A tourist does parasailing at Eve's Beach in Thiruvananthapuram on February 3, 2024. (PTI Photo)

Lakshadweep to Digha: India’s best beach holiday destinations beyond Goa

Dotted across India’s vast coastline, these places are less crowded and culturally vibrant

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

Mauritius, Maldives and Sri Lanka seem too far away when there are beaches in India for a winter break: Lakshadweep and Andaman Islands, Tithal in Gujarat, or Digha in West Bengal if you don’t want to visit Goa again.

“We are recording an all-time high in on-platform searches for beach destinations in the country,” said a spokesperson for Makemytrip, the online travel company. Indians’ interest in domestic beach holiday has reportedly increased after the country’s ties with Maldives hit a wall. The archipelago got its largest share of tourists from India in early 2023, but the number dropped to fifth in January 2024.

“To address fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure, and amenities will be taken on our islands including Lakshadweep,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Interim Budget speech on February 1. Industry responded favourably to her proposal.

“We acknowledge, with satisfaction, the government’s sustained focus on travel and tourism as reaffirmed in the Interim Budget. The commitment to bolster domestic tourism through initiatives spanning rail and air travel, coupled with the ongoing emphasis on tourism-led destinations, particularly in the realm of island tourism and spiritual tourism, reflects a strategic vision for the long-term growth of the T&T sector,” said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group chief executive officer of MakeMyTrip.

ALSO READ: Lakshadweep tourism: Island to receive Rs 3,600 cr infrastructure upgrade

Maharashtra’s Tarkarli, Kerala’s Kovalam, Karnataka’s Devbagh and Gokarna, Pondicherry’s Eden Beach, Puri’s Golden Beach, North Kerala’s Kappad Beach, Andhra’s Rushikonda Beach and Andaman’s Radhanagar Beach on Havelock Island are favourite destinations, according to travel company Thomas Cook.

“We’re observing a noteworthy uptick in customer interest in India’s coastal destinations, reflecting a growing trend in travel preferences. The heightened interest in these locales underscore the appeal of diverse coastal experiences among travellers,” says Rajeev Kale, president and country head, holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited.

“Puducherry is the place to visit and I keep coming back to it,” says Mansi Nayyar, a marketing professional who lives in Delhi. What she loves about the coastal town is the “laid-back vibe, characterised by its colonial architecture, pristine beaches, and a vibrant cultural scene.” Nayyar stayed at Pondicherry Ashok, managed by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), a beach resort located on the eastern coastline of the vast southern expanse of the Bay of Bengal.

Lakshadweep is on many Indians’ bucket list after Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on social media a photograph of him at one of the archipelago’s beaches. The best time to visit Lakshadweep is October to April when the weather is pleasant, the skies are clear and the sea is calm for water sports.

The Indian Hotels Company, which runs Taj Hotels, has announced it will open two new properties on the islands of Suheli and Kadmat in Lakshadweep by 2026.

“Some of the must-do activities in Lakshadweep include water sports such as scuba diving and snorkelling. Lakshadweep has a vibrant underwater world as the coral reefs here are teeming with colorful marine life, making it a haven for underwater enthusiasts. From kayaking to wind surfing, Lakshadweep provides ample opportunities for water sports,” says Abhishek Sharma, a management consultant in Mumbai and who has visited Lakshadweep four times. Visit the lighthouse on Minicoy Island in Lakshadweep for a panoramic view of the sea.

Lakshadweep seafood feast involves marinating fish in coconut milk and aromatic spices. One can try dishes like “Kadala Curry” (chickpea curry) and “Thenga Aracha Meen Curry” (fish curry with coconut). In case you are traveling to Lakshadweep for the first time, heed these travel tips. “Remember that Lakshadweep is a restricted area, and visitors need permits to enter. Ensure you obtain the necessary permissions well in advance. Preserve the ecological balance by practicing responsible tourism. Respect the local customs and refrain from littering to maintain the pristine beauty of the islands. Pack light and essentials. Sunscreen, hats, and comfortable clothing are a must,” said the EaseMyTrip spokesperson.

ALSO READ: Interim Budget 2024: FM bets big on spiritual and island tourism in India

“Connectivity is a very important consideration for any destination and Lakshadweep currently offers merely 2 flights from Kochi – and this is not daily but weekly. Air uplift will need to be boosted manifold,” said Thomas Cook’s Kale.

“Infrastructure development especially in a remote and protected area like Lakshadweep, requires significant efforts across the ecosystem – be it the authorities, tourism and hospitality stakeholders; equally local suppliers/partners. This involves a long term and sustained planning and phased execution,” he said.

A better known domestic popular beach destination is Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago of 600 islands in the Bay of Bengal. Only 36 islands are inhabited. The islands are famous for their coral reefs and marine life and are an ideal place for a peaceful break. Providing the opportunity for the different water activities, thrilling trek or scenic landscapes make this destination with a variety of interesting experiences. Enjoy Hiking to the twisting roads of Mount Harriet to get a stunning view of Port Blair and other islands like Ross Island, Viper Island and Jolly Buoy Island.

There are other less-crowded beaches worth visiting: Gokarna in Karnataka, Nagoa in Gujarat, and Varkala and Marari in Kerala. Andhra Pradesh has Rishikonda, Bheemunipatnam and Manginapudi. In Gujarat, Tithal beach in Valsad district is famous for its black sand and proximity to Sai Baba and Swaminarayan temples. Digha beach in West Bengal is flat and so popular for swimming and it is a cultural hotspot, with art and craft fairs. READ: Lakshadweep Trip: Top 8 places to visit in Lakshadweep for your vacation

Indian beaches will need infrastructure development to attract international tourists, experts said. “Comparing Indian beach destinations to global counterparts like Bali, we recognise the need for strategic upgrades. Infrastructure development, green tourism practices, and enhanced connectivity are key aspects that need to be taken into consideration in order to make them at par with global standards,” said Daniel D’Souza, president & country head – Holidays, SOTC Travel.

 Beach destination Approx cost (per person on twin sharing*)
 Devbagh, Karnataka  Rs 28,990 for 5 days
 Golden Beach, Puri  Rs 15,990 for 5 days
 Rushikulya, Andhra  Rs 18,990 for 5 days
 Gokarna, Karnataka  Rs 28, 990 for 5 days
 Andamans  Rs 30,800 for 5 days
 Kovalam  Rs 15,449 for 4 days

* Accommodation and sightseeing

Source: Thomas Cook (India) Ltd & SOTC

Source: Business Standard https://mybs.in/2dTUMN9

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