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Unique Islands to visit in India

What do islands mean to you?

The sandy beaches?

The azure blue sky?

The coconut palms?

The cool breeze?

For us, islands are a place to party and to relax at the same time. They are places to spend several days lazing around on a hammock with a book and a refreshing drink. They are places to watch beautiful sunrises and equally incredible sunsets while making sandcastles. They are places to swim, participate in water sports, and meet new people. Islands mean different to different people. There’s just one commonality – they sure relax and rejuvenate every soul.

Unique Islands to visit in India
Unique Islands to visit in India

There are plenty of islands to visit in India due to its vast coastline. While few are murky and over-commercialised, the others are offbeat and far from the tourist crowd. When it comes to vacations, Indians generally tend to ignore the islands and focus more on visiting the places inland. You would be surprised to know that there are more than 1000 islands in India. While many are uninhabited, quite a few of them are unique and attract visitors not only from India but from several foreign countries. Here’s a list of 10 unique islands to visit in India, that are gorgeous, picturesque and devoid of selfie-snappers.

10 Unique Islands to visit in India:

1. Neil Island, Andaman and Nicobar

2. Minicoy Island, Lakshadweep

3. Divar Island, Goa

4. Majuli Island, Assam

5. Munroe Island, Kerala

6. Diu Island, Union Territory

7. Netrani Island, Karnataka

8. Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu

9. Elephanta Island, Maharashtra

10. Sendra Island, Manipur

1. Neil Island, Andaman and Nicobar

Neil Island, recently renamed as Shaheed Dweep, in Andamans is known for its white sandy beaches that are named after the characters of Ramayana, like Lakshmanpur beach, Sitapur beach and Bharatpur beach. The island is surrounded by pristine blue sea that is rich in marine life and lively colorful corals.

Neil Island is small (13.7 square kilometres) and can be explored by renting out a bicycle available at the jetty. You can reach Neil Island via a ferry from Port Blair. Apart from the lovely tropical beaches, Neil Island is famous for the natural bridge formations, made of natural coral reefs, that are accessible during low tide.

Natural coral bridge, Neil Island, Andamans - India_Unique islands to visit in India
Natural coral bridge, Neil Island, Andamans - India

Neil Island is often referred to as the vegetable bowl of Andaman Islands as its soil is ideal for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. The island is best for those who wish to snorkel or dive underwater. It is also best suited for those who are looking out for a relaxed holiday on deserted beaches.

2. Minicoy Island, Lakshadweep

Minicoy Island is located at the southernmost tip of the Lakshadweep islands. It is locally referred to as Malikau island by locals. Minicoy Island has a long flat belt of sandy beach, the best part of which is that it is just 2-3 feet deep for almost 1-2 kilometres. Hence, the beaches at Minicoy Island are ideal for swimming and snorkelling.

Minicoy Island beach is one of the most unexplored, unspoilt and secluded beaches of India. The island is synonymous to paradise with the tranquil sea, beautiful coral reefs, and luscious lagoons. Minicoy island floats along the sides of one of the biggest lagoons in Lakshadweep. Located very close to the Maldives, Minicoy island’s culture and cuisine are influenced by Maldivians.

Minicoy Island, Lakshadweep - India_Unique Islands to visit in India
Minicoy Island, Lakshadweep - India

The view of the turquoise blue water from the lighthouse at Minicoy Island is extremely scenic and enthralling. The island has a rich tradition of performing arts like Lava dance, carpentry and boat races. Minicoy Island is just 4.8 square kilometre but remarkably unique. It can be reached by boarding a ferry from Agatti Island.

3. Divar Island, Goa

Divar Island is located in the bustling river of Mandovi in Goa. It is easily accessible by government ferries from Goa mainland. Though Goa is such a huge beach and party destination, hardly any tourist chooses to take the 10-minute ferry boat ride to Divar Island. Located just 9 kilometres from Panjim (that is swarmed by hundreds of tourists each day), Divar Island is still uninfluenced and unscathed by tourism.

Divar Island is home to many beautiful churches and ancient Portuguese villas. Oddly 2000 people stay at the island. The island is a Goan countryside with lots od Portuguese influence in its architecture. The villages on the island are scenic with the roadways surrounded by small hills.

Church in Diu Island, Goa - India_Unique islands to visit in India
Church in Diu Island, Goa - India

Divar Island is famous for the grand celebration of festivals like Bonderam and Potekar, where the villagers set out a colorful parade. Just a walk in the narrow lanes in the villages of Divar Island will take you back to the bygone colonial era.

4. Majuli Island, Assam

Majuli Island, the largest freshwater island in the world, is located on the Brahmaputra River in Assam. The island is 350 square kilometres big but is shrinking quickly due to water rise and soil erosion. The word Majuli means ‘land between two rivers’. The island is famous for stunning sunrises and sunsets. Majuli Island can be reached by a ferry ride from the nearby mainland town named Jorhat.

Fishermen huts in Majuli Island - India_Unique Islands to visit in India
Fishermen huts in Majuli Island - India

While on Majuli Island, you can stay at a local’s bamboo hut, rent either a motorbike or a bicycle and go about exploring the island yourself. You can indulge yourself in different activities like traditional mask-making and bird-watching (both migratory and indigenous). You can spot rare species of pelicans, Siberian cranes and pelicans at Majuli island.

The residents of Majuli Island mostly belong to a tribal community named Vaishnavite and the island is dotted with 21 Vaishnavite monasteries that are centuries old. People of Majuli preserve the traditional Assamese culture that can be seen in their cuisine, dance forms, art and craftwork and literature.

5. Munroe Island, Kerala

Munroe Island is a cluster of 8 islands that are named after Colonel John Munroe, a Scottish soldier, who served as Diwan of the states of Cochin in the 1980s. The island is located in the backwaters of Kerala, exactly where the Ashtamudi lake and Kallada river join. Munroe Island measures 13.4 square kilometres and can be reached by ferry.

Snake-boat ride in canals of Munroe Island - India_Unique islands to visit in India
Snake-boat ride in canals of Munroe Island - India

Munroe Island has a fascinating network of water canals and is famous for canal cruises (mostly in a snake boat or a houseboat). You can either opt to stay in one such houseboat or homestays located on the island. You can enjoy the home-cooked authentic meals, go boating in the sea, spot migratory birds and stroll in the greenery along the backwaters.

Munroe Island is an ideal spot to witness the Kallada Boat race, a race between 12 snake boats, held during the festival of Onam. The mangrove forests surrounding Munroe Island makes it one of the most interesting islands to visit in India. Better visit the island before it sinks due to rising water levels.

6. Diu Island, Union Territory

Diu Island, located off the coast of Gujarat, is a perfect amalgamation of Gujarati and Portuguese culture. This small island is famous for its exquisite beaches, Portuguese architecture, serene natural beauty, and delicious tropical seafood. Travellers seldom confuse Diu Island to be a part of Gujarat, but it is a part of Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli.

Diu Island is just 45 square kilometres big but one of the most unique islands to visit in India. It was ruled by Portuguese for over 400 years. Hence, there's a lot of Portuguese influence in its architecture and culture. It’s amazing to see how it still clings to the Portuguese charm it had ages ago. Diu Island is located about 400 kilometres from Ahmedabad and can be reached by road as it is linked to the mainland by a bridge.

Amphitheatre at Diu Island - India_Unique islands to visit in India
Amphitheatre at Diu Island - India

Once you reach Diu Island, the best way to explore it is by renting a scooter. The island is known for its salt pans, limestone cliffs and caves, rocky coves, beautiful churches, sandy beaches, and magnificent forts. Diu is also home to Rukhda Baobab tree, one of the largest succulent plant in the world. You can also visit Fudam Bird Sanctuary, about 3 kilometres from Diu, to spot exotic birds like flamingos, parakeets and babblers.

7. Netrani Island, Karnataka

Located in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Karnataka in West India, lies Netrani Island. It is only 20 kilometres away from the mainland. Netrani Island is a heart-shaped island and can be reached by a 60 to 90-minute ferry ride from the temple town of Murudeshwar in Karnataka.

Scuba diving at Netrani Island - India_Unique islands to visit in India
Scuba diving at Netrani Island - India

A few diving sites around Netrani Island are one of the best diving spots in India. Although it generally goes under the radar amongst tourists due to the popularity of islands like Andaman and Lakshadweep. The dive sites brim with beautiful corals and colorful aquatic life like dolphins, stingrays, turtles, butterflyfish, parrotfish and eels. There are also chances of occasional spotting of whale sharks around Netrani Island.

Netrani Island once used to be a navy training ground but now it’s popular amongst adventure lovers, who often flock the island for underwater adventure activities. The crystal-clear water around the island makes it a perfect spot for snorkelling, scuba diving and coral reef viewing. The island is however uninhabited without any accommodation facilities. You can alternatively book your stay in Murudeshwar.

8. Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu

Also known as Rameshwaram Island, Pamban Island is Tamil Nadu's largest island by area. Pamban Island is located in the Bay of Bengal and connects to mainland India by a long sea bridge named as Pamban Bridge. Before the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, Pamban Bridge was the longest sea bridge in India. A drive on the Pamban bridge is a unique experience in itself.

Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu - India_Unique islands to visit in India
Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu - India

Pamban Island is offbeat and one of the most unique islands to visit in India. It is known for the floating stones places by the Lord Rama's entourage as per the legendary Hindu epic, Ramayana. The island is also known for its white sandy beaches with a wide and beautiful shoreline. The beaches offer breath-taking views of sunrise and sunsets.

Pamban Island houses holy temple towns of Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi. You could also visit the abandoned ruins of the temples made in medieval age. It is often flocked by devotees of Lord Shiva and Lord Rama.

9. Elephanta Island, Maharashtra

Elephanta Island, locally known as the Gharapuri (Fortress city) Island, is located in the Arabian Sea, about 10 kilometres from the Mumbai coastline. The island has an area of 6 square kilometres that keeps varying based on the tide. A 1-hour boat ride from Gateway of India can take you to the island.

Elephanta Island is famous for its cave temples carved out of rocks. The cave temples have been designated as the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The caves and sculptures are said to be damaged by Portuguese soldiers in the 16th century. In the 1970s, the temples were restored and the island became a major tourist spot.

Caves at Elephanta Island - India_Unique islands to visit in India
Caves at Elephanta Island - India

You could also visit the small on-site museum on Elephanta Island that will provide you with all the information regarding the island and the origin of caves and temples. Though the island houses 3 villages towards its southern end, there are no accommodation options.

10. Sendra Island, Manipur

Sendra Island is a floating island made of organic waste in the southern part of Loktak Lake in Manipur state of Northeast India. It looks like a raised mountain in the middle of the lake. Several fishermen villages sustain on the island which is as small as 40 square kilometres.

Sendra Island in Manipur, India_Unique islands to visit in India
Sendra Island in Manipur, India

Sendra Island is mainly a clump of matted weeds. This makes it one of the most unique islands to visit in India. You can reach Sendra Island by hiring a boat from Moirang, roughly 45 kilometres away from Imphal, the capital town of Manipur.

Once on Sendra Island, you can enjoy the greenery of the surroundings, go boating in the lake, watch the fishermen at work and view the incredible crimson sunsets. You can also opt to stay in a homestay on the island. You can also visit the island as a day trip and enjoy the delicious food in the island's restaurant cum cafe. Various rare birds can also be spotted from the island.

Now, when you have gone through the list of most unique islands to visit in India, it’s time to plan a vacation. Have you visited any of these islands? If not, which one are you eager to explore? Let us know in the comment section below.

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