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.
“The God of Small Things”, a bestseller by author Arundhati Roy, which won her the Booker Prize, is set in a village around Kumarakom. A central landmark in the book, “History House”, on the shores of Vembanad Lake, is now the Taj Garden Retreat Hotel, a luxury ayurveda retreat.
Kumarakom Bird sanctuary located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, attracts plenty of migrating bird such as the Snake bird, Little cormorant, Crow pheasant, White-branded water hen and the Tree pie. The best time for bird watching is between June and August, for migrating birds the best time is from November to February
The staple food of this region is the ‘dosa’ and ‘idli’, both made from slightly fermented rice paste. Fish forms an integral part of a meal, both lunch and dinner.
The nearest airport is Kochi about 75 kms away and the nearest railhead is Kottayam, about 16 kms away. The other interesting way of getting there is to fly into Thiruvananthapuram, drive to Kollam and begin a cruise through Alappuzha down the Vembanad Lake to Kumarakom.
Being a popular backwater destination, boutique health resorts have sprung up everywhere leaving a guest spoilt for choice. Some of them are Evergreen Huts, Kumarakom Lake Resort, Coconut Lagoon, Radisson Plaza Resort, Backwater Ripples Taj Garden Retreat, Eastend Lakesong, Abad Whispering Palms, Puzhayoram Heritage Resort, Golden Waters, Waterscapes, The Backwater Resort, Illikalam Lake Resort and Paddy Fields Resort.
Shopping in Kumarakom may be limited to small handicraft items of coir or coconut as it is essentially a nature retreat and not a bustling metro. Larger bits of shopping can be done at Kochi, 75 kms away.
The temperature of Kumarakom is similar to other coastal regions of Kerala, moderately warm. The summer high touches 35C while the high in winter is around 26C. Winter (December to February) is the best time to visit.
Kottayam – Just 16 kms away from Kumarakom, Kottayam is an ancient town famous for its churches, especially the Cheria palli(small church), and the Valia palli (Big Church), both 700 years old. The St. Mary’s church built in 355 AD has a bell with an un-deciphered inscription.
The Ettumanoor Shiva Temple just 12 kms away is famous for its exceptionalyy beautiful wall paintings and sculpture.
During Onam the harvest festival normally held in early August, Kumarakom comes alive with the spectacular snake boat race held in Aranmula village, about 60 kms away. In this famous Boat Race, hundred feet long boats rowed by as much as 125 oarsmen row in unison competing with others, drawing tens of thousands of devotees and spectators.
Kumarakom Bird sanctuary located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake and spread across 14 acres, attracts plenty of migrating bird such as the Snake bird, teal, flycatcher, lark, Crow pheasant, White-branded water hen and the Tree pie. Some of the migratory birds come form the Himalayas and a few from Siberia. The main attractions are local birds like the waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron, moorhen, cormorant, darter, Brahminy kite and ducks. Mangrove forests, paddy fields and coconut groves landscape the sanctuary. It has well laid out paths for walking around within the sanctuary.
The best season to watch cormorants and ducks are between October and February, and for migrating birds the best time is from November to February. The best time for viewing, however, is early morning when the birds fly over the lake. An early morning trek is recommended for avid bird lovers.
It is located 16 kms west of Kottayam. Beyond the sanctuary, one can take a boat ride on the lake or along the Kavanar River to neighbouring areas such as Kaipuzha muttu, Pathirmanal, Narakathara, Thollairam Kayal and Poothanpandi Kayal, which are also great locations for bird watching.
Amidst the serene waterways with its spectacular landscape, are numerous secluded backwater dream resorts dedicated to pamper the holiday maker. For the discerning traveler, this is a new alternative offering luxury, comfort, and traditional Keralan hospitality. Nestled behind mangrove forests or hiding behind coconut palms with a stunning view of the clear, tranquil waters, these resorts are really little paradises spread over acres of lush green combining traditional hospitality and cuisine with modern standards of service; the features ranging from aesthetic cottages made in traditional Keralan design, open-air garden bathrooms, herbal gardens, Ayurvedic Centres, Spas, Yoga and all the amenities of a starred hotel. Some of these scenic resorts have cottages uniquely constructed on a cluster of small islands connected through an intricate network of canals and accessible by boat or rustic bridges, some even have floating cottages. All the resorts, though, are surrounded by tropical gardens and rich open spaces providing ultimate relaxation in a breathtaking Keralan backwater environment.
Modern, yet in harmony with nature, some of these backwater resorts have been listed as the world’s best getaways by Conde Nast.
Some of the popular backwater resorts in and around Alappuzha are Punnamada Backwater Resort, Lake Palace Resort, Kayaloram Lake Resort, Pristine Island and Coir Village Lake Resort; around Kottayam/Kumarakom are Lake Village Heritage Resort, Golden Waters Backwater Resort, Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom Lake Resort, Waterscapes Backwater resort, Taj Garden Retreat, Radisson Plaza Resort & Spa, Whispering Palms, Backwater Ripples and Eastend Lakesong; and around Kollam are Backwater Retreat and Aquaserene.