Lakshadweep holiday - Thinnakara

Lakshadweep trip: How to plan one on your own (updated)

Planning your own Lakshadweep trip takes time, effort and patience. Here’s how to plan a trip to these islands, based on what we learned during our visit.

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Some time ago, my wife and I decided we would take a holiday in the Lakshadweep islands for our anniversary. But we soon found out that visiting Lakshadweep was not going to be as easy as we thought. There’s not too much information available online if you don’t want to go through an agent, and whatever is there is quite confusing. So here’s what we learned while we planned our Lakshadweep trip and how you can go about planning yours.

Before you get into the details, though, you should take a look at this quick video guide if you’re wondering how to visit Lakshadweep. It’ll give you an idea of what to expect, and help you figure out the details better. You can also download my Lakshadweep quick reference planner so you can have the basic details at your fingertips.

Also read: A detailed account of our amazing Lakshadweep holiday

About Lakshadweep: The basics

Lakshadweep (literally, ‘a hundred thousand islands’) is a group of tiny coral islands off the south-west coast of India. These islands are relatively unexplored, and offer breathtaking beaches, spectacular diving and a bit of interesting culture.

There are two ways of reaching Lakshadweep: you can either fly in or take a cruise. When flying in (like we did), the usual schedule involves staying on one of the islands for a night or two while you enjoy the beach, the reefs and the local culture (if any), and then moving on to the next island. Traveling between islands usually involves a long boat ride, so day trips are rare.

If you prefer cruises, on the other hand, there are different ones that start from the mainland and go to various islands, depending on the package. You will probably spend most nights on board your ship, though.

We decided to fly in instead of taking a cruise, so this post will focus on helping you plan a fly-in Lakshadweep trip.

1. Places to visit in Lakshadweep

Only a few islands in Lakshadweep are currently open to tourism: Bangaram, Thinnakara, Kadmat, Kavaratti, Kalpeni and Minicoy. Because Kalpeni and Minicoy are so far away, you can usually only visit them as part of a cruise package.

Agatti island has the only airport in the Lakshadweep islands, but the last I checked, there wasn’t any tourist accommodation there.

Here’s a map will give you an idea of how far apart these islands actually are.

Map of Lakshadweep-en
Map of the Lakshadweep islands (courtesy Oona Raisanen via Wikimedia Commons)

a. Bangaram and Thinnakara

Bangaram island is the most popular island among international tourists (maybe because it’s the only island that allows alcohol to be served – but that doesn’t mean it’s actually available). Because of this, it’s also the most expensive. The only accommodation is cottages of different sizes, which have air coolers instead of air-conditioners (though they aren’t usually needed).

In contrast, nearby Thinnakara is a tiny, mostly-uninhabited island that offers complete privacy in its tents on the beach and hardly any tourists.

View from Bangaram cottage - How to plan your Lakshadweep trip
Bangaram island has the most luxurious accommodation of all the islands, and the price reflects that
Hammock on Thinnakara island - How to plan your Lakshadweep trip
Thinnakara’s accommodation is basic, but offers lots of privacy

b. Kadmat

Another popular island is Kadmat, known for its quiet, pristine beaches and its once-beautiful corals. The corals have been recently been affected by a rise in ocean temperatures, though, causing them to largely die out. Kadmat lies far to the north of Agatti, so the ferry ride is quite long.

Beach side resort at Kadmat Island
The resort on Kadmat island (courtesy Manvendra Bhangui via Wikimedia Commons)

c. Kavaratti

Kavaratti is the capital island of Lakshadweep, and is probably the best place to see the local culture. Unfortunately, it lies far to the south of Agatti and takes a while to get there. It’s also a popular stop for cruises, so it can get crowded during the day.

Government resort on Kavaratti island
The view from our room at the resort on Kavaratti

d. Kalpeni

Kalpeni is one of the more difficult islands for tourists to access, so most people visit the island as part of a cruise. Still, it has some interesting features, like the surreal coral boulders strewn across its eastern and south-eastern shores. They say that a violent storm in 1847 broke off large parts of nearby reefs and washed pieces ashore, here.

Rocky outcrops on Kalpeni island
Rocky outcrops on Kalpeni (courtesy Vaikoovery via Wikimedia Commons)

e. Minicoy

Minicoy is the southern-most island in Lakshadweep. Because of this, it actually has more in common with the Maldives in terms of language and culture that with the rest of Lakshadweep. Sadly, visiting Minicoy is difficult because of the long sea journey involved, and tourists need to take one of the cruise packages if they want to visit the island.

There are plans afoot to build an airport there, though. Once that happens, visiting the island will be far easier that it is now.

Solar power station on a beach in Minicoy (courtesy Anand.himani18 via Wikimedia Commons)

Also read: 4 reasons why you should stay in Agonda on your next Goa trip

2. Permits for visitors

Tourism in Lakshadweep is tightly regulated, so you’ll need a permit for each island you plan to visit, regardless of whether you’re an Indian or international tourist. Your itinerary needs to be decided and paid for in advance, and everything is expensive (at least by Indian standards).

3. When to plan your Lakshadweep trip

The best time to visit is between November and February, when the weather is nice and the water is calm. During other times of the year, the sea is a bit rough. And during the rains from May to September, the weather has been called ‘miserable’ by a friend who does marine biology research there.

Thinnakara at sunset - How to plan your Lakshadweep trip
Sunset on Thinnakara

How to get to Lakshadweep

You can get to Lakshadweep either by taking a flight from Kochi to Agatti, or by taking a cruise ship from the mainland to whichever islands your package includes. You can book your flight yourself (if you’re planning your own itinerary, that is), or through an agent. If you’re taking a cruise, you’ll either have to book through the Lakshadweep tourism webite, or, again, through an agent.

There’s only a single small Air India flight each day, from Kochi to Agatti, and so seats begin filling up months in advance. Because we initially planned to travel over the new year—the busiest time of the year there—we couldn’t get tickets, despite trying in October. It might be a good idea to book your tickets a few months in advance before figuring out your detailed itinerary.

The badly laid-out Lakshadweep tourism site will give you some idea of what to expect, and also contains a list of tour packages. It also has a list of authorized travel agents that might be able to help you book your trip.

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1. Planning your own itinerary

Once you’ve decided (a) to fly in, and (b) not to use one of the authorized agents, you’ll have to schedule your own itinerary with the tourism department. You can either call them or email them (we decided go the email route, using their official booking email ID:

Be warned, though: their response times are typical of a government-run department, and they don’t really volunteer any information unless pushed and prodded. So it’s best if you try and figure out your own itinerary (keep reading for more on how to do this) and just send it to them to give you a cost estimate. Once you get a quotation from them, you’ll have to transfer the entire amount to them in advance before they send you your schedule confirmation and permits.

If you’re flying in, your plans will depend on whether you want to travel to islands north of Agatti, or to the south. There’s no accommodation on Agatti itself, though, as far as we could figure out.

Runway on Agatti island
The runway on Agatti

2. Accommodation, and travel between islands

If you’re flying in to Lakshadweep, you’ll have to stay at the government-run SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports) resorts on each island. That’s because private resorts, hotels and homestays are not permitted to run in Lakshadweep. But if you’re taking a cruise, you’ll probably spend most nights on your ship.

The information below is applicable only if you’re flying in. Bangaram and Thinnakara aren’t part of the cruise packages, so I’ve included them here, but Kalpeni and Minicoy aren’t accessible except by cruise, so I’ve left them out.

a. Bangaram

Bangaram lies a little to the north of Agatti, and accommodation here is limited to cottages that are priced at Rs. 15,000 per night, including all meals. They aren’t air-conditioned, but have an air cooler or ‘desert’ cooler instead. The ferry from Agatti to Bangaram takes 30 minutes and costs Rs. 4,000 per person for a two-way journey.

Bangaram island resort - How to plan your Lakshadweep trip
The Bangaram Island resort in Lakshadweep is partly powered by solar-generated electricity

b. Thinnakara

Thinnakara island is to the north of Agatti, right next to Bangaram, and offers tents on the beach that are covered by thatched roofs. They also have a tiny ‘green toilet’ attached, and are priced at Rs. 10,000 per night, including all meals. The boat from Agatti takes around 45 minutes, and costs Rs. 5,000 per person for a two-way journey. But if you’re already on Bangaram, it’ll cost Rs. 1,000 to Thinnakara and back.

Covered tents on Thinnakara island
Accommodation on Thinnakara. The tents are under the thatched roofs.

c. Kadmat

Kadmat island is far to the north of Agatti, and has rooms that range from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 11,000, all meals included. It’s important to note that Kadmat is two-and-a-half hours by boat from Agatti, with boats running there and back only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Because of this, you need to stay there a minimum of two nights (three if it’s over the weekend). The boat from Agatti costs Rs. 8,000 per person to get there and back.

We didn’t visit, so we don’t have photographs of what this one looks like, sadly.

d. Kavaratti

Kavaratti island lies far to the south of Agatti, and the only accommodation is air-conditioned suites priced at Rs. 9,000, with all meals included. The boat ride from Agatti to Kavaratti is two-and-a-half hours and costs Rs. 8,000 per person for a two-way journey. Again, the boat runs only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so you need to stay there a minimum of two nights.

SPORTS resort, Kavaratti, Lakshadweep
This is the only picture we have of the resort on Kavaratti!

3. Tips on travelling between the islands during your Lakshadweep trip

When you’re planning your itinerary, remember that boats between Agatti (the airport island) and Kavaratti (far south) or Kadmat (far north) ply only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If one of these islands is the first or last one you plan to visit, plan to fly in or out on one of these days.

It might actually be a good idea visit them during the first part of your holiday, since visiting any of the other islands from there will involve getting back to Agatti first. Boats to Thinnakara and Bangaram from Agatti ply every day, so you can include them any time.

Lastly, keep island position and boat journey time in mind: Kadmat and Kavaratti are two-and-a-half hours away from Agatti in opposite directions, so travelling from Kadmat to Kavaratti or vice versa will take a minimum of five hours.

Also read: 29 unique hotels in India and beyond that we’ve discovered while travelling

4. Quick reference table

Confused by all the details? Here’s a table with the main points to keep in mind. You can also download my Lakshadweep quick reference planner for later.

Agatti• Airport island
• Hub for ferries and boats
• Bright blue water
No government-approved accommodation• Single daily flight from/to Kochi
• 1.5 hours travel time
• Rs. 6,000 per person, one way
Bangaram• Best facilities
• Good beaches
• Only island where alcohol is permitted
• Tap water smells of sulphur
• Cruises don’t stop here
• Cottages
• Rs. 15,000 per night
• With air coolers
• Daily ferry from/to Agatti
– 30 mins travel time
– Rs. 4,000 per person, round trip
• Daily ferry to/from Thinnakara
– 15 mins travel time
– Rs. 1,000 per person, round trip
North of Agatti, near Thinnakara
Thinnakara• Basic facilities
• Beautiful beach
• Two small nearby islands reachable on foot
• Tap water smells of sulphur
• Cruises don’t stop here
• Tents
• Rs. 10,000 per night
• No A/C or air coolers (usually not needed)
• Daily ferry from/to Agatti
– 45 mins travel time
– Rs. 5,000 per person, round trip
• Daily ferry to/from Bangaram
– 15 mins travel time
– Rs. 1,000 per person, round trip
North of Agatti, near Bangaram
Kadmat• Good facilities
• Good beaches
• Long travel time
• Major bleaching of coral reefs
• Rooms
• Rs. 5,000 to 11,000 per night
• Min. two nights (see ferry timings)
• Mostly with A/C
• Ferry from/to Agatti on Mon, Wed, Fri
• 2.5 hours travel time
• Rs. 8,000 per person, round trip
Far north-east of Agatti
Kavaratti• Good facilities
• Capital island
• Highest population density
• Great lighthouse view
• Long travel time
• Rooms
• Rs. 9,000 per night
• Min. two nights (see ferry timings)
• With A/C
• Ferry from Agatti/to on Mon, Wed, Fri
• 2.5 hours travel time
• Rs. 8,000 per person, round trip
Far south-east of Agatti
Kalpeni• Good facilities
• Unique rock-strewn beach
• Great lighthouse view
• Only reachable by ship
• Cottages
• Rs. 2,000 to 3,000 per night
• With or without A/C
• By ship from Kochi or Calicut
• Rs. 8,000 per person, round trip
Very far south-east of Agatti
Minicoy• Good facilities
• Unique culture
• Only reachable by ship
• Airport planned in future
• Rooms
• Rs. 7,000 to 9,000 per night
• With A/C
• By ship from Kochi, Mangalore or Beypore
• Rs. 5,000 to 7,500 per person, round trip
Very far south of Agatti
Ferry ride from Bangaram Agatti
From Bangaram to Agatti – the best seats in the house!

Also read: How we lived the island life for a few days in the Andamans

5. Lakshadweep trip planner

Here’s a more detailed infographic that you can download for later, and use to plan your Lakshadweep trip. You can also download a high-quality image, or a PDF version.

Lakshdweep trip quick reference planner (small) - The Good Life With IQ
Plan your Lakshadweep trip more easily with this quick reference planner

All this information can be a bit overwhelming because it is a bit complex to plan a Lakshadweep trip yourself. But keep at it, and it’ll be worth it in the end!

IQ’s top tips on how to plan your own Lakshadweep trip

  • Lakshadweep is expensive, and facilities are basic, so if you’re looking for a budget holiday or luxurious accommodation, you might be disappointed. All meals are included, though.
  • You should expect your Lakshadweep travel cost to be a minimum of Rs. 25,000 per person for a two-day trip if you’re flying in, and Rs. 15,000 per person if you’re taking a cruise package.
  • Start planning at least three months in advance. That’s because it’ll take you time to figure out what you want to do, and the process of finalizing your schedule with the tourism department will be painfully slow.
  • Try and book your airplane tickets before planning the other details of your trip; once you finally get your schedule done and paid for, tickets might not be available any more. The tourism booking office won’t warn you about this, though.
  • Also, don’t expect quick response times or insightful information from the booking office. It’s faster to send them a preferred schedule yourself, rather than asking them to suggest something.
  • All accommodation and travel in Lakshadweep is 10% more expensive in December, so budgeting can be confusing if your schedule overlaps with other months.
  • The booking office sometimes make mistakes with dates and pricing, so it’s best to cross-check the schedule and quotation you get from them.
  • Make sure you get your entry permits before you start your Lakshadweep trip; a couple we met there got stuck at the airport because their agent hadn’t sent them their permits.

Vegetarian tips

  • Even though the local cuisine is heavy on meat and fish (especially tuna), you’ll find that the meals served at the resorts have more than enough vegetarian options.
  • If you decide to check out the local eateries instead, I recommend the parota (a flaky flatbread), possibly paired with local scrambled egg, vegetable curry or chutney. Or all three.

Sustainability tips

  • Sunscreen is really bad for corals when it washes into the water, so try and wear a dive shirt or dark tee shirt instead. You could also try the local trick of rubbing lots of coconut oil into your skin.
  • Ask if the resort can give you purified rainwater to drink instead of bottled water. Because that’s what the locals drink, and it’s just as good.

Also read: Six amazing discoveries we made in the Seychelles

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    1. Nope, they take care of the permit too. That’s how we got ours.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Superb Blog. It is very informative. Thanks for taking the effort in writing it.

      2. Thanks very much! I’m glad you found it useful 😊

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am planning for my honeymoon in December 2021, I am still not 100% sure if I should plan or not due to this tight regulations. Inter-island travel is much costly. Everyone says that only air india runs the flight, but on google you are seeing much options.

    1. Overall, travel to Lakshadweep is expensive and not very luxurious. But if you’re looking for a unique experience, then I think it’s worth it. Air India was the only airline flying to Lakshadweep when I last updated the post. It might be different now.

  2. Cheers a very comprehensive article. I haven’t heard about this beach paradise before!

    1. Thanks, Vinn! It’s not too well-known in India either. And tourism is pretty tightly regulated.

  3. Wow, I’ve never even heard of these islands but this has made me want to visit! Not the typical scenes you think of when you think of India! Thanks for sharing, this is such a useful post too.

    1. Thanks, Clazz! Glad you liked it. India has so many different things to see. I keep telling people one lifetime isn’t enough to see everything India has to offer 😁

  4. See, this is an amazing blog post – one that completely opens our eyes to a new place with really tempting shots! Great work.

    1. Thanks a lot! Hope it’ll tempt you to visit 😀

  5. It was really helpful. Thanks a ton

    1. Anonymous says:

      So glad you found it useful! Happy travels!

  6. Is the second half of december a good time to visit? we are planning our honeymoon.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Hi! December is great, but it’s the peak season, so more expensive than otherwise. I suggest starting the planning and booking process soon, because there’s only one flight, and that gets sold out quickly.

      1. Anonymous says:

        My pleasure. All the best for your travels!

    2. Anonymous says:

      What’s your experience, did you went?

  7. Anonymous says:

    superb and very informative writeup.

    1. Thanks a lot. Glad you found it useful!

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