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Kerala Backwaters In India – A Complete Guide

A Kerala Backwaters tour is one of the top things to do in South India. So here’s a guide on what to expect and how to organise it.

How To Get To Kerala

The first thing we must mention, is that we recommend staying in Fort Kochi.

Fort Kochi is the main tourist area of the Kerala state. It’s a charming seaside area, known for its Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial architecture, and elaborate bamboo fishing nets at Fort Kochi Beach.

Now depending on where you are travelling from, there are generally two options to get to Kerala:

Bus & Train

The cheapest option is usually to take a train to Ernakulam Junction Railway Station (ERS).

We were travelling down from Hampi, slightly North on the map, so took a bus to Mangalore and then switched on to a train directly to Kerala.

It was an all round 24 hour trip, the longest of our travels through India. However when arriving the majority of tourists we met had done the same.

Fly

The other option is to fly into Cochin International Airport, and book yourself a private Airport to Hotel Transfer.

Flights around India can be as cheap on £20 from Mumbai or Delhi.

So if you’re short on time or don’t fancy the long journey on public transport this is probably your best bet.

How To Book Your Kerala Backwaters Tour

There are plenty of travel agents in Fort Kochi that you can book your Kerala Backwaters tour through directly.

However the easiest way is to book online in advance.

There are two types of Kerala Backwaters Tour to choose from:

Half-Day Kerala Backwaters Tour

Full-Day Kerala Backwaters Tour + Fort Kochi Tour

Both Kerala Backwaters Tours include lunch, and pick up from a meeting point in Fort Cochin.

Kerala Backwaters Tour Kerala Houseboat Alleppey
Lauren cruising along on her Kerala backwaters tour

Best Time To Visit Kerala Backwaters + Tips

Although Kerala is a year round destination, with the temperature not varying much, the winters (March to September) are somewhat cooler. With less rain fall and lower humidity levels, this is the peak tourist season in Kerala.

On average, the winter temperature ranges between 18°C to 29°C, but even the hotter days will be accompanied by pleasantly cool breezes.

Thus making it the ideal time to enjoy a visit to Kerala and take a comfortable boat tour along the backwater networks.

If you are planning to visit Kerala Backwaters in the summer season, then choose a boat with AC for the best experience.

It’s definitely advisable to book your tour in advance with a tour operator, especially in the peak season, as the availability of decent boats drops and prices go up.

Overall a Kerala Backwaters tour is a must on your India itinerary.

What To Pack

Photography Camera

Tripod

Day Bag

Power Bank

Reusable Water Bottle

Sunscreen

Lightweight Rain Jacket

Kerala Backwaters History

The network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes, and lagoons that make up the Kerala Backwaters are a natural occurrence.

These waterways were formed as a result of waves and coastal currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of many rivers, flowing down from the Western Ghats mountain range.

The Western Ghats act as a natural barrier, preventing the flow of water from the Arabian Sea into the mainland.

Before roadways were developed in Kerala, the backwaters served as the main highways. With people and wares being transported along these waterways and floating markets set up along the riverbanks.

In fact, they are still an essential part of life in Kerala and you will see many local people and businesses using the waterways, just as they have done for centuries.

What To Expect On Your Kerala Backwaters Tour

At 7:30am sharp we were collected and within just short of an hour arrived in north Alleppey. The beginning of Kerala Backwaters.

We opted for the full day Kerala Backwaters tour which we believe was fantastic value for money and an ideal amount of time.

So, after arriving by mini bus at a small tuck shop on the edge of Alleppey, we headed down with a group of around 15 people to the entrance of the river.

The bamboo boat was incredible. Woven into a beautiful design, held together by rope, with open arched windows.

Our Indian boat driver did an amazing job of guiding us through the narrow backwaters, that were neatly overgrown with trees creating a tunnel.

This lead out into some beautiful locations and it must have been a tough job in the scorching heat. With constant pushing off the bottom of the river with his HUGE bamboo stick, he was a master of his craft.

As we cruised along, it was sometimes hard to stay awake, especially when you caught a few moments of blissful silence. We did learn a few very interesting facts about Kerala and its history though.

Kerala Backwaters Tour Kerala Houseboat Alleppey
Kerala Backwaters Houseboat
Kerala Backwaters Tour Kerala Houseboat Alleppey
Lauren getting snap-happy on the Kerala Backwaters tour

Cultural Stops

The Kerala Backwaters tour really opens your eyes to see how normality sits with other walks of life.

The locals happily passed us down the narrow rivers in their small canoes, some of them being taxis, going about their daily routines.

The river taxis are highly depended on in order for locals to reach civilisation away from their backwater huts.

Before midday hit, we’d stopped at a couple of interesting, government run factories. We were shown how rope is made from start to finish by breaking down coconut fibres which was wild!

It was refreshing to see the local authorities supporting families on the backwaters. Setting up these factories they were creating jobs for people in the rural areas.

Kerala Backwaters Tour Kerala Houseboat Alleppey
Learning how to weave rope from coconuts!
Kerala Backwaters Tour Kerala Houseboat Alleppey
The local villagers in Alleppey

Traditional Lunch

After learning a few tricks of the trade, but not quite mastering how to build a boat, we were ecstatic to find out it was time to eat.

Lunch was an all you can eat traditional Kerala Thali. Served on a banana leaf and eaten with nothing but our hands.

We ate until we couldn’t breathe and just about wobbled back onto the houseboat. It must have dipped a few inches in the water when we stepped on.

It was then plain sailing (excuse the pun) all the way back to Alleppey. We used the time to capture photos and sit back and relax whilst chatting to our new multi cultural group of new friends.

Overall the day was amazing. With beautiful scenery and such a relaxed vibe, our cruise through the vast backwaters of Kerala felt like nothing in India.

It was such a drastic change from the cities we’d previously visited and was the perfect way to unwind. For us, this was definitely one of the best things to do in India.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy your Kerala Backwaters tour to the max.

Thali Kerala Backwaters Tour Kerala Houseboat Alleppey
Delicious traditional Kerala Thali served on a banana leaf
Kerala Backwaters Tour Kerala Houseboat Alleppey
Kerala Backwaters views

Where To Stay In Kerala

Luxury

Kochi Marriott Hotel

Featuring an outdoor pool, a spa and wellness centre and 3 dining options, Kochi Marriott Hotel is located in Edapally, adjacent to Lulu Mall.

The cosy and comfortable rooms feature air-conditioning, flat-screen satellite TV and a minibar.

The en suite bathroom is equipped with bath or shower facilities, bathrobe and free toiletries.

At Kochi Marriott Hotel, guests can make use of concierge services, currency exchange and car rental services.

A well-equipped fitness centre and a 24-hour front desk are available.

Mid-Budget

Koder House

Built in 1808, Koder House features Portuguese architecture and decor.

A 10-minute walk from Fort Kochi Beach, it offers a swimming pool and spacious rooms with a spa bathtub.

The elegant rooms at House Koder come with dark wood furnishings and a four-poster bed. Each room has large windows that offers views of the pool, and comes with a TV with cable channels.

To relax, guests can enjoy a massage at the spa.

The hotel provides car rental services and free parking. Currency exchange and concierge services are available upon request.

Budget

Santa Maria Hostel

Providing free WiFi, Santa Maria is located in Cochin, within 550 yards of Kochi Biennale.

Around 350 yards from Princess Street, the property is also close to Vasco Da Gama Square.

The hostel offers a terrace. Speaking Hindi and English at the 24-hour front desk, staff are always on hand to help.

For more places to stay in Kerala, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.

Planning Your Trip

Book Your Flight

Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight.

They search websites and airlines around the globe to find you the best possible routes and prices.

Book Your Accommodation

Use Booking.com to find the best accommodation deals.

They consistently return the cheapest rates on everything from guesthouses to hotels for all of your budget needs.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Use SafetyWing to find the best travel insurance for you.

They provide travel and medical incident insurance built specifically for digital nomads.

Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

Book Your Tours & Activities

Use GetYourGuide to book your activities in advance.

They sell the best tours, excursions and activities to attractions around the world.

Conveniently book, download and access your tickets on the move all from your mobile.

Book Your Rental Car

Use RentalCars.com to find the best deals on rental cars in the area.

They compare all major car rental companies and allow you to easily book the perfect vehicle for your trip.

Buy Those Last Minute Bits

Use Amazon to buy everything you need for your adventure.

They offer next day delivery and you can use my travel packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.


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Kerala Backwaters In India Guide