Kerala’s backwaters are a unique series of interconnecting lakes, canals and rivers lying parallel to the Arabian sea on the Malabar coast. Some of the waterways are natural and some manmade, freshwater from the rivers meets and sometimes mixes with salt sea water, a barrage near Kumarakom, keeps sea water from entering Vembanad lake as the waters are used to irrigate the adjacent farmland. In all, there are around 900kms of navigable water, Vembanad lake alone covers 200sq km. Before the coming of roads and railways, these waterways were the only way to transport rice and other commodities in kettuvellum, wooden barges constructed of wood and coir, with a thatched roof to protect the cargo.Today, these same barges have been adapted as houseboats, a big attraction to tourists for the fantastic experience of cruising the backwaters, fringed with gently waving palm trees and paddy fields. Drifting peacefully along, glimpses of rural life, houses, and small temples delight the eye. The local population still use the backwaters for transporting goods and people, ferries operate between towns and villages as a cheap means of transport.
Allepey, Kumarakom and Kollam are the most important backwater towns for tourists, being centres to hire a houseboat.
Allepey is sometimes called Venice of the east owing to it,s several canals, it is popular all year round, attracting tourists from around the world for the backwater houseboat experience. There is a beach for family fun and picnics, and famous snake boat races take place every year. Kumarakom is on a group of small islands on Vembanad lake, it is known for it,s wonderful resorts and hotels as well as being an ideal point to take a houseboat cruise. This place is peace, tranquillity, sparkling water and green nature in one spot.
Kollam was praised by Marco Polo as one of the great trade ports of the ancient world. Kollam, on Ashtamudi lake, marks the start of the backwaters, an 8 hr cruise will take you to Allepey through enchanting scenery, and waters with lotus and waterlilies.
No where else will you find an experience like the backwaters of Kerala, they are unique.