With an interconnected network of lakes, canals and brackish lagoons, the backwaters of Kerala form a labyrinthine navigational system that runs inland from Kochi on the coast of Kerala to Kollam on the Malabar coast.
Hailed as a top tourist attraction of India, the backwaters of Kerala will allow you to experience southern India at a relaxing pace. The main spots to embark on this unforgettable journey are Alleppey, Kochi, Kumarakom and Kollam.
A large part of the charm in ‘God’s Own Country’ lies in this unique phenomenon, the most famous one leading off to the picturesque Lake Vembanad from the quaint little town of Alleppey, thirty one miles south of Kochi and the houseboat hub of the state.
Your Kerala tour packages will encompass a journey through these seemingly endless web of waterways, coconut groves and paddy fields. You will be in houseboats known as kettuvallam, which will allow you to observe local village life from up close, much of which has not changed in the past five decades.
Here narrow canoes still ferry children in bright white uniforms to the school, women in colourful attire wash clothes on the stone steps by the banks and opportunist vendors paddling up to your houseboat to tempt you to buy freshly caught tiger prawns and fish for your evening snack.
For centuries, these kettuvallam boats have been in use to transport rice from the paddy fields of the remote backwater communities to the town markets for sale. These beautiful crafted vessels have today been converted to luxurious floating cottages, with all modern amenities, and are a big hit with tourists.
Though overnight trips are most popular, it is possible to organise trips for an afternoon or even a week. This allows the guests to lounge on the front deck as the boatman steers you past villages with pastel houses, churches and temples.
One can even deboard from the craft at villages retailing locally made wares and fresh seafood. The boats dock at dedicated spots overnight, which allows the visitor to stare at the stars in solitude from a secluded spot while the boat crew prepare your dinner on the grill.
While even a day trip is a great experience, staying on the boat for the night offers a surreal experience of seeing the surroundings at dusk and dawn in the reflective waters.The crew will share their knowledge of flora and fauna and let the engine idle for the guests to take photos of children waving excitedly from the banks or a toddy tappers clambering up tall palm trees to harvest the coconut soap for the potent concoction.
The beauty of Kerala’s backwaters can also be enjoyed from land. There are plenty of high end resorts, particularly in Kumarakom, that offer the guests to experience the place in luxury and comfort.
These resorts have come up on the banks of Lake Vembanad and have river otters swimming under the bridges and an array of birds like kingfishers, Brahminy kites and egrets in the surrounding trees.