With more than three hundred miles of sunny beaches, and nearly four thousand square miles of luxurious wilderness—including wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, and national parks—Kerala offers the widest range of vacation experiences for the budget minded traveler looking for the best value from a trip to India; but no trip to Kerala is complete without a visit to the state’s famed backwaters.
The backwaters of Kerala comprise a vast network of lakes and lagoons connected by an intricate system of rivers and man-made waterways that run through a densely forested region just inland from the Malabar Coast.
Fed by dozens of rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats, and sheltered from the Arabian Sea by a chain of barrier islands and deltas along India’s Southwestern coast, Kerala’s backwaters have long played a vital role in the state’s economy and culture; providing both fresh water for crop irrigation, and a means of transporting tea, rice, and grains from plantations to cities. Fishing, too, serves an important function in the Kerala’s economy; and the backwaters’ unique geological and ecological features combine to provide habitat for hundreds of brackish and freshwater aquatic species. The backwaters’ spectacular biodiversity provides a rich resource to both commercial and traditional fishing operations.
But, since the backwaters are unique to Kerala, the most important part they play in the state’s economy is as tourist attraction. The serenity, tranquility, and beauty of Kerala’s backwaters have made them the state’s most popular travel destination. Many of the barges once used to transport agricultural goods to market have been refurbished to serve as houseboats for travelers wishing embark upon a revitalizing odyssey through one of India’s most celebrated natural spectacles.
Thousands of houseboats, or kettuvallams, travel the Kerala backwaters’ 560 miles (900 km) of navigable waterways, transporting tourists in style and comfort through the maze of rivers and canals that make up this one-of-a-kind ecological wonder. Houseboat staff pilot the kettuvallams, prepare regional delicacies, and light coils at night to drive away mosquitoes and biting flies.
Nearly all kettuvallams in Kerala’s backwaters are equipped with sleeping quarters, dining rooms, and open-air sitting areas; and many offer air conditioning, and western-style toilets. To preserve the natural tranquility of the backwaters, however, most kettuvallam operators have chosen not to equip their boats with radios or televisions. Built to accommodate families and tourist groups of nearly any size for daylong sightseeing tours or multi-day cruises, kettuvallams offer a unique and economical way to experience the splendor of Kerala’s backwaters.
But a trip to the backwaters of Kerala offers more than the natural beauty and restful tranquility of its waterways. Though sparsely populated, several peaceful fishing villages, small towns, and active trade centers are situated throughout the backwaters, boasting resorts, villas, wildlife preserves, and other attractions. Visitors to Kerala can travel the serene rivers and canals of the backwaters during the day, and partake of the hospitality of a luxury resort—many of which offer ayurvedic treatments—at night.
All in all, a trip to the backwaters of Kerala offers the greatest variety of opportunities to the frugal world traveler—beautiful natural scenery, luxurious accommodations, healthful cuisine, and an invigorating journey through the pristine waterways of “God’s own country.” FABHRES can help you plan your trip by offering exclusive 5-, 6-, or 8-day travel packages designed to provide you with everything you need for an economical, safe, and stress-free vacation in the magnificent backwaters of Kerala. Book your trip today, and your journey.