Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Aminidivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 kilometres off the south western coast of India. The archipelago is a Union Territory and is governed by the Union Government of India.
The islands form the smallest Union Territory of India: their total surface area is just 32 km2. The lagoon area covers about 4,200 km2, the territorial waters area 20,000 km2 and the exclusive economic zone area 400,000 km2. The region forms a single Indian district with ten sub divisions. Kavaratti serves as the capital of the Union Territory and the region comes under the jurisdiction of Kerala High Court. The islands are the northernmost of the Lakshadweep-Maldives-Chagos group of islands, which are the tops of a vast undersea mountain range, the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge.
Ten of the islands are inhabited. At the 2011 Indian census the population of the Union Territory was 64,473. The majority of the indigenous population is Muslim and most of them belong to the Shafi School of the Sunni Sect. The islanders are ethnically similar to the Malayali people of the nearest Indian state of Kerala. Most of the population speaks Malayalam with Mahi (or Mahl) being the most spoken language in Minicoy island. The islands are served by an airport on the Agatti island. The main occupation of the people is fishing and coconut cultivation, with tuna being the main item of export. These are made of coral deposit.
Lakshadweep is an archipelago of twelve atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks, with a total of about thirty-nine islands and islets. The reefs are in fact also atolls, although mostly submerged, with only small unvegetated sand cays above the high-water mark. The submerged banks are sunken atolls. Almost all the atolls have a northeast-southwest orientation with the islands lying on the eastern rim, and a mostly submerged reef on the western rim, enclosing a lagoon. It has 10 inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands, attached islets, 4 newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs.
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.
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).
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.
The southernmost island of Minicoy in the Lakshadweep island group is now a permitted entry point.
Both boat and helicopter transfers are available from Agatti to Bangaram and Kadmat. The helicopter 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 kilometres in length and less than a kilometre in breadth between their extremes. You can travel by foot or hire a bicycle.
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.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all islands except Bangaram.
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.
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