The Backwaters of Kerala are a big bucket list item in India and probably the most popular thing to do in South India! I planned my trip to Kerala so I could meet my friends and we could go out on the Backwaters of Kerala on Christmas Day! (Hence the Christmas Hat in most of my photos!)
Being in Kerala for Christmas was actually great, firstly its high season in December in Kerala because it’s when the weather is best and secondly because a lot of people in Kerala are Christians and although Christmas in not celebrated in Kerala like it is in the west, we saw lots of lights and had many ‘Happy Christmas’ interactions with locals which was really nice!
Backwaters of Kerala Tours
Alleppey or Alappuzha as it’s known as it’s Indian name, is one of the most popular and best places to see the Backwaters of Kerala from although there are many other places along the coast of Kerala where you can go from too.
Alleppey benefits from having its own train station which is just 10 minutes and a 50Rs tuk tuk ride away from the beach where a lot of accommodation is and it’s a main line station. I took a 15 hour train from Goa all the way down to Alleppey in Kerala!
With that being said, there’s not much else to do in Alleppey and although we spent 2.5 day and 3 nights there, I would recommend 2 nights and 1-1.5 days in Alleppey, do not waste any more time there!
If you do find yourself in Alleppey with time to spare, a quick bit of research will tell you that you should head to Marari Beach, 15km up the coast from Alleppey. I had read online and in a guide that the beach is like a beach from the Maldives, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Kerala… well the beach that I was on was not this at all!
It was a very local and wild beach which is fine but with that brings a lot of trash, s**t- literally, and not a beach that is a good place to sunbathe on. However I am glad that myself and my friends did go down there as it broke our day up before going out on the backwaters, I got a coconut which I had been craving and we sat in a cafe called Coffee Temple for a while which is really cool- it’s just a few meters from the beach and alongside a canal, it’s a good place to go for breakfast or lunch and was the main highlight of Marari Beach for me!
We knew we wanted to do a Backwaters of Kerala tour of course, but then we had to decide between the 4 of us which one to do!
From what I can gauge there are 5 options:
- Canoe Tour
- Shikara Tour
- Houseboat Tour
- Public Boat
- Kayak Tour
The Canoe Tour is, of course, the cheapest and is priced per person meaning it is perfect for solo travellers because you’ll join a group and I was quoted 1000Rs per person for a full day Canoe Tour of the Backwaters of Kerala with lunch. Note – you do not actually canoe, there is a driver and there will be up to 4 people in the same boat. The boats are quite small but the best thing about doing the backwaters this way is that you get to go down all of the small, quiet, side canals that none of the other boats can go down and it’s a full-day tour from about 8:00-17:00.
The Shikara Tour is what we choose to do as we didn’t actually want to go out all day on the water. We paid 4000Rs for 4 hours in total including lunch which worked out well between us and we were so happy with the quality of the boat and tour. The boat was a really good size and can fit 8-10 people and at least 6 very comfortably. We didn’t get to go down the small side canals because of the boats size but we did go down a few slightly smaller ones which were so quiet and beautiful and were actually the best part of the trip! If you’re a group of friends I would really recommend this option!
A House Boat along the Backwaters of Kerala is also very popular for couples, groups of friends and families. They do come with a cost- we were quoted 10,000Rs for one night which was also the same price for the day, however, I’m confident that you can get a boat for quite a bit less, although also a lot more! This price does include all meals which is an added benefit and waking up on the water must be amazing, the biggest downside is not being able to go down any of the side canals! I would not rule this option out in the future as I’d love to experience it.
Note – it’s possible to book all of these boats when you arrive, even the houseboats so don’t worry about looking into it in advance!
For those who are really on a budget or perhaps want to see the Backwaters for a second time, there is a public boat. I heard that it’s easy to catch and admittedly the boat does go down a lot of the same canals as the tour but the one time I saw the public boat go past it was very busy with locals and unless you’re on a serious budget it’s probably not worth it. If you go all the way to Alleppey to see the backwaters, see them properly!
Kayaking is something I did not hear of in Alleppey but a couple I hiked with in Munnar did a Kayak Tour for sunrise and really enjoyed it. There are also full day kayak tours around the Backwaters of Kerala and multiple day kayak tours.
As I said, we were really pleased with our Shikara Boat, our driver was friendly, we had a nice South Indian lunch and we could choose what time we wanted this as well as choosing our start and end time giving us lots of flexibility- we went from 11:00-15:00. We put our music on through the speakers, laid out on the front of the boat and on the big bed in the middle and enjoyed the most beautiful scenery.
I really enjoyed just seeing local life too as it’s good to remember people do live here! We saw men and children bathing in the water, women washing and hanging up clothes, men playing games and chatting to each other on the side of the canal.
It was just such a nice day, and especially a nice Christmas Day to remember!
To see more of this local side – have a look at my YouTube video as I got some good shots of the locals.
Not only does Alleppey lack in things to do but also in places to eat although we did find a few places to enjoy food on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
Cafe Catamaran became our go-to thanks to its location on the beach and closeness to our hotel however the food wasn’t that great and not overly great for veggies!
Dreamers Cafe and Restaurant is where we went for Dinner on Christmas Day, they have a huge menu which made choosing from hard but it’s a popular place to eat lunch and dinner in Alleppey so it was good with us!
We also found that Zostel Alleppey Hostel was the only place serving an early breakfast so we had breakfast there before our tour!
There’s also an Indian Coffee House, we didn’t go but I do like visiting Indian Coffee Houses in India for a Coffee and Dosa for Breakfast!
Talking of accommodation, we stayed at Pine Beach Residency which was a good place to stay. Its location was perfect by the beach and close to some other hotels and restaurants. Had I been on my own I would have stayed in Zostel Hostel as it’s really cool or Lemon Dew Hostel which I heard is nice too!
I use Booking.com for all of my accommodation in India as I love the flexible booking options! For accommodation options in Alleppey, have a look on Booking.com.
I hope this gives you some information ready for your Backwaters of Kerala Trip!
To SEE the Backwaters, have a watch of my YouTube Video here!
Remember you need travel insurance to visit India whether you’re on holiday or backpacking! I’m covered by World Nomad’s who are designed for travellers. Get a quote for them here whilst it’s on your mind!
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