Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands close to the Kerala Coast in southern India separated by the Laccadive Sea from the mainland. Comprising a number of coral atolls, reefs, virgin beaches and deep lagoons, it is a haven for nature lovers. Spread across 32 sq km of land, it is the smallest Union Territory of India. Since, many of the islands are uninhabited and the total population in the inhabited islands is below 70,000, Lakshadweep offers travelers a quiet and undisturbed vacation. This magical charm is available in very few places in the world and Lakshadweep provides you the fantasy of blue waters and marine life. Along with this, Lakshadweep also offers its tourists opportunities to enjoy water sports. It is, in fact, fast becoming a sought after destination for water adventure in India. Being a restricted area for both Indians and foreigners, you might need to get prior permission to go to Lakshadweep. Know more about the Union Territory in the Lakshadweep Travel Guide.
Best Time to Visit Lakshadweep - October to May
How to Reach Lakshadweep
By Air: The Agatti Island in Lakhsadweep has an airport that operates regular flights from Kochi, 459 km away. International tourists can take a flight to Kochi from Delhi and then fly to Lakshadweep in about 75 minutes. The Bangaram Island has a helicopter pad to facilitate tourists to reach the island from Agatti.
By Rail: The nearest railway station that you can avail for your travel to Lakshadweep is located in Kochi. Located on the Indian mainland, Kochi has 2 important railway stations that connect it to the entire country - Ernakulum Junction or South Railway Station and Ernakulum Town or North Railway Station. After you reach Kochi, you can avail ships to reach Lakshadweep.
By Sea: Lakshadeep, being an island is well connected by sea routes. It is great experience to reach Lakshadeep by ship. One can very well take a passenger cruise from the Kochi (Cochin) port to Lakshadeep. There are various choices of cruises. There are luxury cruises offering a range of world class hospitality and the best of the amenities and facilities. There are also options of standard cruises which are also nice enough in terms of comfort and expeditious services. It takes about 18 to20 hours to reach Lakshadeep by ship. In order to visit the different islands within Lakshadeep, the mode of transportation is mainly boat. It is indeed exhilarating to travel by boat passing through the series of the fascinating world of corals. You can avail any of the four ships that sail between Kochi and the various islands of Lakshadweep - M.V. Minicoy, M.V. TipuSultan, M.V. Animnidivi and M.V. Bharatseema. Do note that booking needs to be made in advance as the ships have a limited capacity and the journey takes about 24 hours.
Tourist Attractions in Lakshadweep: Places to Go
There are two ways to tour the islands. Lakshadweep tourism offers sea tours that constitute sea travel during the night from one island to another and sightseeing during the day, and the traditional form of traveling that involves staying at a resort in one island and visiting the tourist attractions around the island. Among the ten inhabited islands of Lakshadweep, six have the required facilities for tourists. These are the popular places to go in Lakshadweep:
Kavaratti - It is the capital of Lakshadeep and offers a range of tourist attractions like Marine Aquarium and several mosques, and water sports including swimming, yatching and kayaking.
Bangaram - This is an international resort island situated about 7 km from Agatti in the northeast direction on a coral atoll. It is almost uninhabited except for the resort employees and offers a serene environment with swaying coconut trees all around. You can indulge in water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving. If you have never tried diving, enroll into the diving school here and enjoy the world of coral fishes and other forms of marine life. This is also the only island where alcohol consumption is allowed.
Agatti - Well connected by air, this island features deep lagoons that look stunning and offers brilliant sea views.
Kalpeni - Famous for its lighthouse, mosque and coral debris, this inhabited island is a great spot for enjoying sun bathing, snorkeling and kayaking.
Kadmat - This island is known for lagoons on both sides in the east and west. International tourists, while planning your travel to Lakshadweep, you can include this island in the itinerary as this is one of the 3 islands, which are open to foreigners. This is a sought after destination for water sports like scuba diving, wind surfing, water skiing, para sailing and yachting, for both experts and beginners. Couples on a trip to Lakshadweep for their honeymoon will find privacy in the secluded cottages in this island.
Minicoy - Popularly known as Women's Island due to the dominance of women in the society, this island is the southern-most point of Lakshadweep group of islands. It is noted for its culture, sightseeing attractions like the tuna canning factory and a lighthouse, and dense coconut farms. Watch the local dance forms of Lava, Fuli, Bandiya and Dandi to enjoy the flavor of the island.
Heritage Buildings in Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep is well known for its mosques especially in the islands of Kavaratti, Agatti and Kalpeni. There are in fact 52 mosques in Kavaratti. Here are the historically significant mosques in Lakshadweep that mark the archipelago's heritage:
Mohiyudeen Mosque - This mosque in the Agatti Island is considered as the oldest religious site in Lakshadweep. This 16th century monument resembles the architectural style of the Malabar Temple and features elaborate carvings on its tombstones. Unlike other mosques, you will not find any minarets here.
Ujra Mosque - This 17th century mosque is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Lakshadweep. Established by Sheikh Mohammed Kasim, the mosque has beautifully carved pillars. The ceiling in the mosque is said have been constructed by a single log of driftwood and contains intricate carvings that are worth looking at.
Museums in Lakshadweep
The notable museums in Lakshadweep are:
Marine Aquarium - This marine museum in Kavaratti showcases numerous specimens of marine flora and fauna.
Golden Jubilee Museum - Situated in the Agatti Island, the museum has artifacts like wooden chests, coins, and the bust of Lord Buddha that belongs to the era between the 9th and 12th century.
Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries in Lakshadweep
Although there are no national parks or sanctuaries in Lakshadweep, it is in itself a sanctuary of its kind. Lakshadweep is a highly restricted and a protected area where all possible measures are taken to preserve the marine animals, fishes and the coral reefs in the lagoons and banks. This marine wealth includes sea turtles, sea urchins, starfish, octopus, lagoon triggerfish, cowry and sea cucumber. Apart from these, you will also find sea birds like the Common Noddy, Swift Tern, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron, Grey-backed Tropicbird, Oriental White-eye and the Lesser Crested Tern here.
Fairs and Festivals in Lakshadweep
The major population in Lakshadweep follows the Islam religion. It is no wonder then that festivals like Bakrid, Milad-ul-Nabi and Id-ul-Fitr are important in the Indian archipelago. You can plan your travel to Lakshadweep when these festivals are celebrated to enjoy the traditions in the islands:
Bakrid - This festival commemorates the devotion of Prophet Ibrahim who offered his son for sacrifice before God. Celebrated on the day when the journey to Mecca comes to an end, the Muslims offer to sacrifice a goat before God. Later the sacrificial meat is shared among the devotees.
Mawlid - Also known as Milad-ul-Nabi, this festival celebrates the birth of Prophet Mohammed and features public congregations and making and distribution of delicious sweets. Mawlid is observed in the 3rd month of the Islamic calendar.
Id-ul-Fitr - This festival marks the end of the Ramadan month when devout Muslims fast all day for the entire 30 days. Id-ul-Fitr is celebrated on the new moon night, and on this day people meet their family members and friends, exchange gifts and sweets and worship at the mosque.
History of Lakshadweep
The locals in Lakshadweep, earlier named Laccadive, believe certain legends to be history, but none have proof. One such 'history' is about a king, Cheruman Perumal, who under influence of Arab merchants set out for Mecca. When people headed out to look for him, they got shipwrecked on an island, which is today called Bangaram. Their few days stay here and adjoining island (present Agatti), made them fall in love with them, so much so that some, even after finding their way back to their kingdom, came back to settle down here. The earliest inhabitants are believed to have settled down in Amini, Kalpeni, Kavaratti and Andrott islands. Gradually they spread out into the other islands as well. According to another legend, Ubaidullah, an Islamic saint suffered a ship wreck in one of the islands. During his stay here, he spread Islamic teachings to the locals and even got married to a woman whom he converted and named Hameedat Beebi. In the following years, devout Muslims built several mosques all around the islands. Since then, a number of foreign and Indian empires tried to invade the islands, but the persistence of the people made them remain largely free. After independence in 1947, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel sent Indian Navy ships to include Laccadive in the Indian nation.