What is it all about?
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of salt water lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast of Kerala. The network includes 5 huge lakes, 38 rivers and lagoons, extending virtually half the length of Kerala state. In the midst of this landscape there are a number of towns and cities, which serve as the starting and ending points of backwater cruises. Most popular Kerala backwaters trails spread across the famous Vembanad Lake and Ashtamudi Lake. The important rivers from north to south are the Valapattanam River, Chaliar, Kadalundipuzha, Bharathapuzha, Chalakudy River, Periyar, Pamba, Achancoil and Kalladayar.
Traditionally the main mode of transportation of goods, today they are a major tourist attraction of Kerala and also major revenue sources of Kerala Tourism. These backwaters also boast of being rich in marine life and being one of the largest sources of fresh water. Annual snake boat races, held along the backwaters, also provide a great source of entertainment for the locals and tourists alike.
Modes of Backwater Cruise
Kerala houseboats – locally known as Kettuvallams – are an integral part of the vast expanse of waterways and form the backbone of Kerala Backwater tourism. Houseboat trip is among the most famous Things to do in Kerala, where one can hire Kettuvallams available in different sizes. These houseboats serve as most popular mode of transportation for tourists and also serve as accommodation in the form of Kerala houseboats.
Many people are opting for country boat tours or canoe trips along the small canals spread across the villages on the banks of backwaters. This is also the best way to experience the beauty of rural life in Kerala. Regular ferry services connect most locations on both banks of the backwaters.
A houseboat trip can also be combined with staying at a resort, hotel or homestay along the backwaters. The resorts and luxury hotels commonly have their own houseboats, and offer overnight and sunset cruises. Most of the accommodations are spread along the banks of Vembanad Lake near Kumarakom and Alleppey. The Kerala State Water Transport Department operates ferries for passengers as well as tourists. It is the cheapest mode of transport through the backwaters. The Kerala State Water Transport Department operates ferries for passengers as well as tourists. It is the cheapest mode of transport through the backwaters.
Top Places for Kerala Backwater Trips
- Alappuzha (Alleppey) is among the most famous destination of backwaters in Kerala and also one of the top tourist places in Kerala. A houseboat cruise in the backwaters of Vembanad Lake in Alleppey is a delightful experience. It connects Kumarakom and Cochin to the North and Kollam to the South. It is popularly known as the ‘Venice of the East’. Alleppey is also known for the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race held in Punnamada Lake on the second Saturday of August every year.
- Kumarakom, another famous backwater destination, is a cluster of little islands on the famous Vembanad Lake. Also known as the Queen of Vembanad, Kumarakom is the most famous Kerala Backwaters destination for traditional houseboat rides and it is among the most popular places to visit in Kerala. A houseboat cruise along the backwaters is really an amazing experience for every traveler to Kumarakom. Also, Kumarakom is the venue for Sri Narayana Jayanthi Boat Race held in September during Onam festival.
- Kollam (Quilon) is an old sea port city lies between the Ashtamudi Lake and Lakshadweep Sea in Kerala. It is the southern gateway to Kerala Backwaters and is a prominent destination for Tourism in Kerala. Thirty percent of this district is covered by Ashtamudi Lake. The eight hour boat trip between Kollam and Alappuzha is the one of the best way to explore the backwaters along with daily life of locals. Kollam is the venue for famous Kallada Boat Race held in January every year.
- Kottayam is bounded by Western Ghats on the east and the Vembanad Lake on the west. Kottayam is well known as a beautiful Kerala Backwaters destination and also one of the prominent Kerala places to visit. Kumarakom, the most famous backwater destination of Kerala is situated very close to Kottayam (13 km). A backwater cruise in the Kottayam Backwaters is the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of nature in Kerala.
- Kochi (Cochin) is one of the most visited Kerala destinations and also a good place for backwater trips. Well known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’, Kochi is considered one of the finest harbors in the world. Nothing can be fascinating than cruising through the serene lakes of Cochin that are lined up with coconut trees. A number of backwater cruises of the state begin and end at Cochin. The two most popular backwater cruise package from Cochin are to Alleppey and Kollam.
- Vaikom, situated on the eastern side of Vembanad Lake, is famous as a temple town and a popular getaway to experience beautiful backwaters. Boat trips in Vembanad Lake at Vaikom are a famous activity for tourists. Many tourists are coming to enjoy backwater tour on traditional non mechanised Kettuvallam at Vaikom.
- Paravur is a beautiful place with the combination of Sea, Lakes, Rivers, Backwaters and vast green fields. This is one of the most beautiful places in Kerala and also a popular place for houseboat trip. Paravur is surrounded by Paravur Lake, Nadayara Lake and the Arabian Sea on three sides. Paravur Lake is the main body of water in the town area. Boating, Fishing (with prior permission), Swimming & Surfing are the important activities at Paravur.
- Kuttanad, known as ‘the rice bowl of Kerala’ is part of the Alappuzha district. With seven rivers flowing through it (Pampa, Manimala, Achencoil, Meenachil, Moovattupuzha, Chalakudy & Periyar), Kuttanad is breathtakingly beautiful. Kuttanad is also popular as an ideal place for Kerala backwaters trip in a houseboat. Kuttanad is one of the very few places in the world where farming is done below the sea level.
Boat races held during festival seasons attract large number of tourists to the backwater regions of Kerala. Boat races are occasions of great excitement and entertainment with thousands gathered on the banks to watch and cheer. Most of these races are held in Alleppey & Kollam Regions.
Aranmula Snake Boat Race, Alleppey Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Kumarakom Sri Narayana Jayanthi Boat Race, Kallada Boat Race at Kollam, Indira Gandhi Boat Race at Kochi, Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, Payippad Jalotsavam, Thazhathangadi Boat Race in Kottayam and Kumarakom Boat Race are the major boat races held in Kerala Backwaters every year. Large numbers of tourists visit Kerala to witness these popular boat races to be a part of Kerala Packages.
Top Kerala Backwater Routes
Alappuzha – Kollam Backwaters Cruise is the longest and the most popular cruise to experience the majestic beauty and charm of the palm-fringed backwaters and rural life of Kerala. The cruise generally takes a full day, which can also be done as overnight cruise from Alappuzha to reach Alumkavadu in Kollam.
Alleppey – Kumarakom Backwaters Cruise route features the widest waterways and canals and takes visitors to the popular Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. Most of the luxury resorts and best hotels in Kerala are located by the bank of this lake.
Alleppey – Kuttanad Backwaters Cruise is another spellbinding Kerala backwaters cruise route. This particular route features some of the best glimpses of the farming and village life of Kerala.
Best Season for Backwater Tours
While the tours are available throughout the year, October to February is the best time to experience the backwaters of Kerala. Monsoons often receive heavy rains and summers are usually humid. Hence, winter is the best season to experience the tranquil, palm fringed backwaters of Kerala to the maximum. During this season, the weather remains pleasant and cool which is perfect for a holiday at destinations like Kottayam, Alleppey, Varkala, Kozhikode and Thekkady. Along with backwater trips, winter is also the perfect season to experience the stunning beaches of Kerala.
Summer season in Kerala begins in the month of March and continues till early June. During the summer season, Kerala receives some rainfall and experiences hot and humid weather. It is a good time to enjoy the majestic hill stations of Kerala like Munnar, Idukki and Wayanad.
Monsoons in Kerala lasts from June to September and adds a fresher look to the entire region. It is an ideal time to experience Ayurvedic treatments.