The backwaters of Kerala’s Alappuzha District are the USP of India’s jewel – Kerala. In tiny coastal villages, strung together by the intricate network of canals and lagoons, the day begins and ends on water. Quotidian life continues pretty much at the same placid pace as it must have eons ago. Road rage is a distant memory when life moves at 20km an hour, water flows gently, unendingly for miles around, and traffic has to slow down because armies of ducks have paddled into view.

Backwater Cruises
Most backwater cruises will take you on a standard route. However, if you want to venture deeper into the narrower canals and remoter villages, you will have to request the boatmen and customise your trip. If you want to hire a private boat, the charges are more or less the same.

Motorboat ₹600 per hour for 5 pax; ₹1,000 per hour for a full 10-seater boat; Speedboat ₹3,000 per hour (3–4 pax); Overnight houseboat stay for a couple Non-AC ₹6,500; AC ₹7,500; Day cruise for a couple ₹6,500, inclusive of meals

You can start your backwaters tour from a number of places, including Ernakulam, Kumarakom, Kottayam and Kollam. The stretch from Kayamkulam Lake to Kochi via Alappuzha is much preferred.

Prashant Panjiar
A boat snaking through the backwaters of Alleppey
A boat snaking through the backwaters of Alleppey

Trikkunapuzha
The association of Alleppey’s houseboat owners runs the Coir Village Lake Resort (Tel: 0479-2482210; Tariff: ₹2,400–4,300) on Trikkunapuzha Island, just south of the lock that separates the freshwater of Alappuzha backwaters from the saltwater of the Kayamkulam region.

Kanjipadam
The Green Palace Health Resort (Cell: 09446917533, 08289933715; Tariff: ₹3,500–5,000) is a family home that has been refurbished to become a hotel. The house is on a peaceful island, with its own rice paddies at the rear. The new cottages on the riverfront are very comfy indeed, and of course, the resort offers Ayurveda.

Champakulam
Kuttanadu River Resort
(Tel: 0477- 2736248; Tariff: ₹900–4,500), down the canal from St Mary’s, is a new place with cottages in a courtyard. The cottages are clean, functional and air conditioned. The service is friendly and they also have a comprehensive kitchen.

Triveny River Palace (Tel: 2737114; Tariff: ₹4,500–7,500) by the Pampa river has a swimming pool, spa as well as Wi-Fi. Akkarakalam Memoirs (Cell: 09446366066; Tariff: ₹5,500) is a beautiful property set in a 150-year-old home in Ponga village, with seven rooms in two cottages. You can fish, take canoe and motorboat rides, observe toddy tapping and go on village walks and farm visits.

Manimalathara
Emerald Isle Heritage Villa
(Tel: 0477- 2703899, Cell: 09447077555, 094957 77888; Tariff: ₹4,300–7,300) is a little jewel of a homestay. The house, a 150-year-old tharavad, has polished wooden beams and gleaming red-oxide floors. It fronts a canal, and the property is a maze of little fishing ponds (where they catch karimeen for their own table) and banana and coconut trees. They also have their own Ayurvedic set-up.

Alappuzha
The huge Lake Palace Resort (Tel: 0477-2239701/ 04; Tariff: ₹8,000–20,000), at Chungam in Alleppey’s Thirumala has opulent water-villas on its own private lake. If you’re looking for a luxurious break, this will do.

Vivek R Nair
Houseboats offer a fantastic way to experience the backwaters
Houseboats offer a fantastic way to experience the backwaters

Punnamada Backwater Resort (Tel: 2233690, Cell: 09446433692; Tariff: ₹12,000–20,000, houseboats ₹24,000– 30,000), next door to Kayaloram, has larger rooms, of better value. The villas with a view are quite something. Both hotels have their own spas. Keraleeyam Heritage Home and Ayurvedic Resort (Tel: 2231468, Cell: 09847050711; Tariff: ₹2,343–3,476) is pretty basic compared to its neighbours, but it is distinguished by being a home, over 70 years old that fronts the backwaters, and it claims to being a part of an actual Ayurvedic dynasty. It is still run by a family that has its own Ayurvedic brand. They have charming cottages.

Palmgrove Lake Resort (Tel: 2235004, 2243474; Tariff: ₹2,300–3,500), is a basic place with bamboo cottages. Though, not with the same amenities of the others, it is a cheaper and quite charming alternative.

Muhamma
Kovilakam Lakeside Villa
(Tel: 0478- 2861275/ 76, Cell: 09447151644; Tariff: ₹3,500–4,000) is a small place with a few rooms and it has a very nice setting, right on the quiet lakeside. There is a nice-looking restaurant and the rooms are clean. All the rooms at the Lemon Tree Vembanad Lake Resort (Tel: 2861970; Tariff: On request) face the Vembanad Lake. There is a swimming pool, an Ayurveda spa and a gym.

Purity at Lake Vembanad (Kochi Tel: 0484-2216666; Tariff: ₹6,500– 19,900) is a beautiful hotel from the Malabar House group with an amazing art collection. All rooms have terraces and verandahs overlooking the pristine Vembanad Lake. There is a swimming pool, yoga and a spa here.

Varanam
Vembanad Backwater Resort
(Tel: 0478-2582235; Tariff: ₹2,000–2,500), in Varanam, faces the backwaters. You can go cycling, go on village tours, watch cultural shows, get a massage or take a boat to explore the sights.

Shanthitheeram Heritage Lakeside Resort (Tel: 2582955, 2583379; Tariff: ₹2,400–2,600) has Kerala-style cottages with AC and non/ AC rooms. There is a swimming pool and Ayurveda.

Thaneermukkom
KTDC’s Suvasam Lake Resort (Tel: 2584218; Tariff: ₹1,500–2,000) has well-equipped rooms as well as a multi-cuisine restaurant.

Olavipe
Thekkanat Parayil
(Tel: 0478-2522255, Cell: 08589069115, 08589079115; Tariff: on request) is a gorgeous homestay. The food here is delicious. The house, while strictly not a waterside property, is a short walk away from its own private jetty on the Kaithappuzha backwater.

Fast Facts
When to go
August to May is the best time to visit this area weather wise. While deals during the monsoons are attractive, and it is the best time for Ayurvedic treatments, there is no way to guarantee availability and safety of boat travel during the rains

Tourist offices
District Tourism Promotion Council,
Near KSRTC Bus Stand, Boat Jetty Road, Alappuzha, Tel: 0477-2253308, 2251796, dtpcalappuzha.com

Tourist Information Centre, Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, Near Boat Jetty, Alappuzha, Tel: 2260722, keralatourism.org

STD code 0477

Getting There

Air Nearest Airport: Kochi International Airport at Nedumbassery (100km/ 2hrs) has daily flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. Taxi to Alappuzha costs ₹1,800–2,000

Rail Alleppey Railway Station is connected to Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and many more by Jan Shatabdi, Sampark Kranti and several Express trains

Road Alleppey is on NH47, which also connects major cities in Kerala such as Ernakulam, Palakkad, Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram Bus Alappuzha’s KSRTC Bus Stand (Tel: 0477- 2252501) has frequent services to most cities in the state