At a glance
10 Day stay & river cruise on Vaikundam, Far Horizon Tours from £2,395 pp incl. flights
Departure 14 February 2020 | Cruising on the Kerala Backwaters
- Veliyanad Village
All departures (15)
Cruising on the Kerala Backwaters
This itinerary operates north to south but also in reverse on select dates - contact us for details. Christmas and New Year dates will incur a supplement. Dates shown are cruise departure dates.
- Overnight hotel accommodation in Cochin on a B&B basis
- Accommodation on twin sharing basis on board ship
- All meals on board RV Vaikundam
- All entrance fees at monuments as per the itinerary
- All excursions and activities as per the itinerary
- Services of English speaking local guides during the sightseeing as per the itinerary
- Assistance at the airports
- Mineral water during the road travel
- All arrival & departure transfers with representatives at the airport and land transport by exclusive use (Cochin)
- All currently applicable taxes
Read our exclusive Kerala Backwaters River Cruise Review
Kerala has an extensive network of water-ways that lace the interior coastline, almost along the entire stretch of around 600kms. This labyrinthine network of rivers, canals, streams and lagoons formed by the inimitable craftsmanship of nature is the Backwaters and these water bodies give life to its unique eco system.
The destination called by National Geographic as the Green Venice of the East due to the green coconut trees making the backwaters into a shade of emerald, with splashes of red setting sun offers a very serene tropical destination. The water-ways are teaming with a lot of life as most villages are connected only through wooden boats. Villages, temples, churches, coir handloom, cultural centers, paddy fields, market places, wooden boat building yards, long regatta snake boats, traditional toddy tapping, home hosted meals, beaches, homes of Catholic Saint Chavara, festivals, makes this experiencing a very living cultures destination.
Our experiential cruise from the modern port city Cochin (Kochi) to the ancient port town Alleppey (Alappuzha), passing through Kottayam, the land of latex and spices, will be enlightening as well as relaxing holidaying.
Day by day itinerary
You arrive at Cochin airport. After clearing India Immigration and Customs, step into the receiving area where you will be met by our representative.
Transfer and check-in to your hotel.
We have a walking tour of Mattancherry, the bustling part of Old Fort Cochin and the epicenter of the spice trade for centuries.
Mattancherry is home to a small Jewish community whose origin dates back nearly 2000 years, during the period of King Solomon, when large scale trade took place between the Middle East and the Malabar Coast. Our touring today reveals Kochi’s multi-layered past, a rich brew of Arab, Portuguese, British, and Dutch influences.
Also visit the picturesque Chinese fishing nets that are unique to Kochi. These iconic land-based nets combine elegance and ingenuity, their massive frames balanced by counterweights manipulated by teams of up to six men. Long believed to have been introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He in the 14th century or possibly travelers from Kublai Khan’s court, these nets actually trace their origin to Portuguese settlers from Macau.
After breakfast, check-out of the hotel and proceed to witness the Kalaripayattu performance.
Regarded as the oldest and most scientific in the world, kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, is an integral of the Malayali culture. After the performance, transfer to Maradu jetty in Cochin to embark the river cruise Boat RV Vaikundam.
After having a traditional lunch on- board, we set sail to explore the magnificent network of waterways formed along the coastal belt by the rivers from the Western Ghats. Amidst the rapid development in the city, the Backwaters of Cochin remains placid, giving life to many island villages. The serene and scenic sights are heartening. In the evening we arrive at an old town called Vaikom, in Kottayam–the land of natural rubber latex and spices.
Vaikom got prominence in the history of Kerala during Indian independence movement when unity was of utmost importance.
We take a tour around the temple to get to know about its history and architecture. The architecture of temples in Kerala is unique. It is based on ancient science of construction and geographical features of the land. As per the traditional architecture, the each element of temple represents an element of human body, and, a temple is not only the space for spiritual enlightenment but also the venue for harmonious social networking.
After having breakfast on the boat, we visit the cultural centre in Vaikom to watch traditional dance performance Kathakali.
Next, we cruise to Chenganda village a rustic village along the Backwaters, where people are having a laid-back and peaceful life, occupied with coir making and fishing. Meet the people, the coir weavers, and coconut harvesters and mussel and prawns farmers and discus about life over a drink of tender coconut water. Watch various indigenous techniques of fishing: using shore-based ‘Chinese nets’, by drifting nets and or by hand.
Return to the boat for lunch.
Cruise through Thanneermukkom barrage. The barrage divides the lake into two– one half with perennial salty water and the other with fresh water enriched by the rivers. Arrive in Vechoor village. You may take a walk or relax on board.
Cruise through the expanses of lake Vembanad experiencing its wetland ecosystem. In the evening, visit a farm house located on an island which was made by reclaiming land from the Backwaters. The hostess will demonstrate the preparation of traditional Syrian Christian cuisine and you may also try your hand at cooking.vWe will have dinner at this house, before returning to the boat and retire for the night.
Having an early and light breakfast, set out for escorted canoe ride to watch the migratory as well as endemic birds of Kumarakom, a cluster of lagoons on Vembanad lake with a backdrop of mangroves, paddy fields and coconut groves.
Waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron and the water duck are some of the endemic species seen here. Parrots, teal, larks, flycatchers, wood beetle, and other birds are seen here during their respective migratory seasons. Return to the boat, refresh and while cruising a more elaborate breakfast will be served.
While cruising the lake you will get a glimpse of the rich wetland ecosystem of Lake Vembanad.
After lunch, arrive in Kavalam where the river Pampa reverses its course and drains into Lake Vembanad. You may take the ferry to explore the region, walk along the dykes surrounding the expanses of paddy fields and interact with the farmers and women’s collective.
Return to the boat and cruise till dusk, further into the Veliyanad village.
After dinner retire for the night.
After breakfast cruise to Kainakari. We visit Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of the Catholic Saint Kuriakose Chavara which is now preserved as a museum. Saint Chavara, the first canonized Catholic male saint of Indian origin, was the co-founder of the first congregation for men, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate-C.M.I., and of a similar one for women, Congregation of the Mother of Carmel-C.M.C.
Return to boat. After having lunch on-board, cruise to Pulinkunnu village. Get closer to the laid-back, yet harmonious, life along the way, paddling along narrow canal by country boat, interacting with the villagers.
Return to the boat for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, cruise to Nedumudi. On arrival at Nedumudi, drive through the quaint and scenic villages for a little over one hour to Mannar, which is famous for bell metal and brassware crafts. We interact with the artisans and watch the indigenous method of casting of traditional lamps, utensils and ornate locks.
Return, refresh and have lunch and relax on-board.
In the afternoon, cruise to Champakulam village. Kerala’s old spice trade used to pass through this town en route to Cochin and other ports on the west coast. Settled more than 1000 years ago by Syrian Christian traders, who later converted to Roman Catholicism under the Portuguese, the people chose to keep their syncretic cultural heritage. This can be seen in the monumental St Mary’s Church on the riverside. Built in 1550, the foundations are said to be as old as 5th century AD. Architecturally, it is a mélange of several European styles, from the Levantine altar and structure to the Dutch arches that tower overhead.
We visit the old church, a school, the local artisans (open on weekdays) who skillfully and passionately craft biblical heroes. Take a look at the narrow and long Snake boat (Chundan Vallom) of the villagers, gracefully docked on the shore. These types of boats, which are being used for races today in modern days, were once maritime war boats and their structure and design reflect the prowess of ancient Kerala architecture and are one of the icons of Kerala culture. Over one hundred oarsmen power these boats in races where they sail at speed generated to the beats of drums at the aft.
Cruise to Changankary village till dusk, passing through the serene canals.
You may relax on board or take a walk and after dinner retire for the night.
After having an early breakfast, proceed to Aranmula village which is home to a family of craftsmen who are skilled at making mirrors out of a special combination of certain metals. The secret of the trade has been passed down through generations. Visit the mirror makers; see the ancient temple of Krishna, see the mural art of the local artists and meet a snake boat builder.
Lunch will be arranged at a house of local architecture, located on the bank of Pampa, the holy river for the locals. The host will talk about the art of snake boat building and the ritualistic annual regatta in Aranmula.
Arrive in Thottappalli village by evening and cruise through the picturesque and serene interiors.
Take a leisurely walk to the beach before returning to the boat.
After dinner retire for the night.
Today we will have early breakfast and take a short drive to visit an ancient sacred grove near Harripad where serpents are worshipped. This is the only temple in Kerala having female priests. You can take walk inside and see the rituals going on before returning to Thottappalli.
Take part in the planting of a coconut sapling for the village. Coconut trees are considered as the ‘Kalpavriksha ‘or Divine tree of Kerala. All parts of a coconut tree are useful in one way or the other: the water inside is a healthy drink; the fresh kernel and the oil extract are inevitable components of every cuisine; fiber from the coconut husk is used to make coir, mats and geotextile; the palm fronds are used for thatching roof; the wood suitable for making furniture and all the dried parts of coconut make good firewood. Last but not the least, the toddy – the local alcoholic beverage that boost for the laborers after toiling in the fields.
After a leisurely sail we arrive in a quaint village – Karumadi village, where we take a walk around a small shrine. Along the way we interact with toddy tappers, who collect the sap of the stem of blossoming coconut flower and make the alcoholic beverage–Toddy. Learn the process of making toddy and take a sip from his pot!
We visit the village Kanjippadom for a leisurely walk and to meet the carpenters at the boat building yard and talk about the traditional method of building wooden boats (Kettuvallom), joining wooden planks using coir, cotton and natural resin.
Tonight we celebrate our sojourn over farewell dinner on board RV Vaikundam.
After breakfast we cruise to Punnamada Lake. This lake is the venue of the annual spectacular race of Snake boats of different villages of Alleppey.
Disembark by 9.30 am, and after taking a walk through the market place of Alleppey, transfer to a hotel near the Cochin airport for the few hours rest before boarding your flight back to home.
Sailing on Vaikundam
RV Vaikundam has nine well-appointed cabins with attached bathrooms on the lower deck and, well-functional kitchen, air-conditioned and exquisitely set dining hall and open lounge on its upper deck.