Port Blair: Your entry to Paradise!

Cellular Jail at Port Blair
Cellular Jail at Port Blair

Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands, is your first step into the Andamans – filled with history and heritage, this small town is a melting pot of Indian language, people and culture. As the capital of Andaman, it also remains more crowded compared to the other islands around it.

Things one needs to know about Port Blair:

  • Andaman’s only commercial airport (veer savarkar international airport)  is in Port Blair, so it automatically becomes your only entry and exit point into the islands.
  • All ferries to other islands depart from here, either from the Phoenix Bay Jetty or from the Haddo wharf.
  • Port Blair is more about culture, heritage and monuments. There is only one beach in town, so if you are looking for beaches exclusively, catch an early flight and take the afternoon ferry to Havelock or Neil.

One of the most popular things to do in Port Blair is to discover its colonial past (and the freedom movement of India). The Cellular Jail is the definitive beginning to this journey, along with a trip to the fascinating Ross Island. A trip to Viper Island is also possible as part of the famous three-island tour, although few tourists venture there.

Ross island is just a 15 minute ferry ride from Port Blair
Ross island is just a 15 minute ferry ride from Port Blair

One can also indulge in some local shopping in Port Blair. Handicraft emporiums like Sagarika dot the main roads in many areas, offering trinkets made of bamboo, sea shells and the local mahua wood. Alternatively, you can explore tribal lifestyles at the museums or try water sports at the Marina Park Complex. And while some tourists choose to make the most of everything that Port Blair has to offer, many also choose to skip it altogether and spend most of their time on the beaches on Havelock and Neil Island.

Handicrafts available at Sagarika Emporium at Port Blair
Handicrafts available at Sagarika

Exchanging currency is most convenient in Port Blair and the Internet is easily available, albeit slow. There are plenty of restaurants and hotels of different standards and prices. The Aberdeen Bazaar is the hub of the town, about three km from the airport and only a kilometer away from the Phoenix Bay Jetty, from where most ferries depart.

Getting Around in Port Blair

Port Blair is a small and direction-friendly town. There are signs on every crossroad and thus, riding around on a scooter is extremely easy. Auto-rickshaws are also broadly available and they’re cheap. Buses also run all over the town, but are often filled with locals. Some attractions like the Munda Pahad Beacha and the Wandoor Beach are dotted outside of Port Blair and it is best to rent a scooter or a private vehicle to see them. Remember to carry your driving licence in case you decide to rent a scooter and ride around.

What to See in Port Blair

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Chatham saw mill is the oldest saw mill in Asia

The most famous and popular attraction among tourists is the Cellular Jail, where visitors get to know and experience the island’s colonial past. In the evenings, a special Sound and Light Show is hosted in Hindi and English, – a dramatic rendition of the situation in the Jail at its peak. The city also has some museums – like the Anthropological Museum, the Samudrika Marine Museum and the fully functional Chatham Saw Mill on Chatham Island. A much-recommended trip from Port Blair is a visit to the destroyed Ross Island, which is a sight to behold. One can also visit Viper Island, Mt. Harriet, and Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park in Wandoor or enjoy a lovely sunset at the Munda Pahad beach in Chidiyatapu. In Port Blair, there is something interesting in every corner.

Accommodation in Port Blair

Port Blair has accommodation options to suit all tastes. From affordable and basic lodges to premium, luxury hotels & resorts, there is something for every traveler. Every year, more and more hotels are popping up and tourist facilities are booming. Prices almost always vary in high and low season, but if you intend to stay longer, discounts should be possible. Many hotels also offer complimentary breakfast and pick up and drop off if booked ahead, so check with your hotel at the time of booking. Sea Shell and Sinclair’s Bay View are popular five-star options. Since many travelers prefer to spend the least amount of time in Port Blair, budget-friendly hotels, homestays, lodges as well as BnB’s are also widely available.

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A sea-facing room at Megapode Resort, Port Blair.

Where to eat in Port Blair

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Icy Spicy in Port Blair is famous for Vegetarian Food!

In Port Blair, almost all kinds of food is available. Fine dining spots for romantic candle-light dinners are very popular among honeymooning couples. Sinclair’s Bay View Restaurant, on the Corbyn’s Cove Road is highly recommended, both for its food as well as the spectacular view it offers. TSG Emerald’s Ruchi Restaurant and Fortune Resort’s Mandalay are also very popular for fine-dining, with the latter also offering a view of the coast like no other. For sea food options, the New Light House Restaurant has been making waves among all its diners. Their best dishes are made from the freshest picks of fish, crab and lobster which they have on display for you to choose. At the same time, vegetarian food is worth exploring in Port Blair’s restaurants, specially recommended for non-Indian travellers. Authentic South Indian food at reasonable prices is what Kattabomman does best. Their dosas, vadas and uthappams are loved by locals and tourists alike. For a more fine dining experience, Icy Spicy, as well as Annapoorna are both pure vegetarian restaurants offering North Indian and South Indian cuisines respectively. For a more relaxed cafe experience, Excel Restauranti is a unique hangout spot in Port Blair. Along with its casual cafe theme, it also offers paid WiFi, serves alcohol and is a favorite among backpackers. Amaya, the rooftop bar at Sea Shell is a popular hangout too.

Activities in Port Blair

While Port Blair city has limited activities to offer, Scuba Diving and Sea Walk are both possible in Chidiya Tapu and North Bay Island respectively. The Munda Pahad trek in Chidiya Tapu is highly recommended. For more serious trekking, Mount Harriet is a must go. A relaxing evening in Marina Park is recommended for families. Snorkeling, diving and Sea Walk are all possible in North Bay. The Ross Island Sound and Light Show is also recommended for the evening. Jolly Buoy/ Red skin in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park in Wandoor are great for a day trip. Snorkeling and rides on glass-bottom boats are available here.