Nov 282010

The Backwaters of Kerala are meandering inland lakes, networked by canals, stretching for over 1900km. The area is characterised by palm fringed river banks, vast paddy fields and traditional local villages. Kollam (Quilon), Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam & Kumarakom are the principal backwater towns of Kerala.
The ultimate way to enjoy the backwaters is to stay for a night or two on a houseboat or kettuvellam. However for those who would prefer to stay on dry land or would like to combine a houseboat with a resort, there are a number of options in the area.

  • Transporting Clay Pots

    Transporting Clay Pots

  • Sunset Over Lake Vembanad

    Sunset Over Lake Vembanad

  • Backwater Taxi

    Backwater Taxi

  • Bath Time!

    Bath Time!

  • Schoolchildren


  • Cleaning Teeth

    Cleaning Teeth

  • Water Hyacinth

    Water Hyacinth

  • Backwaters Church

    Backwaters Church

  • Traditional Fishing

    Traditional Fishing

  • Heavy Punting

    Heavy Punting

  • Heron Fishing

    Heron Fishing

  • Pen Palace!

    Pen Palace!

  • Collecting Sand by Diving in the Backwaters

    Collecting Sand by Diving in the Backwaters

  • Sand Diver

    Sand Diver

  • Snake Boat

    Snake Boat

  • Spinning Coir

    Spinning Coir

  • Spinning Coir

    Spinning Coir

  • Banana Boat

    Banana Boat

  • Crossing the Backwaters

    Crossing the Backwaters

  • Ferry from Philipkutty\'s Farm

    Ferry from Philipkutty\’s Farm

  • Washing the Pots

    Washing the Pots

  • Canal Adjoining Coconut Lagoon

    Canal Adjoining Coconut Lagoon

  • Typical Paddy-fields Scene

    Typical Paddy-fields Scene

  • Ladies Washing

    Ladies Washing

  • Elephant on the Highway

    Elephant on the Highway

Things to see

Around Alappuzha

Referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’ by travellers from across the world, Alappuzha (or Allepey) is a district of immense natural beauty. Caressed by the Arabian Sea in the west and a vast network of lakes, lagoons and freshwater rivers criss-crossing it, this backwater country shelters some unique animal and bird life. By virtue of its proximity to the sea, the town has always enjoyed an exclusive place in the maritime history of Kerala. Famous for its boat races, beaches, marine products and coir industry, the singularity of this land is the region called Kuttanad – a land of lush paddy fields referred to as the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’ and one of the few places in the world where farming is done below sea level. This one-time prosperous trading and fishing centre is today a world renowned backwater tourist destination.

Around Kottayam & Kumarakom

Acclaimed as the land of letters, latex and lakes, Kottayam has the distinction of being the first-ever fully literate municipal town in India. This land also boasts of the first English educational centre in South India as well as the first Malayalam printing press which was established by Benjamin Bailey, a Christian missionary, in 1820 AD. Today, it is the forerunner in publishing with about 80 per cent of the books published in the State coming from the district. Panoramic backwater stretches, lush paddy fields, highlands and extensive rubber plantations characterize this picturesque land which attracts tourists. The majestic Vembanad Lake and the stunning backwaters of Kumarakom are its prime attractions.

Snake Boats

An exciting spectacle takes place on the backwaters every year between June & September and again at the end of the year. These are the Snake Boat Races which are held around a number of festivals. Snake boats are impressive large raceboats between 15 and 50 metres long, with at least four coxswains, 25 singers and 100 to 125 oarsmen. They are called “Snakeboats” due to the decorative detail on their bow – a snake with a raised hood. The water festivals are a resplendent riot of colours with silk parasols, water processions with deities & children wearing brightly coloured costumes.

Places to Stay


Pool and outside seating / dining areaLocated on the banks of Lake Vembanad and surrounded on three sides by water, this 400 year old heritage lakeside retreat has just 2 bedrooms, in traditional wooden architecture and is ideal for guests to relax, unwind and soak in the surrounding natural beauty. An idyllic location, stylish boutique accommodation and a magnificent granite swimming pool make Vismaya a perfect resting place in the heart of Kerala.


The houseboats are converted kettuvalams, the original barges that transported rice and all sorts of cargo through the rivers and canals of the backwaters. Constructed from bamboo and palm fibre, the interior is comfortably fitted out with rattan armchairs, dining table, a spacious bedroom with double bed and a small ‘proper’ bathroom with washbasin, shower and western style toilet. In addition, there will also be an outdoor sitting area, either on an upper deck level or at the front of the boat with cushions for the perfect lounging location. It is the unhurried and silent glide through the canals that makes houseboats so special.


Privacy is the ultimate stylish ‘backwater’ retreat. Set directly on the palm-fringed shores of Lake Vembanad, just 1 ½ hours south of Cochin, these are heavenly little villas. The original has become a suite, with a dining room, sitting room, long verandah, lush green garden and the most fabulous lake and sunset views. The recently restored heritage bungalow has two bedrooms around a main hall. Like Malabar House both are tastefully and comfortably decked out with art works, colourful fabrics and period furniture. The swimming pool is halfway between the two bungalows.

Coconut Lagoon

The Condé Nast Traveller rated the Coconut Lagoon to be among the 25 best get-aways in the world – and not without reason. The authenticity of the resort along with the captivating beauty of its surroundings will not fail to mesmerize you. Set on the eastern shores of the majestic Vembanad Lake, the Coconut lagoon is mostly accessed by the resort taxi boat. The most striking feature of the Coconut Lagoon is its architectural elegance, the structures of which have been built from old houses. With accommodation spread over a 20-acre estate and nestled amidst majestic swaying palms and stunning surroundings, you can really feel nature taking over.

PhilipKutty’s Farm

Staying at Philipkutty’s Farm is an excellent opportunity to enjoy the real Kerala experience in a fascinating location (set on a little island), with a caring family to look after you. A home stay that has gained accolades from all quarters for the extraordinary service it provides to guests, the Philipkuttys is a special place and the perfect hideaway for the bespoke traveller. You are welcomed, looked after, and cared for by the family who will be your hosts. Though the family hosts you, your privacy is assured as the five waterfront villas are entirely independent and away from the family residence.

Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle is situated on an island on the banks of the backwaters, around 10 kilometres outside of Alleppey. From the moment you step onto the dug out canoe which transports you across the river to the homestay, you enter into a tranquil world of peace and harmony. Your hosts, Vinod and his Family will welcome you into their home which dates back 150 years. It retains many of its original architectural features, mostly in teak, with splendid wood carvings.

Serenity – Close to the backwaters

The Serenity, with its majestic plantation house belonging to the early 19th century, is enclosed by trees and a grand white edifice with open sides that allows natural ventilation. Sitting on a small hilltop, the views over the Blue Mountains of the Western Ghats are breathtaking and the surrounding rubber plantation, along with the shady pool, papaya trees and pepper vines, create a thoroughly tropical feel. You could go for wonderful guided walks through the rubber plantations, enjoy the history of the place or simply spend time with the resort’s elephant, Lakshmi.