My Kerala Backwater Houseboat Experience: My Review & Tips

Cruising the backwaters of Kerala is one of the most serene, beautiful and peaceful things I have been lucky enough to experience in the whole of India and an highlight of my time in Kerala.

The Kerala backwaters is a system of canals stretching 900 km across Kerala incorporating rivers, lakes and lagoons all lined by palm tress of a thousand shades of green, paddy fields and colorful houses and a way of life that seems romantically unchanged for centuries.

Local life on the backwaters doesn’t seem to have changed much

But these water ways have changed. Originally the backwaters were the main form of transport in this region that was so important for the spice trade. Thatched barges called kettuvallams would carry spices like towards the ports of Kochin and Muzuris on the Arabian sea, which in their heyday were among the busiest in the world.

Nowadays most of the kettuvallams have been transformed into house boats that carry tourists as they softly traverse these languid and beautiful backwaters.

kerala backwaters house boat
Houseboats on the Kerala Backwaters

My Kerala Backwater Houseboat Experience

My visit was organised as part of the Kerala Blog Express and I boarded a house boat at Alleppey. Also known as Alappuzha, this is the gateway to the backwaters as it is a popular place for renting a house boat and there are many operators to chose from.

I went with Lakes and Lagoons and I was really impressed by the service and comfort they managed to fit onto a house boat.

The boat was beautiful with lots of wooden features, inside were 2 bedrooms with ensuite, air conditioning and everything we needed for a comfortable night. However, we spent most of our time lounging on the front of the boat making the most of the cooling breezes and stunning scenery that we drifted past.

All we had to do was relax and soak up the beautiful nature all around us and wave to the odd fisherman or house wife doing here washing in the river while our staff served us a delicious meal of fresh fish and tropical fruits.

house boat heaven kerala blog express
The houseboat I stayed on with the Kerala Blog Express

In the late afternoon we stepped off the boat and explored a gorgeous church where the sound of voices raised in devotion wafted out as school children walked home from school and the village went about its life as it must have done for so long.

The boat moored up for the night and we took in a spectacular, impossibly red sunset before tucking into another delicious meal served on the boat, gazing up at the moon and the stars and heading for bed.

sunset kerala backwaters house boat
Sunset on the Kerala backwaters

We awoke the next morning to an even more amazing sunrise. Seriously, sunrises in India can actually be more stunning and colourful than the amazing sunsets!

While eating breakfast the boat glided through the glassy waters in the early morning mist while all around the twittering of birds meant that nature was also rising for another day in glorious gods own country.

The Backwater Village Life Experience

At Kumarakom, we switched to a smaller boat to explore the narrower channels that the house boat couldn’t fit through to get a better insight into rural life along these backwaters by visiting the backwater village life experience.

We got off the boat at a backwater village where we were shown traditional crafts like weaving baskets and coil making.

Toddy tapping

The highlight was the toddy tapping where we watched a man shimmer up a palm tree using only his bare feet and hands and collected a cloudy nectar that is fermented to contain alcohol. We tried the toddy but let’s just say it wouldn’t beat a cool beer or glass of wine.

One of my favourite days in India, and certainly the most relaxing, sadly came to an end as we docked  at our departure point in Kumarakom, I don’t think anyone in the group wanted to leave the mesmerizing peace and beauty of the backwaters.

Tips for  how much does a houseboat cost?

houseboat kerala backwaters
Stay in a house boat on the Kerala backwaters

Spending some time cruising the backwater of Kerala in a house boat is definitely an essential Kerala experience although it doesn’t come cheap, if you can stretch to it it is definitely worth splashing out on.

The cost of hiring a house boat depends on the size, facilities and comfort level of the house boat. House boats are usually hired for 24 hours and include meals.

A nice one bedroom houseboat without AC for 2 people could start at 5,500 Rupees about $90 or you could spend 30,000 Rupees ($480) on an luxury AC 5 bedroom houseboat that hold 10 people!

Locals getting around the kerala backwaters
Locals getting around the kerala backwaters

But don’t worry, even if you cant stretch to hiring a houseboat you can still enjoy the backwaters on a budget by taking a day tour.

On my first visit to India I took a day trip from Kochi for 600 rupees ($10) where we meandered along the backwaters, getting off to see local life and cottage industries and enjoyed a traditional vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf. You can read more here about my budget backwater cruise

Of course, however much you pay the real highlight is the nature which is still just as beautiful whether you paid $10 or $1000 for the boat. But, whichever one you do, you really can’t visit Kerala without cruising along the backwaters.

backwaters of kerala

My houseboat experience was sponsored by Kerala Tourism as part of the Kerala Blog Express but all views are my own.  I had already visited and fell in love with Kerala before this trip when I was backpacking around India.

If you have the budget I recommend doing both the luxury houseboat and the budget backwater trip for the full experience. Check out my pick of the 5 best Kerala backwaters houseboats to suit all budgets.


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christine April 24, 2015 at 8:35 pm

I want to stay on that houseboat, it must be so cool! I would love to come here, I am going to google more about it!

Anna Phipps April 24, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Yea it was awesome! I wish I could of stayed for longer! It was with a company called Lakes and Lagoons but there are loads of choices for all budgets – you can even just go on a day trip for $10.

Micamyx|Senyorita April 24, 2015 at 9:01 pm

What a relaxing experience! I was also browsing some photos from our houseboat earlier 😀 love the pics you posted <3

Anna Phipps April 24, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Thank you 🙂 Yes it was beautiful wasn’t it – can we go back?

Milosz Zak April 25, 2015 at 2:17 am

What incredible boats! In Egypt, the cruise ships there are practically floating hotels, but these look more authentic. Beautiful!

Anna Phipps April 26, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Thanks, yes they were beautiful – the whole trip was stunning! I’d love to go to Egypt – it’s been on my bucket list for years. Did you do a Nile Cruise?

Alli April 25, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Stunning photos! They really set the scene, great job. I also really like that black border you have around your photos, it really makes the scenes stand out!

Anna Phipps April 26, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Thank you! 🙂 The black border is done by a simple CSS command in your style sheet

Houseboat Kerala Packages May 11, 2015 at 11:59 am

I found Kerala very beautiful & natural place to rejuvenate yourself. You can spend some memorable time in the lap of nature. You can also enjoy backwater of Kerala on houseboat stay.

Lianne July 17, 2015 at 6:38 am

Look so lovely! I cannot wait to cruise the backwaters of Kerala. You mentioned most people start in Appelley – what about ending the boat trip there? Where would one start? I say this because we plan to go from Kochi to Munnar, down to Periyar reserve and then back west toward the backwaters.

Anna Phipps July 22, 2015 at 9:17 am

Thanks Lianne! There are several ways you can enjoy the backwaters and it is easy to organise in Kochi – I organised our budget backwater cruise (just in the daytime) with a travel agent in Kochi and you could arrange a longer houseboat cruise from there too. From Kochi it is not far on the bus or train to Alleppey and it’s a good idea to inspect some of the budget houseboats before parting with your money!

Vishnu Navarathna August 5, 2015 at 12:29 pm

our kerala… our alleppey

Carlo Cretaro August 5, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Ha. The manager in our hotel here in Goa was suggesting doing this about 5 mins ago!

Global Gallivanting August 5, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Carlo Cretaro you really should! Essential kerala experience. You can do the houseboat or there are also cheaper day tours (link to the budget tour is also in this post)

Global Gallivanting August 5, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Carlo Cretaro you won’t regret going to Hampi either! When do u think ul b in Kerala? I’ll be there in September

Carlo Cretaro August 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm

We’re in Goa atm, so we’ll probably head there after here (few days time) Best to take a bus from here do you think?

Global Gallivanting August 5, 2015 at 8:34 pm

That would a long bus! I hate buses see if u can get a train from Margao if you can – more comfortable 🙂

Cédric Lizotte August 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Relaxing and/or boring…. heheheheh

Global Gallivanting August 5, 2015 at 9:42 pm

India is never boring haha! And rarely relaxing …

Anil Varghses July 27, 2018 at 8:50 am

Wonderful details. Kumarakom backwaters will be a wonderful experience for the tourists visiting Kerala.

Mathew Antony September 25, 2018 at 7:41 am

This is a great article and I appreciate the effort you are taking to promote the Kerala houseboat tourism and am expecting similar blogs from you.

Arun Kumar June 18, 2019 at 7:35 am

A great blog about houseboat in Alleppey.. I really loved that Sunset.. 😍 thank you for the post.. 😊

houseboat alleppey September 13, 2019 at 7:01 am

Hi Thanks for sharing the information about the cruising the backwaters of kerala


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