Kettuvallams in Kerala

Allison Sodha

Earlier this week, we boarded our overnight houseboat in Alleppey, a 1.5 hour drive from Cochin in the state of Kerala. The houseboats are called Kettuvallams, which literally means “boats held together by ropes.” The vallams are floating marvels of design, as not a single nail is used during construction. Instead, wood pieces are knotted together with ropes and coated with a waterproof resin. Our boat had a staff of three: captain, engine driver, and chef. Together, they guided and fed our way through the canals, allowing us to savor the elements of Keralan life.

As we coast, we observed. Women beat their colorful laundry on the rock steps. Children played cricket on the clay banks- and hoped the ball did not fall in the water. Men fished from their small boats for dinner and trade. A local temple played music from a loudspeaker adhered to a palm tree. And the villagers always waved and smiled as we passed their homes, asking “Where you from?” and smiling.

Lunch, dinner and breakfast were prepared and served on board. The food incorporated local ingredients, including seafood, coconut, ginger, garlic, and peppers. In the evening, we stopped in a village and bought freshwater lobsters that were prepared by the chef with garlic, butter and spices. As we sat at the outdoor dining table and watched the sunset, surrounded by an oasis of palm trees and canals, it was easy to understand why Kerala was termed God’s Own Country - a region of blossoming backwaters, hill stations, and pristine beaches.

The kettuvallams can accommodate 1-10 people (one, two or three bedrooms) and most materials used on board are eco-friendly. For more information, including a video tour of the boat, please contact a Sodha Travel representative.

Topics: India, Accommodations

Allison Sodha

Written by Allison Sodha

As the President of Sodha Travel and India travel expert, Allison is passionate about offering travel tips and destination inspiration. She has curated content for several publications, including Little India, and facilitated panels on sustainable travel in South Asia. Allison is currently the Delhi Destination Expert for AFAR and India Specialist for the Women's Tour Collective.