A Complete Guide on Kerala Backwaters & Houseboat Trip
The beautiful state of Kerala is known for its lush surroundings and serene ambiance but the most splendid natural wonder of this state is its backwaters- a chain of lagoons and lakes.
Exploring backwaters in a houseboat is one of the must things to do in Kerala and the best way to experience the Kerala’s beauty through the palm-fringed backwaters – a chain of lakes, canals and lagoons.
Here is information on how to plan your Kerala backwaters and houseboat trip- a complete guide:
Houseboats in Kerala is an exclusive attraction in the ‘God’s Own Country’ that has gained a lot of popularity amid tourists from all across the globe. If you are planning a tour to Kerala but have not included Kerala houseboat cruise then you going to miss something.
Why are backwaters in Kerala unique?
A network or channel of lakes, canals, inlets and rivers have been given the name of Kerala Backwater, which form over 900 km of waterways. At different places on the state’s landscapes, there are cities and towns, which act as starting and ending points of houseboat cruises. These backwaters have been blessed with a unique ecosystem, where the waters of the Arabian Sea meet the freshwater of the rivers. At some places, for instance, Vembanad Kayal (Kumarakom), a bank has been made so that the freshwater of the lake doesn’t gets mixed with salt water of the sea. This water is used for the purpose of irrigation.
The backwaters are home to different species of aquatic animals including frogs, crabs, mudskippers, along with water birds such as darters, terns, cormorants, and kingfishers. Turtles and otters can also be found here. Thick bushes, palm trees, several leafy plants and pandanus shrubs on the banks of the backwater, form a lush sight.
Before confirming the date, just confirm whether it is the best time to visit Kerala backwaters?
Though the backwaters of Kerala are a year round attraction but still they are the best between August and May. Try to avoid the monsoon to make the best of your visit. The sudden downpour might spoil the fun for you.
Opt for the best Kerala backwaters for your houseboat trip
Fondly called the ‘Venice of the East’, Alleppey is the most popular backwater destination of Kerala, blessed with abundant scenic charm of lagoons, lakes and freshwater rivers. An overnight cruise or a houseboat day cruise would be a wonderful way to explore Alleppey and its attractions. Food is a part of the houseboat and is included in the price of the guests. Along with three meals, guests can also savor evening snack with tea on-board a houseboat cruise. Vegetables and fish dishes are staple, however, changes can be made as one the client’s need.
How to choose the best Kerala Houseboat Tour
The backwaters of Kerala are in the forms of canal that run along the Arabian Sea coast as well as inland in the Kerala coast, from Cochin to Kollam. There are a number of routes in these canals where houseboats can sail.
Out of a number of backwater destinations in Kerala, Alleppey and Kumarakom are most gorgeous and the most ones. Alappuzha or Alley Backwaters Round and Kumarakom Backwater Round as well as houseboat cruise on these routes offer serenity and breathtaking nature.
Alleppey or Alappuzha Backwater Route: Alleppey round trip is quite popular in the form of Alleppey houseboat day trip cruise where the houseboat sails through Kuttanad, the perfect place for a houseboat cruise. The natural scenery is lush and serene in this core backwater area with coconut palms on the edges. You can even see the mirror image of the surroundings in the placid waters.
The main attraction on this route is the Kuttanadu Paddy Field- farming is below sea level. An 11th century statue of Lord Buddha or Karumadikuttan is located near Alleppey. Do not miss observing the rural life of the people. During the night, the houseboat is anchored in the lake.
Kumarakom Backwater Route: Kumarakom is a charming village of Kerala that is known for its backwater tourism, eco-tourism, and beach tourism. Kumarakom has been a popular vacation destinations of a number of VIPs and celebrities such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former PM of India and Britney Spears. Lying close to the beautiful Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is another popular attraction here.
One of the most popular activities here is a houseboat cruise on the waters of the Lake when one can also enjoy bird watching at the bird sanctuary. You can also opt for the memorable sunset cruise for some unforgettable experiences.
Alleppey to Kumarakom Backwater Route: Alleppey to Kumarakom Backwater Route is an amalgam of the best of experiences in backwater houseboat cruises in Alleppey and Kumarakom. Some of the highlights of this route are farm fields, local villages, bird sanctuary and other places worth-visiting. During the cruise, you can also explore Kuttanad village that is fondly known as the ‘rice bowl of Kerala’. This route is not only extremely popular amid honeymooners but also as a weekend cruise option.
Alleppey to Alumkadavu Backwater Route: Alumkadavu is located at a distance of 21 km Kollam. The cruise between Kollam and Alleppey is the longest backwater cruise is in Kerala and is covered in a duration of 8 hours. This cruise covers the whole backwater area, leaving a few areas where there is not enough space for the boat. Half of the distance is covered in on the first day, and on the second day, the cruise reaches Kollam. You can admire several attractions such as coir village, paddy fields (lower than the sea level), Amrithamanadha Math at Vallikavu, Kumarakodi, and Karimadikuttan.
Alleppey to Thottappalley Backwater Route: Another serene backwater cruise route of Kerala is Alleppey to Thottappalley. This route also has a number of attractions such as traditional houses on the banks called Chavara Bhavan, a sail on Punnamada Lake, Ambalappuzha temple, 11th century Buddha state temple-Karumadikkuttan, and Champakkulam Church.
Picking the category and types of houseboat in Kerala
Locally known as Ketuvallam, Kerala houseboats are made up from indigenous eco-friendly material. Well-equipped with contemporary comforts like a hotel, most of these have a thatched roof, made from coconut leaves. These houseboat can available for a day cruise as well as for night stay.
These houseboats have option of single/double/triple and five bedrooms with a private balcony with chairs, a sundeck, a toilet and a fully-loaded kitchen. There is another separate rest room that also has a TV. You are accompanied by a trained cook, and 2 skilled oarsmen who maneuver 2 heavy plans of Anjili tree. Timely inspections are held by the KTDC for the safety of the tourists.
The prices of the houseboat vary depending on the category and type of boat which the tourist picks. They range from basic, deluxe to luxury houseboats. The government of the state rate the houseboats from Platinum or green, Gold and Silver. However, this is not mandatory. It is advisable that you should read the reviews before booking a houseboat.
Following are the categories of houseboats in Kerala:
Standard Houseboat– This is a houseboat with basic necessities and nothing else more than this. Most of these are without air-conditioner.
Deluxe/ Premium Houseboat– This category of houseboats are quite comfortable. Guests can avail the facility of air-conditioner for around 10 hours at night.
Luxury / Super deluxe Houseboat– Filled with world-class luxuries and comforts, these houseboats come with round the clock air-conditioner and well-mannered butlers.
TYPES of houseboats:
If you do not wish to face any disappointment of not being able to get a houseboat on first come first serve basis, it is advisable that you pre-book a houseboat, whether for a day cruise or a an overnight stay.
Houseboats with double deck- Such houseboats have a double deck. From the upper deck, you can savor stunning views of the backwater. These houseboats can accommodate more amount people and come with conference facilities. Usually, the upper comprises of a double bedroom with attached bathroom, a sundeck and a living area that features a TV and music system for guest entertainment.
In the lower deck, there are 2 air-conditioned double rooms with attached bathrooms. Each of this room can easily accommodate 2 adults and 2-3 children. Here, there is also a welcome area, a dining area with television and a sit-out. This kind of a houseboat can be hired by 2 separate groups at the same time. Because of the 2 deck, privacy is taken care off.
Houseboats with Sun Deck- Such houseboats do not have an upper deck but a sun deck to admire the breathtaking view of the surroundings as the houseboat cruises on the placid waters of the backwater. The welcome area of this houseboat has a staircase to take you to the sundeck, which can be open or glass covered.
Houseboats without Upper decks- Such houseboats are made from different parts of a coconut tree, and plows on the water, offering the guests a chance to go into the interior of the lakes. These houseboats look similar to a house with 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, and a loaded kitchen.
Opting from Day- Cruise or Overnight Kerala Houseboat
Tourists have an option to choose from a day-trip in a houseboat and overnight stay in a houseboat. The day cruise begin earlier than the overnight houseboat and cruises till 5’o clock in the evening. This option is better for those who are travelling with kids or senior citizens who might not be comfortbale in night as well as for those who have an early morning flight.
The starting point of both these cruises is either from Alleppey or from Kumarakom. Kerala houseboat booking can be done at both the places. It is necessary to specify the food preference- vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Arrangements for fishing and canoeing can be done on request.
There are some such houseboats in Kerala that start from a particular point and then next morjing they arrive back that point to leave the tourists. There are some cruises mainly in Alleppey like 1 night cruise from Alleppey to Thotapally via Punnamada Lake, 1 night cruise from Alleppey to Mankotta, 1 night cruise from Alappuzha to Kidangara, and 2 nights cruise from Alleppey to Alumkavadi.
Planning honeymoon on a Kerala Houseboat
People newly-wedded couples who are on their honeymoon in a houseboat of Kerala, special arrangements like flower decoration, candle light dinner and so on can be made on request to make them feel romantic and special. To make your honeymoon in Kerala more special and add a variety, you can add other attractions like wildlife viewing at Periyar (Thekkady), visit to the popular Munnar hill station, fun activities at Marari beach and so on.
Food Menu on Kerala Houseboat
When you opt for a night stay on a houseboat in Kerala, you are served all three meals inside the houseboat. Meals on Kerala houseboat include such as South Indian, Continental, North Indian and specialty being traditional authentic Keralite cuisine. Local fish delicacy is the highlight. The cooks are experts in their field. Before entering into the boat, you can also specify your choice of oil- sunflower oilor coconut oil
A typical day on a Kerala Houseboat
The check-in is at 12:00 hours and the guests are welcomed with fresh coconut water or fresh juice. As you settle into your rooms, the houseboat starts cruising on the backwaters. You can also be taken to get your hands on toddy, a special liquor made from Coconut in Kerala. Around 1’o clock, the houseboat halts wither in the shore in amid the backwaters, for lunch including a vast menu. You are accompanied by a cook who prepares meals on the boat and if you wish, you can also visit him in the kitchen. He uses freshest of ingredients, whether vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Sambar, rice, fish fry, vegetarian delicacies, salad, papad and sweet are present in a meal. If you have any special requirement, it is advisable that you inform the cook, while on the shores.
Then at around 04:30 in the evening, the guests are served evening tea/coffee with traditional Keralite snacks such as tapioca chips, banana fry or finger chips. Finally at 05:30 PM, the boat anchors at the shore at the Kerala Government doesn’t permits a boat to cruise after that, for the safety of the fishing nets. This is the time when the guests have a chance to indulge in the activities of their interest such as a visit to the nearby villages, a leisure walk along the river banks or partaking in canoeing. Once the guests are back, they are served a vast spread of delicacies at dinner time.
On the next day, tea/coffee is served in the morning at around 06:30. While sipping your tea, savor the sunrise views. Later, at 8’0 clock, breakfast is served to the guests where there is option between South Indian items like Dosa, Idly, Upma with sambar and Chutney along with tea/coffee or Bread, Butter, Omelet and Jam.
On request of the guest, alterations can be made in items in the menu, depending on their liking. Houseboats have trained chefs and other staff members with valid license for cooking with complete hygiene.
Transportation to Alleppey backwaters or Kumarakom Backwaters
The nearest airport to Kumarakom and Alleppey is Cochin International Airport, which is around 70 km away. If you want, you can also pre-book a taxi from your hotel in Cochin or from the airport. In case of advance booking of a Kerala houseboat, your package can include pick-up and drop from hotels, airports or railway stations. Do not forget to pack sufficient cash, a flashlight, a mosquito repellent, identity proof and so on.