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How To Take A Trip On A Kerala Backwaters Houseboat


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Frederique Louie



Embarking on a journey through the serene backwaters of Kerala is an experience like no other. Nestled along the southwestern coast of India, Kerala is renowned for its tranquil and picturesque waterways that wind through lush green landscapes, dotted with coconut palms and traditional villages. Exploring these backwaters on a houseboat is an opportunity to soak in the beauty of nature, immerse in local culture, and unwind in a truly enchanting setting.


With its vast network of rivers, canals, and lagoons, the Kerala backwaters offer a unique perspective on the region’s natural beauty. The Backwaters stretch over 900 kilometers, encompassing several lakes, rivers, and canals that connect numerous villages and towns. As you cruise through these backwaters, you will witness the traditional lifestyle of the locals, see paddy fields stretching to the horizon, and encounter colorful bird species that inhabit these waterways.


But to truly experience the beauty of the Kerala backwaters, there’s no better way than aboard a houseboat. These traditional vessels, known as “kettuvallams,” have been converted into floating homes for travelers seeking a tranquil getaway amidst nature. With their spacious interiors, comfortable bedrooms, and open lounges, houseboats provide a unique and comfortable experience for exploring this picturesque region.


Whether you are planning a romantic escape, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, a trip on a Kerala backwaters houseboat promises a memorable experience. This article will guide you through the essentials of planning your backwater journey, from choosing the right houseboat to exploring the backwater villages, enjoying local cuisine, engaging in recreational activities, and making lasting memories along the way. So, get ready to set sail and create unforgettable moments amidst the captivating beauty of the Kerala backwaters.


Understanding Kerala Backwaters

The Kerala backwaters are a network of interconnected brackish lagoons, canals, lakes, and rivers that form a unique ecosystem in the state of Kerala, India. Stretching along the Arabian Sea coast, this intricate labyrinth of waterways is a result of the natural flow of several rivers and the construction of man-made canals over centuries.


The backwaters of Kerala are characterized by their calm and serene ambiance, with pristine waters reflecting the surrounding greenery. It’s a paradise for nature lovers, offering breathtaking views of lush paddy fields, coconut groves, and vibrant aquatic life. These waterways also serve as the lifeline for the local communities, facilitating transportation, fishing, and agriculture.


The most famous backwater destination in Kerala is Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha. Often referred to as the “Venice of the East,” Alleppey is renowned for its picturesque canals, vibrant houseboat cruises, and the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, a major tourist attraction. Other popular backwater destinations include Kumarakom, Kollam, and Kottayam, each offering a unique charm and experience.


Another noteworthy aspect of the backwaters is the diverse ecosystem they sustain. The brackish water serves as a habitat for a variety of aquatic species, including fish, crabs, and frogs. The surrounding vegetation supports a rich array of birdlife, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. Some of the common species found here include the Indian darter, kingfisher, egret, and heron.


Exploring the Kerala backwaters on a houseboat allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and tranquility of the region. As you cruise along the waterways, you’ll witness the simple and traditional lifestyle of the local village communities. You’ll also come across small canoeing boats, known as “vallams,” navigating the canals, transporting goods, and providing a glimpse into the daily life of the locals.


Understanding the Kerala backwaters goes beyond the natural beauty. It’s about embracing the culture, traditions, and way of life that thrive in these waterways. It’s a chance to disconnect from the noise of the modern world and reconnect with nature and oneself. So, get ready to embark on a journey that will rejuvenate your senses and leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.


Choosing the Right Houseboat

When planning a trip on the Kerala backwaters, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right houseboat. With a variety of options available, it’s essential to consider a few factors to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience.


Firstly, determine the size of the houseboat based on your group’s size and requirements. Houseboats come in different sizes, ranging from single-bedroom to luxury multi-bedroom vessels. If you’re traveling as a couple or a small family, a smaller houseboat will suffice, while larger groups may opt for bigger ones.


Next, consider the amenities and facilities offered by the houseboat. Most houseboats come equipped with basic amenities like bedrooms, bathrooms, dining areas, and a deck to relax and enjoy the views. Luxury houseboats may also offer added amenities like air conditioning, entertainment systems, and even Jacuzzis. Choose a houseboat that fits your budget and provides the level of comfort you desire.


It’s also important to consider the duration of your trip. Houseboats offer different itinerary options, ranging from a few hours to overnight stays. If you want a short excursion to explore the backwaters, a day trip would be ideal. However, for a more immersive experience, opt for an overnight stay where you can enjoy the tranquil evenings and wake up to the captivating beauty of sunrise on the water.


Additionally, take into account the route and areas covered by the houseboat. Some houseboats follow a fixed route, while others allow for more flexibility. Depending on your interests, you may prefer a route that passes through bustling villages, remote areas, or popular backwater attractions.


Lastly, read reviews and seek recommendations from fellow travelers to ensure the credibility and reliability of the houseboat operator. Look for companies that have a good reputation for their service, safety standards, and customer satisfaction. This will help you choose a trustworthy and reputable operator who will make your trip memorable.


By considering these factors, you can narrow down your options and select the houseboat that best suits your preferences and budget. Remember, the right houseboat will not only provide comfort but also enhance your overall backwater experience, making it a journey you’ll cherish for years to come.


Planning Your Itinerary

When it comes to planning your itinerary for a trip on the Kerala backwaters, there are several factors to consider in order to make the most of your experience. Here are some key points to keep in mind:


1. Duration: Determine how many days you want to spend on the houseboat. While a day trip can give you a taste of the backwater experience, an overnight or multi-day stay allows you to fully immerse yourself in the serene ambiance and explore more remote areas.


2. Route: Research different routes and discuss with your houseboat operator to choose the one that suits your preferences. Some routes take you through bustling villages, while others offer a more secluded and off-the-beaten-path experience. Consider whether you want a more scenic route or one that includes stops at popular attractions.


3. Sightseeing: Identify the points of interest along your chosen route and plan your itinerary accordingly. You may want to visit historic temples, explore traditional village life, or witness the process of coir-making – a traditional craft of Kerala.


4. Cultural Experiences: Kerala is known for its vibrant culture and heritage. Consider adding cultural activities to your itinerary, such as watching a Kathakali dance performance or visiting a local handicraft market.


5. Relaxation Time: Don’t forget to factor in some leisure time to simply relax and soak in the beauty of the backwaters. The peaceful surroundings offer the perfect setting for unwinding, reading a book, or enjoying a traditional Ayurvedic massage on the deck of your houseboat.


6. Photography Opportunities: The Kerala backwaters provide endless opportunities for capturing stunning photographs. Plan your itinerary to include scenic spots, sunrise or sunset sessions, and interactions with the locals to capture the essence of this beautiful region.


7. Meal Plan: Discuss the meal plan with your houseboat operator in advance. Most houseboats serve delicious traditional Kerala cuisine, including freshly caught seafood, while some offer options for customized meals. Cater to any dietary preferences or restrictions you may have.


Remember, while it’s good to have a planned itinerary, be open to spontaneous experiences and unexpected discoveries along the way. The beauty of the backwaters lies in its serenity and natural charm, and by allowing some flexibility in your schedule, you’ll have the freedom to fully embrace the magic of this enchanting destination.


Boarding the Houseboat

As you embark on your Kerala backwaters houseboat journey, the process of boarding the houseboat sets the tone for your entire experience. Here’s what you can expect when boarding a houseboat:


1. Welcome and Check-In: Upon arrival at the houseboat embarkation point, you will be greeted by the friendly crew. They will assist you with the check-in process, which includes providing identification and completing any necessary paperwork. The crew will also familiarize you with the facilities and amenities available on board.


2. Safety Briefing: Before setting sail, the crew will conduct a thorough safety briefing to ensure your well-being throughout the journey. They will explain emergency procedures, point out safety equipment, and provide guidance on how to navigate the houseboat.


3. Houseboat Orientation: Once you’re settled in, the crew will give you a brief orientation of the houseboat. They will show you to your designated bedrooms and common areas, explain how to operate amenities like air conditioning and hot water, and inform you of any specific rules or guidelines to follow during your stay.


4. Settling In: After the orientation, take some time to settle in and make yourself comfortable in your floating abode. Feel free to explore the various areas of the houseboat, from the bedrooms to the dining area and open deck. Enjoy the panoramic views of the backwaters and savor the sense of tranquility that envelops you.


5. Crew Assistance: The crew members are there to assist you throughout your journey. Whether you need help with any houseboat-related matters or have any special requests, the crew will be attentive and responsive to ensure your comfort and satisfaction.


6. Departure: Once everyone is onboard and settled, the houseboat will begin its journey through the backwaters. You can witness the lush greenery, quaint villages, and local life unfolding before your eyes. Sit back, relax, and let the gentle rhythm of the water transport you to a state of ultimate relaxation.


Boarding the houseboat is a seamless and exciting process, setting the stage for the memorable journey that lies ahead. The warm welcome, safety briefing, and crew assistance ensure that your experience is comfortable, secure, and enjoyable from the moment you step on board. Get ready to embark on an enchanting voyage through the backwaters of Kerala and create memories to last a lifetime.


Life on a Kerala Backwaters Houseboat

Aboard a Kerala backwaters houseboat, you’ll experience a unique way of life that combines tranquility, comfort, and enchanting natural surroundings. Here’s what to expect during your stay on a houseboat:


1. Serenity and Relaxation: Life on a houseboat is all about embracing tranquility. As you cruise through the backwaters, you’ll be immersed in a serene ambiance, surrounded by calm waters and picturesque landscapes. It’s a perfect opportunity to unwind, rejuvenate, and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.


2. Comfortable Accommodation: Houseboats are equipped with cozy bedrooms that offer a comfortable and peaceful retreat. Enjoy a good night’s sleep while gently swaying to the rhythm of the water, waking up to stunning views of the backwaters right from your window.


3. Delicious Onboard Cuisine: Most houseboats offer traditional Kerala cuisine prepared by skilled chefs. Indulge in mouthwatering dishes that showcase the region’s rich flavors and spices. Freshly caught seafood, coconut-infused curries, and delectable vegetarian fare are among the culinary highlights you can savor during your stay.


4. Spectacular Views: Throughout your journey, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views. The backwaters provide a constantly changing backdrop of verdant landscapes, palm-fringed shores, and vibrant birdlife. Capture these awe-inspiring sights from the open deck of the houseboat or simply marvel at the beauty that surrounds you.


5. Interaction with Locals: As you leisurely cruise along the backwaters, you’ll have opportunities to interact with the friendly locals. Observe their daily activities, like fishing, coir making, and farming. Engage in conversations and gain insights into their way of life, traditions, and culture.


6. Onboard Entertainment: While the main form of entertainment on a houseboat is the natural beauty around you, some houseboats provide additional forms of entertainment. You may find onboard activities like traditional music performances, storytelling sessions, or even opportunities to try your hand at fishing.


7. Night on the Backwaters: Spending a night on a houseboat is a magical experience. Listen to the sounds of the water, enjoy a delicious dinner under the moonlight, and fall asleep to the gentle lullaby of the backwaters. Wake up the next morning to witness a breathtaking sunrise and start your day in harmony with nature.


Life on a Kerala backwaters houseboat is an opportunity to disconnect from the outside world and embrace a simpler, more peaceful existence. It’s a chance to appreciate the beauty of nature, immerse in local culture, and create lasting memories amidst the tranquil waters of the backwaters. Get ready to embark on a unique journey that will soothe your soul and leave you longing for more.


Exploring the Backwater Villages

One of the highlights of a Kerala backwaters houseboat trip is the opportunity to explore the charming villages that dot the waterways. These picturesque backwater villages offer a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle and culture of the local communities. Here’s what you can expect when exploring the backwater villages:


1. Scenic Landscapes: As you navigate through the backwaters, you’ll encounter stunning landscapes that showcase the unique beauty of rural Kerala. From lush green paddy fields to coconut groves swaying in the breeze, the backwater villages are a visual delight.


2. Traditional Village Life: The backwater villages provide an authentic experience of rural Kerala. You’ll witness the locals going about their daily routines, whether it’s fishing in the canals, working in the paddy fields, or engaging in traditional crafts like coir making.


3. Interacting with the Locals: Take the opportunity to interact with the friendly villagers and learn about their way of life. Engage in conversations, visit local homes or shops, and gain insights into their customs, traditions, and cultural practices. The locals are known for their warm hospitality and will gladly share stories and anecdotes about their village.


4. Village Walks/Cycling: Some houseboats offer the option of disembarking at certain villages and exploring them on foot or by bicycle. Take a leisurely stroll or bike ride through the narrow lanes, admiring the architecture of traditional houses and getting a closer look at the local life and livelihoods.


5. Temples and Places of Worship: The backwater villages are often home to ancient temples, churches, and mosques that hold cultural and religious significance. Explore these sacred sites and admire the stunning architecture and intricate craftsmanship.


6. Local Markets: Visit the bustling local markets in the backwater villages to experience the vibrant atmosphere and browse through a variety of fresh produce, spices, handmade crafts, and traditional artifacts. Engage in some shopping and take home unique souvenirs as a memento of your Kerala backwaters journey.


7. Canoeing in the Narrow Canals: For a more intimate experience, you can opt for a canoe ride through the narrow canals that meander through the backwater villages. Glide along the waterways, witnessing village life up close and exploring hidden corners that are inaccessible to larger boats.


As you explore the backwater villages, keep in mind to respect the local customs, traditions, and the environment. Embrace the simplicity, tranquility, and authenticity that these villages offer, and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of rural Kerala. It’s an opportunity to take a step back in time and immerse yourself in the slower pace and idyllic charm of these traditional countryside communities.


Enjoying Local Cuisine

When cruising the Kerala backwaters on a houseboat, one aspect not to be missed is indulging in the vibrant and flavorsome local cuisine. Kerala is renowned for its delicious and unique culinary offerings that blend diverse flavors and incorporate fresh ingredients. Here’s how you can savor the local cuisine during your backwater journey:


1. Traditional Kerala Meals: Most houseboats provide authentic Kerala meals cooked with love and expertise. These meals typically consist of a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes served on a banana leaf. The meal often includes aromatic rice, sambar (a lentil-based soup), avial (mixed vegetable dish), thoran (stir-fried vegetables with coconut), fish curry, and other locally inspired delicacies.


2. Fresh Seafood Delights: Kerala’s coastal location means that seafood plays a significant role in the local cuisine. Indulge in the flavors of freshly caught fish, prawns, crabs, and mussels expertly prepared with a blend of spices, coconut, and tamarind. A must-try dish is Meen Pollichathu, which is fish marinated with spices, wrapped in banana leaf, and grilled to perfection.


3. Coconut-infused Preparations: Kerala cuisine heavily relies on coconut in its various forms. Coconut oil, grated coconut, coconut milk, and coconut paste are integral ingredients in many dishes. From coconut-based curries to coconut-infused chutneys and desserts, there’s no shortage of coconut-infused culinary delights to sample.


4. Appam and Stew: Appam, a lacy rice pancake with a soft center, is a beloved breakfast dish in Kerala. It is typically served with a flavorful stew made with a variety of vegetables, spices, and coconut milk. The combination of the fluffy appam and the aromatic stew is a delightful treat for your taste buds.


5. Banana and Jackfruit Delicacies: Kerala is known for its love affair with bananas and jackfruit. Indulge in dishes like Pazham Pori (banana fritters), Ethakka Appam (fried banana fritters), and Jackfruit Payasam (jackfruit dessert) to experience the unique flavors of these tropical fruits.


6. Traditional Snacks and Desserts: Kerala offers a plethora of mouthwatering snacks and desserts that you must try. Taste the popular banana chips, savory murukku, crispy Vada, and sweet treats like Payasam (a sweet rice pudding), Unniyappam (deep-fried rice and jaggery dumplings), and Neyyappam (a fried sweet made with rice flour and jaggery).


As you enjoy the local cuisine on a Kerala backwaters houseboat, take the opportunity to try different dishes, embrace the flavors, and savor the uniqueness of Kerala’s culinary heritage. The combination of aromatic spices, fresh ingredients, and traditional cooking techniques will undoubtedly make your culinary experience on the houseboat an unforgettable one.


Engaging in Recreational Activities

A trip on a Kerala backwaters houseboat offers more than just scenic beauty and delicious food. It also provides opportunities to engage in various recreational activities that add excitement and a touch of adventure to your backwater experience. Here are some activities you can enjoy during your houseboat journey:


1. Canoeing and Kayaking: Many houseboats offer the option to embark on a canoe or kayak ride through the narrow canals and smaller waterways. Paddle along the gentle currents, explore hidden corners of the backwaters, and get up close to the rich flora and fauna that thrive in these waterways.


2. Fishing: Challenge your angling skills and try your hand at fishing in the backwaters. The crew members can guide you on the best fishing spots and provide you with the necessary equipment. Catching a fish in the tranquil backwaters adds a sense of accomplishment and allows you to experience the local lifestyle firsthand.


3. Birdwatching: The Kerala backwaters are home to a wide variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts. Grab your binoculars and keep an eye out for the vibrant kingfishers, majestic egrets, and elegant herons that inhabit these waterways. The early morning and late evening hours are the best time for birdwatching.


4. Sunset and Sunrise Viewing: Marvel at the breathtaking beauty of sunsets and sunrises over the backwaters. As the golden hues reflect on the calm waters, you’ll be captivated by the tranquil atmosphere and the stunning play of colors. It’s a moment to cherish and capture in photographs.


5. Village Exploration: Take a walk or a bike ride through the scenic backwater villages to explore the local culture firsthand. Immerse yourself in the charming ambiance, interact with friendly locals, and observe traditional practices such as coir making, toddy tapping, or pottery making, depending on the village you visit.


6. Yoga and Meditation: Embrace the serenity of the backwaters and engage in yoga or meditation sessions on the deck of the houseboat. The calm surroundings and gentle swaying of the water create a peaceful environment, perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation.


7. Cooking Demonstrations: Some houseboats offer cooking demonstrations where guests can learn to prepare traditional Kerala dishes. Join in these interactive sessions to learn about the local culinary techniques, spices used, and the art of creating authentic Kerala flavors.


Engaging in these recreational activities not only adds a sense of adventure but also allows you to connect with nature, appreciate the local culture, and create unique experiences along the Kerala backwaters. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, exploration, or a bit of both, these activities will ensure that your journey on the houseboat is filled with unforgettable moments.


Capturing Memorable Moments

A trip on a Kerala backwaters houseboat presents numerous opportunities to capture remarkable moments and create lasting memories. From the stunning landscapes to the unique cultural experiences, here are some tips to make the most of your photography and ensure you preserve the essence of your backwater journey:


1. Be Prepared: Before setting out on your houseboat journey, make sure your camera or smartphone is fully charged and ready to capture the beauty around you. Bring extra memory cards or backup batteries to avoid missing out on any special moments.


2. Golden Hour Photography: The early morning and late evening hours during sunrise and sunset offer magical lighting conditions for photography. Embrace the soft golden light that bathes the backwaters, creating a dream-like atmosphere. Capture the serene reflections, silhouettes, and the vibrant hues of the sky during these magical hours.


3. Frame the Backwaters: Use natural elements like foliage, branches, or architectural structures to frame your photographs and add depth to your compositions. Experiment with different perspectives and angles to create visually captivating images.


4. Focus on Reflections: The calm waters of the backwaters provide stunning reflections of the surrounding landscapes. Capture the mirror-like reflections of the coconut trees, houseboats, or vibrant birdlife in the water for a unique and captivating composition.


5. Candid Moments: While the landscapes are undoubtedly breathtaking, don’t forget to capture candid moments of local life and interactions. Photograph the smiles, laughter, and traditional activities of the locals to reflect the authenticity of Kerala’s backwater culture.


6. Detail Shots: Zoom in and capture the intricate details that make the backwaters special. Focus on the vibrant colors of the traditional houseboat decorations, the delicate patterns of the coconut palms, or the textures of the handicrafts found in the local village markets.


7. Wildlife Photography: Keep an eye out for the diverse birdlife that inhabits the backwaters. Patience is key when photographing birds, as they may be shy and quick to disappear. Capture their graceful movements, vibrant feathers, and the ambient beauty of their natural habitat.


8. People and Portraits: Interact with the locals and ask for their permission before taking portraits. Capture the warm smiles, expressive eyes, and traditional attire of the people you encounter. These photographs will help tell the story of the backwater communities and add a personal touch to your collection of memories.


Remember, while capturing memorable moments is important, it’s equally essential to immerse yourself in the experience and be present in the moment. Don’t forget to put your camera away at times, simply breathe in the surroundings, and create memories that are etched in your heart as well as in your photographs.


Departing from the Houseboat

As your unforgettable journey on a Kerala backwaters houseboat comes to an end, it’s time to bid farewell to the serene waters and disembark from the floating abode that has been your home for a magical period. Here’s what you can expect when departing from the houseboat:


1. Check-Out Procedure: The crew will provide instructions for the check-out process, including settling any outstanding payments or additional charges. Ensure that you have packed all your belongings and double-check the rooms and common areas to make sure nothing is left behind.


2. Fond Farewells: Take a moment to express your gratitude and bid farewell to the crew who have taken care of you throughout your journey. Their hospitality, friendliness, and attentiveness have contributed to making your backwater experience truly memorable.


3. Final Glance at the Backwaters: Before stepping off the houseboat, indulge in one last gaze at the captivating beauty of the backwaters. Cherish the peaceful surroundings, the shimmering waters, and the fond memories you’ve created during your time on the houseboat.


4. Appreciating the Journey: Reflect on the unique experience you’ve had, the breathtaking sights you’ve witnessed, and the cultural encounters that have enriched your understanding of Kerala’s backwater lifestyle. Take a moment to appreciate the calming effect of the backwaters and the tranquility it has brought to your journey.


5. Photo Opportunities: Capture a final photograph of the houseboat and the backwaters before bidding adieu. These images will serve as a memento of your backwater adventure and an invitation to revisit the cherished memories whenever you see the photograph in the future.


6. Continuing Your Travels: With your backwater journey complete, you can transition seamlessly to your next destination in Kerala or make your way back to the city where your exploration began. Carry the tranquility and the serenity of the backwaters with you as you continue your travels.


Departing from the houseboat may mark the end of your backwaters journey, but it signals the beginning of the reminiscence of the time spent amidst the natural beauty and tranquility of Kerala. As you disembark, take a moment to feel the gratitude for the memories you’ve created and the connection you’ve forged with this enchanting slice of India.



A journey on a Kerala backwaters houseboat is an experience that transcends ordinary travel. It immerses you in the natural beauty of the backwaters, allows you to witness the traditional way of life in the villages, and enables you to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.


From the moment you embark on the houseboat, you’ll be mesmerized by the serene ambiance and captivating landscapes. Cruising through the interconnected waterways, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the backwater villages, interact with friendly locals, and engage in recreational activities that add excitement to your journey.


The backwater villages offer a glimpse into the rich culture and heritage of Kerala. You’ll witness traditional practices like coir making, pottery, and fishing, and have the chance to appreciate the simplicity and warmth of village life.


Throughout your journey, you’ll be treated to mouthwatering local cuisine, bursting with flavors and infused with coconut. From traditional Kerala meals to fresh seafood delicacies, every bite will be a delight for your taste buds.


The houseboat itself serves as your floating home, providing comfortable accommodation and panoramic views of the backwaters. It’s a sanctuary of peace and tranquility, allowing you to unwind, relax, and marvel at the beauty surrounding you.


As you capture the remarkable moments through your camera lens, you’ll document not only the scenic landscapes but also the candid interactions and cherished encounters with the locals. These photographs will serve as a reminder of the richness and authenticity of your Kerala backwaters experience.


As your journey on the houseboat comes to an end, take a final glance at the serene backwaters, express your gratitude to the crew, and bid farewell to this enchanting world. Depart with a sense of tranquility, rejuvenation, and a newfound appreciation for the beauty of nature and the simplicity of life.


So, if you’re seeking a unique travel experience that blends nature, culture, and relaxation, set sail on a Kerala backwaters houseboat. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by the tranquil beauty of the backwaters, immerse in the local culture, and create memories that will make your journey a truly unforgettable one.