Kerala’s backwaters are known for their serenity and tranquillity — offering travellers a much-needed getaway from the hustle and bustle of India’s mega-cities.
Travellers here can experience peace, awake to the sounds of birds chirping, lapping waves and, possibly, the soothing sounds of prayers at a distant Hindu temple.
Kerala is best explored by houseboats — these can range from simple to fully luxurious accommodation where guests will want for nothing.
We have opted to go with the latter.
Starting in the main backwater town of Alleppey, about an hour and a half from the coastal town of Fort Cochin — seek out the company Spice Routes. This luxury houseboat company offer one-to-five-bedroom boats that feel homely and private — as opposed to a full-blown luxury hotel on the water.
This charm fits perfectly with the serenity that is Kerala’s backwaters. While aboard the boat, guests will experience all the backwaters have to offer from ancient temples to quiet villages and, of course, the lush scenery.
The boats anchor far from any major town, so there is no chance of being disturbed on your retreat.
Dining aboard your floating abode is one of the most memorable parts of any journey. Fresh seafood bought directly from local fishermen makes up the majority of the meals whether that be fresh lobster, mussels or fish. The produce on your plate has been locally sourced and there are plenty of vegetarian options — this is India, after all.
Highly recommended are guided canoe rides to explore the even narrower canals the houseboat cannot reach. Stop in villages to learn how to make Keralan chutneys or cook like the locals. You can fish the waters and even go “Toddy Tapping” — that is, harvesting the local arrack, or palm wine, straight from coconut trees. The spirit is quite good for those adventurous enough to give it a try.
Finally, the wildlife in the backwaters is incredible. Bird watching is king here, expect to see extremely diverse birdlife. A personal favourite was watching blue and yellow Kingfishers truly live up to their name by swooping into the waters to catch small fish.
Birds are not the only creatures calling these bountiful waters home. Travellers will see turtles, frogs, crabs and even otters if they keep their eyes peeled.
Staying on Spice Routes’ houseboats starts at approximately $400 per night for the one-bedroom to around $1000 a night for the 6-bedroom boat. Various other costs will be incurred depending on the route and activities guests partake in.
If you need a vacation, to relax and disconnect from the world entirely, there is simply nothing better than a laid-back cruise of Kerala’s famous backwaters.