Backwaters in Kerala is a network of 1500 km of canals both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other.
Backwaters is one of the major tourism product of Kerala, being unique to the state. Traditionally used as one of the main transportation alleys, today backwaters offer a rejuvenating experience for tourists visiting Kerala.
The backwaters can be explored by hiring a boat for one or several days. If you go for more than a day, the boat usually comes with a navigator and a cook, which provide you with various facilities when exploring the backwaters.
A wide range of cruise options are available here – from small country boats to luxury houseboats and small speedboats to big passenger motorboats. Small boats are preferred for cruise through the canals.
The canal networks linked to the Vembanad Lake offer an inspiring and interesting experience. Enjoy the sights of vast stretches of paddy fields, coconut lagoons and pied King Fishers hurtling down to catch the fish. You would also come across small islands, locals engaged in fishing activities on country boats, children being ferried to schools and kettuvallams, the majestic rice barges, gliding over the canals. Another interesting sight is that of large flocks of ducks being shepherded to newly-harvested paddy fields.
Alumkadavu is where the first houseboats in India were built. Located north of Kollam district, the waft of coir and wood is always in the air of this village. And the reason: It is a major centre for the construction of kettuvalloms (traditional rice barges) which are later modified into houseboats for travellers.
The houseboats eventually take shape at the hands of skilled craftsmen of the village, who make sue of local and eco-friendly materials like wood, bamboo poles and coconut fibre.
Alumkadavu is also a coir manufacturing centre, making Kollam famous for its coir products.
Nearest railway station: Karunagappally railway station, about 5 km away.
Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, about 95 km away.
Chandragiri Fort & River
Situated near the confluence of the Payaswini River and the Arabian Sea, the Chandragiri Village is known for its large 17th century fort built by Sivappa Naik of Bedanore. The Chandragiri Fort, one among a chain of forts built by the same ruler, perched atop a hill is in ruins now. But the location offers a breathtaking view of the convergence of the river and the Arabian Sea. The place is a vantage point to watch the sunset from the ancient Kizhur State Temple at Chandragiri, which celebrates the annual festival called Pattu Utsavam. Chandragiri is situated 4 km from Bekal.
Chandragiri Cruises: Boat trips to nearby islands and palm groves. Boarding Point – Chandragiri Bridge.
Chandragiri Boat Club: The Boat Club offers speed boat rides, houseboat cruises, island camping and wildlife tours in the hinterlands. Fishermen near the Chandragiri Bridge will give you a ride on the backwaters and arrange trips to nearby islands.
Nearest railway station: Kasaragod, about 7 km
Nearest airport: Mangalore Airport (Karnataka) about 67 km
Kavvayi Backwater at Payyanur
In Kannur, an inspiring stretch of water body Kavvayi Kayal could perhaps be your next, most fascinating destination among the backwaters in Kerala. The backwaters down the south of Kerala; like those in and around Kollam and Alappuzha have their own unique attractions, surroundings and ways of life. Kavvayi Kayal too has its own unique elements that could easily make you fall in love with it.
You can simply unwind by taking a walk along the land that fringes the Kavvayi Kayal or else may step into one of the country boats and relax in the cool breeze while enjoying the abundance of surrounding greenery. This backwater stretch is full of interesting sights and experiences that would keep preventing your interest level from hitting a low. Locally called as Kavvayi Kayal or the backwater of Kavvayi, this lesser known backwater of northern Kerala is the result of the five rivers viz. River Kavvayi and its tributary streams Kankol, Vannathichal, Kuppithodu, and Kuniyan.
From an ecological point of view the backwater of Kavvayi and its surrounding region is considered to be of significance. The backwater and the wetlands are home to a variety of fauna and flora.
Another interesting sight that one could encounter while on the backwaters of Kavvayi are the nearly half a dozen of small and big islands. The backwater setting at Kavvayi is the biggest wetland in north Kerala with an area of roughly 37 sq km.
A boat ride ideally from Kotti-Kottappuram would enable a visitor to see and enjoy the many inspiring sights of Kavvayi Kayal.
Nearest railway station: Payyannur, about 3 km
Nearest airport: Calicut International Airport, about 154 km
The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, and is part of the Kuttanad region. The bird sanctuary here, which is spread across 14 acres is a favourite haunt of migratory birds and an ornithologist’s paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teals, waterfowls, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian Stork visit here in flocks and are a fascinate the visitors.
An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom offers visitors many other leisure options. Boating and fishing facilities are available at the Taj Garden Retreat, a sprawling old bungalow-turned-resort.
Waterscapes, the backwater resort of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation has independent cottages built on stilts, set amidst coconut groves and panoramic view of the backwaters. Holiday packages involving houseboats, traditional Kettuvalloms (rice barges) offer great experiences.
Nearest railway station: Kottayam, about 13 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 94 km
Kumbalangi – Model fishing village near Kochi
Essentially a fishing hamlet, this tiny village facing the Kochi backwaters in the western part of the city is India’s first designated ecotourism village and the first rural tourism village of the state. Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village project is a unique initiative to transform the tiny island as a model fishing village and tourism spot. Here at the Kumbalangi Tourism Village one can fully savour a variety of natural splendours, and ecological balance of the location. The model village, the first of its kind in the country is located near the port city of Kochi in Ernakulam District. It is a veritable treat to its visitors with the famous Chinese fishing nets and many other sights to savour.
As art of the model village project at Kumbalangi, a nearby island near Palluruthy would also have plenty of interesting vistas and activities in the near future. This coastal hamlet without doubt provides a fascinating glimpse of the simple and prosperous livelihood of the villagers, and also unravels the age-old culture and heritage of the place.
Kalagramam, an artist’s village, displays handicrafts and fishing equipment. Mangroves are nurtured here as well as fish farming. Bait fishing is extremely popular among tourists here. Many houses in the village are homestays and visitors can book their stay directly with homestay operators or seek the assistance of the village council.
Nearest railway station: Ernakulam, about 14 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 46 km
Padanna Backwaters, Kasaragod
Much of the popular backwater attractions of Kerala are located in the southern and central parts of the State. Contrary to this belief, here is a serene backwater network in the northern most district of Kerala – Kasaragod. Here adjoining the backwaters of Valiyaparampu lies a beautiful backwater village of Thekkekadu, which has an inspiring story to share with its visitors. It is all about Padanna’s crusader in self-employment, Mr. Gul Mohammed and his backwater retreat – Oyster Opera at Padanna.
Set amidst avenues of coconut tress and crisscrossed by canals and fanned by backwaters the retreat has everything natural at its core of existence and functioning. It is located at Padanna, near Cheruvathur in the District of Kasaragod.
One man’s passion to enhance the livelihood of his fellow villagers has now culminated in the form of a retreat, and the first theme village of Kerala. That is Oyster Opera at Padanna with oyster farming as its theme. It is now a source of income to thousands and a destination for those who would love to be part of the very best of available natural settings.
Facilities out here at Oyster Opera reflect the cultural and traditional traits of the local people. Here, the villagers play host during your stay at the retreat. The whole ambience does not have the sophistication of modern day resorts and the visitors are bound to appreciate this aspect the moment they land at Padanna and till they bid goodbye. But saying goodbye to Padanna is never easy. Because such is the kind of satisfaction and pleasure that you get here, it makes you yearn for more.
The resort has, as mentioned earlier, natural interventions in almost all of the facilities offered to its guests. Be it the restaurants, where you get to relish many of the local mouthwatering delicacies, including green mussels and clams or your place of dwelling, toilets and bathrooms. Currently at Oyster Opera, guests have option to go for three Cottages on land, one Float House, one Elevated House with well equipped kitchen, occupancy for two, veranda, toilet and bathroom.
Once at Padanna, one can literally explore every inch of the village on your own. The brackish water of Padanna and its surrounding villages are endowed with great natural beauty. Nearby the retreat one could visit a number of tiny palm-fringed islands and also coconut lagoons and mangroves. Or else, one may engage in small talks with the villagers as they go by their routine activities of oyster and seaweed farming or else may take a close look at their fresh catch of clams and edible oyster. The nearby vast beach and the estuary here are worth visiting and one could also spot wild beavers in a couple of nearby islands. The backwaters at Padanna are nourished by five rivers, which later join the Arabian Sea.
At Padanna, visitors to Oyster Opera can also go for delightful backwater cruises in houseboats, country boats, feel the sun and the sand on the Valiyaparamba Beach and estuary or opt for rejuvenation therapy by traditional practitioners of Ayurveda, a boat-ride through River Thejaswini passing by the woods and fields, learn fishing techniques by using strings, nets and bare hand, or go for a moonlit backwater cruise in a country boat. Some of the nearby attractions of Padanna include the historic Bekal Fort; the Parassinikkadavu Temple noted for its unique rituals; Karim Forest, a manmade forest owned by a nature enthusiast and during the season, one can also witness Theyyam, one of the popular and resplendent ritual art forms of the region.
Nearest railway station: Kanhangad, about 22 km
Nearest airport: Calicut International Airport, about 167 km
Pathiramanal, a small island on the backwaters of Alappuzha, is a haven for hundreds of rare birds migrating from different parts of the world. You can reach there after 1 1/2 hours drive by motor boat or 30 minutes by speed boat from Alappuzha in south Kerala. Surrounded by the Vembanad Lake, stretching from Alappuzha to Kochi and the Kayamkulam lake, Pathiramanal is accessible only by boat.The green island thus forms an ideal place for a break in the journey while on a backwater cruise.The mainland Alappuzha has a vast network of lakes, lagoons and fresh water rivers criss crossing it and is a district of immense natural beauty.
Nearest railway station: Alappuzha, about 16 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 85 km north of Alappuzha
Sasthamkotta, situated about 29 km from Kollam town, can be rightly called the ‘Queen of Lakes’. This vast fresh water lake flanked by hills on three sides is the largest of its kind in Kerala. The ancient Sastha Temple, which lends its name to the town, is an important pilgrim centre. This temple dedicated to both Lord Ganesha and Lord Ayyappa is surrounded by hills and forests, and the monkeys inhabiting the premises are considered holy. The monkeys of Sasthamkotta are believed to be the faithful entourage of the ruling deity, the Dharmasastha and therefore they have a spiritual ambience about them. The monkeys are devotee-friendly, and the thousands of devotees visiting the temple take pleasure in feeding these monkeys with nuts and fruits.
Nearest railway station: Kollam, about 29 km
Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, about 71 km
Kannur is that part of the legendary Malabar Coast where King Solomon’s ships anchored to collect timber to build the ‘Temple of the Lord’ and to secure most needed spices. Here in the little hamlet on the banks of the river Valapattanam, is a giant of the modern timber industry – Western India Plywood Ltd., the largest wood-based industry in South East Asia.
The timber industry of Valapattanam thrive on the rich forest resources of the district. Teak, Iruli,Elavu, Karimurukku, sandalwood (Sandalum album) etc. are found in plenty in the forests here. In addition are cash crops like tea, coffee, rubber, tobacco, cashewnuts etc. Kannur is the only place in Kerala where Pukayila (tobacco) cultivation is carried on successfully
Valapattanam is also a famous fishing harbour as well as the main source of the irrigation project in the district. It is a fascinating experience to watch the traditional mode of timber transportation – by tying long pieces of timber together and allowing them to float down the stream.
Nearest railway station: Kannur, about 7 km
Nearest airport: Calicut International Airport, about 93 km from Kannur town