Kerala's backwaters is the most popular
tourist attraction of Kerala. The palm-fringed, tranquil backwaters were
once just the state's trade highways. Kerala is her backwaters and lakes.
They have dictated her history, shaped her present and promise a future by
virtue of offering incomparable beauty and unique experiences.
The state's palm-fringed backwaters are inland lakes connected by a network
of canals. With 41 west-flowing rivers, the backwaters stretch to almost
1,900 kilometers. The backwater routes date back over the centuries and have
been long used for all transportation needs, in particular trade in coconut,
rubber, rice and spices. Today, these waterways link remote villages and
islands to the mainland and nerve centers of the coastal area.
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
The largest backwater stretch is the Vembanad Lake, which opens out into
the sea at the Kochi port and flows through three districts-Alappuzha,
Kottayam and Kochi. The Ashtamudi Lake has eight 'arms' covering a major
portion of Kollam district in the south, and is the second largest lake in
Alappuzha is one of the major centers for backwater boat trips. The
intricate network of canals 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 coir workers present an interesting sight as they soak coconut
fiber in pools, beat them and wind the strands on long spindles stretched
between an endless lines of coconut trees.
A short distance from Thiruvananthapuram is the Veli Aakulam lagoon. Water
sports, a floating restaurant, an amusement park, speedboats and other
facilities make this spot a tourist attraction. The east end of the lake is
flanked by two scenic hillocks.
The charming old port city of Kollam on the banks of the Ashtamudi Lake is
known as the center of the cashew industry. It is one of the oldest ports of
the backwaters, with the ferry to Alappuzha taking more than 8 hours. A
small village 12 kilometer west of Kottayam town, on the banks of the
beautiful Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom is 14-acre bird sanctuary known for local
varieties of water fowl, cuckoo, water ducks, and migrating Siberian storks.
The best months to visit it are June-August. Just 80 kilometres from Cochin,
this area has unique kettuvalloms (houseboats), boat racing, motorboat and
water sport facilities. The houseboats, plied by local oarsmen, are simply
furnished with a living room, bedroom with attached bath and a raised
central deck for lazing on cushions while watching the world go by.
In north Kerala, the cool backwaters of Kozhikode lie waiting to be
explored. This old commercial town attracts travelers for its history,
wonderful backwaters and leisure sports.
Alumkadavu, in the town of Karunagapally hardly 20 kilometers north of
Kollam, is where kettuvalloms are built. These huge, long and tapering
barges were traditionally used to carry tones of goods, with a portion
covered with bamboo and coir servicing as a rest room and kitchen for the
crew. Gliding down the calm and serene backwaters in a kettuvallom, embraced
by green leaves and palm, see a rural Kerala preserved through the ages,
completely hidden from the road, and it is not surprising that this is
called God's Own Country.
Famous for its natural harbor, one of the best in the world, Kochi has
earned the sobriquet "Queen of the Arabian Sea". All the islands
that make up Kochi are well connected by ferry. The Chinese fishing nets, a
method of fishing established in Kochi during the times of Kubla Khan line
Besides these backwaters, other equally beautiful water bodies elsewhere
are Veli (in South Kerala), Kadinamkulam, Edava, Anjengo, Madayara, Peravur,
Ashtamudi, Kayamkulam, Kodungalur, Chetuva and Valiyaparamba (in North
In the monsoon months, the backwaters reverberate with the sound of the
traditional snake boat races, featuring the 130-feet-long chundan boats. Up
to 16 of them, with over a hundred rowers each, compete for the honors
during the races. The most important of these races is the Nehru Trophy Boat
Race held on the second Saturday of August. The Aranmula Boat Festival of
the Parthasarathy temple of Aranmula on the banks of the holy river Pamba is
the more traditional race. The boat carnival starts on the day of Thiruonam,
the most auspicious day of the Kerala festival, Onam.
Whether by Kettuvalloms or by a simple vallom, the experience of gliding
through the backwaters is an experience that is undeniably unforgettable.
Kumarakom is situated 15 km from Kottayam, on National Highway (NH) 47
between Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and Kochi (Cochin). Kumarakom is a
cluster of little islands located on the banks of the famous Vembanad Lake.
The Vembanad Lake displys an intricate and enchantingly beautiful web of
majestic canals, streams and distributaries. The gorgeous green of the
fringed palms beautifully contrast with the ripple in the blue waters. The
water ways of Kumarakom is now a big attraction for tourist.
It is incredibly different experience to cruise in Kumarakom backwater in a
country boat, experiencing the beauty of Kerala villages. The bird sanctuary
here, which is spread across 14 acres is a favorite haunt of migratory birds
and an ornithologist's paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teal, waterfowl,
cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian stork that live
There in flocks are a fascination for visitors. The best way to watch the
birds of the Kumarakom sanctuary is a boat trip round the islands.
An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom offers visitors many other
leisure options. Boating and fishing facilities are available at Kumarakom.
Holiday packages on the houseboats, traditional Kettuvalloms, are an
out-of-this-world experience at Kumarakom. Millions of green coconut palms
are lined on the river side, leaning to touch its reflections on the glassy
waters. Blooming flowers, multi-hued birds, succulent freshwater fishes, all
these makes the nature perfect at Kumarakom.
as the entry and exit point of the backwaters of Kerala, Kollam is situated
71 km to the north of Thiruvananthapuram. It is one of the oldest ports of
the Malabar coast and was once the center of international spice trade,
especially known for its marine and cashew industries. It is also the
largest producer of cashew in the state.
30% of Kollam (Quilon) is covered by the renowned Ashtamudi lake and the
eight-hour boat trip between Kollam and Alappuzha is the longest and most
enchanting experience on the backwaters of Kerala. Kollam (Quilon)
architectural remnants and a number of temples built in the traditional
ornate style are the witness of the enchanting history of this town.
Tourist can visit Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram, a spiritual trust in India
with a large number of educational, technical and health care industries is
headquartered at Vallikkavu, near Kollam. The Picnic Village located at
Ashramam, along the backwater front, is the main center of recreational
activities in Kollam. A 200-year-old Government Guest House, an Adventure
Park, a Tourist Boat Club, a Children's Traffic Park and a Yatri Nivas are
all housed in this vast tourist complex.
The ancient Sastha temple, which lends its name to the town, is an
important pilgrim center. Mayyanad, 10 kms off south to Kollam town, is
famous for her shrines and temples. The most important of the nine temples
here is the Subramanya Temple at Umayanallor. Thangasseri, a seaside village
five kms away from the town is of great historic importance with the
remnants of the old Portuguese fort and church.
Oachira is noted for its Parabrahma temple where no deity or idol is
consecrated, but is dedicated to the universal and transcendental
consciousness. The Alaruvi waterfalls, 75 kms from Kollam town, make its way
down the rocks from a height of 300 feet. The Palaruvi woods is a beautiful
The extensive backwaters of Trivandrum provide the picturesque view of a
paradise. The intricate lagoons, lakes, canals and rivers are lined up along
the dense tropical vegetation of Trivandrum. It is a breathtaking bout to
experience a solitary and calm glide through this network of waterways. The
backwaters form a specially attractive and economically valuable feature of
Kerala. The biggest backwater is the Vembabad lake, some 200 sq kilometers
in area, which opens out into the Arabian Sea at Cochin port.
The serene backwater stretch, en-route to Kovalam, is famous for its canoe
rides. It is the meeting point of two rivers-Killi and Karamana. A temple
dedicated to Parashurama, the legendary founder of Kerala, is located in
Few attractions of Trivandrum backwaters are:
Padmanabhaswamy temple: The most impressive landmark in the town, the
temple's presiding deity is Vishnu reclining on serpent Anantha. It has a
seven-story tower, umpteen number of pillars, intricate carvings and mural
Museum complex: Art and natural history museums, art gallery and zoological
and botanical gardens are located in a plot in the heart of the city. The
museum contains paintings and other collections of the royal family.
Kanakakkunnu Palace: Today it is a venue for cultural and other public
Science & Technology museum: Located near Mascot hotel, it is a
valuable site for students and researchers.
Sanghumugham beach: A favorite haunt of sunset watchers. A gigantic 35 m
sculpture of a mermaid, called Matsya Kanyaka, is a major attraction here.
There is facility for recreational activities. The place is near the airport
and the Veli tourist village.
Veli tourist village: An ideal picnic spot where the lake joins the sea.
Boating facility is available in the lake. A popular retreat, it has a
children's park and other attractions.
Neyyar dam: It is a popular picnic spot and has a watchtower, crocodile
farm, lion safari park and a deer park, Aruvikkara dam, a picturesque picnic
spot on the banks of Karamana river.
Alleppey (Alappuzha) is prominent on the tourist trail as it is one of the
major centers for backwater boat trips. With Arabian sea on the west,
Alappuzha has a large network of lakes, lagoons and several freshwater
rivers intersections. Alappuzha has grown in importance as a backwater
tourist center, attracting several thousands of foreign tourists every year
who come here to enjoy the serene marine beauty of the state. Boat races,
houseboat holidays, beaches, marine products and coir industry are some of
the major attractions offered by Alappuzha.
Some of the unique attractions of Alappuzha are:
Water Sports: Tourists can participate in numerous beach activities offered
on the beautiful Alappuzha beach. For instance, you could indulge in any of
the exciting water sports such as surfing or parasailing, or go swimming in
the clear blue sea, or even try your hand at building a sand castle or
playing a game of beach volleyball.
Boat Races: It is held in the months of August and September when the earth
is moist and rain-drenched and the glorious backwaters overflows. Hundreds
of men and women gather on the banks to witness a spectacular view
especially, the Snake Boat Races.
The most famous event of boat race is the "Nehru Trophy Boat Race".
It is held on the second saturday of every August. There are a dozen other
snake boat races, providing an unforgettable and truly special scene. The
fund of energy, spirit of competition and unerring co-ordination makes this
sport extremely dynamic.
Some of the travel attractions of Alleppey are:
Kuttanad: Kuttanad, called the rice bowl of Kerala, because of her wealth
of paddy crops is at the very heart of the backwaters. The scenic
countryside of Kuttanad with its shimmering waterways also has a rich crop
Krishnapuram Palace: The 18th century Krishnapuram Palace built during the
reign of the Travancore monarch, Marthanda Varma, is a double storied
structure which displays typical characteristics of Kerala
architecture-gabled roofs, dormer windows, narrow corridors.
Ambalappuzha (Pilgrim Center): The Sri Krishna Temple at Ambalapuzha, 14
kms from Alleppey is among Kerala's more famous ones boasting of the typical
temple architectural style of the state.
Pathiramanal: 14 kilometers from Alleppy, this little island on the
backwaters is a favorite haunt of hundreds of rare migratory birds from
different parts of the world.
Known as Queen of the Arabian Sea, Cochin (Kochi) is believed to be the
finest natural harbour in the world. It is a cluster of islands on the vast
expanse of the Vembanad Lake. Because of its commercial importance, foreign
powers vied for supremacy in the area and therefore the place has a blend of
several exotic cultures like the Portuguese, Jewish, English, French, Dutch
Ferry rides in Kochi commands a breathtaking view due to its lush green
lawns sloping down to the water's edge. Giant Chinese fishing nets that
billow from massive teak and bamboo poles dot the entrance to the harbor.
Silhouetted against the setting sun, they present a magnificent sight at the
Houseboats are a unique way to experience the beauty of Cochin. The
houseboats glide on the backwaters of Kochi, with panoramic view passing by.
Few of the major tourist attractions are:
Bolghatty Island: Bolghatty palace, built by the Dutch in 1744 for their
governors and later used by the British governors is situated here. Today it
is a Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) owned hotel.
Willington Island: This is situated in the backwaters and is named after
the British viceroy to India, Lord Willington. The headquarters of the naval
command, port trust, trading centers etc are located here.
Fort Kochi: A fishing village, Fort Kochi became a European trading center
in the middle ages.
Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace): This was built by some foreigners on
Hindu architectural style in 1555.
St Francis Church: Built of wood in 1503, it may be the oldest European
church in India. Vasco-da-Gama was buried here.