While beautiful green hills and palm-fringed pearly beaches can be found in many parts of India, it’s the backwaters that make Kerala unique; these are mystical channels of meandering waterways, rivers, lakes, lagoons, deltas and estuaries that run along the Malabar coastal region before finally draining into the Arabian Sea. The Kerala backwaters, which are synonymous with Kerala tourism comprises of 1500km of canals, both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes spread out from one end of Kerala to the other. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating islands across the mouths of the rivers flowing downwards from the Western Ghats.
These backwater resources are rich in marine habitat and add to the bread and butter of the local indigenes. For centuries past, these backwaters have been used as a local means of transportation, fishing as well as agriculture. Some agricultural land has been reclaimed back from the backwaters with beautifully symmetrical bright green paddy fields cropping up along the shores of these water channels, particularly in the Kollam area. This is similar to the Dykes of Netherland where land has also been similarly reclaimed. Backwater tourism has also been thrown into this lot and has even been compared to the Florida bayous, although nothing beats the serenity, greenery and peace experienced in the backwaters in Kerala!
The serenity of the deep blue backwaters, the beauty of the verdant green hill stations as well as the palm-lined golden beaches along with a rich cultural heritage make Kerala the first choice for anyone visiting India for the first time.
Kollam city, an ancient trading center is the starting point of the backwaters with the beautiful Ashtamudi Lake known as the gateway to the backwaters. It’s the most visited point in Kerala and covers about 30% of the city; the nearby Sasthamcotta Lake is a source of fresh water to the city. The longest houseboat cruises in Kerala are between Kollam and Alappuzha and account for an unforgettable 8-hour experience drifting over lotus-laden waters amid the dappled sunlit background of emerald greenery and shadowy waters. There are numerous islands to explore here too. A stay-over in the gracious Raviz hotel in Kollam would be an ideal way to wind up a memorable trip.
Paravur is another backwater destination with beautiful small lakes and sea coast situated near Kollam; the main attraction is the interconnection point between the backwaters and the ocean at Paravur estuary, the most scenic estuary in India.
Kasargod in northern Kerala is a popular backwater destination famous for its scenic location between the sea to the west and the Western Ghats to the north and east. Four rivers flow into the backwaters here creating numerous scenic islands that are a haven for birds.
Thiruvallam backwaters are where the Killi and Karamana rivers come together and are popular for canoe rides; Veli Lake and Akkulam Lake are nearby and offer water sports and boating facilities to the Trivandrum crowd.
Alappuzha is also known as the Venice of Kerala and is riddled with pleasant waterways that connect it all the way back to Kollam. A trip on these backwaters is one of those things that one should do at least once in a lifetime, to create a plethora of unforgettable memories!