Kerala is a gorgeous state in the South of India, known for its palm-filled beaches, narrow canals, and coffee and tea plantations amongst verdant mountains. Because distances between places are long, you can’t cover everything this state has to offer in one weekend. I had to make the choice – either the backwaters or the coffee plantations. I decided to go with the Kerala backwaters, because it’s a little easier to fit into a weekend. Irrespective of what you choose, you will have to drive for at least 3 hours from the airport to get to your destination.
Here’s a quick guide to a weekend trip in the Kerala backwaters.
Where are the Kerala backwaters?
The backwaters are a massive network of canals, rivers, lagoons and lakes, criss-crossing through the western coast of the state, adjacent to the Arabian Sea. The Kerala backwaters run along half the length of the state, and are composed of 5 large lakes, 38 rivers and over 900 km of waterways.
There are over half a dozen “regions” in the backwaters – each with several different resorts. The best way to go about selecting a region is to pick one with an airport closeby, followed by one with a resort you’d like to stay in. I chose the town of Kumarakom, in one of the more northern regions, because we wanted to stay at the Taj property.
How do I get there?
To get to Kumarakom, you land at the Kochin airport and drive for about 3 hours. You can rent a taxi, or ask for a hotel pickup. Most hotels in the area should offer airport transfer for a small additional fee.
Where should I stay?
We chose to stay at the lovely Taj Kumarakom, an old colonial bungalow that used to belong to the British, with acres of beautiful greenery and ponds, cycling paths, and views of the sea. The rooms are massive; you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the Victorian era.
Another option is to stay on a houseboat – just make sure you choose a clean and safe one. Although I would recommend staying at a resort (such as the Taj Kumarakom) and taking a few houseboat tours instead. Staying at a resort gives you more flexibility on how you use your time. If you’re looking for something really luxurious, try out the Oberoi houseboat.
What’s the best time to visit to visit the Kerala backwaters?
While the monsoon brings out the green in the landscape, and is probably the reason why Kerala is often referred to as “God’s own country”, I feel like you’d be restricting yourself way too much if you visited when it was pouring! You wouldn’t really enjoy the outdoors, which is the entire reason to go here in the first place.
Visit the Kerala backwaters in the wintertime (between November and February) when the weather is nippy, and you can truly take advantage of the outdoors.
What do you do there?
Relax!!! Which is why it’s crucial you pick a resort you’d love spending time in, because aside from a few boat tours, there isn’t much to do. The Taj organized a small canoe ride for us, through the narrow waterways, that took us to local villages. Our boat rider took us to his home, where he showed us his paddy fields and the banana and peppercorn he was growing.
The resort also organized an authentic houseboat tour, that circled the Vembanad Lake (one of the largest lakes in the region).
In addition, the Taj set up a mini “village” atmosphere every evening, overlooking the lake, and served us tea and yummy pakodas (a type of fried savory snack).
The backwaters make for a great weekend getaway. There’s enough to do in Kumarakom, that you could also make a week-long trip out of it. Write to me if you have any questions about how to plan your trip!