Get the best out of Kerala's backwaters

Backwaters of Kerala connects the districts of Kollam, Alapuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam. If you love spending your time with the nature, Kerala backwaters is the ideal destination for you. Read this article to learn more about some cheap ways to explore the backwaters of Kerala.

Kerala, as a whole is a greenish beauty. On the borders of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, she is protected and fortified by the hilly and mountainous region with dense forests. The other boarder is the Arabian sea. Kerala is blessed with numerous big and small rivers, all of which start from the hilly regions, flow downwards to join the Arabian sea. Before these rivers joins the sea, they form lakes on the plains, blessing Kerala's backwaters, an abode of rich flora and fauna, adding to the scenic beauty of this God's own land. The land receives rains for 6 to 7 months in an year which ensures abundant water supply for the rivers and lakes and maintains Kerala as a green strip of land.

The backwaters of Kerala can mainly be divided into 2 regions:

  • Kollam - Ernakulam belt

  • Malabar region

  • Let us have an insight into the Kollam - Ernakulam belt which covers the districts of Ernakulam, Kottayam, Alapuzha and Kollam districts. National High way-47 goes through all these districts except Kottayam. Even then kottayam is also well connected to NH 47. Among them, Alapuzha is the only district without a natural forest.

    Travel facilities available

    NH 47 is convenient for the road travelers. Indian railways too provide easy access to all these districts. Kollam is nearer to Trivandrum Air-Port (85 kms) and Ernakulam has its own Air-Port at Nedumbassery (30 kms to the city). An adventurous traveler can cover the entire region by a boat.

    For the leisurely tour we recommend a 10+ days program to cover all important tourist destinations in Kerala. On a moderate travel schedule, you can cover the area in five days.


    A thriving port-city for centuries and historically connected to Chinese merchants, the colonial era under Dutch, the Portuguese and later the British. All have left their marks on the land. The Chinese connection gave the market place the name ''Chinnakada''. The Dutch and Portuguese left the remains of the forts and the churches. Kollom have a sizable Anglo-Indian population and these centers still maintain a unique culture and identity.

    Main places to visit at Kollam

    Thangassery, 5 KMS from city proper. Even now this part of the city maintains its connection to the colonial era. This location still houses some 18th century churches and an Anglo-Indian population. The ruins of the Thangassery fort and the light house attracts many visitors. Infant Jesus cathedral attracts many visitors through out the year.

    The royal summer palace is near to the Bishop's house which was a retreat for the royals of the past. The 13 arched Bridge of the British Colonial Era still remains strong. Kollam's main link to Tirunnelveli was the rail on this bridge. Suki was used for construction in those days instead of cement.

    Neendakara - It is a famous fishing harbor and only 8 kms from the city.

    Paravur - Famous for its beaches and backwaters. A major coir production center. 13 kms from the city.

    Chavara - Chavara beach is rich with rare mineral deposits like ilmenite, thorium etc.

    Sasthamcotta - 19 KMS from Kollam. It is Kerala's biggest fresh water lake.

    Alumkadavu - 26 kms from the city. A scenic beauty with back waters, with facility for cruise in house boats. Many Ayurvedic treatment centers are housed in and around Alumkadavu.

    Amrithapuri - A world famous pilgrim center for the devotees of Matha Amrithandamai. Her disciples from many parts of the world visit Amrithapuri in thousands. One can reach Vallikavu village via Kayamkulam (12 kms) or Karunagapplly (10 kms). Both these locations are around 30 kms from Kollam via NH 47.


    On both sides of the road to Alapuzha, you can see vast areas of paddy fields and a Paddy Research Center of Govt. of India. Being part of Kuttanadu, this region is susceptible for submerging under water in rainy season. High yielding coconut trees are seen everywhere. Duck farming is another economic activity of the people. Fish and shrimp breeding is undertaken by many. Canals connect every part of Kuttanadu, just as roads in other parts of the mainland. Formerly, country boats were the only mode of transportation for the people. Now a few developed roads were constructed by the govt. And road transport facility is in the increase. Toddy parlors are the main attraction during the journey to Alapuzha and varieties of fish dishes are provided in these shops. There are many centers providing house boats on rent.

    Alappuzha is called the Venice of the East, due to the presence of hundreds of canals that connect the main city to its hinterlands. Land is covered by coconut palm trees, which give it a rich green covering. Thousands of country boats ply the canals in addition to the motor boats and the luxury
    House boats used by tourists. September to May is the best season to visit Alapuzha.

    Travel facilities in Alapuzha

    NH 47 passes through the city and so travel by public transport systems like buses are quiet good from both Trivandrum and Ernakulam. Indian Railways connect the city to both Trivandrum and Ernakulam and you can move from there to any part of the country or reach the Airports of these cities. You can also reach Alapuzha by boat (See:Kerala Houseboats.

    Places to see in Alapuzha

    Alapuzha Beach - The most popular picnic spot in Alapuzha is the lovely beach. The pier here built a century and half before, extends into the sea. The old light house too attracts many. The Vijaya Beach Park provides entertainment facilities for visitors.

    The Sea View Park provides tourists with boating facilities and swimming pool and the charges here are moderate.

    Dist. tourism Promotion Council conducts regular daily tours to Kollam from Alapuzha boat jetty. This tour covers almost all the spots coming under Kollam tour, mentioned previously. The journey gives you opportunity to see Chinese fishing nets (cheenavala), coir factories, vast areas of paddy fields, and original Kerala style Nalukettu houses. There are country boats that takes you to the hinder lands of Kuttanad. They charge you an hourly fees of Rs.200/-

    Another major attraction at Alapuzha is the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race. It is conducted every year on the second Saturday of August at Punnamada Kayal. Former PM of india, Sri. Jawahral Nehru, donated the trophy for the winner of the main event, the Dragon Boat (chuntan vallam) Race. There are competition for many other classes of boats too. The day is a festival for the residents of Alappuzha. Many thousands of people, VIP guests and many foreigners come to watch the event.

    Luxury house boats and plain motor boats are available to take you on to Kumarakam , Kottayam, which is considered the main backwater facility in Kerala.

    Suggested Read: A few tips to visitors to Kerala

    Main attractions en route to Kumarakam (Kottayam district)

    Pathiramanal - Pathiramanal is a small island, which is treated as a bird sanctuary. Thousands of migratory birds from all over the world visit this place every year, to tide over the unfavorable climate of their homeland. No human settlement is allowed here and so it is heaven for the bird watcher. The island lies between Thannermukkam and Kumarakam.

    Thanneermukkam - Here the human built bunt (small dam) which allows water flow one way only is located. Boats end the journey here and return to Kumarakam. This spillway was built to prevent saline sea water from entering Kuttanad paddy fields. Every year dispute arises between farmers and fishermen because of this conflicting interest.

    R-Block - A mini wonder created ingeniously by farmers of Kuttanad. They have reclaimed vast areas of land from the backwaters and protected it by dike built all around. The land is 6 - 10 ft below the surrounding lake water. A visit to the place is worth the effort. You will get good toddy tapped and collected from the coconut trees of the location and the parlour there provide varieties of fish dishes prepared from fishes caught from the surrounding lake .

    Kumarakom - Is a cluster of beautiful islands forming part of the Vembanad lake. The land is rich with paddy and coconut cultivation. The backwaters, the islands in between, the fishing activity of the locals ,the rich greenery, all combine to give you a blissful fleeing. If you have come prepared for fishing, you can spend hours fishing in the backwaters.

    Kumarakom is blessed with many starred hotels. Facility for home stay is also available.

    More reading: Is it safe to stay in Homestays in Kerala

    You can take the rest of the journey to Ernakulam, by boat, by road (both from Kumarakom itself) or by train from Kottayam. The details of the enchanting Ernakulam backwaters are given elsewhere in this travelogue.

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    Guest Author: Yatish Lahiri17 Jun 2016

    It is a good informative article. i visited kumarkom a couple of months back. wanted to look for houseboat safar in other lakes of kerela. a friend told Kerela style houseboats are now available in karwar and in maharashtra mtdc also runs such houseboats. I think ki large shikaras like in kashmir will be a novel idea for Kerela backwaters. meanwhile, is there really shikaras in Kerela backwaters?

    Guest Author: Harif30 Jun 2016

    We made a visit to Alappuzha about one year ago. Unfortunately, we met with a small accident with an autorickshaw. Actually, it was not our mistake, the autorickshaw driver was drunk. But local peoples around fight with us and we didn't get any compensation. After we informed to a police who was passing there, but it was also helpless.

    Guest Author: Sudhrshan28 Jul 2016

    Alappuzha is the hub of Kerala's backwaters. I made a visit to Alappuzha during Nehru trophy boat race. It was an awesome experience and also we booked a 2-night houseboat tour.

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