Ashtamudi is best known as the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. Located in Kolam, it is the site of the Ashtamudi Lake, which is Kerala’s most visited backwater lake. It has been named by the Ramsar Convention among the wetlands of international importance.
Ashtamudi gets its name from the Malayalam words eight braids, which is a reflection of how the network of channels beginning at the lake cut through Kollam to create the landscape of famed Kerala’s backwaters.
But perhaps the region is best defined by the Chinese fishing nets, which dot its banks. All of this makes it the perfect destination for a holiday in a houseboat.
WHAT TO SEE
Ashtamudi Lake: Ashtamudi is the site of Kerala’s most famous lake, which originates as the Kallada river in Ponmudi. It is home to many rare mangrove species, of which at least two are endangered. Many species of local and migratory birds nest here.
Munroe Island: With its eight islets, Munroe Island is named after Kerala’s second Resident Colonel John Munroe. It was his efforts at reclamation, which first led to the formation of the island. Today, many colonial-era churches still frame the island's landscape, including the beautiful Dutch Church.
Thekkumbhagom Island: It is believed Kerala’s first epic poem was written on the banks of this village. The ancient places of worship you will find here are a 1000-year-temple and a 200-year-old church.
WHAT TO DO
Ashtamudi is best known for its exotic luxury cruises. It is also a great site for birdwatching and nature trails because of its place as the home to several endangered species.
What to eat: The one cuisine item you must try on any visit to Kerala is its unique preparations of fish. For vegetarians, it is the best place to explore the Malayalee art of making avial. Only in this part of the country will you find a generous sprinkling of coconut over most of its vegetarian dishes. Like in the rest of India, a thali is a good option for those who want to sample a mix of the state’s offerings. Wash it all down, with one of the many varieties of Kerala payasam available here.
What to buy: Spices, oil, and masks are the things to pick up at most tourist destinations in Kerala. But when you are in Ashtamudi also look out for replicas of houseboats, which are most representative of this part of Kerala.
Getting around: Once you enter Ashtamudi, the best way to travel by its islets is by boat. You could hire one through the homestay or resort where you will be staying.
Where to stay: When you are in any of Kerala’s backwater destinations, it’s best to book your stay at one of its many houseboats to truly savour the backwater experience. All of India’s biggest hospitality brands have properties here.
The best time to visit: Most tourists visit Ashtamudi during the summer months between March and June.
How to get there: Ashtamudi is best connected to the rest of India by road. The closest railway station is at Kottayam, which is just 10 kilometres away. The closest airport is the Cochin International Airport, which is approximately 80 kilometres away.