Cruising the Kerala Backwaters…

During my travels in Southern India a few years ago, my friends and I made our way down the Keralan Coast from Cochin to Kovalam. A week earlier we had been in Bangalore, a fast-paced city, noisy and chaotic. Before that we were in Coorg, a lush hill station surrounded by coffee and spice plantations. And now
we were in a tranquil state, a calming, laid-back paradise of little fishing ports and unspoilt beaches…

This is why I love India, every state is different, not just in its landscape or climate but in its culture, energy and lifeblood too. Each region welcomes you with its own personality, its language or dialect, quirks, customs, and way of life, and you soon get to know it.

The Kerala Backwaters
What makes Kerala unique to any other part of India, has to be the backwaters, a network of 5 large lakes, connected by canals, estuaries of forty-four rivers that drain into the Arabian Sea. The canals connect the villages together and are still used for local transport, and over 900km of this maze of water channels is navigable. The backwaters are also a self-supporting eco-system teeming with aquatic life (and a few mosquitos in the evening, in the summer months).

Our Traditional Houseboat (kettuvallam)

Although there are many resorts cropping up nowadays, I still think the traditional houseboats (kettuvallam) are the best way to experience the backwaters and take in the local way of life. Originally used to transport rice from the paddy fields to market towns these beautifully crafted boats; made of bamboo, rattan, coir and wood, usually about 80 feet (24m) in length; have been refashioned into floating cottages.
Kerala-Backwaters-Tourist-Attraction-Iin-Kerala-India kerala-backwaters

You can spend anything from an afternoon to a week on a backwaters houseboat, though two-day trips are the most popular and in the end what we chose to do. The main spots to embark on a backwaters adventure are the cities or towns of Alappuzha, Kochi, Kollam and Kumarakom. If not booked in advance, like us, you could book a houseboat on arrival, if so here are a few tips:

Shop around  There will be a lot of choice so do some research, we rented our houseboat from Kollam and there were several agents selling packages, so its worth checking out a few different options to see what is on offer and the price ranges before booking.

Inspect your boat!  Most agents are happy for you to have a quick tour around a boat to help you decide, so its worth asking if not offered.

What’s included  The captain, a cook and all meals should be included and often drinks can also be factored into the package. A good agent will usually discuss the menu and your specific requirements with you beforehand. Excursions by canoe into smaller channels and swimming opportunities are usually included in the price too.

Agree on a price upfront  Its always worth getting everything agreed and a fair price negotiated and fixed beforehand, so you can just relax and enjoy your time on the water.

We began our journey from Kollam, heading out on to the Ashtamudi Lake,
the second largest of the five main lakes and considered the gateway to the backwaters.

Our journey through the Kerala Backwaters…

If you enjoyed this post you may also like my post on playing Holi in Hampi.



    1. Thank you! There were 5 of us and we had a two bedroom boat, I think it came to about 7,000 rupees but this was a few years ago. One top tip though get one with air conditioning in the bedrooms!

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