Kerala is a land blessed with moderate climate, plentiful water, undulating hills, verdant forests, gushing rivers, sun kissed beaches – and the exotic backwaters. The backwaters are present almost all along the coast of Kerala, but are prominent in Alleppey and Kumarakom. They are a network of canals, brackish lagoons and lakes close to the Arabian Sea; the mingling of freshwater and seawater have given this area a unique and rich bio-diversity, making it a habitat for several endangered species of flora and fauna.
The best way to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of this unique geographical feature is to opt for any of the houseboat packages and to take a cruise in the backwaters of Alleppey. There are dozens of tour operators and all types and categories of houseboats, so you need to choose carefully. We hope you’ll find this guide useful and will help you book the right houseboat, allowing you to have the holiday of your dreams.
Best Time to Visit
Mid-October to mid-February is the best time, when the temperatures are moderate.
Cruise Location and Route
Houseboats can be booked from Alleppey, Kollam, Kochi or Kumarakom; however we recommend that you book from Alleppey as you have the maximum selection available in Alleppey. You also have more flexible trips compared to a trip around the lake in Kollam! Alleppey is the most popular destination for visitors looking for an enchanting houseboat cruise. You can have a cruise up to Kumarakom and back – traversing the bird sanctuary; the canals here are wider. You can also choose to go up to Kuttanad , with its lush fields of paddy (only place where farming takes place below sea level) on either side of the backwaters, or Alumkadavu, which is a fairly long cruise. Usually trips are round trips – you come back to Alleppey; however, if you’re proceeding to another location for a holiday, you can ask for a one-way cruise. Alleppey is known as the ‘Venice of the East’, and you can see many homes on the banks with their own boats tied to simple jetties.
Depending on your budget and the time you have, you can opt for a short day cruise, a one-night cruise, or even up to a week. However, a night or at the most two will suffice. Unless you’re looking to spend a long time away from the busy life! Normally, you check in at 12 pm and checkout is 9 or 10 am the next day – that is considered a one-night cruise.
Depending on the number of bedrooms (typically 1-5), the number of passengers to be accommodated and the category – or level of luxury – houseboats can range from 7000 to 25,000 or more per night; the price increases if you want the air conditioning on throughout the trip. You could try bargaining, especially in the off season.
How to Choose
Almost every tour operator has a website, or is listed on a travel our tour site. Visit the sites and check out tariffs, photographs and reviews left by previous guests. If any of your friends and family have been on a houseboat on the Alleppey backwaters recently, ask them about their experience. You can compare facilities offered, like how many meals, for instance. Some offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, others may also offer snacks and tea additionally. Some operators may offer extras like bathtub or Jacuzzi, fruit baskets, and so on. Make sure you get every little detail. If you’re interested in experiencing a rejuvenating Ayurvedic spa treatment or a traditional dance performance on board, those will be charged extra – and you need to inform the tour operator in advance.
Make sure that the houseboat has these facilities and that the asking price includes them:
- A tea/coffee maker
- Towels and soap
- A fan in every room
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Welcome drinks
If you want a truly indulgent and luxurious experience, look for a houseboat with an upper deck that features a sofa – it offers more privacy away from the crew, and offers scintillating, panoramic views of the landscape. For the seating area downstairs too, if you’re looking for the ultimate relaxation, look for houseboats with sofas rather than chairs. Houseboats normally don’t cruise at night; they are anchored at predetermined spots. It’s pretty likely that you’ll have some insects flying around and on the deck. If you’re squeamish, choose a boat that has an enclosed patio in the front so you can sit and eat in peace!
Book Online or On the Spot?
If you’re visiting Kerala during the peak season, you would do well to do the Alleppey houseboat booking in advance so that you get the houseboat that you want, and don’t have to make do. However, you may not be able to haggle for the price. If you go down to the dock on the day you want to start the cruise, and physically check out a couple of houseboats, you may be able to shave off a good bit on the original asking price. However, remember that this may not work out in the peak season as these boats are in high demand. You could try this if you’re visiting in the off-season months.
Kerala is called “God’s Own Country”, and rightly so, given the variety of natural surprises it has to offer – which includes Backwaters, Beaches, Hill stations, Waterfalls, Wildlife, Ayurveda and more. It is definitely a must-see destination in a lifetime.
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