Kerala Backwaters: All You Need to Know!

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Kerala, in southern India, is one of those rare places which have been blessed with everything. From pristine beaches in the west to picturesque mountains on the east. And from traditional ayurvedic massages to bustling modern cities. But there is one other thing that Kerala proudly boasts of, which only a handful of places have – The Backwaters! The USP of Kerala which attracts most of the travelers is the Kerala Backwaters.

In this article, we will cover everything that you need to know before heading out to enjoy the backwaters. This post will help you make the most of our experience.

alleppey boathouse
Sunset at the backwaters from a boathouse

What are the ‘Kerala Backwaters’ ?

Backwaters of Kerala are a spectacular network of brackish lakes, lagoons, rivers, and canals lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. The reason why I call them brackish is that the water is not entirely fresh-water / sweet-water. But not as much saline as seawater. It might have been a result of mixing seawater with fresh-water together in estuaries and lagoons. This network of interconnected water bodies is spread across half the length of the state.

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Why are Kerala Backwaters so famous ?

★ They are unique

In all our travels, we have never seen anything like this before !! ?

The Kerala backwaters create a unique water-world that is magical and exotic. This uniqueness makes backwaters so popular that it not only attracts Indians but a huge number of international tourists as well. The backwater cruise on a traditional houseboat is loved equally by honeymooners, families, and backpackers. It is an exhilarating experience; away from the crowded cities, it gives you a calm ambiance which helps you to forget every worry of life.

Kerala backwaters
Lush green 🙂 [source]

★ Perfect for a relaxing time

The tranquil backwaters of Kerala are a great place to have a relaxing vacation. Completely out of the regular city life – right in the lap of nature. The serene atmosphere, the soothing beauty of nature and the placid waters are a great combination. One of the aspects that we loved the most was the fact that these lagoons and canals are bordered by gently swaying coconut and palm groves, lush paddy fields and beautiful hamlets. Together they provide a pacifying ‘country-side’ atmosphere. I could have simply watched them for hours…

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★ Any-time, Any-day

Good for us, there is nothing like a specific time or month for enjoying the backwaters. They are always there.. waiting for you to come and admire their beauty! We would suggest not to miss out on sunrise and sunset, both.

★ Bird watching (if you are lucky! ;-))

Due to the lush greenery and abundance of fishes in the backwaters, you can spot many birds. The solitary tunes can also be heard when the flow of water is placid. Some of the local birds like the waterfowl, Cormorant cuckoo, egret, and herons can be seen throughout the year. And if you are lucky, you can see migratory Siberian cranes, white-necked stork, kingfisher as well.

We were really fortunate to spot a few:

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Top backwaters destinations in Kerala ?

Kerala is blessed with many big-and-small destinations where you can experience a calming backwater cruise. Some of them are:

  • Alleppey
  • Kollam
  • Kumarakom
  • Kuttanad
  • Kasaragod
  • Kozhikode

Out of these, Alleppey (a.k.a. Alappuzha) is the most popular one and receives the maximum number of tourists. It is a favorite destination for houseboat tours as well as a backwater tour in Kerala. Not only for travelers, but Alleppey also serves the gateway to the backwaters between Kochi and Kollam, facilitating trade.

Often referred to as “Venice of the East”, Alleppey is the lifeline of the backwaters of Kerala. It is well-known for its boat races, beaches, marine products, backwater cruises, and coir industry.

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? Alleppey Houseboat Cruise: is it worth your time & money?

kerala backwater
Typical life in the backwaters

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Houseboating or Canoeing ?

The quintessential way to experience the backwaters has always been by means of a houseboat. For those who are not aware, Kerala houseboats are large wooden boats with interiors like hotel rooms. You can consider them to be smaller cruise-ships made of wood. There are various types of houseboats that you will find in Kerala: from Luxurious to ordinary ones; and from private to group tours. Although the houseboats are really beautiful and come with a lot of features, they are also pretty expensive. We even heard that the peak-season prices have almost tripled in the last 6-7 years! That’s a lot.

Canoes, in Kerala, are small wooden boats, which need to be manually propelled with the help of oars. Some of them are nicely decorated with a shade and have decent capacity to seat 8-10 people. Whereas others are really small and can seat only 3-5.

There are 2 advantages that canoes have over houseboats. First is the cost. Canoes are significantly less expensive than houseboats. Second, being accessibility. Being small and slender, canoes can even navigate through the narrow backwater canals that houseboats cant, giving you a closer experience of the local life. Having done both of these ourselves, in the next section we have outlined which one do we recommend and why!

kerala hoathouse
Sonakshi admiring the beautiful backwaters from our boathouse

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Our experience with Kerala Backwaters

So, now we come to our own experience of savoring the backwaters. During our honeymoon, we tried all the 3 types of boats available in Kerala. A pretty luxurious private houseboat in Alleppey, a cute little canoe in Ezhupunna village and a small motorboat in Poovar. And we loved all three of them. The 3 experiences were unique in their own way.

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? NOT-TO-MISS destinations and activities during your honeymoon in Kerala

I know what is in your head now. You wanna ask me which one was the best? Or maybe, which one did we enjoy the most? Well, to be honest, it is tough to choose one. But I guess we will get a bit inclined towards the Houseboat!! And there are a couple of reasons for it. First and foremost – the uniqueness. I had never seen a houseboat before. Therefore I feel in complete awe of it. The interiors, the luxury, the people, everything made the experience supreme! And the 2nd reason being – we had done motor-boating several times before. That’s why we always recommend everyone to try a houseboat at least once!

houseboat kerala
Interiors of a typical houseboat.

Also Read:
? Our houseboat travelogue: An entire day amidst the languid backwaters

In the end…

We hope that we were able to answer all the questions that you have related to your trip to the beautiful Kerala backwaters. If you loved reading this, please share it with your friends and family. Also, if you have any further questions, feel free to write them in the comments sections below. We will definitely answer them as soon as we can.

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backwaters of Kerala (India)

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34 thoughts on “Kerala Backwaters: All You Need to Know!”

  1. I liked the write-up, its very interesting. and esp the photos – wanting to go to Kerala now. I had been to India on a business trip 4 years back, but visited Mumbai only.

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