The Kerala backwaters refers to a large region spanning some 558 miles (900 kilometers) consisting of an interconnected network of brackish lagoons, lakes, and canals. The best way to truly experience this beautiful area is aboard a traditional houseboat; journeys last anywhere from a few hours up to a few nights.
Most visitors to Kerala make a point of cruising its backwaters aboard a houseboat, which are traditionally made of locally harvested coir, or coconut fiber. This sprawling region consists of hundreds of miles of waterways flanked by jungles and rice paddies, with ample opportunities to take photographs of local wildlife, from water birds to otters. Many tours of the region include short jaunts on houseboats, and some even feature multi-night backwater journeys.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A must-do for couples and those interested in local culture.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray.
- Cruises are generally calm, and most travelers prone to motion sickness shouldn’t have any issues.
How to Get There
Most people start their cruise from Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha, a short drive from the Kochi/Ernakulam area. You can also take a prepaid taxi from one of two area airports: Cochin International Airport or Trivandrum Airport.
When to Get There
If you want to go on a backwater cruise, it’s best to avoid the rainy season (June through November) and instead opt to come during the cooler, dryer winter months of December, January, and February. March through May tend to be the hottest months in Kerala, but if you’re willing to brave the heat, you can often get good offseason discounts.
If you spend more than a couple of hours on a backwater cruise, chances are you’ll get to sample some of Kerala’s traditional cuisine, which is quite different from the North Indian cuisine usually associated with the country. Much of the food here is cooked with coconut milk and oil, giving it a sweeter taste, and instead of the wheat-based naans and chapatis served up north, rice and various rice-based pancake-style breads dominate.