“Cruise languidly along the Keralan backwaters in a floating wooden hotel and watch the world go by...”
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 two 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.
- 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
- Impeccable service from the on-board crew
- The company has a genuine social conscience
- The pesky mosquitoes can be the biggest drawback to the backwaters, so bring plenty of insect repellent
- The air-conditioning is a mixed blessing: cool but uncomfortably loud. Please note the air-conditioning varies depending on your chosen boat
- We thought the bedrooms on the Deluxe boats looked small and a little dingy; go for a Premium boat if you can
- Backwater trips are becoming popular, so you may find yourself moored near quite a few other riceboats at nightfall
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Luxury Houseboats
- 7 boats (1-4 bedrooms) + day cruise boat
- All inclusive
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
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 your floating hotel room.
Boats have 1, 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms (each with an ensuite shower room) with a choice of double or twin beds. The sleeping areas are spacious and plywood-partitioned, with curved bamboo ceilings, arched windows and rush-mat floors. The Deluxe boat rooms are a little small and dark; the Lake Royal Premium boat rooms are bigger and brighter - well worth the extra cost in our opinion.
The boats also have covered outdoor areas (lit by lanterns after dark), with wicker sofas and wooden tables for dining. The Premium boats have an additional upper deck, which is where we spent most of our time as it offered the best views and a lovely breeze. 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 boat and the Premium boats have full-time air conditioning. This is a godsend on those extra humid nights (which are so popular with mosquitoes), though note that the generator is noisy and can’t really be turned off once the crew has turned in.
- Air conditioning
- Mosquito net
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 and served alongside plates of vegetables, breads and dips. The on-board chef can 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.
Coffee and baked snacks are available throughout the day - don't miss the banana fritters! Note that only bottled water is available on board, so if you want alcohol you are encouraged to bring it with you. Breakfast - tea, fresh juices, fruit and pancakes - is taken on the deck as you set off on another magical meander down the waterways.
- All meals included
- Vegetarian menu
- Sunbathe or read on the decks, or simply 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 and 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
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Historical sites
- Plantlife / flora
- Shopping / markets
- Spice plantations
- Traditional cultures
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!
Children (4-12 years)
Cruises take place on the backwaters of Kerala in southern India.
Fly into Trivandrum or Cochin International.
From the Airport
If you fly to Trivandrum you'll need to travel overland to the central backwaters; you can reach most of the towns (Quilon, Alleppey, Cochin, Trichur) by rail as well as road. Lakes & Lagoons can arrange road transfers; enquire when booking. If you're arriving at Cochin you can take a taxi from the airport to the harbour, where you can begin your cruise.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.
More on getting to Kerala and getting around
- Trivandrum Thiruvananthapuram International 0.0 km TVM
- Cochin (Kochi) International 0.0 km COK
- Beach 0.0 km
- Shops 0.0 km
- Restaurant 0.0 km