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12 Things to Know Before Planning Kerala Backwater Tour

The backwaters of Kerala refer to a vast network of interconnected lagoons, lakes, and canals that lie parallel to the Arabian Sea coast in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The backwaters cover an area of over 900 km² and are a unique ecosystem that is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.

The Kerala Backwaters has its aesthetically pleasing and most scenic water network of beautiful lakes that promises you a leisure time during the tour. Its voyage through many canals and picturesque twists and turns leave the tourists spellbound. The backwaters are a popular tourist destination in Kerala, with thousands of visitors coming to enjoy the serene beauty of the waterways every year. Many traditional houseboats, known as “kettuvallams,” have been converted into floating hotels and offer visitors a chance to experience the backwaters at a leisurely pace.

An unforgettable and life-time experience of a unique product of Kerala will help you decorate your travel diary differently. Most romantic honeymoon destination for every traveller with every kind of budget, Kerala’s backwaters offer a lot more than boat races, lakeside retreats, and tranquillity.

Also Check Out Popular Kerala Tour Packages

Everything You Need to Know About Backwater Tourism in Kerala

Alleppey Houseboat Backwater

  • Kerala has a network of three backwater regions that spread across around 900 km throughout the state including huge lakes, canals, rivers and lagoons. – Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam District, Vembanad Lake in Alleppey, Ernakulam and Kottayam Districts. & Kannur-Valiyaparambu in Kannur and Kasargod Districts.
  • The network also includes 38 rivers and some of the important ones among them are Chaliar, Chalakudy River, Valapattanam River, Periyar, Pamba, Kadalundi Puzha, Achancoli, Bharathapuzha and Kalladayar.
  • Among all, Ashtamudi Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in India, which is home to a rich biodiversity.
  • The major tourist attraction in regards to backwater tourism of Kerala is the chain of Brackish lakes and lagoons in the western coast of the state.
  • Another attraction of Kerala backwater tour is the boat races, specifically the Aranmula snake boat race.
  • Other famous boat races are Alleppey Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Kallada Boat Race at Kollam, Kumarakom Sri Narayana Jayanthi Boat Race, Indira Gandhi Boat Race at Kochi, etc.
  • The best time for top things to do on Kerala Backwaters is between October to February, which is the winter season in Kerala. The weather remains pleasant and comfortable during this time.
  • There are various houseboat options available for tourists, ranging from budget-friendly to luxurious ones. One can choose from a variety of sizes and amenities, such as air-conditioning, television, and Wi-Fi.
  • Backwater tourism offers a variety of activities to visitors, such as birdwatching, fishing, exploring local villages, and enjoying traditional cultural performances.
  • Backwater tourism offers a variety of activities to visitors, such as birdwatching, fishing, exploring local villages, and enjoying traditional cultural performances.
  • Responsible tourism is important to preserve the backwater ecosystem and the local way of life. Visitors are encouraged to respect the environment and local customs, and to avoid any activities that may harm the ecosystem.

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Here are top 12 things about its offerings and backwater tourism in Kerala that will give you itchy feet and help you plan your trip in a better way-

1. Expect an Ultimate Rural Life Experience

Village Tour Kerala Backwater

The alluring beauty of its backwater villages can hardly be described in words. The unbelievably attractive and pleasant villages of Kerala have not changed much for centuries. For a first-hand experience, go to Kumarakom Island located on the banks of Vembanad Lake which gives you a 360-degree view of the village life that has been greatly enriched by farmers, finest craftsmen and fishermen. The village tour through the backwater stretches of Kerala in Alleppey is a perfect blend of a mesmerising network of canals, beautiful lagoons and lush paddy fields. Additionally, don’t miss a chance to try your hand at the pottery wheel or experience fishing in a traditional way offered by the Kerala Backwaters. If you want to explore more, you can go for a farmhouse feel and stay nearby.

Some of the best backwaters destinations in Kerala along the network you should visit:

  • Alleppey
  • Kumarakom
  • Kuttanad
  • Kavalam
  • Thanneermukkom
  • Kainakary
  • Vaikom
  • Thottappally
  • Champakulam
  • Karunagappally

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2. Houseboat Cruise & Stay Is Your Best Bet for Accommodation and Transport in Kerala Backwaters

Luxury Houseboat Cruise Kerala

A story from cargo boats to renovated luxury houseboats, explains the way people enriched their culture and heritage to a greater extent through these Kerala backwaters houseboats. It looks fascinating when the reflections of decorated floating structures fall on the backwaters and creates a magical identification of the whole state. These houseboats may look the same from the exterior but they can be categorised on the basis of its features, number of bedrooms. One of the interesting facts about them is that 2 to 100 people can comfortably stay together in these eco-friendly backwater cruises.

A traditional houseboat or Kettuvallam (kettu: dwelling structures, vallam: boat) is one of the most popular tourist attractions, particularly in Kerala. You can have a meal, watch cultural activities and witness the mesmerising sunset on the gentle waters. The routes are all scenic but choosing a two-day cruise from Alappuzha to Kochi provides the best of the backwaters. Otherwise, Kettuvalams are also available at Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kasaragod, Kumarakom and Thiruvananthapuram. Moreover, you can go sightseeing to the nearby places from your houseboat by kayaking in a wooden boat named Shikara.

Some of the names of famous houseboat cruises for the best Kerala backwater tours:

  • Exotica Cruises Houseboat in Alleppey
  • Alleppey Backwater Cruise
  • Southern Backwaters Houseboats Tours, Kollam
  • Aqua Houseboat Cruise
  • Riverland Cruises/Houseboats Alleppey

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3. A Plethora of Watersports Await You

Kerala Backwater Tourism

Kerala is home to the gamut of lush green freshness and the magnificence of culture. In Alappuzha, kayaking and canoeing are popular activities and these are the best way to get an adrenaline rush while exploring the backwaters in a unique way. Meanwhile, you can include a boat race festival in your schedule to explore the beauty of backwaters where houseboats will take you. You can also opt for kayaking or canoeing to explore the very corners of the networks. Going through the tiny canals and rowing to angelic spots make you stop to admire the scenery that is comparable to none.

Watersports you can attempt while cruising through the backwaters:

  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Stand-up paddleboarding
  • Shikara Ride
  • Jet skiing
  • Water skiing
  • Fishing

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4. Kerala Backwaters are Perfect for Some Retail Therapy

Retail Shops Kerala Backwater

It’s not possible that you don’t get a call to buy some banana chips while exploring Kerala on the backwaters. The only reason could be its deliciousness, which is locally known as Nenthra-kaya upperi. Toddy (Locally brewed Palm Wine) shops are closely situated along the coast and trying it is the best thing during the tour. While shopping or buying memorable things to take back home, you can go for traditional Kerala-inspired artefacts or some authentic organic spices and essential oils. Nilgiri Tea, a flavoured tea grown in Western Ghats of Kerala, could be an attraction among tourists who seem to be buying apart from products from the backwaters.

List of items you can buy on your Kerala backwater holidays:

  • Spices and Masala Powders
  • Handicrafts
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Banana Chips
  • Ayurvedic Products
  • Coconut Products
  • Kasavu Sarees
  • Kathakali Masks

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5. There are Plenty of Rural Snake-Boat Races to Witness

Snake Boat Race Kerala

Vallamkali or Vallom Kalli or boat racing is one of the largest mass sporting events in Kerala. The oldest riverboat fiesta in the state, the Aranmula Boat Race takes place over two days during Onam. The festival of Onam generally starts in mid-August and it’s a 10-day long festival including a series of exciting events. Another top contender is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race held in the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha, these two make for some great events to be sighted on the backwaters.

Names of the famous snake boat races you can witness on your backwater holidays from August to September:

Name of the Boat Race District
Kumarakom Kottayam
Aranmula Pathanamthitta
Payippad Jalotsavam Alappuzha
Nehru Trophy Alappuzha
President’s Trophy Kollam

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6. The Backwaters Make for Ideal Honeymoon Tour or Pre-Wedding Shoot Destinations

Kerala Backwater Wedding Shoot

According to National Geographic Traveler magazine, “Kerala is one of the ‘50 destinations of a lifetime’ with backwaters tourism as a leading factor.” Surrounded by green paddy fields, coconut trees, and attractively old-fashioned villages, the scenic backwaters of Kerala have provided a unique backdrop in a number of Indian movies. Moreover, the state has achieved a surge of domestic tourist footfall after the pandemic for being a trending destination for weddings. Either you’re going to get hitched in a couple of months or just hooked up and seeking a destination that strengthens your relationship, you can begin your story here on a scenic houseboat cruise in South India while you explore the gorgeous backwaters and use them as your backdrop for pre-wedding shoot as well.

Some famous backwater destinations for weddings or pre-wedding shoots or honeymoon:

  • Kumarakom
  • Poovar
  • Alleppey
  • Kollam
  • Kasargod

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7. The Best of Ayurveda Treatments Can Be Availed on Kerala Backwaters

Kerala Ayurveda

Kerala may be synonymous with the word ‘Ayurveda’ and it’s fiercely popular all around the world for its ayurvedic things. On your backwater holidays in Kerala, you’ll be offered a kind of ayurvedic massage depending on what your body needs. It might be astonishing to get a variety of therapies including Punarnava, Purification, Rejuvenation and Panchakarma therapy in a completely different setting – the backwater houseboat. Although, If you’re looking for a treatment for serious ailments or lifestyle diseases, Kerala will definitely be a right choice.

Various ayurvedic massage therapies you can avail on your backwater trip to Kerala:

  • Slimming Therapy
  • Stress Management
  • Rejuvenation Therapy
  • Panchakarma
  • Beauty Care, Eye and Skin Care
  • Spine and Neck Therapy
  • Purification Therapy
  • Navachaitanya Therapy
  • Punarnava Therapy

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8. There is a Wide Variety of Dishes Including Freshly Caught Fish to Savour

Kerala Backwater Dishes

On the backwater cruises in Kerala, your trip becomes more than great if something delicious is served on your table and in this matter, Kerala takes its food very seriously for sure. Don’t miss the chance to taste a typical Keralite food, the fresh veggies or the backwater fish. The Kerala backwaters are known for their unique culinary experiences that are influenced by the region’s geography, history, and culture. Some of the lip-smacking dishes offered in the houseboats are Vendakka Mezhukkupuratti (Kerala style ladies finger), Mixed Vegetables Thoran, Payasam (Vermicelli) and Fish Fry (Pearl Spot / Seer Fish). You should not miss Kerala special dishes like Malabar Paratha, Naadan Beef fry, Kerala Prawn Curry, Idiyappam, Puttu and Kadala Curry while exploring the beauty of the state apart from the backwaters.

Varieties of Keralite cuisines offered on backwaters of Kerala:

  • Seafood: Karimeen Pollichathu, Meen Curry, Prawns Curry.
  • Coconut-based dishes: Appam, Avial, Thoran.
  • Rice-based dishes: Kappa and Fish Curry, Puttu and Kadala Curry, Biriyani.
  • Banana-based dishes: Pazham Pori, Ethakka Appam, Banana Halwa.

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10.Every Season is a Good Season to Visit

Backwater Tourism Kerala South India

Kerala welcomes tourists any time round the year, but the best time to have Kerala backwater trips is during the winter season, which lasts from November to February. During this time, the weather is cool and pleasant, with average temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C. The humidity is also low, making it an ideal time to explore the backwaters of Kerala. Summer season is hot but not humid so you can still go to explore the beauty of the state. However, if you prefer a more budget-friendly option, you can consider visiting during the monsoon season, which starts from June to September. During this time, the backwaters are at their most beautiful, and you can enjoy the lush greenery and tranquil atmosphere.

Here is the list of seasons in Kerala so that you can plan backwaters trips accordingly:

Seasons in Kerala Months Temperature in Degree Celsius
Summer March to May 29 to 40
Monsoon July to August and October to November 29 to 35
Winter November to February 10 to 25

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10.Kerala Backwaters Are Easily Accessible

Kerala Backwater Tourism Tour

Proudly known as God’s Own Country, Kerala is a state in Southern India, which is well-connected to all major cities around the world. IndiGo, Air India, Vistara, Spicejet and Jet Airways fly to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport or Cochin International Airport from Mumbai and New Delhi. Travelling by train is one of the most affordable ways to get there, immensely connected by Rajdhani, Duronto and Express trains to all metro cities in the country and you can have a smooth family vacation by all means of transports within the state also.

How to reach Kerala?

By Air: Kerala has three international airports which also operate domestic flights to all major cities in the country and other countries. The airports are Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, Cochin International Airport and Calicut International Airport. However, the most convenient one is the Cochin International Airport as it is located in the central part of the state.

By Rail: Kerala has around 200 railway stations throughout the state and the railway connectivity spans across the main cities as well as remote corners. Almost every tourist spot and all the best backwaters in Kerala are accessible through rail.

By Road: Three national highways, no. 17, 47 and 49 connect Kerala with all major cities in South India. State-owned private and government buses operate between cities and towns in Kerala and Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc.

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11. There is So Much to See around

Backwater Tourism Kerala

Added to the itinerary, the great thing about Kerala is that experiences of the places offer everything you could ask for. It is India’s hottest cultural destination, a must-visit while rowing on the backwater stretches of Kerala. Apart from the backwaters, one can also explore some pretty locations nearby such as Fort Kochi includes a museum, the Mattancherry Palace and a Jain Temple, Munnar if you’re fond of tea plantations and Periyar National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkady that’s enough to spot some of the rare birds and endemic species.

Must-visit destinations in Kerala to visit on a backwater trip (district-wise):

Name of the Districts Name of the tourist spots
Trivandrum Ponmudi, Kovalam, Vizhinjam, Kanyakumari, Poovar, Chittar Dam, etc.
Thrissur Athirappily, Charpa Falls, Guruvayoor, Peechi Dam, Vilangan Hills, etc.
Kollam Kollam Beach, Arippa Forest, Ashtamudi Lake, Thenmala, etc.
Palakkad Pothundi Dam, Kalpathi, Dhoni Waterfalls, Palakkad Fort, Kava Viewpoint, Attappadi, etc.
Pathanamthitta Gavi, Sabarimala, Pampa Dam, Kullar, Kattathi Para, Pullumedu, etc.
Malappuram Nilambur Teak Museum, Kodikuthimala, Tanur Beach, Paloor Kotta Waterfalls, etc.
Alappuzha Kuttanad, Pathiramanal, Thottappally Beach, Punnamada Lake, Arthunkal Church, etc.
Wayanad Kuruva Islands, Karlad Lake, Banasura Sagar Dam, Edakkal Caves, Wayanad Heritage Museum, etc.
Kottayam Kumarakom, Vagamon, Vembanad Lake, Poonjar Palace, Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls, etc.
Kozhikode Kakkayam Dam, Bepoor, Aripara Falls, Vadakara, Kallayi, Kappad Beach, etc.
Idukki Munnar, Mattupetty Dam, Munnar Tea Museum, Vattavada, Thekkady, Nadukani, etc.
Kannur Ezhimala, St. Angelo Fort, Payyambalam Beach, Tellicherry Fort, Thottada Beach, etc.
Kasargod Bekkal Fort, Ranipuram, Veeramala, Malom Wildlife Sanctuary, Kottamcheri Mala, Kappil Beach, etc.
Ernakulam Fort Kochi, Mattancherry Dutch Palace, Kodanadu, Kerala Folklore Museum, Vypeen Island, Cherai Beach, etc.

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12. You’ll be Spoilt for Accommodation Choices


Tops on the list of best honeymoon destinations in the country, Kerala offers the places to stay like no other and is as warm as its ocean. The accommodation facilities offered on backwater trips in Kerala can vary depending on the type of trip you choose.

If you book a traditional houseboat, you can expect to have a private bedroom with an attached bathroom, a living area, and a kitchenette. The houseboat will also have a dining area where you can enjoy meals prepared by the onboard chef. If you opt for a luxury houseboat, you can expect to have more spacious rooms, a larger living area, and better amenities. Luxury houseboats may also have jacuzzis, music systems, and other entertainment options.

In addition to houseboats, there are also homestays and resorts available along the backwaters. Homestays offer a more intimate experience where you can stay with a local family and get a glimpse of their daily life. Resorts offer a more luxurious experience with amenities like swimming pools, spas, and restaurants.

Best hotels on the Kerala Backwaters with mind-blowing views provide a humble abode along the backwaters and make you feel a sensational life on the waters. You’ll be offered a range of herbal massage, yoga classes, and much more.

Some common amenities offered on houseboats, resorts, homestays and hotels on the backwaters of Kerala are:

  • Air-conditioned rooms
  • Attached bathrooms
  • Traditional Kerala cuisine
  • Fishing
  • Sightseeing tours
  • Indoor and outdoor games
  • Ayurvedic massages
  • Sun deck
  • Music and cultural programmes

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The Kerala Backwaters make you feel so much more alive and there’s a lot more to do on and around the marvellous water network in Kerala. No doubt, you’ll enjoy a number of activities and a different way to explore the God’s Own Country and its amazing product the Kerala Backwaters.

If you’re looking for how to plan a perfect trip or planning to experience a backwater cruise, Tour My India is here to customise a sightseeing tour for you. Give us a call at +91-9212777225 or drop us an email at, and we’ll offer you the best Kerala tour package. Also, a single click on the LIKE button encourages us while sharing the blog motivates a thousand people so don’t deprive us of that, like and share and spread the good word!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the popular backwater destinations in Kerala?

Some of the popular backwater destinations in Kerala are:

  • Alleppey
  • Kumarakom
  • Kollam
  • Kottayam
  • Thiruvallam
  • Kasargod
  • Kozhikode

What are the popular activities to do in the backwaters?

Here are some popular activities to do in the backwaters:

  • Houseboat cruise
  • Canoeing and Kayaking
  • Village tour
  • Fishing
  • Birdwatching
  • Sunset Cruise
  • Ayurvedic Massage

What kind of accommodation options are available in the Kerala backwaters?

Some of the popular options include:

  • Houseboats
  • Resorts
  • Homestays
  • Hotels
  • Treehouses
  • Camping

What are the must-try experiences while exploring the Kerala backwaters?

Here are some of the must-try experiences while exploring the Kerala backwaters:

  • Houseboat cruise
  • Village walks
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Ayurvedic Massage
  • Bird Watching
  • Experiencing Snake boat races

Is it safe to stay in Kerala backwaters cruise?

The backwaters of Kerala are a popular tourist destination and offer a unique and serene experience. Staying in a backwaters cruise can be a safe and enjoyable experience if proper precautions are taken. Most backwaters cruises are operated by licensed and experienced tour operators who prioritise safety and comfort. The boats used for backwaters cruises are usually well-maintained and equipped with safety equipment, including life jackets and fire extinguishers. However, choosing a reputable tour operator for your backwater trips in Kerala is one of the most important decisions to take before going.

Published: 24 Feb, 2023

About the author

Piyush Tripathi

Piyush Tripathi is an MBA graduate and a health professional who enjoys travel as a passion, blogging as a hobby and likes capturing arresting shots to create memories.