Swaraj Dweep, Andaman Islands: The Blonde-Sand Indian Isle to Unwind On
Far from the hustle and bustle of India's crowded cities, Swaraj Dweep is blessed with blonde-sand beaches, tropical rainforests, barefoot accommodation and an exceptional street-food scene
16 January, 2023
Swaraj Dweep, Andaman Islands, India.
With the monsoon season not arriving around here till June, the new year is a great time to focus on 2023 goals undisturbed in tranquil Swaraj Dweep (formerly Havelock Island). With India having taken on the G20 presidency at the end of 2022, a special briefing for delegates was held on the island in December to mark the occasion. One of only a handful of Andaman Islands to be inhabited, the destination is known for its warm hospitality and unspoilt landscape: think dense forests, tropical rainforests and active volcanoes that flank pristine blonde beaches stretching alongside the azure-blue shore as far as the eye can see.
This is the kind of place that lends itself to unplugging from the digital world and recalibrating to slow-paced island living. Beachfront properties are prohibited and there is no nightlife to speak of. Forget about trying to find a WiFi signal and instead spend days flitting between palm-flanked coves. Radhanagar Beach (also known as Number Seven Beach) is our favourite, thanks to a cluster of nearby street-food stalls selling fresh fruits and smoothies. Elephant Beach, meanwhile, with its vibrant corals and colourful fish, is best suited to snorkellers - but it's pretty wonderful above the waterline, too. Arrive at sunrise to watch elephants gleefully splashing in the shallows, and keep your eyes peeled for Rajan, the eldest, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday.
Hike beneath the forest canopy to uncover hidden waterfalls among centuries-old rubber trees, kapok trees (bonus points if you spot a frog squeaking at its roots) and coconut palms. Hiking tours can be arranged to include birdwatching and other wildlife spotting with Wild Frontiers.
Where to stay?
Stay at The Barefoot, an eco-village tucked among the trees near Radhanagar Beach. Rooms are built using regenerable materials such as bamboo, wood and palm leaves, and you can choose between a sea-facing or treetop abode. Alternatively, boutique Jalakara Hotel makes for a stellar detox destination, with bedrooms that are purposefully not digitally equipped - making it all the easier to radically cut down your screen time. An outdoor infinity pool is cocooned by sprawling greenery, while a state-of-the-art spa offers bespoke aromatherapy-based treatments - we're still dreaming about our Indian head massage.
Where to go for dinner?
Café Saltwater plates up grub that's worth leaving the beach for, with standouts including club sandwiches, seafood platters and fish curries. There's also a veggie menu, with dishes created using fresh island produce.
And for a drink…
Try the Venom Bar, which twinkles beneath lantern pendant lights and has a bamboo-clad pergola. Nearby Full Moon Café, with its stripped-back interiors and well-crafted cocktails, is also a good shout.
Who to take with you?
Your history-obsessed friend. Until 2018, Swaraj Dweep was called Havelock Island, after British general Sir Henry Havelock, and was once used as a prison by the British for Indian freedom fighters. Today, the Cellular Jail is a national monument. Visit the cell blocks for a glimpse into the island's past.
Essentials to pack
The promise of balmy temperatures means you'll never have to (or want to) change out of your swimsuit. This Hunza G square-neck crinkle-knit swimsuit makes the perfect poolside partner.
How to get there
Swaraj Dweep is not the easiest island to get to. We suggest taking a direct flight from London Heathrow to Delhi or Chennai Airport, then hopping on a connecting flight to the capital of the Andaman Islands, Port Blair. From there, it's a 90-minute catamaran ride to your destination's white-powder shores.
This article was updated on 16 January 2023.