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Keralan Houseboats (Rice barges)

Keralan Houseboats (Rice barges)

Locally known as 'kettuvallam', traditional rice barges are made by tying jackwood planks together with coir rope, and then coating them with black resin made from boiled cashew nut shells. 

Today, these 24 meter long crafts have been converted into simple, furnished houseboats. Traveling along the complex network of brackish lagoons, lakes and canals that make up Kerala’s backwaters aboard a houseboat is an excellent way to explore the region at a leisurely pace, taking in wildlife sightings and greeting locals as you go. 

Our rating: Simple

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The houseboats usually feature one or two en suite bedrooms, making this a very personal and intimate experience. Cold showers are available, and the crew can provide you with a bucket of warm water on request. Air conditioning can be turned on in your bedroom at night to make sleeping conditions more comfortable.


The houseboats can take a variety of different routes, all taking in the beautiful scenery of the backwaters.

Food and drink

A chef will be on board your houseboat to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll typically board your houseboat for lunch and cruise the backwaters until the boat moors just before dusk, after which you can tuck in to dinner on the deck. As lights lit on the deck at night attract insects, dinner is usually served early. In the morning you can enjoy breakfast before disembarking. 

While the boats don’t have a license to sell alcohol, you’re welcome to take your own if you wish. 

Facilities and activities

Each houseboat has an open lounge and a deck, where you can relax as you take in the passing scenery. They also have a kitchenette, and the crew on board consists of a captain and a chef.

Our opinion

A wonderfully relaxing way to see the backwaters, its rich birdlife and local activity. The crew usually speaks a little English, but they’re not able to speak at a conversational level. 

Please note that due to insects, lights are kept to a minimum at night. Those that are on have a low voltage, so it can be difficult to read.

Backwaters tour ideas

Nearby accommodation

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Places & hotels on the map

    Alternative places to stay nearby

    Where possible, we like to offer a range of accommodation for each stop of your trip, chosen by our specialists as some of their favorite places to stay. To help you make the right choice, we give each property a rating based on its facilities and service, but we also look for hotels with distinct character or a location that can’t be bettered.

    • Heritage Mansion, Coconut Lagoon Resort, Kumarakom

      Coconut Lagoon

      First Class

      Located on the eastern shore of Lake Vembanad, Coconut Lagoon offers all the comforts and facilities you would expect from a good resort.

    • Meandering Pool Villa, Kumarakom Lake Resort, Kumarakom

      Kumarakom Lake Resort

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      Thoughtfully laid out on the shores of Vembanad Lake, the Kumarakom Lake Resort is a relaxing retreat set amidst landscaped gardens and canals, which meander around the traditionally-styled cottages.

    • Olavipe Homestay, Backwaters

      Olavipe Homestay


      A stay here is a wonderful opportunity to meet with an interesting family and learn something of the way of life in the backwaters.

    • Philip Kutty’s Farm, Backwaters

      Philip Kutty's Farmhouse


      When you land on this island, punted across the water in a long canoe, you will feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.