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A large part of Kerala’s considerable charm lies in the Backwaters, a network of canals that lead off Lake Vembanad.

Local life

Whether you spend time in one of the palm-shaded hotels or drift along in a rice boat, it is difficult not to be captivated by the local way of life. Seeing children travelling to school in a narrow canoe, local ladies washing the pots at the side of the canal and fishermen netting their daily meal in the shallows, you realise how integral this network is to the life of the region.

Villages, temples and churches are built along the banks and the area is also a haven for wildlife with wading birds, kingfishers and fish eagles.

Rice Boats

Houseboat, KeralaThese traditional wooden craft, originally used to transport rice along Kerala’s lush green backwaters, have found a new lease of life quietly exploring timeless scenes of palms and paddies, temples and villages. Boats have either one or two fan-cooled bedrooms with attached shower rooms. The sides are open allowing the breeze to flow freely. Your private crew steer the boat, cook lavish local meals and keep you in tea and cold drinks.

As you drift along the backwaters, you can see the local villagers fishing and washing clothes in the canals, as small boys swim alongside the boats shouting ‘Hello’ and ‘Which country?’. Birdlife is plentiful: stork and egret are often spotted. Even a day on a rice boat is a unique and unforgettable experience, but staying overnight, on a boat gives the chance to experience dusk and dawn on the still, reflective waters.

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who's been there

James, an Audley Travel specialist

Start planning your tailor-made trip to the Backwaters by contacting one of our India specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring the Backwaters

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in the Backwaters, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of the Backwaters

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near the Backwaters

    Our expert guides to exploring the Backwaters

    Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting the Backwaters, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate the Backwaters at its best.

    • What to do in Kerala: our highlights guide
      Alleppey Backwaters, Kerala

      What to do in Kerala: our highlights guide

      What to do in Kerala: our highlights guide

      Kerala’s slow pace of life is a gentle introduction to India, with tranquil backwaters, manicured tea plantations and fishing villages to explore. India specialist Tara lends her advice for how to make the most of your time there.

      8 min read

      Read this guide
    • Homestays in Kerala
      Keralan backwaters

      Homestays in Kerala

      Homestays in Kerala

      The concept of the homestay was first developed in Kerala and the naturally friendly Keralites continue to welcome visitors to their homes. Our specialists have visited many homestays and can suggest the best places to stay.

      1 min read

      Read this guide

    Accommodation choices for the Backwaters

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit the Backwaters. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Traditional houseboat cruise

      Keralan Houseboats (Rice barges)

      Simple

      Exploring the backwaters of Kerala by houseboat is a wonderful and unique experience, allowing you to observe the area’s fascinating culture and rich wildlife as you glide peacefully along the water. Each vessel is comfortable and well-equipped for a short stay.

    • Meandering Pool Villa, Kumarakom Lake Resort, Kumarakom

      Kumarakom Lake Resort

      First Class

      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.

    • 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.

    • Olavipe Homestay, The Backwaters

      Olavipe Homestay

      Simple

      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

      Medium

      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.