Kerala vs. Kashmir Houseboats

Houseboat journeys are an unparalleled way to experience a region’s beauty and culture. In India, two destinations stand out for their unique houseboat offerings: Kerala and Kashmir. While both promise an unforgettable experience, they cater to distinct preferences and sensibilities. Let’s delve into the fascinating differences between these two houseboat havens.

What is the cost of staying in a Kashmir houseboat vs. Kerala houseboat?

Kerala Houseboat6,000*-7,500*
Kashmiri Houseboat6,0007,00022,000

*The rates for Kerala Houseboats are only applicable until September 31st and not applicable during the festive seasons.

History and Culture Kashmir & Kerala Houseboat

Kerala Luxury Houseboat

In Kerala, the iconic houseboats, known as Kettuvallams, trace their origins back to humble cargo vessels that once transported rice and spices along the backwaters. Today, these refurbished boats have been transformed into comfortable abodes for travelers seeking an immersive backwater experience.


In contrast, the Kashmiri houseboats, or Shikaras, boast a more regal heritage. These elegant wooden structures were initially built for royalty and the elite, offering a luxurious escape on the serene waters of Dal Lake.

Kerala & Kashmir Houseboat Types and Sizes

Kerala’s waterways are graced by a variety of vessels. The Kettuvallams, offer cozy accommodations for couples and families. Smaller, open-top vallams serve as local transport, ferrying passengers between islands and villages.


Kashmir’s houseboat fleet features the grand Shikaras, often boasting multiple bedrooms, intricate woodwork, and opulent interiors. Smaller Shikaras continue to be used for trade and transportation, adding a touch of traditional charm to the waterways.

Contrasting Landscapes and Experiences

Kerala’s backwaters offer a year-round feast for the senses, with lush greenery, tranquil waters, and the soothing rhythm of life along the riverbanks. The monsoon season, with its gentle showers and vibrant vegetation, adds a unique charm to the experience.


On the other hand, Kashmir presents a dramatic shift in scenery throughout the year. In spring and summer, the landscape explodes with colorful flowers and mild temperatures. Winter transforms the region into a snowy wonderland, with frozen lakes and snow-capped peaks creating a breathtaking panorama.

Cultural Immersion and Local Encounters

Kerala and Kashmir houseboat experiences offer a glimpse into the local way of life. In Kerala, you’ll drift through villages, witness traditional fishing practices, and interact with friendly locals along the backwaters.


In Kashmir, the warm hospitality of the Kashmiri people shines through as you savor traditional cuisine, learn about local customs, and perhaps even witness a vibrant floating market on Dal Lake.

Accommodation and Amenities: Tradition vs. Luxury

The traditional Kettuvallams in Kerala provides comfortable yet modest accommodations, prioritizing the journey and the surrounding scenery over rich interiors. However, modern houseboats with more amenities are available to cater to varying preferences.


Kashmir’s houseboats, particularly the larger Shikaras, offer luxury and grandeur. Many feature intricately carved woodwork, plush furnishings, and modern amenities, providing a grandiose experience reminiscent of the region’s royal past.

The Culinary Adventure

Kerala’s houseboat cuisine often features the delectable Sadhya, a multi-course vegetarian feast served on a banana leaf. To tantalize your taste buds, expect a Karimeen (pearl spot fish) fry on the side, showcasing the region’s fresh seafood.


In Kashmir, prepare to indulge in the rich flavors of Wazwan cuisine, a multi-course meal that includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. From Rogan Josh (a lamb curry) to Dum Aloo (potatoes cooked in yogurt and spices), Wazwan offers a culinary journey through the region’s diverse flavors.

The Choice is Yours: Experience vs. Luxury

Choosing between a Kerala or Kashmir houseboat adventure ultimately hinges on your travel aspirations. If you crave a genuine houseboat experience—a journey that takes you through diverse landscapes and immerses you in local life—then Kerala’s Kettuvallams are the clear winner. These mobile abodes on the backwaters offer a true voyage of discovery, where the journey itself is as enriching as the destination.


In contrast, Kashmir’s Shikaras, while undeniably luxurious and steeped in history, are more akin to floating resorts anchored on the picturesque Dal Lake. While they provide a lavish escape and stunning views, they lack the dynamic movement and exploration that defines a classic houseboat experience. 


Additionally, while Kashmiri Shikaras are known for their opulent interiors and intricate woodwork, the craftsmanship and attention to detail found in Kerala houseboats often emphasize simplicity and functionality, focusing on creating a cozy and comfortable atmosphere for the journey.


Whichever path you choose, both destinations promise an unforgettable experience, leaving you with cherished memories of India’s diverse and enchanting waterways.


So, which will it be? A voyage of discovery through Kerala’s backwaters or a luxurious retreat on Kashmir’s Dal Lake? The choice is yours.

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