An Alleppey houseboat moving down a wide canal in Kerala
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Best Guide To The Backwaters Of Kerala – On An Alleppey Houseboat

If you are looking for a nature-filled oasis then look no further than exploring the backwaters of Kerala, India! Known as the “Venice of the East”, Kerala is a vast network of canals and lakes that make for a perfect overnight Alleppey houseboat experience.

Kerala has become a sought-after tropical destination for both local and foreign travelers for its enchanting landscapes.

You will find a quiet and serene pocket of India where coconut palm trees sway among the 560 miles (900 km) of waterways that make up the backwaters of Kerala. And keep your eye out for the adorable and colorful Kingfisher birds!

A peachy pink church sitting on the banks of the backwaters of Kerala surrounded by lush palm trees.

Tip: If you will be traveling to other regions of India including the big cities of Delhi, Agra, and Mumbai, I would plan to visit Kerala at the end of your trip.

Kerala is very peaceful and a nice break from the chaotic sensory overload you find in many other areas of India. It is nice to end a trip with a bit of relaxation!

What Is Kerala Famous For?

Kerala is famous for its tranquil beauty, stunning landscapes, beaches, eco-tourism, and Ayurvedic spa treatments.

It is also well-known for yoga retreats and healthy eating with plenty of fresh seafood to keep you more than satisfied!

But what I think of most when I envision Kerala are the backwaters and the peaceful escape they provide…

Two young girls walking along the banks of a backwater canal seen from an Alleppey houseboat.

Where Are The Backwaters Of Kerala?

Kerala is a region located in the southernmost area of India, along the west coast going down to the tip of the country.

Many refer to Kerala as God’s Own Country and it is a tropical paradise filled with an abundance of flora, fauna, and spices.

Alleppey is about 39 miles (62 km) south of Kochi (Cochin). If you are flying into the region, you will fly into Cochin International Airport (COK). This is likely the airport that you would use to access all areas of Kerala.

To search for flights, explore the best deals today!

On a houseboat looking down out to the long backwater canal lined with other houseboats docked on either side and several lush palm trees.

What Are The Backwaters Of Kerala?

The backwaters of Kerala are a series of canals, rivers, lagoons, and lakes all interconnected to create a network for people to travel. And the main mode of transportation is of course ferries, canoes, and houseboats!

Although the backwaters are mainly freshwater from the rivers and lakes, they do meet the saltwater of the Arabian Sea at certain points. So even though some areas may be a little salty, the majority of the backwaters are freshwater.

Note: I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the backwaters as the quality of water is not great.

An adorable hot pink with a blue door small house along the banks of the backwater canal where locals live.

Which Are The Best Backwaters Of Kerala?

The most popular part of Kerala’s backwaters is Alleppey (Alappuzha). Alleppey has the largest network of canals among the backwaters and surrounded by the most beautiful coconut plantations, rice paddies, and numerous palm trees.

By far the best thing to do in Alleppey is to experience the backwater canals by boat or in this case a houseboat. Alleppey has the most houseboat options and the best overall experience because of the size of the canals.

An Alleppey houseboat cruising along the backwaters of Kerala.

To imagine its beautiful allure, Alleppey is also known as the “Venice of the East” for its enormous canal network. It is truly the perfect place to unplug and relax on the water…

But if you also want to explore some of the smaller canals then I recommend seeing a few other backwaters. Backwaters that are worth visiting in addition to Alleppey are:

Kumarakom Backwaters – also on Vembanad Lake that welcomes visitors with rows of coconut palms, a small village, and delicious fresh seafood.

Kollam Backwaters – these backwaters are calm embracing the beauty of nature and one of the longest backwaters in Kerala about 2 hours south of Alleppey.

Kozhikode Backwaters – About 4.5 hours north of Kochi and was originally a spice trade route for the Portuguese.

A bright yellow canoe boat docked on the side of a canal with many coconut palm trees.

How To Get To The Backwaters Of Alleppey

Alleppey is located 39 miles (62 km) south of Kochi between the Arabian Sea Coast and Vembanad Lake. From Vembanad Lake the canals and lagoons branch off from here.

If you are flying or taking the train into Kochi (Cochin), expect the drive from Kochi to be about 1.5 hours to Alleppey. I had hired a driver from Kochi but you can also take the train from Kochi to Alleppey.

The train station in Alleppey (Alappuzha) is the Alappuzha Railway Station (ALLP). To check train schedules, visit the railway website.

From the train station, you can either grab a taxi or have the company you have booked a houseboat with pick you up if available.

Depending on which Alleppey houseboat company you go with will determine where you take off from. Each operator can provide directions or may pick you up.

Palm trees along banks of canal and rice paddies in the background.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Kerala?

The best time to visit Kerala and experience an overnight houseboat experience in Alleppey would be from September to February.

Outside of these months, the weather can get extremely hot, humid, and full of monsoon storms.

I visited at the beginning of October and it was hot but nice and no rain thankfully!

Watching a houseboat go by from the houseboat I am on with palm trees behind it along the banks of the canal.

Essential Tips For Visiting India

  • Carry mosquito wipes or spray as once dusk hits there are swarms of bugs and mosquitos.
  • Kerala is known for its food, so take a cooking class!
  • Always make sure to have cash in small denominations as places might not take credit cards.
  • The currency is the Indian rupee (INR). Use the XE Currency app to help assist with determining exchange rate.
  • I would avoid using ATM machines located on the streets as they are likely not as well maintained and easy to lose your card in.
  • Keep your money and passport tucked away in this money belt or this scarf with a hidden pocket.
  • Only drink bottled water or water you have purified yourself. Carry a water purifier bottle to get rid of germs and avoid getting sick!
  • If you do buy bottled water, make sure the seal of the cap has not been broken! A local told me that sometimes bottles are filled with tap water and sold as new…
  • In India, you will notice that there are two prices, one for locals and one for foreigners. If you don’t live in India then you pay the foreigner price.
  • Hindi is the main language spoken but most will speak English as well.
  • Carry a portable power bank to keep your phone always charged!
  • Be aware that most bathrooms in India are a hole in the ground that you need to squat over. It may seem intimidating at first but you get used to it quickly!
  • Carry plenty of Kleenex, alcohol wipes, and hand sanitizer!

 

A few white goats hanging out in front of a local home on the side of the canal in Kerala backwaters.

How Much Time To Spend On An Alleppey Houseboat?

Spending one night on an Alleppey houseboat is enough to capture the essence and experience life on the backwaters. But if time allows, I’d say spend two nights as you won’t want to leave!

The houseboats in Alleppey are known as “kettuvallam” as they were originally not for tourists to enjoy. But rather a way to transport spices, rice, crawfish, and people to and from different areas of the backwaters.

Depending on your budget, you can book a houseboat with modest yet nice amenities or luxury houseboats that may even have a jacuzzi on board! It really comes down to your style or budget.

Tip: If you are not one to enjoy sleeping in hot weather then it might be good for you to book a houseboat that has AC.

A peach and white-colored church that catches your eye in between palm trees along the canal.

What To Expect On An Alleppey Houseboat Cruise

Upon boarding the houseboat, we were greeted with a coconut filled with fresh coconut water that was a perfect start to the cruise.

Stepping onto the houseboat was a welcome and tranquil surprise compared to other regions of India that can be hectic, to say the least!

Included on an overnight boat are your room, meals, driver, and cook to assist with any of your needs. During booking, you will be asked for any dietary needs and/or if you are vegetarian to cater the meals to your liking.

A fresh coconut with a straw to drink the coconut water from and with other houseboats in the background.

I was more than pleasantly delighted with the meals and was shocked at how much food they gave for just two people!

All the dishes are centered around Kerala cuisine, with a lot of seafood and curry options. My belly was bursting I ate so much…

It was one of those times where the food was so good and you hated to leave anything behind. That would be rude, right?

Earlier in the day, we had stopped to get fresh crawfish from a local fisherman off of his canoe and they were spectacular! While stopping at a little village fill up on any alcohol you might want to enjoy onboard too.

Live crawfish freshly caught from the backwaters and ready to be cooked for dinner.

The majority of your time will be spent sitting on either a chair or bench gazing out watching life of locals, kids playing, and women washing their clothes.

Here and there you will see bright colored churches, clusters of banana trees, plenty of rice paddies, and coconut palms galore.

Since you will be lounging and taking a ton of photos, dress casual and comfy as there is no better time for complete leisure.

At night, the houseboats are anchored along the banks of a canal but during the day the boat will cruise through the vast lakes and canals.

Sitting at the front of an Alleppey houseboat looking out in front of me at the beauty of the large lake.

How Do I Book An Overnight Alleppey Houseboat?

I recommend booking your overnight houseboat stay online before you get there so that you guarantee availability. This is even more important during the months of December and January.

Depending on the size of your group, you can book a boat that has 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 bedrooms onboard.

Each boat operator usually has budget, premium, and luxury boat options so that you can select based on the amount you want to spend.

If you are looking for an excellent 1 night on an Alleppey (Alappuzha) houseboat experience on the backwaters of Kerala, you will enjoy this 2 – Day Alappuzha Backwaters Houseboat Cruise!

If you would rather spend more nights on a houseboat, these companies offer wonderful options:

Ayana’s Houseboats

Cruise Land Houseboats

Prasanthy Houseboats

Tip: If you book around Christmas or New Years, the prices will be higher than other days. So, if you don’t want to pay high rates avoid those weeks.

Watching a large houseboat cruise by the houseboat I am on.

Overall Is It Worth Doing An Overnight Kerala Houseboat?

Yes! Staying overnight on an Alleppey houseboat was a magical experience and one that I will never forget. And I do plan to stay on a houseboat on my next visit back to Kerala as it is incredibly relaxing.

I stayed on the houseboat with my ex and it was perfect for a romantic setting. Having said that, it is also a great place for a family getaway, or with friends.

Advertising for a spice market in colorful paint of yellow, red, blue and white along a street in Kochi.

Other Sights To Visit In Kerala

Kochi

Either before or after your overnight Alleppey houseboat stay, I recommend staying a day or two to explore Kochi. Kochi (Cochin) is a charming town that has its history tied with the Dutch and Portuguese and as a spice port.

Wander the quaint main town square, enjoy great food, and admire the Portuguese-inspired architecture. Fort Kochi should be high on the list of places to see along with the Mattancherry Palace.

Close-up view of a ancient Chinese cantilevered fishing nets still used today.

Several Chinese cantilevered fishing nets in Kerala

My favorite sight to see in Kochi may be the fisherman using Chinese cantilevered nets that are mesmerizing to watch! This ancient form of fishing really is an artistic display that you don’t want to miss.

Tip: If you are looking for an amazing place to stay in Kochi (Cochin), these three hotels are great picks!

Brunton Boatyard

Kochi Marriott Hotel

Fragrant Nature Kochi

Munnar

Munnar is known for its sprawling tea plantations so if you are a tea lover this is a destination you don’t want to miss! The rolling hills are carpeted in various shades of green and an idyllic setting for an overnight stay.

Tip: If you want to stay in the lush hills of tea plantations, you will enjoy staying at any of these locations!

Tea Valley Resort

Blackberry Hills Resort & Spa

Mountain Club Resort

Varkala

A dreamy beach destination that has golden sand and gorgeous red cliffs sprinkled with palm trees along the Arabian Sea. If you are looking for a place to completely relax, sunbathe and restore Varkala Beach is it!

It is also well known for its abundance of Ayurveda treatments with massage and oils. You can even get a massage right on the beach!

Be aware that the currents at Varkala Beach can be strong, so if you are not a good swimmer ask lifeguards what the conditions are.

Tip: Here are a few great beachfront hotels to stay at in Varkala!

Gateway Varkala

Magnolia Guesthouse Varkala

Enjoy your stay on the backwaters of Kerala via an Alleppey houseboat!

Three local women walking in colorful saris on a street in Kochi.

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48 Comments

  1. Those house boats look amazing to try out! I love how unique they look. I hadn’t heard of this part of India before but it looks beautiful.

    1. It is such a fun experience and an area so different from the rest of India that makes for a unique trip! 🙂

  2. Kerala is such a fascinating destination, no wonder it’s called God’s own country. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post on Kerala backwaters, it’s lush green coastline and serene beaches are always tempting!

    1. You’re welcome! Yes, Kerala is a beautiful area of India to visit for its abundance of nature. 🙂

  3. I did not know that the backwaters of Kerala was known and the Venice of the East. That would certainly draw me out on the water for these serene views. A houseboat rental overnight is a great way to enjoy the views at your own pace.

  4. The houseboats look like an amazing and fun adventure. I like the undeveloped feel of the backwaters. Kerala has been on my list for a while but I never knew about this aspect of the region. Thanks for letting me know.

    1. Taking an overnight houseboat cruise is super fun and such a contrast with other regions of India. Very laid back and focused around nature which is a treat. I hope you get to visit Kerala one day! 🙂

  5. Wow this place looks so beautiful. I’m definitely visiting it when I can travel to India. I think it’s a great idea to visit Kerala after visiting the bigger cities in India.

    1. Yes, Kerala is the perfect way to end a trip in India as it is so chill and relaxing which is much needed after traveling throughout India. 🙂

  6. When I visited India, I underestimated how BIG it was. I, therefore, did not make it to Kerela. I now have an excuse to try again because staying on a houseboat seems fun and different from other travel experiences. It is on my list!

    1. Omg, India is enormous! I was the same and after three trips I still haven’t seen it all. Always something wonderful to go back and see. Enjoy Kerala when you do go back! 🙂

  7. I have never been to India, but I love that Kerela is known for its eco-tourism! What an amazing idea to spend a night on a houseboat exploring the backwaters! It sounds like an absolutely incredible experience!

    1. Kerala is a really unique area and yes very much about nature and eco-tourism. It is a special experience to cruise the backwaters for sure! 🙂

  8. This looks like such a relaxing way to explore the area (and the Alleppey area sounds fantastic!) I love the idea of cruising along these waterways, seeing the wildlife and attempting to learn to cook the tasty local dishes. Those fishing nets are really cool too! Did you get to try fish curries caught in those nets?

    The only thing that would put me off is the mozzies…

    1. It was so relaxing! I highly recommend it especially at the end of an India trip. Haha, no we didn’t have fish from those nets but it was very fresh! So many curries including fish which were all so delicious. Luckily the boat has mosquito nets that roll down to enclose the boat otherwise we would’ve been eaten alive! And as a precaution, I took anti-malaria pills just in case… 🙂

  9. My friend is from India and showed me pictures of her trip doing something similar, it looks like such a great experience. I’m all about boats and unique accommodation so this seems like such a fun thing to do. Plus, really nice that it looks so quiet and a great escape from some of the bigger cities and densely populated areas of India

    1. I think that is what makes it so such an amazing experience as it is unique and a contrast to the rest of India. I hope you get to visit the backwaters of Kerala one day and see for yourself! 🙂

  10. I’ve just put this on our list. Staying overnight on a houseboat in these backwaters sounds and looks like a lot of fun. Your post contains very useful tips, too, like making Kerala the last stop of the trip. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Staying on the houseboat was so much fun and an experience I hope you get to do one day! 🙂

  11. How fun! I didn’t know that houseboats were a thing in Kerala! Love that they feed you plenty 🙂 looks fun and relaxing!

    1. Houseboats are pretty popular there in a few areas of Kerala and such a unique way to see the backwaters. Haha, yes there is more than enough food at meals and many yummy snacks! 🙂

  12. This looks absolutely idyllic! What a fabulous way to have some R and R after exploring the busy areas of India. Staying on a houseboat would be really special. I am definitely taking a note of this for when I finally make it to India.

    1. Such a relaxing way to spend a few days and yes very idyllic! This will be a fun addition to any trip to India. 🙂

    1. Kerala has incredible food that is so fresh and healthy with lots of seafood. It is an adventure I recommend! 🙂

  13. It sounds like a night on a houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala would be such a memorable experience. I would have to take buckets of bug spray though as those mozzies love me! I’m going to add this to my India bucket list.

    1. Staying on a houseboat is amazing as it is so relaxing and great if you need to recharge. I love that name mozzies, so cute! I’ve never heard of mosquitos called that. Luckily they really are only a problem once dusk hits. Yes, so many awesome places to visit in India! 🙂

  14. What a lovely experience Vanessa! I’ve never been to India, but I’d want to visit Kerala to try out this houseboat.

    1. I would definitely recommend staying on a houseboat if you visit southern India! 🙂

  15. This sounds like such a great experience! There are just so many interesting places to visit in India, my bucket list keeps growing!

    1. There really are so many diverse and amazing places to visit in India. Yes, I have many great memories from that houseboat stay. I hope you get to experience it one day too! 🙂

  16. These houseboats sound amazing! I didn’t even know these backwater canals existed let alone the houseboat way to see it. This would be something I would love to do. Thank you for opening my mind to a new possibility of seeing India!

    1. I’m so glad to introduce you to the awesome houseboats and backwaters of Kerala! And I hope you get to experience it yourself one day! 🙂

  17. That’s my kind of vacation! Floating on back rivers and chilling out with lots of food. lol Sign me up!

  18. Definitely a lovely place to escape the hustle and bustle of other places of India. I hadn’t heard of this before Vanessa.

    1. Kerala is quite lovely John and an oasis in nature! I hope you get the chance to experience a houseboat cruise yourself one day! 🙂

  19. This looks so peaceful and cultural! Any post about India catches my eye since my boyfriend is from Shillong. I’m planning a visit hopefully before the end of the year! Something to add to my India list!

    1. That is exciting that you are planning a trip to India! Have a wonderful time and enjoy a houseboat cruise! 🙂

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