To be honest, when I first heard about the backwaters of Kerala, India, like most people I had no idea what they were.
But here I am, sitting in my amazing room on an incredible houseboat cruising local backwaters and it’s simply breathtaking. Let me take you on a journey of Kerala’s backwaters and inspire you to take a trip to the South of India!
What the Backwaters are
The Great Backwaters of Kerala is a 900 km long canal system consisting of rivers, lakes and lagoons. The backwaters were formed by waves and currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats mountain range in southern India to form long navigable canals, most of the time lined by palm trees and rice paddies and largely varying in width. And they’re incredibly beautiful! The backwaters are also home to many unique types of water birds, otters, turtles and plants.
Today, the backwaters’ main purpose is to act as a vital waterway for the transport of goods, people and their produce between isolated villages and busy towns.
The Houseboat Experience
There are several activities you can do on the backwaters and I think the most unique one is the houseboat. You set out on a big boat that was once used for transporting heavy material, but has since been beautifully renovated into a hotel on water. Your crew will take care of your meals and you overall wellbeing. The meals we’ve recently had were so mouthwatering that I can’t stop thinking about them!
The whole houseboat experience was kind of a life changing one for me. My two friends and I each had private rooms, even with a private bathroom – pure luxury! The staff members were very accommodating and I personally felt like a princess. Your main responsibility on the boat is to relax and admire the surroundings! Nobody found that part difficult ;) Our boat had a lovely relaxation area in the front, from where we had the best views of the beautiful nature surrounding us.
Spending at least one night on a houseboat while you’re in South India is a must. Your room is always nicely air-conditioned and you sleep peacefully by the sound of the water and nature outside, all the while your houseboat rests safely by the paddy fields.
The backwater system of waterways in Kerala is fed by 44 rivers. Our houseboat started in Alleppey and went all the way to Kumarakom, but one can go as far down south as the city of Kollam. Kochi and Kumarakom are also great cities to start your houseboat adventure.
While gliding along the calm waters during the day, you can admire local houses along the shores and little islands. Most of these locals are rice farmers or fishermen. They lead simple lives and their main modes of transportation are boats, just like in Venice, Italy!
Mornings on the backwaters are the most poetic time. The generators from nearby houseboats have stopped by then and you can peacefully witness all the glorious nature waking up to start a new day along with you. Once you set off for the day, your houseboat picks up speed and beautifully slides through all the water lilies, passing by fishermen who’re about to get the first catch.
We went on a houseboat with Lakes & Lagoons Company, and as far as the crew we couldn’t have been happier. They took a lot of care to make sure our trip was amazing and they cooked absolutely delicious food.
Houseboats can vary in degree of luxury and size. Our houseboat accommodated 6 people plus the crew. The smallest houseboats usually have only two rooms, and the biggest ones can house as much as 14 people! However, cruising together with so many people will totally ruin the peacefulness, so I don’t suggest it :)
If you decide to go on a houseboat adventure, remember that it’s customary to leave a small tip if you’re happy. 100 IDR per guest is sufficient and goes a long way for the hardworking staff.
Have you ever been on a houseboat overnight? Where in the world was it?
Disclosure: TravelGeekery participated in a sponsored trip to Kerala organized by Kerala Tourism. All opinions presented are Veronika’s own.
Did you enjoy this post? Arnaud has made a nice short video about the whole houseboat experience. Watch it, it’s fun!
And here’s a Pinterest-friendly image for you to pin for later! :)