Most people might have a tough time identifying the Andaman Islands on a map: The archipelago is scattered along the western reaches of the Andaman Sea, gently curving its way northward from Indonesia toward Myanmar, with Thailand to the east. Yet this string of islands (along with its sister archipelago, the Nicobar Islands) belongs to none of these neighbors; instead, the region is actually a remote Indian outpost. The easiest way to get there is via Mumbai—where it’s a 3.5-hour flight to the main city of Port Blair—though routes to the island chain have been expanding fast and furious across the Indian mainland.
Despite its location amid so many iconic destinations, the archipelago feels like another world altogether. The 572 islands are home to some of the last remaining tribes on Earth who shun contact with outside civilizations; most of the isles are uninhabited, with feral elephants outnumbering humans in some areas. Its pristine beaches give way to marine wildlife so abundant they won the heart of legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau—and that was well before the islands laid claim to their first ultraluxury resort, a Taj Exotica with 72 villas on stilts, which opened in April.