Our guide to the wonderful experiences and highlights on at 7-night cruise on the Viakundam houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala.
A Kerala Backwaters cruise is one of the best attractions Southern India has to offer. This is our guide to the many wonderful experiences and highlights on at 7-night cruise on the Viakundam houseboat.
1. Ancient temples and colonial churches
With a visit to ancient temples such as Vaikom temple in Kottayam you will get to know the spiritually rich history of the region. Not to mention, you will also explore many of the regions old churches.
2. Kathakali Dancers
On board you will be treated to fascinating traditional performances from local artists. The South Indian artform of Kathakali is a jaw dropping combination of dancing and storytelling as these skilled performers re-tell legends from Hindu literature. You will also get the opportunity to meet the artists and learn about how they have honed their craft and kept centuries old traditions alive and well.
3. Kalaripayattu demonstration - the world’s oldest martial art
Watching a Kalaripayattu demonstration is another highlight. Originating in Kerala, Kalaripayattu is the world’s first and oldest martial art. Otherwise known as the “Mother of all Martial Arts”, this performative combat art is a mesmerising display of both agility and elegance with a dagger and a shield. On board, you will witness seasoned practitioners as they engage in a high-octane session of this world famous Keralan martial art.
4. Learn about the production of Coir
Take a peaceful stop down the winding waterway to explore the production of Coir. Witness the captivating process that local men and women follow to convert coconut husks into a useful and sustainable fibre that is used to make a myriad of items ranging from baskets to mats. Learn about the potential for this sustainable craftsmanship to play an important role in the battle against micro-plastics.
5. Explore local towns and peaceful villages
Hop off your houseboat into a manoeuvrable canoe as you get to know the lives of the people that call the banks of this river network home. Guided by an expert local guide a day on the canoe could simply be spent looking out for indigenous wildlife including the famous Kingfisher. Alternatively, you may jump onto land to visit the spectacular craft of mirror making in Aranmula.
Another fascinating stop along your river journey would be a visit to the town of Mannar. This historically industrial town boasts many colourful religious festivals that take place throughout the year. The apple in its eye, however, is its renowned production of bells. In the many forges of the town bells of bronze, silver and gold are produced all year round and are famous throughout India.
Any typical voyage along these enchanting backwaters would be incomplete without appreciating the way the land and the people have co-existed for many years. As you visit the Rubber Plantation at Aranmula and witness Keralan paddy cultivation, you will gain a rich understanding of the industrial value of this special natural phenomenon.
6. Observe spectacular wildlife
One of the jewels in the backwaters crown is its world-famous biodiversity. As your houseboat cruises gently through the serene Keralan Backwaters, you will arrive at Kumarakom. Here, you will have the opportunity to witness some of the magnificent wildlife that has led to Kerala’s affectionate title – ‘God’s Own Country’. There are 533 species of birds that migrate to Kerala every year and a day spent pleasantly gliding through Kumarakom will be a spectacular opportunity to do some birdwatching. You should also make the most of the chance to visit Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, set amongst the banks of the spectacular Vembanad Lake. If you couldn’t spot as much of the incredible wildlife in situe, at the sanctuary you will get to know the history of the migratory patterns that makes this area such a world-renowned hub for nature. Of course, you will be assisted by nature experts on board at all times of your journey to make sure you never miss out on any of the magic of the backwaters.
7. Enjoy freshly made, authentic cuisine
Naturally, one of the great pleasures of a backwater cruise is the delightful cooking prepared by the talented team of on-board chefs. As well as tasting a variety of Keralan cuisine, you will get the chance to learn from the expert chefs as you get an insight into what makes Keralan cooking so yummy. A personal highlight is undoubtedly having freshly caught seafood prepared in front of your eyes to eat amongst lovely company as the sunsets over this picturesque corner of India.
8. Experience the Pooram Festival
If you are lucky enough, your visit may sync up with the Malayam festival calendar. If so, you will be awe-struck by the incredible Pooram festivals. This religious festival sees presentations of richly caparisoned elephants, traditional orchestra called panchavadyam, the swift and rhythmic changing of brightly coloured and sequinned parasols called kudamattom and the dazzling fireworks in the early morning.
9. Watch the remarkable Snake Boat Races
Another wonderful festivity is the Vallam kali otherwise known as the Snake Boat Races. It is mainly conducted during the season of the harvest festival Onam in spring, though you may be able to see it at other times of the year. Watching the teams paddle the nearly 100ft boats in a race against each other was really exciting. Think, the varsity boat race but bigger!
10. Take a healing Ayurvedic treatment
On board, I would highly recommend trying out an Ayurvedic treatment. This ancient healing practice uses various essential oils and natural ingredients as well as physical therapy to provide a holistic healing treatment. It is over 3,000 years old and is reportedly used by over 80% of India’s population so it would be a waste to visit to India without giving it a try.
Our Spice tour combines a stay in Cochin with a 7-night cruise on the superb Viakundam houseboat.
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