May
16

An Enchanting Houseboat Stay in Kumarakom with Backwater Routes

Is Kerala trip complete without houseboat experience?? Absolutely no.. It seems like an integral part of Kerala.

My kids’ excitement had no bounds when they got to know that we are going to stay overnight in a houseboat or a Kettuvallam.

What is a Kettuvallam?

In olden times, the houseboats or the Kettuvallam (In Malayalam, ‘Kettu’ means ‘tied with ropes’ and vallam means ‘boat’) were the only modes to carry spices and food items. But now they are preserved and promoted as a tourist attraction for pleasure rides.

Difference Between Houseboats in Kerala and Kashmir

In India, houseboats are famous in the states of Kerala and Kashmir, but there are some differences.

The Kettuvallam’s are made of all natural and easily available material like bamboo, coconut fiber, jackfruit tree. The hull is made up of wooden planks from jackfruit tree and tied with coconut coir. No nails are used in the construction of these floating houses.

While in Kashmir, the houseboats are made from wood with intricate carvings on them.

During the stay in the houseboats in Kerala, they cruise around in the backwaters during the day before setting in at the banks. Unlike their counterparts in Kerala, these fancy houseboats in Kashmir are permanently anchored at the banks of the lake.

Houseboats in Kerala backwaters

What are Backwaters?

I had heard this term associated with Kerala all the times. So, what exactly are backwaters?

Backwater is a labyrinthine network of canals, lagoons, lakes, and streams. Sometimes the sea current and tides lead to the formation of sand deposits at some places called barrier islands as they form a hindrance or barrier.

The rivers flowing into the sea are obstructed by these barrier islands and the water recedes back. Sometimes due to the high sea currents, the river water is receded, and the sea water gets mixed with the fresh river water making it a bit saline or brackish.

The backwaters in Kerala span 900 km from North to South of the state.

Major Backwater Areas in Kerala

Since the backwaters is a huge network, the next step is to zero down the area to stay in the houseboat.

The major areas are:

  1. Kavvayi
  2. Padanna
  3. Kozhikode
  4. Thrissur
  5. Alleppey
  6. Kumarakom
  7. Kollam
  8. Thiruvananthapuram

Since we were exploring the Southern Kerala during our vacation, so had to look from Kochi to Thiruvananthapuram.

Alleppey is the most famous backwater destination in Kerala often nicknamed as the ‘Venice of the East’ and hence a lot touristy.

We craved for a peaceful option, hence chose Kumarakom in the Kottayam district. Alleppey and Kumarakom lie on two ends of the Vembanad lake.

Types of Houseboats

There are many houseboats mushrooming along the backwaters of Kerala. There are a few types of houseboats – Deluxe, Premium and Luxury depending upon the no of rooms and facilities provided. It ranges from 1 bedroom to a massive 5 bedroom, from AC in the night to full day AC.

Our Floating House

We chose Backwater Routes Houseboats for our sojourn in Kumarakom. Kumarakom, located on the banks of Vembanad lake.

Fun Fact: Vembanad lake is the longest lake in India.

Facilities Included
  1. A 2-bedroom deluxe houseboat with AC.
  2. All meals inclusive – lunch, evening snacks, dinner, and breakfast.
  3. Cruising along the mighty Vembanad lake.
  4. An early morning canal cruise in a country boat.
Houseboat Check-In

The check-in timings are 12:30 pm and check-out is at 9 am

We were driving from Kochi and reached there by 12 pm and the houseboat was ready for us. We were given a warm welcome by the owner Mr. Jayaraj with flower garlands and fresh coconut water.

Welcome in Backwater routes houseboat Kerala
All excited and ready for the beautiful adventure

The kids were excited and started exploring their abode for the day.

Backwater Routes Houseboat in Kumarakom

It is amazing to see how the rice barge has been revamped into a modern house of luxury. We entered the houseboat into the living cum dining room.

It was closed with windows and doors to get a complete view of the surrounding greenery. The living room led into an alley with 2 bedrooms and a fully functional kitchen at the end.

We were fascinated to see the kitchen so well set up. The bedrooms are attached to modern western bathrooms.

Houseboat kitchen

There were stairs that lead to the upper deck. Oh! this was the best place to sit and watch the boat steer into the quintessential backwaters of Kerala.

The Food

Whatever I say of the food would not be enough. We requested for vegetarian food, and we had a scrumptious Kerala vegetarian dishes laid out for our lunch. The food was mouthwatering especially the cabbage thoran and sambhar which was so flavorful.

The cherry on the cake was the warm payasam (a pudding made with milk and either of the ingredients – rice, broken wheat, vermicelli, dal, tapioca, etc). What a feast to be relished in the middle of the water with spectacular views adding to the charm.

They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

So as the locals eat, we tried to eat the food with our hands. Rice is a staple diet in Southern part of India. It was heartwarming to see the kids adapt to the culture and eat with hands. We were not experts though, but we tried our best.

In the evening we were served a traditional Kerala delicacy – Ela Ada. These are sweet steamed rice pancakes with coconut and jaggery filling in it. They were so delicate and would melt in the mouth.

The best part was that our chef Mr. Ranjith cooked the food non-spicy as per our tastes, hence our kids were licking their fingers. We always saw him smiling and ready to feed us with his yummy dishes.

After an early morning cruise through the meandering canals, it was time for a healthy breakfast of idli sambhar and fresh watermelon juice. The soft idlis dipped in hot sambhar along with handsome dollop of coconut chutney was perfect. My mouth has started watering while thinking and writing about them.

The Route

The moment we got settled, the boat took off through the River Kaipuzha and entered the creek of Cheepunkal and slowly reached out to the mighty Lake Vembanad.

Then we passed around the Coconut Lagoon Resort &  exteriors of the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary on left.

Slowly heading towards west, towards Pathiramal Island, which means “Sands of Night” where fishermen used to rest in night fishing times. This island was the halt for lunch.

Kerala houseboat lunch halt in Kumarakom
Perfect Halt for lunch

We could see other houseboats anchored on the tree stumps, all enjoying their lunch break with breathtaking views. After an hour-long break, we steered towards North Alleppey region crossing Vechoor where a huge number of Chinese fishing nets are erected.

As the evening approached, the sky was getting painted in the hues of orange. With tea in one hand and coconut laden trees in the backdrop, we were happy. We passed through a beautiful church while heading back for berthing.

Evening tea in the houseboat
Exploring the Village in the Evening

In the evening, we head out to explore the village of Vechoor, where our houseboat was anchored.

Evening stroll in the village from houseboat
Walking our way into the quaint village

Walking along the streets without any maps or destination to target, was a relaxing experience. There were houses lined along the street with big courtyards filled with trees of coconut, banana, drumstick, mango, and a variety of flowers.

We could hear devotional songs and made our way to those sounds into a huge temple complex. It was the Govindapuram Sri Krishna temple. The entrance had a very tall oil lamp and idols of all the 10 incarnations of Vishnu adorned on the pillars.

Govindapuram temple from houseboat

Note: Men are only allowed inside the temple with bare chest or Angavastram (stole worn by men over shoulders.)

With the sun setting behind those coconut trees, we could see the light filtering through the leaves and it was an indication for us to call it a day and head back to the houseboat.

Sunrise and Early Morning Cruising Through the Canals

With a peaceful night sleep, we set our alarms for 6 a.m. to explore the tranquil beauty of the backwaters and local life on a country boat.

It was so serene, birds chirping, water lilies blooming, people getting ready with their morning chores, sun welcoming us with a mesmerizing sunrise. What more can you ask for? We were thankful for such an experience.

Early morning cruise from houseboat

Coming back to the houseboat after 2 hours, our breakfast was ready. With steaming hot idlis and sambhar, we were all set for our next destination, Thekkady.

Read Why to add Thekkady to your Kerala itinerary?

By thanking our hosts for a memorable stay, we head out with some memories that we will cherish forever.

How to Book Backwater Routes Houseboat in Kumarakom

It is always better to book your stay well in advance to avoid last minute hassles that spoil the trip.
Backwater Routes Houseboats is based out of Kumarakom but they arrange houseboat stays in other areas and routes.

You can book it directly on Backwater Routes Houseboats website or Tripadvisor and read the reviews.

Verdict: We were humbled by the hospitality of our hosts. The houseboat owner Mr. Deep chatted and shared a lot about the history and culture of the place. The houseboat was impeccably clean and comfortable. In fact, after every meal, they made it a point to clean the dining and living area. Mr. Ranjith, the cook prepared delicious food including some traditional Kerala dishes according to our tastes. There are different routes and areas you can choose for your houseboat vacation.

Things to Keep in Mind

1. Do get the google coordinates of the houseboat to reach easily.
2. Carry some insect repellent as there are mosquitoes in the evening.
3. Get some books or games to keep the kids occupied. We got some coloring material and books to keep them engaged during the day. They watched cartoons on the TV in the evening.

Keeping the kids engaged in the houseboat
Engaged kids, happy parents. 🙂

4. Do let the houseboat owner know your meal preference (vegetarian or non-vegetarian, spicy/non-spicy) in advance.
5. If you are non-vegetarian, you can indulge in the fresh catch and get it cooked.
6. Backwaters form the backbone of the locals. So respect and don’t litter the waters.

Glossary
  1. Idli – steamed rice cakes

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Disclosure: We were hosted by Backwater Routes in their houseboat at Kumarakom. But as always, all opinions are my own and shared with true intention to recommend something that will benefit other travelers.

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22 thoughts on “An Enchanting Houseboat Stay in Kumarakom with Backwater Routes”

  1. I would love to do a houseboat in India. I am impressed with how big it looks and the food! The scenery looks lovely too.

    • Surely Anisa, a houseboat experience in Kerala is a must. There are houseboats from 1 bedroom to a huge 5 bedroom ones. In the midst of serene backwaters and lovely scenery around it is a memorable experience. Thanks for reading and appreciating.

    • Thanks, Sneh..Glad you loved reading it and reminded you of your trip. Yes, it was a great time with family. Loved every moment of the trip. Kerala is a must-visit destination, truly God’s own country.

  2. I’m considering backpacking through Kerala later in the year. Saving this post for later as I’m sure I’ll want an immersive houseboat experience 🙂

    • Hey Soujanya…Thanks for reading and saving the post. Hope it can help you. We also have other posts and some more in the pipeline on Kerala that might help you. Kerala would be incomplete without a houseboat experience, so surely immerse in that. Good luck for your trip and let me know if you need any help.

  3. I have heard a lot about Kerala, but I never thought, you can actually be there on a houseboat. Which is so far most original way of being in Kerala, I have ever heard! I’ll need to remember that for when I’m going to india

    • Kerala is called ‘God’s own country’ and truly is. It is a must visit for your trip to India. Yes staying in a houseboat is a way to experience it upclose and relax without running around. Surely do add to your bucket list for India.

  4. This was really eye opening, thanks for sharing! When I first read the title, I thought these were just regular old house boats. Had no idea about their history of the Kettuvallam in Kerala or the differences between houseboats in different states!

    • Thanks Angelica for reading and appreciating the post. I am glad you liked reading about the history of houseboats. It’s fascinating to see how the houseboats vary in different states depicting their culture.

  5. Though I had a short backwater tours during my Kerala trip but never stayed overnight in houseboat. Good to know about Kettuvallam and how it differs from house boats of Kashmir. Thanks for sharing all tips about carrying mosquito repellant and sharing our diet option with houseboat owner.

    • Yeah there are so many options to explore backwater from a short tour to a couple of nights stay. But we felt that staying gives you enjoy the backwaters completely and see the life of locals up close.

  6. This sounds like so much fun. I’ve spent one night before on a sailboat and loved it. The sound of the waves and the experience is quite fascinating. Great to know more about the different types of houseboats. Your looks great including all the small trips nearby. Have not made it to Kerala yet, but will certainly look for a houseboat experience when I get there 🙂

    • This was our first stay in a boat and we loved it thoroughly. It is so slow paced, nowhere to run to and serene water. Definitely add Kerala to your list and the houseboat stay would make it complete.

    • Yes, truly it’s beautiful and peaceful. Surely do add a houseboat stay to your bucket list. Let me know if you need any help.

  7. We went on a small ride on the houseboat but chose not to stay in Kumarakom. I just felt too claustrophobic. But I love the peace of Vembanad lake and the sunsets are gorgeous every single day.

    • Great having a ride on the Vembanad lake is beautiful. Nice, you could enjoy the boat ride on the backwaters. Sunsets create a spell on me for sure.

  8. Wow this sounds incredible. Would love the experience of staying on a house boat and Backwater sounds like the place to do it. Sounds so peaceful – definitely going to add this to my never ending bucket list!

    • Yes, definitely add Kerala and houseboat stay to your bucket list. I even had it on my list for very long, was able to make it finally. It keeps you motivated..

    • I know whenever I used to see the houseboat pics, I used to long to visit one day. So definitely add this tranquil place to your bucket list. Thanks for reading and appreciating.

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