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Water Highways – Kerala Backwaters

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Famous for its backwaters, ayurveda, and scintillating snake boat races, Kerala is truely God's Own Country
| Backwaters of Kerala | Ayurveda | Quick Facts |
| Boat Race | Fairs & Festivals | Food |

In coastal Kerala, where tiny villages are connected by the intricate network of canals and lagoons, the day begins and ends on water. These water highways, commonly known as the backwaters of Kerala offer a memorable travel experience. It is not only just an experience but one that lasts a life time. No wonder, the backwaters of Kerala was included in the list of 50 must see places in the world.

Tourism in Kerala plays an important role in the economy of the state and the backwaters are a major contributor. A cruising experience in the Kerala backwaters should not be missed. It is an experience that opens a new world of water highways and the laidback life that goes along the shores. The banks of these backwaters may not make a cut as picnic spots but they surely are a way to learn and observe how daily life goes on in the tiny villages of Kerala. 

Daily chores of people – men going to work, children jumping in the water, women washing clothes, fish and vessels; there are other interesting sights as well – you may see a floating provision store, old women barter in coconuts and duck eggs in exchange of daily household things. The backwater mornings remain abuzz with all sorts of activities.

Backwaters of Kerala
Interconnected with waterways, lakes, rivers and lagoons, Kerala has over 900 km of backwaters. In between are a number of towns and cities, which are the starting and end points of backwater cruises. For example National Waterway No. 3 from Kollam to Kottapuram, covers a distance of 205 km and runs almost parallel to the coast line of southern Kerala.

Along the backwaters you may find a number water birds and animals. Kingfisher, Darter, Cormorant and Tern are common birds; Otter and Turtle are common animals that live in and alongside the backwaters. Palm, Coconut and various leafy plants and bushes grow alongside the backwaters adding a green layer to the landscape.

Places to Experience Backwaters of Kerala
A fisherman in Alappuzha

Get set for an exciting cruise experience through the canals of Alappuzha. Just step into a country boat and get a glimpse of many interesting aspects of daily life on the banks of Alappuzha backwaters.

One can easily find boats according to one’s choice in Alappuzha. You may choose from luxury houseboats to small country boats. Speedboats as well as passenger motorboats are also available, though small boats are quite popular for cruise.

Getting there
Nearest Railway Station: Alappuzha, a few kilometres away.
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, 85 Kms.

Situated on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom is a beautiful backwater cruise destination. It is a small village in Kottayam. Kumarakom is a small water world that offers lovely views of the emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals. Here, you may find plenty of traditional country crafts, boats and canoes.

Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom

The Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom
A well-connected network of canals and rivers empty into the Vembanad Lake about 16 killometers from Kottayam town is another backwater destination in Kerala. The lake is a good place to enjoy boating and fishing. It also provides boating a wonderful sightseeing experience. The lake comes alive during Onam, when it buzzes with people, who converge to watch spectacular snake boat races.

Getting there
Kumarakom is situated 15 km from Kottayam.
Nearest Railway Station: Kottayam, regular local and express trains connect the city Nearest Airport: Cochin International Airport, 70 Kms.

Rice Cultivation
The rice bowl of Kerala, Kuttanad has a wealth of paddy crops and is located in the centre of the Kerala backwaters. The captivating countryside of Kuttanad with its beautiful waterways also has a rich crop of banana, cassava and yam. Kuttand is perhaps the only region in the world where farming is done below sea level.

Getting there
Nearest Railway Station: Alleppey (8 km) and Changanassery (18 km).
Nearest Airport: Cochin, 85 km to the north, and Thiruvananthapuram, 105 km to the south

Ayurveda in Kerala
Quick Facts
Best time to visit Kerala:
The best time to go to Kerala is from October to February
Southwestern tip of India
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)
Malayalam; English is widely spoken
Hinduism, Christianity, Islam
February - May (24 - 330C)
June - September (22 - 280C)
October - January (22 - 320C)

The state’s equable climate and its tradition of curing various ailments make Kerala a natural choice for Ayurveda seekers. The abundance of herbs and medicinal plants further compliments Kerala’s claim as the land of Ayurveda. A complete naturalistic system, Ayurveda in general emphasizes in achieving the right balance among three main elements in the body - vata, pitta and kapha.

A number of treatments are on offer at various Ayurveda resorts in Kerala. Some of the common Ayurveda treatments available are:

Sirodhara: To treat insomnia, loss of memory, headaches, mental tension and certain skin diseases.

Vasthi: It is effective to cure gastric, rheumatism, arthritis and constipation

Njavarakizhi: Pain in the joints, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and certain kind of skin diseases may be cured through Njavarakizhi.

Pizhichil: Useful for nervous disorders, sexual weakness, paralysis and arthritis.

Ayurveda in Kerala

Sirovasthi: Helpful for dryness of nostrils, severe headaches, facial paralysis, mouth and throat, and other diseases of the head.

Abhyangam: A special oil massage, useful for obesity, loss of skin luster, sleeplessness and fatigue.

June - November is the best time to for Ayurveda in Kerala.

Boat Races in Kerala
Boat Race in Kerala

Aaranmula Boat Race: The Aaranmula Boat Race takes place each year in the scenic village of Aaranmula in August/ September. The boat race is part of the Aaranmula Temple festival. People gather at the banks of the Pampa to watch the boat race.

Getting there
Nearest Railway Station: Chengannur, about 10 km away.
Nearest Airport: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 115 km away.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race: One of the most popular events in Kerala, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race takes place on the Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha. Thousands of people throng the watersides of Alappuzha to witness the spectacular event.

Indira Gandhi Boat Race: The boat race takes place on the Ernakulam Lake during the Cochin Carnival in the last week of December.

Other Boat Races: There are a number of other boat races that take place in Kerala backwaters. Some of them are Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race, Neerettupuram Boat Race, Kumarakom Boat Race, Karuvatta Boat Race, Kavanattinkara Boat Race, Kottayam Mahatma Boat Race and Kottapuram Boat Race.

Boat races in Kerala take place in August-September.

Festivals of Kerala
Food: Kerala Cuisine
Kerala is known as the ‘land of spices’, and rightly so the Kerala cuisine is spicy but gentle on the stomach. A unique feature of Kerala cuisine is that it is served on a banana leaf. Almost every dish prepared in Kerala has coconut and spices, which gives them rich and spicy taste

Onam: The most important festival of Kerala, Onam celebrates the home coming of Mahabali, a king of ancient Kerala, who was famous for the justice and goodness of his rule. Onam is a harvest festival and is celebrated in the month of August-September.

Vishu: An important festival of Kerala, Vishu is celebrated in the month of April (usually on the 14th). According to the Malayalam calendar, it is the 1st day of the first month of the New Year. Traditional rituals are followed to bring in another year of prosperity.

Temple Festival Thrissur: This is a festival not be missed. Held in Thrissur every year in April-May, the striking feature of the temple festival is the exhibition of the idols of two temples in Thrissur on elephants, which are decked with golden forehead ornaments. The colorful umbrellas and decorations are changed several times in a ritual display as two rows of elephants stand facing each other.

Other important festivals in Kerala are Sabarimala Temple Festival and Theyyam. Besides these, Kerala also celebrates many other common festivals celebrated in other parts of India.
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