Wondering where you should plan your next getaway to? Well, why not God’s Own Country? But this time around, skip the resorts and beaches, and head out to explore the great backwaters. Unique to Kerala, this idyllic network of lagoons, lakes and canals has plenty to offer, and how! Whether it’s splendid sights, food or experiences you’re looking for, a trip here includes them all. Go and take a break, folks.

Go On A Houseboat Ride

Photo Source: Augustus Binu

Photo: Augustus Binu

When it comes to exploring the backwaters, nothing quite beats the appeal of a houseboat ride. Apart from the regular houseboat packages that come with a freshly prepared meal of local flavours, there are options which include an upper deck {for a better view!}, overnight stays and even honeymoon special houseboats, complete with a Jacuzzi! Most of them stop by at certain points, letting you enjoy the scenic beauty or even do a spot of fishing. While Allepey is a popular backwater destination, we recommend the Ashtamudi Lake {in Kollam}, known as the gateway to the backwaters.

For more details, check out packages here.

Birdwatching

Photo: Sumeet Jain

Photo: Sumeet Jain

With areas like Ashtamudi Lake and Munroe Island home to different species of birds {including migrants}, there’s plenty to look out for while you take in the beautiful view. From egrets, kingfisher and crow pheasants to terns, herons and cormorants are some of the birds spotted in and around these lakes. If you’re an avid enthusiast, we suggest you carry necessary equipment as well.

For information on birdwatching tours, check out the website here.

Tuck In To Fresh Seafood

Photo: Shobha Elizabeth John

Photo: Shobha Elizabeth John

This goes without saying, we think. While houseboat trips usually include a meal or two {prepared in the boat itself}, the best way to enjoy the local cuisine is by heading to one of the many small eateries that dot the backwater towns {like Kuttanadu}. While the Karimeen Pollichathu {pearl spot marinated and cooked in a banana leaf} is a must-try dish here, the Varaal fry {a kind of snake head fish}, and Kappa {tapioca} and spicy fish curry combo deserves a special mention. Once you’ve had your fill of fishy treats, there’s flavourful sinful duck roast to sample, too!

Available at most restaurants in the backwater towns.

Watch A Boat Race

Photo: Ronald Tagra

Photo: Ronald Tagra

Believed to have been used by local rulers, chundan vallams {beaked boats or snake boats} are now part of boat races or Vallam Kali. Mostly held around Onam in the backwater regions, these events often see a huge crowd to cheer while the boats compete to make it to the finish point. Loud chants and songs by the oarsmen add to the spirit of the race, making it quite a treat to watch. Probably one of the oldest and grandest of these races would be the Aranmula Boat Race, which also involves a sumptuous sadhya {traditional meal} with almost 68 dishes!

Read more about it here.

Vallam Ride

While the houseboat ride is indeed an experience to be included in your bucket list, we recommend you also try the more affordable vallam {a traditional canoe boat used for local transportation}. Going through the narrower canals which aren’t usually taken by other boats, this is perfect if you want a closer glimpse of the backwaters and local life. What’s more, it also takes you to places that may not be accessible by houseboats. It can be slightly uncomfortable for some {you’ll be sitting on a plank during the entire journey}, but the trip’s worth it.

Information on vallams that ply regularly will be available in the specific areas. For a tour of Munroe Island {Kollam} by private canoe, check out the website here.

Nature & Local Life

Photo: Saad Faruque

Photo: Saad Faruque

While you’re on the backwaters trip, we suggest you take time to head to Kuttanadu {in Allepey}. Although it is accessible by road, a vallam ride is the best way to see the area at its best {in fact, it’s the only mode of transportation for certain parts along with public ferry boats}. Don’t be surprised if you come across teams of ducks on your ride here; duck farming is a major occupation of families. If the expansive paddy fields and greenery don’t impress you enough, the place also offers you a peek into the daily lives of people here.

For information on organised trips to the region, check out the website here.

Kayaking

Had enough of lazing around and enjoying the picturesque views? No worries! Although not too many, you have a pick of activities to keep you going. Go on and try your hand at kayaking, and paddle around the backwaters with your group. Or you can even jump in for a swim! With packages that include a meal as well as some cruising around, you can even make a day of it.

For kayaking trip packages, check out the website here.

Visit A Toddy Shop Or Two

Photo: Rahuldb

Photo: Rahuldb

Dotted around the Kochi, Kumarakom and Allepey backwaters, the shaaps aka toddy shops are where you can stop by while you take a break from the sightseeing. While you guzzle down some toddy, there’s plenty of non-veg dishes to pick from. Apart from fish, chicken, duck and beef, some of them even serve dishes like frog leg curry for the more adventurous among you.

 Feature Photo: Augustus Binu