History and Culture
The history of the Andamans is fascinating but limited. It is said that the Andamans were named after Hanuman, a Hindu god .The islands’ earliest inhabitants include the Onges, the Sentinels, the Jarawas, the Shompens and the Great Andamanese. Later people from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and South India settled on the islands. Marco Polo was the first European to visit the area. The Andamans were ruled by several rulers before India gained her independence. Port Blair was first captured by the Marathas, who controlled large areas of India in the 17th century. Afterwards, the British took over the Andamans.
The city was named after Captain Archibald Blair, a British colonial navy official of the East India Company. In 1789, on the instructions of the Government of Bengal, he founded a penal colony in the site and named it Port Cornwallis, after the name of his commander. Due to death and disease, the area was abandoned in 1796. However the British needed a prison to accommodate an increasing number of new prisoners. They fist built a jail on Viper Island, which had a hostile climate and led to the death of many prisoners. In the year 1858, a European settlement was formed near the penal colony. This was the first European settlement-and it was called Port Blair in honor of the captain. The Cellular Jail was then constructed-from 1896 to 1906. It comprised of 698 cells, and these were solitary cells to make sure that the prisoners could not come into contact with each other. The jail wings were built using an octopus-like design and three among the seven wings remain today.
The Andaman islands (and Port Blair )were occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War from 1942 to 1945.They became part of the Indian Union after India’s independence in 1947.The Indian government started a rehabilitation program that brought more Bengalis to the islands. Today Port Blair is a wonderful blend of several cultures, and this is what makes it a magical city.
Major attraction in Port Blair
Port Blair and the surrounding areas boast of a diverse range of tourist attractions, namely :
Cellular Jail (kala Pani)
Cellular jail is a 633 cell colonial prison which was used by the British to house freedom fighters.After independence cellular jail was declared as a national monument and turned into a museum. The light and sound show conducted at cellular jail is a theatrical saga of freedom struggle recreating the past life and struggle of our martyrs.
The Cellular Jail and Museum also house what is called the Death House where you can see the instruments of torture used on the freedom heroes who laid down their lives for India.
Cellular jail is open to tourists on all days expect for mondays.The ticket for the visit costs Rs50
This tiny island is located just a kilometer across Port Blair. Here, you can walk through ruins of churches, bungalows and clubs which were built by the British.You can relive the 20th century colonial period by viewing various examples of British architecture such as Government House or the house of the Chief Commissioner. The Sound and Light Show narrates the compelling history of the island. The island covers 200 acres and you can get there in minutes after taking a ferry that operates from Phoenix Bay. During early morning, the island is a veritable bird-watchers paradise.
Zoos and Museums
Other fascinating places include the Mini Zoo, the Marine Museum and the Anthropological museum. Here you will get an insight about the life of the inhabitants of the Andamans during the Paleolithic period. You will also see a variety of marine animals including pearl oysters, dolphins, barracuda and sea crocodiles.
Carbyn's Cove beach
Carbyn's cove beach is a picture perfect beach situated just 7kms from Port Blair.The beach offers many watersports activities such as jet ski,banana Rides and snorkeling.
The beach is your chance to indulge in some beach fun.
Chidyatabu beach which is also known as "sunset Point" is situated about 15kms from port Blair city.It is an isolated beach which is famous for it's breath-taking sunset view.THe beach is a popular picnic spot for locals.It is very popular with honeymoon coulples beacause of it's Romantic allure.
Port Blair Harbor Cruise
You can crown your trip to Port Blair by taking a harbor cruise around the island where you get a bird’s eye view of the rain forests, mangroves and assorted attractions of this magical place. If you are fortunate, your ferry will also be accompanied by dancing dolphins. Sitting on a glass-bottomed boat or taking a dive guarantees you a memorable underwater experience full of colorful vegetation, corals and brilliantly-colored fish.
When to Go and Where to Stay in Port Blair
The Veer Savarkar International Airport is the main entry and exit point of the Andaman Islands. It is linked to the rest of the world by daily flights from Madras, Bhubaneswar, Delhi and Kolkata. The port is also connected to Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata. There are ferries from Port Blair to other islands in the Andamans.
Moving around in Port Blair is very easy and affordable. There are signs everywhere to guide you and you can use a scooter or auto-rickshaw to explore the city. There are bus services all over, but it is better to rent a scooter or private car when you want to visit popular tourist attractions which are just outside the city like the Wandoor beach. In case you wish rent a scooter, it is advisable to carry your driving license.
The hub of Port Blair is the Aberdeen Plaza-approximately three kilometers from the airport and just a kilometer from Phoenix Bay Jetty-the starting point for most ferries. Haddo wharf and Chatham wharf are the other places where you can get ferries. Exchanging currencies in Port Blair is easy and internet services are widely available.
There are accommodation options that are designed to cater for all tastes and budgets in Port Blair. Each year, more hotels come up-which means more facilities for tourists. Prices depend on whether it is high or low season and mostly, staying longer enables you to enjoy some discounts. Most establishments offer extras such as complimentary breakfasts and they can also pick you and drop you off if you book ahead.Prominent five star hotel options include Sinclair’s Bay View and Sea Shell hotels. You can also get affordable options such as low-cost, bed and breakfast hotels, home-stays and lodges. All these places offer a sumptuous array of vegetarian and seafood dishes.
Best time to Visit
Port Blair is generally an all-weather destination, but the best time to visit is between October and March. This is when there is ideal weather for activities such as bird-watching, water sports, beach combing and sight-seeing.
Port Blair to Chennai/Kolkata Distance : approx. 750 kms
Approximate time taken to reach by flight : 2:30 mins
Special permits needed : Special permits needed for foreign nationals
Getting to Port Blair:
- Daily flights from chennai, kolkata,Bangalore and Delhi
- 2 Weekly ship sailings from chennai and kolkata
- Connecting flights from Ahemdabad,mumbai and cochin