The beauty of Kerala lies in its backwaters that are unique in the entire world. Brimming with natural beauty and economically viable, this uniqueness of Kerala, makes it a heavenly delight for its visitors. It features 41 West-flowing rivers of Kerala that are the highlights of this fabulous gift of nature. In earlier times, this water highway covered the entire expanse from the South of Kerala to the northernmost part of the state but many of these waterways have been closed now. According to a legend, it was the warrior sage Parashuraman who threw his battle-axe and 'reclaimed' the land from the seas created Kerala. Today, Kerala remains a land of canals, lagoons, lakes and rivers, which constitute the so-famous Backwaters of Kerala, which have played an important part in the lifestyle of the people living on its shores. For the benefit of the tourists, the old waterways are being re-opened.
Kerala's backwaters provide a gateway to the visitors to see the true rural life of the region. The traditional lifestyle of Kerala's villages is tough, slow and highly labor intensive and the chief occupations of the people are boat building, prawn cultivation, sand mining, coir manufacture, limestone collection (by the specialist divers), rice farming and duck rearing, which is in sharp contrast to that of the teeming crowds of visitors who come to the place.
Alapuzha is an ideal starting-point of the journey
Alappuzha rightly known as the "The Venice of the East" is an ancient city, which had trading links with Europe, Africa and the Far East. A boat trip along the pleasant waters is a lovely treat that one should gift oneself. Specially constructed Kettuvallams with all modern facilities carry tourists along the placid waters of Kerala's famed backwaters. A night trip under the wide and starry skies or a silvery moon can be the experience of a lifetime. Daytime trips give the travellers a chance to observe the routine life of the people on the banks. Memorable images include the water taxies, the coir workers and the fishermen doing brisk work.
Kuttanad,called the rice bowl of Kerala because of her wealth of paddy crops,is at the very heart of the backwaters.The scenic countryside of Kuttanad with its shimmering waterways also has a rich crop of banana, cassava and yam.This is perhaps the only region in the world where farming is done 1.5 to 2 m below sea level. Inland waterways which flow above land level are an amazing feature of this regionIt is the major rice granary of Kerala, where vast stretches of verdant paddy fields are interlaced with enchanting backwaters create some of the unforgettable sights.
Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala is all about an agrarian community, striking a chord of harmony with its physical setting. Noted for its farming below sea level (about 4 to 10 feet) the land of Kuttanad possesses a socio-cultural fabric of its own. Four major rivers in Kerala viz. Pampa, Meenachil, Achankovil and Manimala flow into the region.
Kuttanad can be accessed from places on the National Highway- 47 from Harippad to Alappuzha town in the District of Alappuzha, and from places like Thiruvalla and Changanasserry on the Main Central (MC) Road going through the District of Kottayam.
The most popular route taken to get close and explore Kuttanad is the Alappuzha-Changanasserry road. This road goes through the heart of Kuttanad and gives visitors plenty of options to watch the day-to-day life at Kuttanad. The best thing for a visitor to Kuttanad is that, one can take deviations from either side of the Alappuzha-Chanaganasserry road to reach villages, predominantly consisting of farmers. During the harvest season the vast expanse of paddy fields, at some places dotted with islets of coconut trees, will be busy with farmers engrossed in different farming activities;done in the traditional manner. Quite early in the morning itself one can sight the women folk heading towards the paddy fields carrying their lunch box and sickle, and on the other hand men could be seen already on the fields till the land, sowing the seeds, getting rid of weeds, diverting water channels etc.
A small island on the backwaters of Alappuzha,is a haven for hundreds of rare birds migrating from different parts of the world.Surrounded by the Vembanad Lake,stretching from Alappuzha to Kochi and the Kayamkulam lake,Pathiramanal is accessible only by boat.The green island thus forms an ideal place for a break in the journey while on a backwater cruise.The mainland Alappuzha has a vast network of lakes, lagoons and fresh water rivers criss crossing it and is a district of immense natural beauty.
House boat cruises along the waters around Kumarakom is an opportunity for observing the fishermen and also watch several species of birds that make the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary their home. The place is so enchanting that it captured the imagination of the poet prime minister of India Mr. AB Vajpayee who chose it for his annual retreat.
An important city by the banks of the famous Ashtamudi Lake, Kollam is considered the gateway to the legendary backwaters of Kerala. Kollam offers exotic and refreshing backwater experience.