Captivating Canals Beyond Venice and Amsterdam
Some of the world's oldest canals date all the way back to 4,000 BCE and were originally engineered for transport purposes and other civic needs. In addition to still having practical uses, today many of these scenic canals and waterways are also a big draw for travelers. Not only do they contribute to a destination's overall aesthetic, but they enable visitors to experience a place's unique beauty and historic sites from a different perspective - on the water. While many travelers are well acquainted with the charming canals and winding waterways of iconic spots like Amsterdam and Venice, we have dived into the more than 150,000 destinations on our platform to surface six stunning, off-the-beaten-path destinations that are best experienced by boat.
Alleppey, Kerala, India
See another side of India with a trip to the southern state of Kerala and marvel at the region's famous backwaters, consisting of more than 930 miles of canals, lagoons, lakes and rivers. Traditionally used by the locals for transport and fishing, travelers can also experience a slice of authentic village life here. You can set sail on a luxury cruise or opt to stay on your very own houseboat to take in the tropical riverbanks and jade green waters at your leisure. Or if you want to experience these magical waterways even more firsthand, you can explore the area by kayak or canoe. Regardless of how you want to float your way through these iconic waterways, the main entry point is through Alleppey, which is a two-hour drive from Kochi airport.
Where to stay: Begin your voyage through Kerala's enchanting waterways with a stay on this exquisite traditional houseboat, called a “kettuvallam”. You'll get to live like a local as you cruise along the Vembanad Lake and discover more of Alleppey's mesmerizing backwaters. While on board, you'll be able to sample authentic Kerala cuisine and admire the shimmering vistas from the viewing deck.
Fenghuang, written with the same Chinese characters as the mythical phoenix, is a city in Hunan Province in south central China, surrounded by lush vegetation and emeragld green waters. The Tuo Jiang River runs right through the ancient heart of Fenghuang, which means this historic town is best admired aboard a traditional boat. From the water, you’ll be able to see everything from locals washing their clothes to fishermen out for their next catch. You'll be treated to unique views of the town's stilted houses, known as “Diaojiaolou”, as well as of the majestic Tianmen mountains.
Where to stay: Fenghuang Joy Riverview Hostel is the perfect home away from home for travelers on a budget, as this property is rated for the best value in Fenghuang. You can swap stories with your fellow travelers in the shared lounge and admire tranquil views of the town's peaceful waterways from your bedroom window.
The Corinth Canal is an impressive man-made waterway that separates the Greek mainland from the Peloponnese peninsula, connecting the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf on the Aegean Sea. Designed to link the two bodies of water to save time for passing ships, it is also one of the world’s narrowest canals. Named after the nearby city and built in the late 19th century, the Corinth canal is a true feat of modern engineering, despite the fact that it was initially dreamed up in the 7th century BCE by Periander (then ruler of Corinth) and later by Julius Caesar, who hoped to streamline travel by placing a canal there. As you pass through the waterway on one of the cruises that leaves from the port at Piraeus, you will be struck by the steep and imposing limestone walls on either side. If you're more of an adrenaline junkie, you can take the exhilarating plunge with a bungee jump from the bridge that crosses the canal.
Where to stay: The nearby beachfront apartment Studio Poseidonia (Canal of Corinth) makes for a great home base for those wanting to visit the canal. The property has a sun terrace and is perfectly located to visit the nearby city of Corinth which is just a short drive away. There visitors can marvel at another water attraction, Pirene, a fountain said - in Greek mythology - to be the favored watering hole of Pegasus.
Bruges, sometimes called the “Venice of the North, is home to several canals and beatiful bridges, as well as the river Reie, making it a perfect destination for those who love to be surrounded by charming waterways. With the canals lovingly referred to as the “city’s arteries”, Bruges is best explored by boat, with picturesque bridges and beautiful views to be uncovered all along the way. On dry land, Bruges also has its charm with visitors being able to visit Belfry Bell Tower and the Church of Our Lady. Those with a sweet tooth will no doubt be keen to sample the Belgian chocolate delicacies that are handmade at many stores including Dumon Chocolatier and The Chocolate Line.
Where to stay: B&B La Suite is a chic stay just a short stroll from the historic. medieval market square in Bruges. In addition to the daily breakfast served at this luxury escape, its on-site restaurant, Sans Cravate, boasts a Michelin star, which is a bonus for foodies. Guests also love this property’s convenient cental location, as it makes for an ideal starting point to explore Bruges' many captivating canals.
Leiden’s canals were originally built for protection in as early as the 17th century, during a time when such waterways were one of the biggest defenses a European city could boast. Today, visitors can secure a prime viewing spot of the passing boats along the canals at the popular Zijlpoort or treat themselves to more of a birdseye view by climbing up the fortress known as the Leiden Citadel, famous for its panoramic views of the old city. If the serenity of nature sounds appealing, head to Hortus Botanicus Leiden, a spectacular botanical garden which is the oldest one of its kind in the Netherlands.
Where to stay: For bustling harbor views, the Kagg Resort delivers in spades. If you're feeling adventurous and want to get behind the helm for your own custom tour, you can rent a boat along the quay. After a day of exploring this vibrant student city, you can whip up a home cooked meal in the well-equipped kitchen and kickback to enjoy more of those relaxing vistas.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Located on Vietnam’s central coast, Hoi An’s old town is a well-known UNESCO World Heritage site that is a bustling hub of canals, a mix of architectural styles and iconic hanging lanterns. Best explored by bike or on foot, automobile traffic is restricted on the city's narrow streets during designated times. Travelers can get to know the waterfront better by taking a cruise along the main canal or by taking in the sights, smells and tastes of the Central Market fish dock, with food and local handicrafts on offer. Make sure to visit the Japanese Covered Bridge (built in the 18th-century and one of the country's most iconic landmarks) at night, when the waters of the canals glisten with the reflections of hundreds of lanterns in a sparkling spectacle that's perfect for an evening stroll or boat ride.
Where to stay: The Corner Riverside Villa is an ideal homestay experience for guests who want to surround themselves with Hoi An's beautiful canal scenery. After a day of fishing or simply soaking up the atmosphere in the old town, you can relax in the villa's tranquil garden or snap some photos of the riverside from your private balcony.