Spice Coast Cruises

Alleppey, Cochin & the Backwaters, India
Book from GBP Book from £269 per night

Spice Coast Cruises

Alleppey, Cochin & the Backwaters, India

Experience India differently with a houseboat cruise along the winding backwater canals of hidden Kerala

Experience India differently with a houseboat cruise along the winding backwater canals of hidden Kerala

Tourist Kerala is a well-trodden path, but for a more authentic experience of this corner of India, a houseboat cruise around the waterways of the vast Vembanad Lake is a chance to fully embrace its nature and vibrant culture.

Spice Coast Cruises operates seven houseboats, converted from traditional kettuvallams (cargo boats that used to carry rice and spices). On a 1-3 day cruise along the network of backwater canals, you can enjoy high-end comfort and personalised service while taking in the local landscape, with the occasional stop-off to meet villagers and learn more about their lives and traditions. The one- or two-cabin boats (for two or four guests respectively) each have a staff of three and are designed to provide a fully immersive experience. Begin with breakfast on deck, before setting off along the banks accompanied by local villagers in their dug-outs ferrying their wares (which may well include fish for that night’s dinner.) After a stop or two to explore the myriad villages that dot the shoreline, it’s back on board for an al fresco dinner as evening falls, the grill sizzles, a magnificent starscape reveals itself, and the nocturnal animals come out to play. It's nightlife, but not as you know it.


  • Service is relaxed and friendly but professional. Staff consist of former fishermen, full of knowledge about the area. You also have your own personal chef!
  • Sustainability – boats are powered by solar energy and vegetable oils, and life on board is designed around having minimal impact
  • Despite their functional heritage, the houseboats are surprisingly spacious and sympathetically designed, with plenty of shading from the sweltering sun
  • The chance to witness at close quarters this centuries-old way of life on the tranquil Keralan backwaters
  • Rates include all meals and almost all activities


  • There’s only water served on board – but if you want alcohol or anything else, bring your own and staff are happy to serve it
  • Air-conditioning (an essential) can be quite loud in the still of night so bring earplugs
  • Despite the many comforts, don’t expect 24-hour running water and electricity
  • No baby cots or extra beds possible due to space restrictions

Best time to go

October to April is generally very dry, although temperatures (and humidity) rise dramatically from February until around May. June to September is monsoon season so it’s cooler but wetter.

Our top tips

This is mosquito country and they are determined. Stock up on lots of insect repellent before you travel. The air-con means the rooms are usually fine by night but early evenings on deck are when they feast. Also, bring plenty of sunscreen; the sun can be fierce and you're exposed even in the shade due to the reflection of the water.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Great Outdoors
  • Traditional houseboats
  • 7 boats with 1 or 2 bedrooms
  • All meals included
  • Children aged 0-4 welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym


There are two types of houseboat – One-Cabin which sleep two, and Two-Cabin which sleep up to four. Despite their former lives as local cargo vessels, they are surprisingly and sympathetically designed with their split bamboo and coir roofs, earth-toned fabrics and furnishings and spacious double beds. Boat lengths are the same, irrespective of number of cabins, but the Two-Cabin houseboats are wider.

You get a private bathroom (not exactly the height of modern but perfectly clean and functional) with complimentary toiletries. Do note that hot water is only available at specific times. Most boats also have a private dining and relaxation area, open on all sides to take in the views but also shaded enough to escape the midday sun or any rain showers.

There’s air-con at night and fans throughout the day.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries


Having your own chef on board means there’s no set menu; what you eat depends entirely on your own choices plus whatever is fresh on the day. Throughout your stops at the villages, you can explore the local produce and it can be prepared for you at any time. Vegetarian meals are catered for but, unsurprisingly, a lot of the cuisine in this region revolves around fish – the latest catch is prepared and grilled on the boat (karimeen/pearl spot usually), perhaps marinated in chilli, ginger and lime, and served with lentils, gourds or other locally sourced greens. Even the rice is from the local fields.

But often, you can also have chicken, prawns, curries and various breads. And the dishes can be as mild or spicy as you desire. If you want wine or cocktails, remember to bring any alcohol with you – the crew will chill it until you’re ready.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Coffee maker


  • Spice Coast Cruises offers 1-, 2- or 3-night standard cruises. We’d recommend two nights at least as this way you get see to more of the hidden backwaters of Kerala and gain a richer experience and insight into this centuries-old way of life
  • Lake Vembanad is the longest in India and supports a huge number of people and their myriad livelihoods from agriculture to tourism. Along the way, you can visit local markets and craft shops and stop for tea in local cafes. The markets here are great for, no surprise, spices – so stock up on cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom
  • Try a spot of fishing over the side (ask in advance to arrange) and you may end up catching your own dinner
  • This is a supremely relaxing endeavour, and for many a highlight of their trip to Kerala. There are opportunities to sunbathe, birdwatch (the lake and backwaters host a huge number of birdlife as well as marine life) and even visit workshops. But there’s nothing better than sitting back with a glass of something chilled and watching the world slip by

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Farm tours
    • Fishing
    • Historical sites
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Shopping / markets
    • Traditional cultures


Kids may like the adventure, but note that there are no lifejackets or guard rails so it may not be ideal for younger children. However, babies and infants up to the age of 4 can be accommodated if sleeping in their parents' bed. Due to space constraints, there are no baby cots or extra beds.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Families of four need to book a two-cabin houseboat. If a couple or two couples are travelling with a child/children under 5, the kids can sleep in their parents' bed.

Kid Friendly:


Spice Coast Cruises depart from a pier on Lake Vembanad, south of Kannankara in Kerala. This is about 30 minutes north of Alleppey (Alappuzha), on the southwestern tip of India.

By Air:
The nearest airport is Kochi/Cochin International Airport, which is around 70km away. Airport transfers are available on request, or you can arrange your own cab ride.

By Train:
Nearby Cherthala sits on the line between Trivandrum and Cochin and is served by several trains a day. Staff can arrange a transfer from the station.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.


  • Cochin International Airport 70.0 km COK


  • Beach 0.0 km
  • Shops 0.0 km
  • Restaurant 0.0 km

Rates for Spice Coast Cruises

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