The Kerala backwaters are a network of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the coast of the Arabian Sea (known as the Malabar Coast) in Kerala state in southern India.
The area contains a series of interconnected canals, rivers, and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 560 miles of waterways, and sometimes compared to American bayous.
The most popular part of Kerala’s backwaters is Alleppey (Alappuzha).
Alleppey is surrounded by the most beautiful coconut plantations, rice paddies, and numerous palm trees.
By far the best thing to do in Alleppey is to experience the backwater canals by houseboat. Alleppey has the most houseboat options and the best overall experience because of the wide size of the canals.
Alleppey is also known as the “Venice of the East” for its enormous canal network.
The most common type of houseboat in Alleppey are known as “kettuvallam”. They have thatched roof covers over wooden hulls.
You’ll mainly find two types of houseboats in Alleppey, namely – deluxe houseboats and premium houseboats. As the name suggests, premium houseboats are superior to the deluxe house as they come fully loaded with plus interiors, luxury furnishings and services. The biggest difference is that premium houseboats protect you from mosquitoes.
Starting from single bedroom houseboats to 10-bedroom houseboats, you can find plenty of options to book from.
Usually 3 staff members are present in houseboats (captain, chef and driver).
Popular routes: The most popular backwater for houseboat cruise are Alleppey and Kumarakom. There are houseboats available in Kollam, Thrissur and Valiyaparambu in North Kerala.
What’s on the food menu?
While guests can enjoy authentic Kerala cuisine during their houseboat trip, specific food items can also be arranged. A request for special menus like, pure vegetarian food, Jain food, North Indian cuisine, etc. can be placed in advance. To celebrate special occasions, guests can also place customized requests for cakes, candle-light dinner provisions, etc. In fact, most houseboats also allow guests to buy fresh fish like Jumbo prawns, Pearl Spot (called Karimeen in Malayalam), Crabs etc. directly from the fisherman and then the chef can cook it for them in the houseboat kitchen.
Apart from customized requests for food, most houseboat packages provide welcome drinks, lunch, tea/coffee with snacks, dinner and breakfast, which are included in the cost.
Booking a houseboat is costlier during October to February and cheaper during March to September.
Highly recommended: Make sure to request for a canoe ride while booking your houseboats.
Expect 6 hours of cruise and docked overnight stay. As per govt. regulations, the houseboats are NOT allowed to move from 5:30 pm to morning to allow the fishermen to work.
If you’re planning to book a houseboat in Alleppey during the peak season, it’s advisable to pre-book. Even though the houseboats are available for spot booking, booking slots for popular houseboats usually get filled up pretty soon.
Book a houseboat in Alleppey
Essential Tips For Visiting India
- Carry mosquito wipes or spray as once dusk hits there are swarms of bugs and mosquitos.
- Kerala is known for its food, so eat local dishes
- Always make sure to have cash in small denominations as places might not take credit cards.
- The currency is the Indian rupee (INR). Use the XE Currency app to help assist with determining exchange rate.
- I would avoid using ATM machines located on the streets as they are likely not as well maintained and easy to lose your card in.
- Keep your money and passport tucked away in this money belt or this scarf with a hidden pocket.
- Only drink bottled water or water you have purified yourself. Carry a water purifier bottle to get rid of germs and avoid getting sick!
- If you do buy bottled water, make sure the seal of the cap has not been broken! A local told me that sometimes bottles are filled with tap water and sold as new…
- In India, you will notice that there are two prices, one for locals and one for foreigners. If you don’t live in India then you pay the foreigner price.
- Hindi is the main language spoken but most will speak English as well.
- Carry a portable power bank to keep your phone always charged!
- Be aware that most bathrooms in India are a hole in the ground that you need to squat over. It may seem intimidating at first but you get used to it quickly!
- Carry plenty of Kleenex, alcohol wipes, and hand sanitizer!