Kerala Backwaters

The Kerala backwaters
are the highlight of the region, and for many their visit to India
.  Nearly 1,000km of waterways spread from the
coast to far inland.  The boats serving the area cross shallow lakes
peppered with Chinese cantilever fishing nets, and travel along narrow shady
canals where traditions of processing coconuts and cashew nuts still thrive.

The small villages that make up the backwaters are a treasure to
visit.  You’ll find churches, mosques, temples and schools.  Motorized
transport hasn’t replaced the traditional canoe yet, and is
unlikely to given the amount of canals and the small number of roads.

The towns of Alleppey and Kollam are the major hubs for
backwater trips, but Fort
Cochin
also offers lots of good trips.

There are three main ways to travel the backwaters:

Houseboat

The Houseboat is the ultimate way to experience the backwaters.  Traditional rice
barges (kettuvallam) have been converted to homes that cater
for couples or groups.  Trips are normally for 24 hours and all meals
are included.  Costs are typically INR6,000 per couple, but much less outside
of the high season (Nov – Jan).  Prices differ for bigger group
houseboats.  Single travelers are better to find someone to share with,
unless you have a big budget.  You can also have a day experience on a
houseboat in Fort
Cochin
for
INR550.

If you have the budget you can easily commission a houseboat
for a longer period of time to go where ever you want.

The true houseboat experience is to be punted, where the
drivers use long bamboo poles to power the houseboat.  This reduces the
distance you’ll cover in a day, but is very peaceful.  To cover
more ground an engine is required, which is obviously not as tranquil.

Tourist Cruise

Tourist boats run everyday from Alleppey and Kollam and vice
versa.  These ferry
like boats stick to the major
waterways, and although you wont see the really delicate Keralan life you will
see a little glimpse of many things.  The trips leave at 10.30am and
arrive at 6.30pm, everyday in high season.  It’s the best way to get
between Alleppey and Kollam if you have time.  There are also trips between Alappuzha-Kumarakom
and Alappuzha-Kottayam.

Canoe

To see the really intricate and traditional parts of the
backwaters you’ll need to go on a canoe trip.  No other vessel can weave
through the narrow canals that make up the traditional village life of the
backwaters.  Trips vary, but prices are about INR300 per half day. 
Trips can be arranged in Fort Cochin, Alleppey or Kollam.

Combinations

Many places combine backwater travel experiences to give
you a taste of each.  In Fort Cochin the Tourist Desk Information Counter
run a good day trip with a morning on a house boat, and an afternoon in canoes
for INR550, including lunch, water and hotel pickup.

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