates highly as many travellers’ favourite spot in the Andamans after Havelock. Located about 120km south of Port Blair, the main settlement here is Hut Bay, a pleasant small town.
Kadmat Island, Lakshadweep
Described as the most unspoilt in the Lakshadweep archipelago, Kadmat Island is notified as a marine protected area. The clean blue waters are great for adventure activities like kayaking, snorkeling and leisure trips by a glass-bottomed boat for scuba diving. The island can be reached by overnight boat from Kochi, or by boat transfer from Agatti airport.
Divar Island, Goa
Stepping off the ferry from Old Goa onto beautiful little riverine Divar Island, you have the distinct feeling of entering the land that time forgot. Surrounded by marshy waters and crisscrossed with sleepy single-lane roads, the island makes for lovely, languid exploration, and though there’s not much particularly to see, it’s a serene and seldom-visited place to take in the atmosphere of old-time rural Goa.
Sendra Island, Manipur
Located in the middle of the intriguing Loktak Lake, Sendra Island gives the best views of the tiny floating islands here. The lake’s shimmering blue waters are broken into small lakelets by (rapidly vanishing) clumps of matted weeds called phumdis, and the lake is inhabited by villagers who build thatched huts on the floating ‘islands’ and make their way about in dugout canoes. You can also embark on a boat ride in order to get a closer look at lake life.
Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu
Pamban Island, or Rameswaram Island, is about 2 km away from the Indian mainland, and connected by the beautiful Pamban Bridge. Explore Pamban’s ancient shrines and temples, which are considered to be one of the holiest places to Hindus. Later, enjoy the Dhanushkodi beach and a road there with Indian Ocean on one side and Bay of Bengal on the other.
Sagar Island, West Bengal
According to Hindu legend, Sagar Island – at the confluence of the Ganges – was where King Sagar’s 60,000 sons were brought back to life by the flowing river after they had been reduced to ashes by a sage named Kapil Muni. Each year in January, the Ganga Sagar Mela is held here near the Kapil Muni Temple, honouring the legend. The best way to see the festival is the two-day, one-night boat tour operated from Kolkata by West Bengal Tourism, with accommodation on-board. The island hibernates for the rest of the year.