The magnificent backwaters in the beautiful land of Kerala are one of its most popular attractions. Kerala is proud of its backwaters and without them, the land would certainly be incomplete. Travellers from all over the world visit Kerala for a holiday and return home with an unforgettable backwater experience.

What is a backwater? A backwater is a tranquil part of the river where there is little or no current and hence, it offers exciting opportunities for leisure activities like houseboat cruises, canoe rides and fishing. While the main river may be deep, having a faster stream, the backwaters are shallow and the water flows very slowly.

The backwaters in Kerala are a chain of lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea. They almost extend half the length of the state. The two major backwaters in Kerala are the Vembanad Lake and the Ashtamudi Lake.

To get a rich experience of the backwaters of Kerala, travellers choose one or more of the following options:

Houseboat Cruise


houseboat on the lake

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A houseboat is usually a 120-ft long boat structure constructed and modified to look like a house from the inside. It has well-appointed rooms, a kitchen and en-suite bathrooms. Since travelers from all over the world try the houseboat cruise offered in Kerala, the interiors of the houseboat are designed keeping international standards in mind. Food is also served in the houseboat.

In Kerala, there are options for choosing a day cruise or an overnight stay in the houseboat. A day cruise is usually from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM while the journey for an overnight stay is from 12:00 PM to 9:00 AM.


  • A houseboat cruise is very safe
  • Food and beverages served on board
  • Comfortable and well-designed rooms


  • The tariff may be slightly on the higher side compared to other options
  • Usually no activities or cruise during night time
  • Difficult to select a good houseboat during season time
  • Cannot traverse through small canals because of bigger size

Click here for the details of Backwater Experience Day Tour by Experience Kerala

Shikkara Cruise


shikkara in kerala

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Built-in traditional style, a Shikkara boat is an open-air boat with bamboo seats and a roof. Since they are not very big in size, the Shikkara boats allow you to traverse through narrow inland waterways and enjoy the scenes of village life from a closer distance.


  • Comfortable and safe
  • The tariff is quite low


  • Small in size when compared to a houseboat
  • No bathrooms on the boat

Paddling a Canoe 


canoe in backwaters of kerala

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A canoe is a traditional Kerala boat that allows you to traverse through the smallest of the canals. Rowed using a single-bladed paddle, a canoe is pointed at both ends and open on top. Since they are very small in size, the canoes can only accommodate two or four people at once.


  • Gives true backwater and local life experience
  • It can go through the narrowest canals
  • Cost of a canoe ride is very low


  • Not very safe if you have active kids
  • Requires physical effort for paddling the canoe if it’s unmotorised

If you’re interested in Canoeing, Canoe Kerala Day Tours is an excellent option. For more details, click here.

Backwater Resorts


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If travellers are not interested in boating but still want a good backwater experience, they can choose to stay in a backwater resort or homestay. These accommodations offer a direct view of the serene backwaters.

For a handpicked list Backwater Accommodation options, please click here.

A trip to Kerala will remain incomplete if you fail to experience the backwaters of the state. So do try at least one of the options above and enjoy your trip as you create memories of a lifetime.


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