31 Mar 2015

Kerala: The Best Backwater Destinations in India

Think of God’s Own Country, Kerala, and the associations are immediate – coconut trees, lush green cover and the backwaters. If you are into photography, there can’t be a better destination than Kerala’s backwater circuit to get going. The most popular backwater destinations in Kerala include Vembanad, Kollam, Ashtamudi, Alleppey, Kumarakom, and Fort Kochi, among others. Here are some backwater tours you could explore:

Vembanad wonder

This stretch covers the regions of Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam. The Vembanad Lake is located in the heart of the backwaters and thousands of tourists throng this stretch. Explore the backwaters by hiring the traditional boats called kettuvalloms. There are motorboat, speedboat and pontoon boat options. You can feast your eyes on the coconut trees swaying in the wind, and freshwater canals, apart from stretches of paddy fields. Kumarakom, which has now become a prominent place on the tourism map, is on the banks of Vembanad.

Vembanad Lake (Photo Courtesy: http://indiabiodiversity.org)
Kollam calling

The mouth of the backwaters is the Ashtamudi Lake, which covers one-third of Kollam. Kollam or Quilon is a historic city that is situated on the one of the lake’s banks. There are many boat cruises operated from there. Don’t miss the famed cruise from Kollam to Alappuzha, which is fantastic eight-hour tour that takes you through lakes, villages, canals, and gives you an understanding of life in the backwaters. Also, you can spot the cluster of eight islands called the Munroe Island.

Ashtamudi Lake Kollam (Photo Courtesy: http://shopperhub.in)
Colours of Kasargod

This region in Kerala’s northern part is also a great backwaters destination. The region is one of the most scenic in all of Kerala, thanks to the Western Ghats on one side and the sea on the other. You can explore Valiyaparamba, the stretch of backwaters close to Kasargod. There is also the Bekal Fort in the vicinity, adding to the charm of the backwaters. 

Bekal Fort (Photo Courtesy: http://www.kerala.com)
The backwaters experience
  • Many houseboats allow you to engage in activities such as fishing.
  • If you are a foodie, and a seafood lover at that, try out the Karimeen fry or the Varal roast.
  • The backwaters offer an excellent opportunity to understand rural lifestyles, and the livelihoods of communities in the region. Many communities are traditionally into coir making or prawn farming.
  • If you are in Kerala around the time of autumn or during Onam, you can enjoy a boat race or two. They are a treat to watch, the snake boats also called Chundan Vallam.
  • If you like birding, the backwaters are ideal to spot or watch birds such as kingfishers or darters. 
Houseboats in Kerala (Photo Courtesy: http://www.keralatours.com)
Kerala gives a lot of impetus to tourism, and there is never any dearth of accommodation if you are on a visit to the state. It is a great idea to opt for one of the luxury cruises in Kerala, as they give you an opportunity to unwind and detoxify your mind and body. The best time to visit the state is between September and March, so plan your backwater cruise accordingly.