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Backwaters in Kerala

Interesting Facts

  • The 8 hours boat ride from Kollam to Alappuzha is the longest cruise ride in Kerala; the delightful ride is dotted with lotus and lilies all around.
  • Kerala backwaters are mazelike waterways running almost across the state. These backwaters are surrounded by paddy fields, green foliage and coconut trees; it is definitely a geographic formation.
  • There is vivid explanation about backwaters in the famous novel, ‘The god of small things,’ The novel, which is written by Arundhati Roy, is a booker prize winner
  • A national geographical survey had put the backwaters of Kerala ahead of the Taj Mahal on the ‘list of places to see before you die.’  

What are Backwaters?

Backwater is a part of the river where there is no movement and current. The backwaters are formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range. The geographical condition of Kerala is so tremendous that there are mazelike waterways running almost across the state. The lowest tide of the Arabian Sea, which has a high concentration of salt, enters these waterways and the backwater is formed.

The backwaters of Kerala are a network of 1500 km-long canal both man-made and natural, 38 silent rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. The backwaters have a unique ecosystem - freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. In the middle of the waterways, there are many hidden islands, towns and cities.

Backwaters region in Kerala:

There are 3 regions in Kerala to explore the calm and serene backwaters:

Ashtamundi Lake:

Often known as the gateway to the backwaters, it is the point where the brackish water starts showing its true colors. Located in the Kollam district of Kerala, Ashtamundi Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in India. This palm-shaped lake has recently emerged as one of the most visited regions in Kerala. Ashtamundi Lake is the main source of water for many other water bodies in Kerala. Amidst the lake, there are 3 prominent islands namely Munroe Island, Chavara Island and Thekkumbhagom Island.

For the tourists who want to catch sight of unique avian animals, then they should go for a cruise ride in Kerala, on the bank of Ashtamundi lake. While passing through the houseboats, one can see many varieties of birds and herbal trees stationed on the multiple islands within the backwaters. On the bank of Ashtamundi lake, the unique traditional ferries called Kettuvalloms is being made.

Vembanad backwater

One can see a million of lilies and lotuses sprouting on this stretch which simply looks like a queen's pearl necklace. The famous snake boat competition is organized here during Onam. It is indeed amazing to watch oarsmen, at least a hundred of them in one boat, slice their way through the waters to the fast rhythm of their own full throated singing. On the boulevard of this stretch, tourists can spot some magnificent birds at the Kumarakom bird sanctuary. The bird sanctuary is an ornithologist's fantasy, with a significant number of rare breeds gathered in one small area. Within the backwaters, there are many islands. Among the islands, Wellingdon Island deserves special mention as it houses the Port of Cochin and the largest naval presence in India: the Southern Naval Command.

Kannur-Valiyaparambu Backwaters:

Untouched and unspoiled, this is the least explored stretch of backwaters in Kerala. While riding on this stretch, tourists can catch glimpses of unseen islands and the natural beauty of Kerala.

Apart from these three major backwater regions, smaller lagoons could be found in almost all coastal districts of Kerala. The popular options are

  • Thiruvallam Lagoons and Akkulam-Veli Backwater- Thiruvananthapuram
  • Alumkadavu Backwaters-Kollam district
  • Kumbalangi Backwaters: It is a portion of Vembanadu lake, perched in the middle of luscious mangrove forest.
  • Canoli canal and Kallai backwaters: Every year the canal hosts a water sport festival

Kerala is formed by its beautiful beaches, spice gardens hidden in the hills and a leisurely network of backwaters. A leisurely backwater boat ride can definitely be a rejuvenating experience. If tourists love to travel and want to check out the diverse and vibrant culture of Kerala then they should transverse on backwaters via houseboat. One can travel on a traditional houseboat and enjoy the beauty of Kerala backwaters which make their way through a number of towns and cities.

From coconut palm-lined coasts and rolling hills of tea to elephant and tiger reserves, travelling in this tiny Indian state is as easy as a gliding through its backwaters. Cruising on the houseboat is the main reason for which Kerala is famous. On a short tour to backwaters, tourist can explore multiple things like forts, temples, islands, waterfalls, forts and many other things.

Tranquillity prevails in every length and breadth of backwaters. Sailing through the palm fringed canals and lush green pastures carpeted on the edge of waterways, it's simply dramatic. Listen to the gentle lapping of water as the houseboat sails into the sun and the sky fills with stars burning brightly. The breathtaking in the middle of lush green forests lure people from around the world to visit Kerala.

Starting from the magnificent Munnar to the beauty of Periyar, here tourists can see the true colors of Kerala's rustic and beautiful charm. Enjoy a day long cruise along the lush green island of Kerala via Kettuvallam. Along the way, the tourist will learn about forts, temples, islands and waterfalls.

Alappuzha is one of the major centers for backwater boat trips. The intricate network of canals passing through this town has earned it the sobriquet "The Venice of the East". Small but long country boats are the taxies of the water. The most interesting area in the backwaters is the Kuttanad region, called the rice bowl of Kerala. The area is probably the only place in the continent where farming is done below sea level, using a system of dykes and bunds.

No tour to Kerala is complete without the mention of Kerala backwaters. If tourists are on a vacation in Kerala, then a short tour to the backwaters is a compulsory practice. Bestowed with the best of greenery and beautiful landscape, here tourist can explore as many exotic places as possible.

A trip on a houseboat can be simply luxurious. If tourists are tired of sightseeing then they can indulge in some rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatment or can enjoy some of the finest delicacies on the deck of houseboats. All the houseboats are equipped with private balconies from where tourist can catch the sight of sun and many hidden hamlets. From interesting decors to luxuriant rooms, staying in a houseboat for days can be an experience of a lifetime.

To discover the length and breadth of Kerala, houseboats are certainly the right way. Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is the first thing to see if tourists are starting their backwater tour from Kochi. Situated on the bank of Vembanad Lake in the backwaters of Kerala, this bird sanctuary is home to the largest number of migratory birds in India. Up next is the densest forest of Kerala, Periyar National Park. Situated in the Western Ghats, the region is also known as Thekkady and is adorned with lush green beauty and is accessible throughout the year.

All thanks to Kerala's unique backwaters, the tiny state is making some news on international shores. A short tour to a backwater and spending time on the deck of a houseboat is like an ode to the Waterscapes of the state.