Kerala and backwaters, the exotic charm of South India

September 18, 2019

In the region of Kerala you can find the backwaters, and ecosystem made of swamps and lush isles, which you can explore by houseboat, the traditional river boats from India.

Kerala region, India

Among green palms, scent of spices, colonial cities with a European flavor and luxuriant vegetation, Kerala, a state in south-western India, is the most exotic and wildest part of the subcontinent. The main feature of this region are the backwaters, an ecosystem of swamps and islands with lush vegetation, which you can explore on board of the typical houseboats, the traditional river boats. This magical state overlooking the Indian Ocean, however, is also fascinating for its cultural heritage.

In fact, the tradition of Ayurveda medicine is born here, a discipline with Buddhist influences that aims to restore the well-being of the person by re-harmonizing the psychic and physical balances. It is also interesting to discover the typical dance of Kerala, the Kathakali, characterized by the use of elaborate traditional costumes and abundant make-up, accompanied by music and percussion of drums. The expressions, gestures and poses of the Kathakali dance are predefined and fixed, as are the plots of the depicted scenes, mostly taken from Indian epics. The Kalaripayattu is instead the traditional martial art of Kerala.

A tour of Kerala usually starts from Kochi, or Cochin, the airport's headquarters, famous for its Portuguese buildings and traditional fishing nets imported by the Chinese. Then there are Kovalam, famous for its beautiful beaches, Alleppey, Trivandrum, the capital, Kollam and Kumarakom, an excellent starting point for cruises in the backwaters. If your trip to India also includes an incursion into Kerala, here are the destinations not to be missed.

Kerala's houseboats
A magnificent houseboat

The most beautiful cities in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

Thiruvananthapuram, also known as Trivandrum, is the capital of the state of Kerala and home to administrative institutions and major research centers. It is appreciated by visitors for its beaches, monuments and parks. Mahatma Gandhi called it "the evergreen city of India", because of its lush hilly terrain, between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. A curiosity: it is one of the most visited cities of Kerala and one of the oldest urban centers in India, since it appears in many texts of Greek and Roman literature.

Trivandrum in Kerala, India
City of Trivandrum


Kollam is a true paradise for tourists looking for relaxation! Here you will find the famous Ashtamudi lake, the backwaters, shops and excellent restaurants. For those wishing to take houseboat cruises between the backwaters, Kollam is a great place to start.

Backwaters of Kollam
Backwaters in Kollam

Kochi (Cochin)

Kochi, also known as Cochin, is one of the most important cities in Kerala. Besides being the economic capital of the state, it is full of options for shopping and is easy to reach as it is perfectly connected to other cities of India. It is nicknamed "Queen of the Arabian Sea" and is a very interesting tourist destination because of its historical sites, including the Fort of Kochi and the Church of Saint Francis. It is impossible not to notice the traditional Chinese fishing nets, a tool introduced in the past by China, a true distinctive element of the city. Thanks to its colonial past and its favorable position on the sea, Kochi is a cosmopolitan and lively city.

Church of Santa Cruz, Cochin
Santa Cruz in Cochin


Nicknamed "Venice of the East" due to its dense network of canals and waterways, lakes and backwaters, Alleppey is another popular tourist destination in Kerala. In particular, this city with a rich heritage is made even more pleasant by its favourable climate, due to the proximity to the ocean. Do not miss a visit to the Vembanad lake, Ambalapphuza Sri Krishna temple and Alapphuza Beach.

Traditional houseboat in Alleppey
Traditional Houseboat


Kovalam is a small town about 17 km from Thiruvananthapuram, famous for its beaches, much loved by western tourists who have come here on holiday since the Thirties. The fame of Kovalam took off however in the seventies, when it became an important hippy center. It was in those years that Kovalam, from a simple fishing village became one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.

Tropical beach in Kovalam
Kovalam, India


Kumarakom is another famous holiday resort in Kerala, characterized by a series of small islands between the backwaters complex of Vembanad Kayal, the largest of India. With its lush environment, it also houses the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. The landscape of Kumarakom is truly magnificent in the eyes of the western visitor, with lush palms lined up in a row on the horizon.

Kumarakom, Kerala
Lush landscape in Kumarakom


Munnar is a popular hill holiday resort, full of tea plantations. It was appreciated by English settlers as a place to spend the holidays and to admire the green crops. The town has the typical Indian atmosphere of small urban centers, with shops and guest houses. If you love the countryside, Munnar is a city to include in your itinerary.

Lake in Munnar
Munnar Lake


Thekkady is known for hosting the Periyar National Park. Its habitat alternates dense jungle with cultivations of tea. Periyar National Park, where you can go on a safari in search of the Indian fauna, develops around a lake created by the Periyar river dam. Thekkady is also dubbed "Tiger Reserve" and boasts a rich biodiversity, with different types of forests, swamps, 62 species of mammals and 320 types of birds.

Tiger in Periyar National Park
You'll be able to see tiger in the Periyar National Park

Does Kerala intrigue you? Discover all our tailormade tours in India!