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Between 200km (124 miles) and 450km (279 miles) W of Kerala's coast

Ask any globe-trotting island-hopper if the world still holds any undiscovered gems, and Lakshadweep will be among the first names to crop up. One of India's best-kept secrets, the 36 atolls and coral reefs making up the remote Union Territory of Lakshadweep are an extension of the better-known Maldives island group. Only three Lakshadweep islands -- Agatti, Kadmat, and Bangaram -- are open to foreign tourists, and the Indian government employs a strictly enforced entry-permit system. All the islands are "owned" by the indigenous people, and land is unavailable for purchase by nonnatives -- even a man marrying a local woman may not buy land here.

Ten islands in the archipelago are populated, almost exclusively by Malayalam-speaking Sunni Muslims who make their living from fishing and harvesting coconuts. Only Minicoy Island, which is closest to the nearby Maldives, shares aspects of its neighbor's culture, including a Maldivian dialect known as Mahl.

Being Muslim, the islands are officially dry, and alcohol is only available on Bangaram, which is technically uninhabited by locals; avoid carrying any liquor with you. You are strongly advised to bring insect repellent since the mosquitoes become alarmingly active once the sun descends.