- Location: Parallel to the Arabian Sea coast in the state of Kerala in South India.
- Best time to Visit: December through May.
- How to Reach
Air: The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport (COK), also known as Kochi International Airport, or Nedumbassery Airport, located at Nedumbassery, near Kochi in Kerala. This airport is connected to all the major cities of India and also several major destinations across the globe including Sharjah, Dammam, Jeddah, Al Ain, Salalah, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha, Dubai, Muscat, Kuwait, Singapore, and Colombo.
Rail: If you want to reach Kochi by train, you need to head to Ernakulam. There are two major rail stations in Kochi viz. Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction. Ernakulam is connected to the rest of the country through a well-spread network of Indian Railways.
Bus: Kochi is connected to all parts of Kerala by extensive bus services run by the Kerala Road Transport Corporation. There several private buses to Kochi from different parts of the state as well.
- Nearest Airport: Cochin International Airport (COK).
- Nearest Rail Station: Ernakulam
The Kerala Backwaters — an Introduction
Kerala Backwaters include 38 rivers and 5 large lakes interlinked by manmade and natural canals. One of the major tourist attractions in India, the Backwaters of Kerala, is usually explored by kerala houseboats. This provides tourists with a unique opportunity to experience the lifestyle and indigenous culture of the people who inhabit the banks of the canals. There is no better way to explore the life of Kerala and its people than sailing on a boat along the Kerala Backwaters that becomes your home for the entire duration of your trip. Kerala literally means ‘God own Land’, and the breathtaking beauty of the backwaters justifies the name. It is a network of 1500 km lagoon and lakes, which appears to be the handiwork of the Supreme Artist himself!
The Kerala Backwaters, sometimes compared to the American Bayou, provide a unique ecosystem where freshwater from rivers mixes with water from the Arabian Sea. In some parts of the Backwaters like Vembanad Kayal, barrages have been built to restrict the seawater from mixing up with the river water and hence keeping it fresh and intact. This arrangement allows the tourists with an opportunity to experience numerous unique species of aquatic life such as crabs, frogs and mudskippers, a number of water birds like terns, darters, kingfishers, and cormorants. You also get to see a few animals like otters and turtles that inhabit these waters.
A Ride through the Kerala Backwaters
The Kerala Backwaters can be explored by hiring a boat from several spots known as the starting points of Kerala Backwaters tours. Though there are several starting and ending points of backwater tours in Kerala, the most popular and accessible part is the Ernakulam area, where the Kochi harbor is located. Two of the most popular gateways of Kerala Backwaters are Ashtamudi Lake and Vembanad Lake. In your tour to Kerala Backwaters, the ‘Kettuvallms’ or the Kerala houseboats will be one of the major highlights. More than 400 Kettuvallms ply the backwaters regularly.
The Kerala Backwaters can be divided into four regions viz. Kollam, Alappuzha, Kuttanad, and Kumarakom.
Kollam: One of the popular starting points of the Kerala Backwaters, Kollam was once the leading trade centers of the ancient world. The most significant area of Kollam is the Ashtamudi Kayal, which covers almost 30 percent of Kollam and is known as the gateway to the backwaters.
Alappuzha: Also known as Alleppy, this region of Backwaters is close to Vembanad Kayal, which attracts good number of tourists every year. The palm covered Pathiramanal Island and the snake boat races are the highlights of this region.
Kuttanad: It is a vast area consisting of bright green paddy fields separated by dykes. Kuttanad is often considered as backwater paradise and arguably the most popular destination for a backwater cruise in Kerala.
Kumarakom: This region is a cluster of small islands on the Vembanad Kayal. It has wonderful scenic beauty with a number of luxurious resorts that offer ayurvedic treatment to re-energize your body and soul. This region is also known for houseboat cruises. The bird sanctuary is an added attraction over here.
In your Kerala Backwater cruise, you should also visit places like Munroe Island in Kollam district, Kasargod in north Kerala, Thiruvallm Backwaters, and Kozhikode, etc. During the backwater cruise, most of the travelers prefer to stay on the houseboats, but you also have the option to stay at the resorts that offer comfortable accommodation to the tourists.
For more information on the Backwaters, and to see some of the wonderful views that it present, click on the following links:
http://realtravel.com/alleppey-journals-j6994033.html: A couple’s fascinating account of a journey to the Backwards! It is eventful, funny and informative at the same time.
http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=oQrSIujzErQ: For exciting views of a cruise in the Kerala backwaters, watch this video!
http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=8B7GbkArzt8: Another great video that capture the charm and magic of the Kerala backwaters. Check it out!