Set against the backdrop of verdant paddy fields and a huge expanse of still grey lake water which simply disappears from view is this picturesque town called Kumarakom. Over the years Kumarakom has placed itself in the world map as a niche destination of the nature experience seeking traveler. This idyllic and lazy village set in a maze of complex lush waterways has a gentle pace of a life which rejuvenates your soul as you take in the stunning views of nature. Life in this hamlet revolves around the Vembanad Lake which makes the culture and life of Kumarakom very unique.
Apart from the breath taking backwaters, Kumarakom has a very interesting history of how Henry Baker of Essex in Britain came here in 1818 and settled here with his family and contributing to the socio economic development of the region. Kumarakom is also home to a bird sanctuary which continues to delight keen bird watchers. Paul McCartney (Former Beatle) summed up the Kumarakom experience best saying “Truly, this is God’s Own Country.”
Location: 72 km to the south of Kochi city and 170 km north of Thiruvananthapuram city, Kottayam district, West Kerala.
Climate/ Best Time to Visit : The summer months over here are generally hot however the monsoon cools things down. September to February is considered the best time to visit Kumarakom however monsoon breaks during June-July are also popular here.
Good to know : The setting of Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize winning novel ‘The God of Small Things’ is in a village called Ayemenem which is just on the outskirts of Kumarakom. People who have read the book are likely to have an uncanny familiarity with the place.
What to see around
A leisurely houseboat ride from Kumarakom on the Vembanad Lake is the best way to discover this stretch of backwaters. You get a real feel of the rural Kuttanad culture as the boat travels slowly through the narrow canals which are the lifelines of the locals here. The first stop on your trip around the lake is R Block. This is a piece of tilted land of about 3000 acres where cultivation is done uniquely at a level below sea level. As you leave the R-Block a tiny speck of land called the Pathiramanal (Midnight Sand) looms at the distance in the endless expanse of the lake. The island is said to have a long story associated with it. A lot of action occurs at the Pathiramanal in the evenings. The sunset view from Pathiramanal is amazing. Vembanad offers a cruise of a lifetime!
This museum showcases as large display of driftwood sculptures collected from the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Pieces focusing on the Kargil war and a crocodile which is almost lifelike are among the attractions of this place. This museum is the brainchild of Mrs. RajiPunnose who spent a large part of her life at the Bay islands.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
This 14 acre rubber plantation which was part of the Baker’s Estate continues to attract and delight keen bird watchers. With Vembanad offering a ready source of fish and water it is no wonder why around 135 species of birds fly to Kumarakom in thousands. The sanctuary comes alive at dawn and dusk with shrill cries so a morning trip here will give you great sightings. Egrets, Indian Shag, Herons, kites and so on are among the inhabitants of the Sanctuary.
2 km down a mud lane from Kumarakom is this beautiful picnic spot where streams tinkle as they make their way through the landscape and waters roar as they cascade down the mountains from a height of 100 ft.
Activities & things to do
Travelling on the specially designed houseboat along the calm waters of the Vembanad Lake is one of the most unique experiences on offer in Kumarakom. The food on the houseboats to put it mildly is exquisite!
Village Life Experience
This UNWTO awarding winning responsible tourism programme will take you to the interiors of this backwater village and give you insights into the livelihoods in the village.
The backwaters are an idyllic place to relax with your fishing set. It is also a good opportunity to mix with the locals to get a feels of the rural Kuttanad culture.
Backwaters host many special events during August to September. The electrifying races by carved wooden boats set the backwaters on fire. Boat races are held in connection with Onam, the harvest festival in August/September. Scores of long snake boats and other smaller crafts participate in these events. The largest team sport in the world, the snake boat races are preceded by colourful water parades.
Kumarakom has many of the best Ayurvedic Spa’s in the state. The calming effect of the backwaters takes whole Ayurvedic experience to a new level.
How to Reach
By Air : Kumarakom does not have an airport of its own; the most convenient airport is Kochi is nearly 2 hours drive from here. Kochi has a very good air network and is connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, and Kolkata.
By Road : A good network of roads connects Kumarakom to Kochi and Kottayam. Kochi and Kottayam in turn are linked by road to all the prominent cities in South India
By Rail : Kottayam Junction is the closest rail station to Kumarakom. Kottayam again has train connection to the major places throughout the country.