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Kerala Backwaters Guide

The Kerala are familiar to most through the image of the iconic Kerala rice boats or Kettuvalloms which thread like so many oversized snails through the canals of the area. The whole area is closed to cars and buses with villages beside the water serviced by their own rickety water buses.

The backwater's aqueous ecosystem is unique because of the slight salinity of the water and this gives rise to a unique range of plants and animals.

21 Inland Paradise

Island hopping

Visit the innumerable islands or sail through the lagoons. 

34 Taste The Irresistible Drink – Madhura Kallu

Freshly tapped sweet toddy

Do not forget to ask us to arrange a bottle of freshly tapped madhura kallu. Sweet toddy extracted from coconut palm is a must-do in Kerala.

5 Best Places to Stay in the Backwaters

5 places to suit any budget

Just about everybody visiting Kerala wants to spend a few days in the Backwaters. Here is our pick of 5 places to stay...

5 Snake boat race

Boat race with frenzied singing, cheering and synchronised rowing!

Snake boat Race is a sporting event on the backwaters of Kerala that draws large crowd. 

6 Countrycraft cruise

Cruise the inner canals in a country boat

Go on a country craft cruise for a first hand experience of the unhurried pace of life in rural Kerala.

Guide to Kerala's Backwaters

Kerala's backwaters are a semi flooded area of land behind the coast that stretches south from Kochi(Cochin) to Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum). Among which, Alappuzha(Aleppey), Kumarakom and Kollam (Quilon) are most scenic.

The backwaters of Kerala are unique to Kerala and are found nowhere else in the world (The nearest equivalent might be the flooded polders of Holland in Europe). TheKerala Backwaters are a network of lakes, canals and estuaries and the deltas of 44 rivers that all drain into the Arabian Sea. Most of these rivers rise in the Western Ghats which have high rainfall all year.

The backwaters of Kerala are a self supporting eco-system teeming with often unique aquatic and riverine life. The man made canals connect the villages together and are still used for local transport. Some 900 km of this riverine water world is navigable to boats.

The largest backwater stretch in Kerala is the Vembanad Lake which flows through three regions and opens out into the sea at the port at cochin. TheAshtamudi Lake, literally having eight arms, which covers a major portion of Kollam district in the south, is the second largest and is also considered a gateway to the backwaters.

Backwaters form an aesthetically and economically attractive feature of Kerala. The great flood of 1866 AD silted up old harbours and led to the formation of lagoons like Vembanad Kayal, (205 KM2) 83 KM long, the Ashtamudi Kayal, 16 KM long and the Kayamkulam Kayal, 30.5 KM long.

The lagoons acted as link between interior landmasses and the sea, taking the role of highways. There is a different Kerala along these backwaters. Throbbing with its unique culture. The routes along these backwaters are always breath-taking green, the skyline vanishing with a line of coconut trees on the banks. Life arounds: cultural festivals, the shrines, churches and mosques, the commercial life, the farmlands and sea, all different scenes but memorized together to make a unique whole.

900 kms. of dappled, green waters. Fringes of dense tropical greenery. Clear skies shimmering through coconut canopies. Kerala is a labyrinth of lazily meandering backwaters. Sprinkled with traditional houseboats, country crafts, rural lifestyles and tranquility. It's an intricate network of innumerable lagoons, lakes, canals, estuaries and the deltas of forty-four rivers that drain into the Arabian Sea. Over 900 km of this labyrinthine water world is navigable. The largest backwater stretch in Kerala is the Vembanad lake whichÂÂ flows through three districts and opens out into the sea at the Kochi port

Backwaters are a combination of sea water at the sea beach during the to-fro motion of sea-waves in the form of lagoons, estuaries etc.

The most exciting experience on the backwaters of Kerala for visitors is the Kettuvallam (or traditional rice boat ). In a land as water bound as Kerala it wouldn't be an unusual sight, but for a visitor to God's Own Country, a Kerala houseboat gliding along the vast green expanse of the backwaters is a unique, tranquil spectacle in the world. The backwaters formed the unique way of traveling in the past. Till date it is efficiently used as a means to transport men and material. The entire experience of the green and serene backwaters of Kerala is incomparable and incredible. The vivacious and vibrant village life cannot be left in a better way on a smooth sail in the houseboat. Showcasing a unique heritage, The Kettuvallams (houseboats) of Kerala are giant country crafts, measuring up to 80 feet in length. It took great skill and meticulousness to construct these giants by tying huge planks of jack wood together, without the use of a single nail. Today, these goods carriers have been adapted to make the luxurious furnished houseboat. A Kettuvallam usually has one or more bath attached bedrooms, an open lounge, deck, kitchenette and a crew comprising oarsmen, a cook and guide. The backwaters of Kerala have a fleet of over 600 houseboats. When onboard you may savor the traditional delicacies of Kerala. The cuisine is captivating owing to the local specialties in the menu like the chicken and fish curry. The food is generally fresh as the material is purchased on the way. You must opt for the fabulous ride on the houseboat and explore the fascinating beauty of the backwaters of Kerala.

The backwater cruise through the narrow canals that criss-cross a typical Kerala Village, rich with green paddy fields and verdant coconut trees and is a thrilling experience. The boat cruise takes you to small islets tucked away amidst those waters where you get glimpses of village at the best of its serenity and innocence
Watch village girls picking mussels or laundering clothes or pots on the small ghats in front of every house, while their men folk collect sand from the bottom of the canal. Watch the village folk make the golden fiber called coir from coconut husk and transform it into various coir products. Rustling coconut groves abound. So stop over to drink calm fresh coconut water and watch the toddy-tapper tap at work. You can see birds like kingfishers, crow pheasants, cormorants, drogues, wood pecker, Bee-eater, kites etc.

Looking forward to have the time of your life this holiday? Think about the gorgeous greens, the canopies of coconuts, the bedazzling blues, balmy beaches and the breathtakingly beautiful backwaters. The entire journey is a moving picture with beauty of nature at its best.

Alappuzha, with its lovely lakes, lagoons and the fresh water rivers will not fail to sweep you off your feet. The variant village cruises to the coconut plantations and the coir villages will captivate you entirely. The lagoons acted as link between interior land masses and the sea, taking the role of highways along which we, Kettuvallams could sail harnessing wind energy.

The capital city of Thiruvananthapuram on one hand is a major center for tourists, politics and industries at the same time its soothing shoreline, beautiful beaches and the backwater stretches on the Northern side make it terrific. The backwater destination of Thiruvallam makes a great one-day tour from Thiruvananthapuram. At Thiruvallam you may indulge in the canoe rides, participate in the water sports at the lagoon or simply bask in the beach. A journey through the lagoons is interesting, passing through sleepy villages, busy boat jetties and vibrant celebrations. The boat glides across the shimmering blue waters with gorgeous green and fringed edges. The socio-economic infrastructure of these places depends on the coir industry and fishing. Later tile factories and brick kilns gained importance. As usual we carried products from these interior towns to the market at Alappuzha.

Situated on Lake Vembanad the backwater destination of Kumarakom offers unparalleled boating, fishing and sightseeing opportunities. Adjacent to Kumarakom are the charming backwaters of Kottayam with paddy fields, rubber plantations and the highlands the land is renowned as the land of letters, latex and lakes. The gateway to the backwaters of Kerala is the spectacular cashew town of Kollam in the South. The longest backwater cruise commences from Kollam and ends at Kollam whichÂÂ take more than two nights and three days. The backwater destination of Kasaragod with the Pallikere and the Kappil beaches and the day trips chain of forts at Chandragiri and the best breathtaking views of the backwaters of vivacious Valiyaparamba is a must visit.

It is the backwater cruises that complete the tour to southern India take you through the winding waterways revealing the colorful culture and customs of the rural life. The magic of the mystical backwaters works on one and all. Though you may plan your backwater tour to Kerala anytime of the year, the best time for cruising is from October to March. Casual clothes in cotton are best suited for the backwater trip to Kerala. On your way back home from the backwaters of Kerala do not forget to pick up the best buys being offered by the region ranging from the carved wooden elephant souvenirs, assorted handicrafts like bell metal products, coir goods, sandalwood, brass and wooden items, conch shells, paintings and masks. All the travel service for the backwater tour of Kerala is easily available. Right from air ticketing to hotel/houseboat booking and car rentals all the facilities are available to make your holiday an unforgettable experience.

Most Popular Houseboat destinations include:

  • Alappuazha : Enjoy sublime views of coconut palms, paddy fields, Chines fishing nets,toddy tapping.
  • Kumarakam : In Kottayam district. Get best of the backwaters – cruising past paddy flieds, coconut grooves.
  • Kollam : Ashtamudi lake with tributary canals unravel an unforgettable experience.
  • Valapattanam : In Kannur district. The lake-cum-river cruise exposes to the thrill unlimited.

The backwaters of Kerala are famous around the world as a unique (and fragile) ecosystem that is both natural and high man-made. The rare balance between the two is threatened by many factors:

  • global warming and climatic changes
  • the effects of intensive farming
  • changing population
  • changing lifestyles
  • the pressures of tourism