Kottayam has a vast network of rivers and canals, which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake, a fast developing backwater tourism destination. Vembanad Lake is having 83.72km length and 14.48km width. Traditional Cargo boats called Kettuvallams are modified into Cruise boats and House boats, with all basic facilities like kitchen, toilet, bathrooms, sit outs etc. These boats gracefully move around the back waters, providing facilities to tourist to enjoy the beauty of the Vembanad Lake in a relaxed pace. The Kumarakom tourist village offers house boat cruises and holiday packages. In the Vembanad Lake there is a small beautiful island called Pathiramanal or the Midnight sands. This lonely island in the Vemabanad Lake is accessible only by boat.
In the festive months of August and September, the rivers in and near Kottayam are turned into festival centres. The serene lakes come alive during Onam with a spectacular water regatta – the snake boat races. It is amazing to watch oarsmen, at least a hundred in one boat, slice their way through the waters to the fast rhythm of their own full throated singing. In the Kumarakom boat race conducted at Kavanar and Kottathodu rivers, about 50 types of boats viz veppu, ody, churulan and few snake boats participate