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Houseboat Cruising: South India Tours

Our tours to South India invariably include an overnight stay on board a houseboat in the Kerala backwaters.

The entire state of Kerala in South India is criss-crossed with waterways that provide for irrigation and also serve as convenient modes of transportation and commerce. Next to the coastline, these endless stretches of lakes and lagoons are together called the backwaters of Kerala. Life along these canals and byways is quite different from that seen along the highways. Many of the villages are isolated and entirely dependent on the canals for means of livelihood, transportation and communication – and the best way to explore these areas is by a ‘kettuvallam’ or houseboat.

In Malayalam the word ‘kettuvallam’ means a sewn or stitched canoe. Traditionally they were built of planks sewn together with coir (coconut fibre) cordage, threaded through with a needle carved from a palm frond. The seams, caulked with coir plugs soaked in sardine or cashew oil made the boats waterproof. These ‘kettuvallam’, were designed to carry heavy cargo, such as coconuts and spices and to provide living accommodation for the boatmen. Preserving their historic character and style, craftsmen have created a unique atmosphere on board, a comfortable, self-contained world from which to observe rural Keralan life flowing gently by.

Several of our South India Tour packages such as Quintessential South India, South India in Depth and Four Gems of the South include overnight stays on board houseboats. Many of our travellers describe a houseboat cruise as a highlight of their travel to South India.