Kerala's Top Backwaters for Your Ultimate Retreat

Embrace nature's tranquility as you explore Kerala's top backwaters. Drift along serene waters, where each wave whispers calm amid lush greenery
Kannur Kavvayi Island, Kerala
Kannur Kavvayi Island, Kerala Shutterstock

Kerala, often called "God's Own Country," is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, lush greenery, and backwaters. These backwaters, a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes, and inlets, are a unique feature of the state and attract tourists from all over the world. Here, we explore five of the most famous backwaters in Kerala, delving into their unique characteristics, attractions, and experiences.

Alleppey (Alappuzha) Backwaters

Often dubbed the "Venice of the East," Alleppey is perhaps the most famous of Kerala's backwaters. Known for its houseboat cruises, paddy fields, and coconut groves, Alleppey is a prime destination for those looking to experience the tranquillity and beauty of Kerala's waterways.


  • Houseboat Cruises: A hallmark of the Alleppey backwaters, houseboat cruises offer a unique way to explore the region. These traditional Kettuvallams (houseboats) are equipped with modern amenities, providing a luxurious yet authentic experience.

  • Alleppey Beach: A picturesque beach with a pier that dates back to 1862, it's perfect for a stroll or a relaxing afternoon.

  • Vembanad Lake: As the largest lake in Kerala, Vembanad Lake is a central feature of Alleppey's backwaters. It's a hub for various water activities and boat races.

  • Nehru Trophy Boat Race: This is one of Kerala's most prestigious snake boat races, attracting thousands of spectators on the Punnamada Lake, where the competition is held.


Gliding through the serene waters, observing the daily lives of the locals, and enjoying traditional Kerala cuisine on a houseboat is unparalleled. The lush landscape, dotted with quaint villages, provides a peaceful and picturesque setting.

Alappuzha backwaters
Alappuzha backwatersShutterstock

Kumarakom Backwaters

Situated on the eastern banks of Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom is a cluster of small islands known for its rich biodiversity and bird sanctuary. Compared to the bustling Alleppey, it offers a more secluded backwater experience.


  • Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary: Spread over 14 acres, this sanctuary is a haven for bird watchers. Find a range of bird species, including migratory birds like the Siberian crane dotting its vicinity.

  • Pathiramanal Island: This small, beautiful island on Vembanad Lake is a bird watcher's paradise accessible only by boat.

  • Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls: Located nearby, these cascading waterfalls are surrounded by rubber plantations and provide a serene picnic spot.

  • Bay Island Driftwood Museum: This museum showcases unique driftwood sculptures and artefacts, offering an exciting diversion from natural attractions.


Kumarakom is ideal for a serene backwater retreat. Popular activities include bird watching, canoeing through narrow canals, and exploring the region's rich flora and fauna. Traditional houseboats, offering a quieter and more intimate cruising experience, are perfect for nature lovers.

Kollam Backwaters

Kollam, also known as Quilon, is one of the oldest ports in Kerala and a gateway to the backwaters. The backwaters of Kollam are part of the Ashtamudi Lake, known for its eight arms or channels.


  • Ashtamudi Lake: Ashtamudi Lake, the second largest lake in Kerala, is known for its scenic beauty and houseboat cruises. It's less crowded compared to Alleppey, offering a more peaceful experience.

  • Munroe Island: Located at the intersection of Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River, this island offers a glimpse into traditional village life and is known for its coir-making and canoe tours.

  • Thangassery Lighthouse: Built in 1902, this 144-foot-tall lighthouse provides impressive views of the Arabian Sea and the surrounding backwaters.

  • Palaruvi Waterfalls: One of the most scenic waterfalls in Kerala, Palaruvi means "stream of milk" (due to its milk-like appearance), and lush forests surround it.


Kollam offers a blend of cultural and natural attractions. Houseboat cruises on Ashtamudi Lake provide an immersive backwaters experience, while canoe tours through narrow canals offer a closer look at local life. The relatively untouched environment and lesser tourist traffic make Kollam a perfect destination for those seeking peace.

Kuttanad Backwaters

Kuttanad is one of the few regions where farming is below sea level. This unique geography makes the Kuttanad backwaters a fascinating destination.


  • Paddy Fields: The vast expanse of paddy fields below sea level is a sight to behold. The region is a testament to the innovation of traditional farming methods.

  • Champakulam: Famous for its annual boat race and ancient church, Champakulam offers a rich cultural experience.

  • Chavara Bhavan: Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara's ancestral home is a place of pilgrimage and historical significance.

  • Punnapra: A serene village known for its backwaters and traditional lifestyle.


Cruising through Kuttanad's backwaters provides a unique perspective on rural life in Kerala. The sight of farmers working in fields below the water level, traditional fishing practices, and green landscapes create a memorable experience.

Aerial view of Ashwani River
Aerial view of Ashwani RiverShutterstock

Kasaragod Backwaters

Kasaragod, located in northern Kerala, is known for its rich cultural heritage and scenic backwaters. The backwaters here are less commercialised, offering a more rustic and authentic experience.


  • Chandragiri River: Flowing through Kasaragod, the Chandragiri River is known for its beauty and historical significance, with the Chandragiri Fort providing panoramic views.

  • Bekal Fort: The largest fort in Kerala, Bekal Fort is situated on the banks of the Arabian Sea and offers beautiful views and historical insights.

  • Valiyaparamba Backwaters: A pristine backwater stretch perfect for houseboat cruises and bird-watching. It's considered one of the most picturesque backwaters in Kerala.

  • Ranipuram: Known as the "Ooty of Kerala," Ranipuram is a hill station offering a landscape and climate different from the coastal backwaters.


Kasaragod offers a blend of historical, cultural, and natural attractions. Houseboat cruises on the Chandragiri and Valiyaparamba backwaters provide a serene and less touristy experience. The region's rich history, exemplified by Bekal Fort, adds an extra layer of interest.

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