The Andaman and Nicobar Islands cover an immense area of just under 8,100 square kilometers and are the Republic of India’s union territory. Once inhabited by indigenous tribes, when the British occupied India the island became a penal colony. Today, despite their horrible reputation during that period, the islands are one of the most visited tourist sites in India. Well-known for their sandy white beaches, serene atmosphere and the sparkling topaz of the waters around them, there are plenty of places worth seeing. These are some of the places that should be on your list when you visit the islands.
- Havelock Island
One of the biggest islands in the group, Havelock is also one of the most popular. Covering just under 114 square kilometers, the island lies 57 kilometers to the north-east of Port Blair. The Island takes its name from a British General and is made up of Ritchie’s Archipelago and five villages – Govinda Nagar, Krishna Nagar, Radha Nagar, Bijay Nagar and Shyam Nagar. With its focus firmly on eco-tourism, Havelock is one of the more developed of the islands.
The serenity and the beauty of the island is the main draw for tourists. Dotted with beautiful beaches, rich coral, forests and sparkling water, Havelock is the perfect representation of the natural beauty that the region has to offer. On the southern coast lies Radhangar beach while the east boasts Vijayanagar beach. Two of the best places to watch the sunrise and the sunset are Kalapather and Elephant beaches. There are plenty of watersports on offer and other activities or you could just take time out to wander the beaches and explore by yourself.
- Cellular Jail
Also called Kala Pani, the cellular jail is a colonial-era prison in Port Blair, the islands’ capital. Built by the British during their rule, the jail was used mostly for political prisoners, all abused badly by the British. Construction started in 1896 and was finished in 1906 after which it was used for freedom fighters like Yogendra Shukla, Batukeshwar Dutt, and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Now it is under the ownership of the Indian government and is kept as a reminder of how prisoners lived and were treated during the British colonial rule. Because the islands are secluded, the British were able to deprive the prisoners of any news regarding their country and thousands of Indians lived and died there, some of the harsh conditions, others were hanged while others just perished. Today it stands as a reminder of what the freedom fighters went through to secure independence for India.
- Ross Island
2 kilometers away from Port Blair lies Ross Island. Once it was the British administrative HQ but now it is nothing more than a barren island that offers natural beauty and spectacular views. In 1941, an earthquake forced the British to leave the island and resettle in Port Blair and, because of the suddenness of this, the island could not survive. The ruins of a church, the chief commissioner’s home with its once-beautiful gardens and ballrooms, and a swimming pool offer some idea of how prosperous the island once was. Managed by the Indian Navy, a small museum and a cemetery are there for tourists, as is the range of regional Indian food. Ross Island is covered in thick forestland and the first sight you see of the Island will make it hard to believe that it was once a British power seat, with everything from a church, a bazaar, a bakery, a tennis court, cemetery, hospital and everything else that went into making Ross Island the lively place it once was. Now there are just a couple of buildings while large banyan trees have taken over the rest. The Navy has restored a few of the older buildings to give tourists an idea of what it was once like and souvenirs can also be purchased in the shops.
- Neil Island
Stretching 18.9 kilometers, Neil Island lies in Ritchie’s Archipelago. Its name came from a British soldier by the name of James George Smith Neill, a soldier who fought hard against the insurgents in 1857, during the suppression of the mutiny. Plenty of watersports and beautiful beaches offer you the opportunity to explore the marine life or just relax in the peace and quiet. A long walk will take you around the island across three sandy beaches, beside a sea that ripples between dark blue, light blue and green. The pure beaches of Lakshmanpur, Bharatpur, and Sitpur offer breathtaking scenery and are three of the most popular tourist spots.