Lakes & Lagoons

Alleppey, Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from US$178

Recommended awaiting i-escape review
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
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • 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

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
  • History religious
  • Plantlife
  • Traditional cultures
  • Shopping
  • Spice plantations

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...

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

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