When you ask the question: “How many islands are there in India?” you may or may not be shocked to hear that there are over 1,000. In fact, there are 1,208 islands in India, and quite many of these are uninhabited. The country is made up of landforms of various kinds — lush plains, dense marshes, soaring mountains, verdant deltas, stunning plateaus, velvety backwaters, and of course beautiful islands. While the country is not specifically known only for its islands, there are many islands in India that are popular tourist magnets, like the Lakshadweep Islands and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Many islands in India are quite unique and attract visitors not just for their beauty, but also for religious purposes. Want to know “which is the smallest island in India”, or “which is the biggest island in India?” Read on. However, the answer to the question “which is the best island in India?” is entirely up to you.
Let’s Take A Look At 15 Of The Most Beautiful Islands In India That You Absolutely Must Visit
1Namesake Of Colonel John Munroe, Munroe Island, Kerala
The Munroe Island is a cluster of eight islands located in the backwaters of Kerala, around 25 km from Kollam. The island can be reached by ferry. One of the most beautiful islands in India, it has a fascinating network of water canals dug out by Colonel John Munroe, who was a Scottish soldier and administrator who served as Resident and Diwan of the States of Travancore and Cochin from 1810 to 1819. The island is, therefore, named after him. The best time to visit the Munroe Islands would be between October and May, as it is quite uncomfortable to go there during the monsoons (June to September).
The island is famous for canal cruises and other water activities. Visitors can enjoy exquisite home-cooked meals through a homestay, walks along the beautiful green banks of the canal, and take in rustic architectural relics. Another major attraction of the island is the famous Kallada Boat Race that is held here during Onam (the 10-day harvest festival celebrated in Kerala), which is celebrated either in August or September. The dates change year after year like most Indian festivals. Visitors are allowed on the island at any time during the day or night and there is no entry fee. You can stay in a variety of hotels and lodges, or in a houseboat.
(Not so) fun fact about Munroe Island:
- Munroe Island is sinking due to rising water levels owing to global warming, forcing many of its village (Munroe Thuruthu) residents to leave.
2The Largest River Island In The World, Majuli, Assam
While the Majuli island might be one of the largest freshwater islands in the world, it is definitely the answer to the question: Which is the biggest island in India? Located in the Brahmaputra River, the island can be reached by boat or ferry from Jorhat, which is well connected by flights. One of the reasons why it’s one of the ‘must-visit islands in India’ list is that unlike most other islands, its coast is covered with ochre and moss instead of sand.
The best time to visit is between October and early January. While on Majuli Island, you can rent a motorcycle and go exploring, mask-making and visit the 21 Satras (Vaishnavite monasteries which were established to propagate neo-Vaishnavism) and the Mishing village, which is inhabited by Misings, an indigenous community that lives in parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Majuli Island is famous for its breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Visitors also get a fair taste of Assamese culture and traditional north-eastern cuisine (instead of seafood like on other islands).
Fun facts about Majuli Island:
- It is a hub of neo-Vaishnavism.
- While the island is agrarian, it also houses the Village Pottery Industry which is quite popular here.
- It was declared a district by the Government of Assam in 2016.
Also read: 5 traditional dishes of Assam to try
3The Heart-Shaped Island, Netrani Island, Karnataka
Located in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Karnataka, Netrani island can be reached by ferry from the temple town of Murudeshwar in Bhatkal, which is just 19 km away. One of its unique features is that when viewed from above, this coral island looks like a heart. The best time to visit is between December and January.
In the waters around the island, you will find a variety of corals and other aquatic life, like dolphins, butterflyfish, stingrays, turtles, whales etc. It is one of the best diving spots in India, although it generally goes under the radar due to the popularity of islands like the Andamans and Lakshadweep. While on the island, you can go scuba diving, boating, whale spotting, snorkelling etc. The island is also home to the ruins of a temple, a Catholic church, and a mosque, making it stand apart from the other islands in India.
Fun Facts about Netrani Island:
- It used to be a naval training ground.
- It is also called Pigeon Island because of the abundance of pigeons here.
Also read: Top 11 reasons to visit Karnataka
4A Creation Of Madagascar’s Sub-Volcanic Activity, St Mary’s Island, Karnataka
A cluster of four islands off the coast of Karnataka’s Malpe Beach (3 km from the shore), St Mary’s Island is said to have been formed by the sub-volcanic activity of Madagascar (in Africa). This detail, coupled with its scenery, is why St. Mary’s is on the “islands in India you must visit” list. The only way to reach the island is by a boat/ferry from Malpe Beach, in the Udupi District of Karnataka.
The best time to visit the island is between October and January. While on Malpe Beach you can enjoy activities like boat rides, jet skis, etc., and on the island, you can enjoy boat rides and rides on floaters. However, the island’s beautiful waters, rock formations and the coconut trees will make you forget about doing anything else. There are some great places to take selfies and pictures, and a stroll on the beach is enough to fill your heart with joy and your mind with memories. If you are lucky, you can also spot some dolphins. The island is quite small and there are no living quarters, so you can’t stay overnight. Be mindful of ferry timings— 9 AM to 6 PM.
The Government of Karnataka recently spent a considerable amount of money to make the island more tourist-friendly. Now, you can buy food and other refreshments from stalls that have been set up on the island. Public toilets are also available for visitors’ convenience.
The island is closed during the monsoons as the waters are notoriously dangerous at the time of the year.
Fun facts about St Mary’s Island:
- According to Malpe folklore, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama visited the island here in 1498 before he went to Calicut.
- Believe it or not, this island is still unknown to many people.
5The Andaman’s Largest Island, Havelock Island, Andaman
Renamed Swaraj Dweep by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the year 2018, Havelock Island is one of the largest islands in Andaman and is located about 70 km from its capital city, Port Blair. It can be reached by ferry from Phoenix Bay Wharf in Port Blair, a journey that takes about 2.5 hours. It’s best to visit between October and May when temperatures are mild (15 to 34 degrees Celsius).
Some fun things to do there, include kayaking, scuba diving, shopping, visiting the Elephant Beach, game fishing and candlelight dinners at a resort. Transport on the island is simple and the roads are well set and straight, making it impossible to get lost. The island’s beaches and villages are also categorised using numbers, making exploration easier.
As Havelock has only two ATMs, visitors are advised to carry cash (Indian Rupees). Entry to the island is reserved and can be made only through the Directorate of Shipping Services inter-Island Port.
Fun Facts about Havelock Island:
- Languages spoken on the island include Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, and English.
- The name Havelock comes from a British general named Sir Henry Havelock, who served in India from late 1822. He is known for his role in the First Afghan War and then in the Indian mutiny of 1857 where he fought against the Indians. While he has nothing to do with the Andaman Islands, Havelock was named after him for his military exploits elsewhere.
Also read: 22 amazing things to do in Andamans
6Host Of Asia’s Longest Beach Festival, Diu Island
Formerly governed by Portugal, Diu Island is part of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and lies just off the coast of Gujarat. It’s famous for its mix of Gujarati and Portuguese culture, especially Portuguese architecture. It is 400 km away from Ahmedabad and can be reached by flight (it has an airport) or even by road, as it is linked to the mainland by a bridge. As it is very close to Gujarat, many people mistakenly assume that it is part of the state.
The best time to visit the island is between October and January when it is cool. Some fun things that you can do there are rent a scooter and explore the island, visit the Diu Fort, St Paul’s Church, Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Zampa Gateway, the seashell museum etc. The northern part of the island faces Gujarat and is known for its tidal marsh and salt pans, and the southern part is dotted with limestone cliffs, rocky coves and sandy beaches.
Diu Island is also host to Festa De Diu, Asia’s longest beach festival that is held from December till February. Many singers, live musicians and artists come together to showcase a variety of performances. Many workshops and fun activities are also part of this months-long festival.
Fun Facts about Diu Island
- Alcohol is legal here, unlike in Gujarat.
- Diu and Daman share the same Member of Parliament.
7The Place Of The Gods, Divar Island, Goa
Located on the banks of the Mandovi River, Divar Island is home to a great mix of cultures and is just 10 km from Panaji, Goa’s capital city. One of the most tranquil islands in Goa, Divar can be reached by three ferries from Old Goa, Ribander and Bicholim. Although there isn’t much to see on the island, it is serene and seldom-visited as many choose to stay on the mainland. This makes it a great place for tourists to explore as it is calm and tranquil, and houses the ruins of temples, beautiful churches and ancient Portuguese villas. It is best to visit the island between November and April.
The island was once home to much of Goa’s Hindu population, who fled due to the Portuguese’s religious persecution and the outbreak of a dangerous plague. It explains why there are a lot of ruins of temples and monuments of religious significance. The word Divar is derived from the Konkani word Dev and Vaddi which is translated as ‘Place of the Gods’. Usually, the island is visited during the festivals of Bonderam and Potekar- the former is celebrated in August and the latter is just three days before Lent.
Divar Island is also home to the Piedade Village, which is an almost exact replica of a typical Goan village from the time of the Portuguese. The Sao Matia village (now known as Malar), which is home to the 400-year-old Sao Mathias Church, is often referred to as a “village stuck in time”. This is one of the first places where the Portuguese began their religious conversions.
Fun facts about Divar Island:
- The island was one of the first places to be occupied by the Portuguese.
- The Kadamba dynasty’s ruins are located in the Piedade village.
- During the Potekar festival, locals move around wearing handmade masks and bells.
8India’s Most Famous Island Cluster, Lakshadweep Islands
One of the most exotic islands in India for tourists, the Lakshadweep Islands are located in the Arabian Sea, around 400 km from Cochin. This island cluster is the perfect place for people who are looking to go snorkelling and scuba diving. They can be reached by ship and flights that operate from Kochi, although it is mandatory to first obtain an entry permit first.
The best time to visit the island is between October and May. Some fun things visitors can do are snorkelling, kayaking, glass boating and exploring the marine life and coral reefs while scuba diving.
Although its name literally means ‘hundred thousand (a lakh) islands’, the Lakshadweep Islands is a cluster of 36 coral islands. Indians with an entry permit can visit all the islands in the cluster, while foreigners (even if they possess the permit) are allowed to only visit the Agatti, Bangaram, and Kadmat Islands. The only mobile network service providers here are Airtel and BSNL.
Fun facts about the Lakshadweep Islands:
- These are the only islands in India that have ring-shaped coral reefs.
- It is India’s smallest Union Territory.
- Only ten of the 36 islands are inhabited.
Also read: Explore the best of Lakshadweep Islands
9The Smallest Island In India, Umananda Island, Assam
Umananda Island is not only one of the smallest islands of India, but it is also the smallest inhabited river island in the world. Located in the middle of the Brahmaputra River, Umananda Island is just around 7 km away from Guwahati in Assam. You can reach it by a 10-minute ferry ride from the banks of the Brahmaputra River.
It is best to visit between October and April. One of the things that makes this island unique is the fact that it sustains the golden langurs, one of the most endangered species of primates that are found only in parts of Western Assam and the foothills of the Black Mountains of Bhutan.
The island gets its name from the legend that Lord Shiva used to live here with Uma (another name for Parvati) giving her much ananda or joy, hence Umananda. Many tourists come specially to visit the famous Umananda Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Fun fact about Umananda Island:
- The island is also known as Peacock Island, a name that was given by a British officer who was reminded of a peacock when he saw the island’s lush greenery.
10The Floating Island, Sendra Island, Manipur
Located in the Loktak Lake about 50 km from Manipur’s capital city Imphal, the Sendra Island is a ‘floating island’ (ring-shaped landmass called phumdi or phumshong) made up of organic waste – mainly clumps of matted weeds. The feature alone sets it apart from all the islands in India and makes travellers curious enough to visit. The lake is home to many such masses of matted weeds, some large enough to accommodate local families in huts. The only way to travel, or go island hopping in this ‘sea of islands’ (another name for Loktak Lake), is by boat. To get to the lake, however, you need to travel by road from Imphal to Moirang, which is a town near the lake and then to Thanga.
The best time to visit this lake and its islands is between November and April. On Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India, you will find another island that serves as the only ‘floating’ national park in the world. Here, you will get to see the endangered brow-antlered deer or the sangai (also known as Manipur’s dancing deer), which is indigenous to this area. You will also find other types of deer, primates, rare birds, the Indian civet, European otter, wild boar etc. Other fun activities you can enjoy here are boating and water sports.
The entire lake makes for a brilliant sight that can be enjoyed while tucking into great food or a cup of coffee, or even at night. You can also climb up the nearby hillock of Bebet Ching to get a breathtaking view of the lake and its very unique geography.
Fun facts about Sendra Island
- Sendra Island has a small tourist lodge called Sendra Park Hotel
- (Not so) Fun Fact: Human encroachment over the years has led to a shrinkage of the Loktak Lake.
Also read: 10 of the best unexplored places in Manipur
11Home To A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Elephanta Island, Maharashtra
Gharapuri, better known as the Elephanta Island, is home to rock-cut cave temples, known as the Elephanta Caves, that have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, making it one of the most unique and beautiful islands in India. Located around 37 km from Maharashtra’s capital city Mumbai, the island can be reached by ferry from the Gateway of India. The best time to visit is between November and March when the weather is pleasant.
This labyrinth of caves temples was created between CE 450 and 750 and are some of the most impressive temple carvings in India. The Island was dubbed ‘Elephanta’ by the Portuguese, based on a large stone elephant near the shore, which was moved by the British to Mumbai’s Jijamata Udyan.
Apart from the caves, other attractions include statues of Shiva and Parvati, a three-faced statue of Shiva, two grand cannons that can be seen after a tour of the caves, and a Shiv Linga. However, tourists are not allowed to offer milk or water to the Linga. Additionally, the temple is open for offerings only during the Maha Shivaratri festival. On the island, visitors can also check out the small on-site museum which has informative pictorial panels depicting the caves’ origin. While there are small stalls for food and refreshments for visitors, the island does not have accommodation. Visitors can also shop for junk jewellery, carved marble statues, bags, stones, and paintings.
Fun facts about Elephanta Island:
- The Portuguese invaded the island in 1547 and their soldiers damaged the caves. They even used the statues as target practice and some bullets can still be seen today. They also removed some of the writing on the caves, which is why we don’t know who built the statues.
- The caves and reliefs on the island were originally painted.
Also read: 9 reasons why I loved visiting Maharashtra
12The Largest Island In Goa, Chorao Island, Goa
Home to the largest bird sanctuary in Goa, the Chorao Island is perfect for bird lovers. Located 5 km from Panaji, it can be reached by ferry from Ribandar. The ferries are also well-equipped to carry cars and other small vehicles. Till recently, this was one of the most secret islands of India, because they were largely unexplored. The best time to visit is from mid-November to mid-February when the weather is pleasant and enjoyable.
The island’s original name, Chudamani (precious stone in Sanskrit), is derived from the legend that says that the island emerged from the waters when Lord Krishna’s mother, Yashoda threw away a handful of diamonds into the sea. When the Portuguese landed here, they renamed it Ilha Dos Fidalgos or the Island of Noblemen, which was further transformed into Chorao.
Visitors can check out the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, the largest one in Goa. The area is a natural reserve for many bird species like kingfishers, coots, egrets, pintails etc. Mangroves, Goan crocodiles and other wild animals can also be spotted here along the swamp. You can tour the island in a canoe or a dingy. As it was once occupied by the Portuguese, you will find a lot of Portuguese architecture, white-washed churches and colourful homes.
Fun fact about Chorao Island:
- The Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary was created by the state’s first Forest Department in 1988.
13India’s Largest Man-made Island, Willingdon Islands, Kerala
Located about 2 km from Kochi, Willingdon Island, India’s largest man-made island, is accessible by a 5-minute ferry ride from Fort Kochi. It has tremendous historical significance, as it used to be a popular stop in the spice trade route. The best time to visit is between October and April.
While here, visitors can check out the Cochin Port Maritime Heritage Museum. One of the best islands in India for a quiet getaway, you can enjoy its pleasant sights, modern buildings and palm trees. You can also take a boat ride near the island and, if you are lucky, even spot some dolphins.
Fun facts about the Willingdon Islands:
- The Island was created, or rather the original island was made larger, in 1936, during the construction of the modern Kochi port.
- It houses the Indian Navy’s Kochi Naval Base and the Port of Kochi.
14Home To South Asia’s Only Active Volcano, Barren Island, Andaman
The Barren Island, located 135 km from Port Blair on the eastern side of the Andaman Islands, can be considered as one of the most dangerous islands in India. It’s the site of not just India’s, but also South Asia’s only active volcano. To reach the island, you need to take either a ship or a seaplane from Port Blair. It is best to visit between February and May. The 3-km wide island is uninhabited, and it is illegal to step on its shores without a permit. While the volcano was dormant for a long time, it erupted in 1991, then again in 2017 and 2018, drawing more tourists. Some fun things to do at the island include scuba diving to observe the varied aquatic life, a ferry ride around the island and an aerial view of the 2-km wide volcano.
Fun fact about Barren Island:
- The Island lies on the same fault line that caused the December 26, 2004 tsunami.
15The Island In The Life-Giving River, Sagar Island, West Bengal
Located in the Ganges delta, Sagar Island is 150 km south of Kolkata, at the mouth of the river Hooghly. What makes this one of the most popular islands of India is not just its natural beauty, but also its deep connection with mythology. You can reach the island either by air, train or road and finally by ferry.
According to Hindu legends, the island is where King Sagar’s 60,000 sons were brought back to life by the river after they were reduced to ashes by the sage Kapil Muni. In January, visitors can witness the Ganga Sagar Mela which is held here near the Kapil Muni Temple, in honour of the legend. Visitors can also check out Sagar Beach and Sagar Lighthouse.
Unfortunately, the island was close to the epicentre of Cyclone Amphan’s landfall and was badly hit in the process. Reportedly, the jetty that connected the island with the mainland caved in, although there are other points to reach the island. The island’s banks have been badly eroded and scientists even say that it might disappear. Till this year, the best time to visit was between October and March, when the climate is perfect for exploring the place.
Fun Fact about Sagar Island:
- According to legend, those who take a dip in the river during the Ganga Sagar Mela, are destined to soon find their life partners.
Big Or Small, Popular Or Ignored, These Islands Are Treasure Troves Worth Visiting
India is vast and beautiful and has something to offer everyone. It is important for us to be aware and proud of what the country has to offer. India’s islands have just as much to offer as any other island in the world. What’s more, by paying a visit to our islands, we not only support local businesses but also get to learn about our history and varied culture.