Lakshadweep, formerly the Laccadives, is a group of islands situated 200-440 km off India's west coast in the Arabian Sea. They are India's only coral atolls and geologically a part of the same chain as the Maldives.
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to Lakshadweep during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
Lakshadweep is India's smallest union territory with just 32 square kilometres, and one of only two Indian administrative divisions with a Muslim majority (the other being the state of Jammu and Kashmir). The name literally means "a hundred thousand islands" in Sanskrit (laksha = lakh or a quantity of 100,000, dweep = island). It has ten inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands with attached islets, four newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs.
Lakshadweep is one of the most beautiful destinations that you could visit during your holidays with beautiful marine life, relaxed village life, some tourist resorts and cherished mosques.
Peak season is December to May, when it is cooler and drier. May to September is the main (southwest) monsoon season, but the October-November northeast monsoon can also be rainy.
The people of the islands are ethnically similar to the people of the Kerala coast of India and are of mixed Indian and Arab descent. They speak a dialect of Malayalam, except in Minicoy where Mahl, a form of Dhivehi (the language of the Maldives) is spoken.
Everybody, Indian or otherwise, requires a special permit to visit Lakshadweep. By far the easiest way to obtain it is to book a package tour through the government's tour operator, The Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports (SPORTS), or arrange a hotel to sort it out for you; in fact, for foreigners, accommodation booked in advance is a precondition for being allowed to visit.
Foreigners are restricted to the islands of Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat, plus transit only (maximum of 12 hours) in Kavaratti. Indians may visit the other islands as well, but accommodation is very limited (see Sleep).
Nearly everybody going to Lakshadweep has to pass through Kochi, from where you can continue by plane or ship.
Air India normally flies thrice-weekly from Kochi to the airstrip at Agatti, the only one on the islands. It is the sole airline serving Lakshadweep. However, the service is irregular and mostly season dependent. You need to cross check with Air India whether they are operating the service or not before planning to come here. Even if there is a regular service, flights get cancelled at the last moment as Agatti has a very basic and small airstrip on which only turbo-props can land and it doesn't have night operations capability. So, it is advisable that you keep a minimum of one day to account for any cancellations.
The MV Tipu Sultan, MV Bharat Seema, MV Amindivi, MV Minicoy MV LakshadweepSea and MV ArabianSea operate between Kochi and various islands in Lakshadweep. The trip takes 14-18 hours one day depending on the destination island. The first four are basic 1960s-era ferries but fairly well maintained and tolerably comfortable and provides a comfortable journey. The Tipu Sultan stopped its service. The newly built MV LakshadweepSea and MV ArabianSea are provided with three classes of accommodation (air-con cabin, air-conreclining seats and deck) plus a cafeteria, snack bar and upper deck promenade. Return fares are around ₹3800 in air-con seats, which is the cheapest class available for packages.
Beware that all published sailing schedules are subject to sudden changes; not only can they be delayed, but it's not unknown for a boat to arrive and leave a day early.
There are also occasional cruises directly from Mumbai.
Both boat and helicopter transfers are available from Agatti to Bangaram and Kadmat. The helicopter (USD150 return) may be the only option in monsoon season from May to September.
By boats/ferries: These can be used for getting around from one island to the other.
Once on an island, there aren't too many options as the islands themselves are very small: most of them are less than 10 km in length and less than a kilometre in breadth between their extremes. You can travel by foot or hire a bicycle.
- 1 Agatti Island (around 459 km from Cochin). The gateway for the Lakshadweep, it's around 6 km long. Fishing is the main occupation for the people living here. Tourists can enjoy sailing, boat rides, water skiing, kayaking swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving, and also find huge lagoons.
- 2 Bangaram (around 8 km north of Agatti Island). Beaches with smooth sand.
- 3 Kadmat Island. A popular tourist destination. There is a huge lagoon on the west side of the island, around 10 km from the Amini.
- 4 Kalpeni. Kalpeni is located at the distance of around 76 km south of Androth. This place lies in an extensive and shallow lagoon. The lagoon is famous for its rich coral and marine life.
- 5 Kavaratti Island. Kavaratti Island is the most developed Island in Lakshadweep. Kavaratti is the administrative capital of Lakshdweep and the population is dominated by non-islanders. There are around 52 mosques on the island, and the most beautiful one is Ujra mosque.
There are basic leisure tours together with sea and lagoon based tours. There are plenty of opportunities for scuba diving, yachting, pedal boating, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing. One may also visit local houses, the Marine museum, Lighthouse and a few local industries.
- Diveline Agatti. Operates the scuba diving shop at the Agatti Resort. ₹3000 per dive.
- Lacadives. Operates the scuba diving shops at both Bangaram and Kadmat Resorts.
Lakshadweep is not a budget destination: in addition to the permit issue, there is no tourist infrastructure (hostels, restaurants, public transport etc) for backpackers. The cheapest sports tours start from around ₹10,000 for four days, but this price is all-inclusive. One can purchase pure coconut powder and coconut oil from the factory situated at Kadmat island. Fish pickles and small souvenirs are available on Kavaratti Island.
There are few if any uniquely Lakshadweep dishes. Local cuisine is similar to Kerala.
Drink large amounts of coconut water, the most abundant aerated drink on the island. Tap water here is through bore wells and a bit hard. Rainwater harvested during the rainy season is the major source of drinking water. Unavailability of drinking water accounts for a number of islands being uninhabited.
There are three full-service resorts in Lakshadweep (though one of them, the Bangaram Island Resort, is currently not operating), which are also the only places where foreigners can stay. All prices listed below are for double rooms and include all meals.
- Agatti Island Beach Resort. Privately owned, but quite run down; although apparently new cottages are planned. The main attraction is diving, which is better than at Bangaram. 20 beds.
- Kadmat Island Resort. The choice of scuba divers, this is home to Lakshadweep's first scuba facility. 22 executive huts, 26 family huts. Government-run and basic. ₹8,000/10,000 fan/air-con.
In addition, basic government resorts open to Indian citizens only are available at Minicoy, Kavaratti and Kalpeni. Some packages offered by sports include accommodation on board the ship, with only day visits to the islands.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all islands except Bangaram. Picking up corals is a punishable crime.
The only way out is back to Kochi.