Kerala India Travel Guide – The Best Ways to Experience the Backwaters

In the last Kerala India Travel blog post we gave an introduction to the beautiful Kerala backwaters. Now that you’ve decided to visit, here are our recommended ways to experience the Kerala Backwaters. We’ll be giving you the complete lowdown on our favourite backwater adventures (Canoe trip, Houseboat and Homestay) in later blog posts.

Canoe Trip

There are plenty of locals willing to take you out in a traditional dugout canoe propelled by a bamboo pole, and this is a great way to explore the smaller waterways. Many trips give you the opportunity to visit villages along the way and learn more about traditional life here. You can even hire a canoe from many guesthouses and resorts to explore on your own. Recommended for everyone – a range of trips are available to suit all budgets and timescales.

Kerala Houseboats

One of the most popular ways of exploring the backwaters is in a houseboat designed like a kettuvallam (rice barge), typically on an overnight trip from Alleppey. All worries disappear as you watch the world go by from the luxurious comfort of your own private floating home. Recommended for honeymooners, travellers with limited time, and those wanting to experience the backwaters in comfort.


There are plenty of opportunities to stay with Keralan families and really experience backwater life and culture. Nothing beats some of the finest home-cooked food in India and the chance to meet the locals. We’ll be revealing our best-loved homestays (and our favourite place in the world!) in later posts. Recommended for sociable travellers with more time who want the full backwaters experience. Budget and more comfortable options are available.

Lake Resort

There are many luxurious backwater resorts offering comfortable, private accommodation in tranquil locations. They offer a wide range of facilities and activities including air conditioning, swimming pools, boat trips, Ayurvedic treatments and yoga classes. Recommended for honeymooners, and those wanting to experience the backwaters in comfort.

Local Ferry

Travelling through the backwaters by local public ferry is a cheap and untouristy way to explore. You’ll witness many of the same sights as on a houseboat and have the opportunity to meet the locals. Some boats can be noisy, crowded and uncomfortable, but they are fine for shorter journeys. We travelled by local ferry to our backwater homestay. Recommended for adventurous travellers and those on a budget.

Tourist Day Cruise

The most popular backwater cruise is the eight hour trip from Kollam to Allappuzha or reverse. These are set up specifically for tourists and include stops for lunch, chai, a temple visit and a kathakali demonstration. Visitors can also be dropped off at the Matha Amrithanandamayi Mission to visit one of India’s only female gurus, known as Hugging Mother. You can stay at the ashram and pick up an onward or return cruise a day or two later. Recommended for travellers on a budget, and those who want to travel between Kollam and Allappuzha.

At Kerala India Travel we recommend combining as many of these as possible, to get a fuller experience of the backwaters. In particular, a homestay, houseboat and canoe trip should not be missed (you can read more about these in later posts). We really recommend that you allow plenty of time for the backwaters. Do this place justice by taking the time to soak up the luxuriously slow pace of life, and really get to know the people and culture. If you are anything like us, you’ll never want to leave.

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Have you travelled in the Kerala backwaters? Leave a comment and let us know what your favourite way to explore is.

Have you travelled in the Kerala backwaters? Leave a comment and let us know what your favourite way to explore is.

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14 Responses to “Kerala India Travel Guide – The Best Ways to Experience the Backwaters”

  1. […] More information on different options is available in our post on the Best Ways to Experience the Kerala Backwaters. […]

  2. Joe Griffin says:

    I love your blog. My wife and I will be coming in December. First to Bangalore, then to Chennai (work) but free from December 30th until January 10th. Would love to spend some time in Kerala and eventually a couple of days with my brother in Trivandrum after Jan 5th. Probably fly from Chennai to Cochin. Where would you recommend for a nice homestay with possibilities of exploring backwaters and seeing some wildlife and birds. Would we need to take malaria precautions before we travel from Ireland? Any advice greatly received. Thanks Joe

  3. Erin says:

    Hi Joe,
    Glad you’ve found the blog useful – it’s always nice to get feedback.

    My favourite place to stay in the backwaters is a wonderful homestay on a small island about 1 hour on local ferry from Alleppey. It’s run by a great guy called Thomas who takes you out on walks, bike rides and canoe trips around the village where you get to meet the locals and learn a lot about the culture.

    There are lots of activities you could do, or just relax next to the river. The home cooked food is amazing. The rooms are not luxurious, but are comfortable with private bathrooms. A year ago it cost us 1700 rupees a day for us both including all meals and most activities.

    It’s called Green Palm Homes and you can email Thomas at or or call on 0091 (0) 477 272 4497. He can be hard to get hold of by email though. Many people (us included!) end up staying here far longer than planned.

    I’ll be writing a full review of this homestay on this site soon.

    You can see plenty of birds in the backwaters, but for bigger wildlife you might want to consider a trip to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

    Regarding malaria advice it’s best to go and see your doctor as the situation changes all the time. Or check out the website We didn’t take malaria pills in Kerala, but many people do. It’s best to read up on it yourself and make your own decision.

    I hope this helps and have a great trip, Erin.

  4. […] 2) The Best Ways to Experience the Kerala Backwaters The backwaters are one of the most beautiful and unique areas of Kerala. This article explores the best ways to experience them including houseboat, canoe, homestay and local ferry. […]

  5. Ann says:

    There are so many backwater locations to select from for the houseboats. Any recommendations on any particular backwater house boat area eg: backwaters of allepey, or backwaters of kollam etc. There are also many wildlife sanctuaries to see – which are recommended and why?

    Many Thanks

  6. Erin says:

    We really enjoyed the ride from Kollam to Alleppey. There are less crowds in the Kollam area. Periyar is always a popular choice for wildlife sanctuary or for less crowds head north. Here are some options:

  7. rahul says:

    Kerala is most beautiful place of India as well as it earning tourist place of India. and your Blog really helps people to find out cheap accommodation and tour package to Kerala.

  8. yola says:

    I am planning to go to India in January. Kochin, Kerala backwaters…and up to goa… could you pls advice about malaria is it in this area? and also where you recomend me to eat as some ppl say they get realy sick eating in India.
    Many thank

  9. Erin says:

    We didn’t take malaria pills in Kerala but did for Goa and further north. It’s a difficult issue and there is no right and wrong answer so its best to speak to your doctor. We ate in street stalls, homestays and local restaurants and never got sick. I only got sick after eating in a tourist restaurant in Goa! So you never know. Just avoid the water (even for brushing teeth) and choose places to eat that are busy and where the food looks fresh.

  10. leona macleod says:

    The Backwaters must be one of the most unique beautiful places there is. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to buy a house on the Backwaters of Alleppey. The people are so friendly offering unconditional friendship. The scenery is awesome, watching the local people going about their daily business is fascinating and getting to know them is particularly interesting. The food is delicious I have never had a problem with food poisoning. I highly recommend Kerala as a unique holiday experience.

  11. Yogesh Gupta says:


    I want to have a great vacation in Kerala, so can anyone suggest me the best way to start up from which city and then end with a happy feel.

  12. shantanu says:

    Thanks a lot for the information. You really summed up everything nicely.

  13. r c mathew says:

    Like to spend july 28th 1: 00 pm thru’ Aug. 1st 11: 30 am in Kerala for 3 adults. Please advise a good travel package


  14. Neha Jaiswal says:

    thank you for the information. Visiting Kerala has been a dream of my mother since many years. this July , for her 50th bday I’m planning a girls only trip along with all her sisters and my cousins etc :) i will go through your blog thoroughly but any “not – to – be – missed” suggestions?