Kerala Backwaters

Kerala BackwatersOne of the major reasons that make Kerala a popular holiday destination is its backwater stretch. The backwaters is made up of a network of more than 900 kms of brackish lagoons of interconnected waterways fed by 44 rivers, covering about half the state of Kerala. They have a unique eco-system in which the freshwater from the rivers meet the seawater of the Arabian sea. They support rich vegetation, most of it being palm trees and pandanus, and unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs, mudskippers, otters and turtles, and water birds such as kingfishers, darters and cormorants.

The biggest stretch of backwaters is the Vembanad Lake which flows through three districts and meets the sea at Kochi. The Ashtamudi lake covering a major portion of Kollam district is the second largest and considered the gateway to the backwaters.

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Man-made canals connect villages in most areas and the backwaters are used for local transport. Gliding down the tranquil waterways against a backdrop of coconut groves, weaving through typical Keralan villages, one can experience the soul of village life both in the water and on land. Walk around the traditional homes, ride a bullock cart, visit a temple, the local market or simply just get lost in the beauty of the countryside. Cruising the breathtaking backwaters is certainly the highlight of a visit to Kerala and definitely the best way to explore it. Renting a houseboat can be an expensive affair but worth every rupee and one of the most memorable experiences for travelers in India.

Alleppey
Formerly known as Alleppey, it is one of the most visited backwater tourist spots. Situated on the southwestern coast of India and occupying a total area of 1,414 sq kms, it is known as the gateway to the backwaters. Roughly mid-way between Kollam (85 kms south) and Kochi (64 kms north), Alappuzha was one of the best-known and wealthiest ports on the Malabar Coast such that a large number of British expatriates lived here even after the independence of India in 1947. They were forced to leave when the newly elected Communist government of Kerala clamped down on private businesses in 1957. It is the centre for the Coir carpet industry and prawn farming.

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Kumarakom
A popular backwater destination, Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake lined with mangrove forests and coconut palms and is part of the Kuttanad region. The Kuttanad region is unique in that it cultivates paddy below sea level. In between these lush paddy fields runs the waterways, a cruise on which will take you through the heart of villages, passing many other traditional boats and canoes. Boat rides, houseboat cruises and other holiday packages are available to suit each kind of budget. Around the area, there are plenty of health resorts that provide exclusive getaways with the added bonus of ayurvedic programmes, yoga, meditation and other water sports.

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