Soak up views of ever-changing landscapes. Drop anchor to discover remote riverside villages, unreachable by road. Throw yourself into a local festival, then retreat to the sanctuary of your floating home. Travelling by boat is a wonderfully relaxed way to experience a culture from a totally different perspective.

Waterways are often central to the local way of life and the rivers and lakes of India are no exception. Setting sail on a boat or houseboat allows you to explore a side of the country other travellers rarely see. It’s also a way to stay in some of the most charming and characterful accommodation going.

Check in, unpack, and let the voyage begin

Kerala’s traditional ricebarges, skilfully made from great planks of jackwood lashed together with coir rope, still form the basis for private houseboats on the languid Backwaters. A shallow draught replica steamer could be your home on the north-eastern rivers, where the only other boats are dinghies ferrying standing passengers and their bicycles from one bank to the other. Or you could stay aboard a five-bedroom houseboat, restored to its former glory, for an authentic taste of old-world Kashmir charm.

Each offers the chance to join the gentle, waterside rhythm of life. Get in touch, and discover India in slow motion.

How long should I go for?

River journeys range from four to 10 nights and can be combined to create a longer water-based experience. Alternatively, you could include a few nights on a houseboat as part of a longer, land-based itinerary – it’s all up to you.

What facilities can I expect?

Forget the giant sea-going gin palaces that ocean cruises have become – think more the comfort and unfussy surroundings of a small country inn. Cabins with en-suite shower rooms may not be that spacious, but are cosy and functional and include everything you are likely to need. Comfortable chairs on deck are the perfect place to relax with a drink and watch the world go by. Food will be relatively simple but freshly prepared, usually eaten in an inside dining room with picture windows for non-stop viewing of passing scenery. Crews are usually from the local area and accompany you on on-shore excursions.

Is it for me?

That depends on your outlook. While the great thing about a multi-day boat trip is that everything is taken care of, shallow waters can occasionally put a stop to sailing – so you need to be prepared to go with the flow. Think about whether you’d like your accommodation and exploration to be completely private or if you’d be happy to share meals and excursions with others on larger vessels (for example, the largest boat we use has 22 cabins).