Lakes & Lagoons

Alleppey, Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from Book from £120 per night

Cruise languidly along the Keralan backwaters in a floating wooden hotel and watch the world go by...
Kerala is famous for its backwaters - the beautiful, palm-fringed network of canals linking towns along the Arabian Sea and inland. These waterways are still used today by boats ferrying cargoes of spices, fish and newspapers, not to mention locals propelling little dug-outs to visit friends or tend fields.

And you can join this picturesque fleet by boarding a Lakes & Lagoons riceboat. These are traditional country boats built from bamboo and jackfruit logs lashed together with coconut fibre, converted into comfortably furnished houseboats. You can board at any backwater dock and spend a day or 2 cruising to your destination.

Our favourite part was waking up and watching what felt like a living film, A Day in the Life of Kerala: young children brushing their teeth by the shore, women washing clothes, ducks floating by, the duck farmer smiling and waving… it certainly makes a change from morning rush hour.

Highs

  • The long, well-equipped boats have all of the comforts of a hotel and the beautiful bonus of peaceful scenes of Keralan life sliding by
  • Delicious, fresh and plentiful Keralan cuisine, with ingredients bought en route, is cooked on board by your personal chef
  • This is a chance to experience a journey that’s the antithesis of hectic city life: slow, soothing and restfully uncomplicated
  • The company has a genuine social conscience

Lows

  • The pesky mosquitoes can be the biggest drawback to the backwaters, so bring plenty of insect repellent and tuck your mosquito net into the mattress
  • The air-conditioning is a mixed blessing: cool but uncomfortably loud - the noisy generator can be switched off but not in the middle of the night when it’s most sleep-disturbing. Please note the air-conditioning varies depending on your chosen boat - see rates
  • Backwater trips are becoming popular, so you may find yourself moored near quite a few other riceboats at nightfall

Best time to go

The best time to visit the backwaters is from October to April when it's dry, athough it can start to get oppressively hot from February. You could risk it at the start or end of the main monsoon season (May to September) but be prepared to get wet; in the south there's a chance of a ‘secondary monsoon’ (i.e a retreating one) hitting you in late November or early December.

Our top tips

Take lots of insect repellent, as well as books and games for passing time on deck. You might even want to bring that relic from our past, the letter-writing pad - if the scenes of Keralan life drifting past can't inspire you to put pen to paper then nothing will.

Great for...

Eco
  • Luxury Houseboats
  • 7 boats (1-4 bedrooms) + day cruise boat
  • All inclusive
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Unbelievably, not a single nail is used in the construction of the Lakes & Lagoons’ riceboats - that’s traditional of course, but it does seem a marvel when you’re drifting down the river in a slow boat to Cochin… in fact, it feels like you’re in a floating hotel room, with a moveable feast of scenery drifting by.

The sleeping areas are spacious and plywood-partitioned, with curved bamboo ceilings, arched windows and rush-mat floors. The odd section of dark wood panelling is offset by soothing cream walls and cushions provide the occasional splash of lime green or zingy yellow. Boats have 1, 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms (each with an ensuite shower room) with a choice of comfortable double or twin beds.

The boats also have covered outdoor areas (lit by lanterns after dark), who’s wicker sofas are scattered with luxuriously squashy cushions, and wooden tables for dining while you watch the world float by. The Honeymoon Special Boat has a greater emphasis on privacy as you can access the deck area at the front of the boat from the room.

On the Deluxe boats air-conditioning is provided between 9pm and 7am, while the Honeymoon Special Boat and the Lake Royal Premium boats have full time air-conditioning. This is a plus on those extra humid nights (which are so popular with mosquitoes) but the generator is noisy and can’t really be turned off once the crew has turned in (they have a separate sleeping area). You may prefer to curl up quietly under your mosquito net and listen instead to the water’s tranquil lap-lap.

If you would prefer a smaller taste of life on the backwaters, you can opt for the Day Cruise. Lasting approximately 4 hours, you’ll be served lunch, tea and snacks while you pootle along the river.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Fan
  • Mosquito net

Eating

At sundown, it’s time to moor and make way for local fishermen and their boats. Some of their nightly catches (perhaps pearl-spot or prawns) may appear on your plate at dinner or lunch, seared and seasoned with local spices. The on-board chef will also prepare delicious chicken and creamy vegetarian curries in his kitchenette (which is where the superbly chilled beer is kept!). Food is tailored to preferences, so you can ask for dishes to be as spicy or as mild as you like.

Meals are set appetizingly on the supper table in the lounge, where one of the helpful crew will have raised the window’s bamboo flaps to frame the shimmery sunset. Breakfast - tea, fresh juices, fruit and pancakes - is taken on the deck as you set off on another magical meander down the waterways.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Sunbathe or read on the decks, or simple sit back, glass in hand, and watch the lilies float by

  • Try a spot of fishing (angling can be arranged in advance)

  • Spot birds swooping in and out of the water - you might see herons, egrets, kites, colourful kingfishers and even parakeets

  • Pause en route to visit a workshop where coir and other coconut-based items are produced

  • Stop off at a spice plantation and breathe in the mingling aromas of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg…

  • Come in August or January for the breathtaking Nehru Cup snakeboat races in Alleppey

  • Ask to be shown a kathakali performance, a theatrical story-telling with highly made-up actors and dancers

  • Browse through village markets or stop for tea on the banks

  • Watch passing fishermen dive for shellfish or angle for pearl-spot

  • Enjoy the constantly changing backdrop of paddy fields, villages, backyards and palm groves

  • Above all, relax!

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Spice plantations
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children will love the experience and novelty of it all, but equally will tire of it more quickly than adults. Under 5s are free and 6-15 year olds are charged reduced rates. Do remember that there are no guard rails or life jackets!

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 10 independent reviews from i-escape guests

8/10
Rooms
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
8/10
Value
8/10
Overall

We opted for the honeymoon special - the best boat. Very clean and comfortable. Food good considering you're on a boat, the crew were excellent. They sell very poor wine at a high price to take on board. I would bring some good wine in bag (crew would not have a problem). Two night cruise the best as you see of the beaten track. We had small binoculars very useful. A highlight of our India trip. Def one of the highs

9/10, , April 2017

A fantastic experience not to be missed - the food alone was exquisite and there was so much of it. The room and boat was perfectly comfortable and the service from the team was excellent. We felt spoiled.

10/10, , March 2017

We spent only 1 night on the houseboat. This trip was more like an experience of what it's like to spend a night on a boat then of what it is to tour the backwaters. The amount of time actually navigating the backwaters was disappointing. Also, the boat is too large to sail the smaller backwaters. You need to take a canoe for the smaller backwaters.

7/10, , December 2016

We spent a night on a deluxe boat for 4/5 just before Christmas. The service was excellent and well organised. The food was delicious and the overall experience really special. Our air conditioning wasn't working properly and there wasn't really room on the floor for the extra bed for my son so we spent a hot night with three in a bed. Still, the morning light was stunning and it didn't spoil the magical experience. Well worth doing.

9/10, , December 2016

Wonderful experience. We were a bit disappointed that the trip follows a very fixed itinerary shared by all the other boats. The natural splendour of the backwaters and the impeccable service made up for it though.

8/10, , October 2016

We had a fabulous 2 night stay on a houseboat at the end of Sept. Weather was a bit mixed at that time of year. There were 3 staff - captain, chef and an engIne man. They were charming and pointed out various birds and things of interest. Food was fantastic - lots of it and very tasty - amazing flavours. If you are going to do one thing whilst in Kerala - this is it. It is a great way to relax and to see a different view of Kerala from the backwaters.

10/10, , September 2016

My mother and I had a two day trip on one of Lakes and Lagoons' premier boats. We were very pleased we had gone for the air conditioned option given the heat and humidity and also the abundance of mosquitos. The boat was very clean and our room well decorated. The three men we had on board were all extremely nice and went out of their way to make our stay pleasurable. Suresh, our cook, was fantastic and at each meal we were treated to a vast array of delicious, freshly prepared local dishes. Two days was a great amount of time for us - it was long enough to relax and enjoy the peace but we didn't get bored. Although the most expensive bit of our trip it was a real treat and we would highly recommend.

10/10, , December 2015

Completely brilliant service and food, and really comfortable accommodation. The best food we had all holiday (really saying something in Kerala) and an unforgettable experience gliding along the water.

10/10, , March 2015

The Keralan backwater trip on a houseboat really is as good as everyone reports. We spent two nights on the boat and loved every minute. The staff, Vincent, Matthew and Babu, were wonderful and looked after our every need. The rooms were comfortable, the shower was great and much better than I expected, and the food was one of the highlight as it was on a par with the food served at Malabar House. This is a very well run, well organized enterprise and I have already recommended it to my friends.

10/10, , January 2015

The gentleman on the boat did their very best but the food was just a little too rough and tumble. I think that one night is more than enough, by the second day we were ready for a change.

5/10, , June 2014

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Rates for Lakes & Lagoons