Discover these world canals beyond Venice and Amsterdam that are not to be missed
While canals were initially engineered for transport or water conveyance needs with the oldest known canals going all the way back to 4000 BC, today they offer more than a practical purpose for travelers. As well as adding to a city’s aesthetic, visitors can see the sites on land from another perspective when setting sail on these waterways or when meandering their paths for an insight into a city’s history. Booking.com, the digital travel leader connecting travelers with the widest choice of unique places to stay, a range of must-do travel experiences and seamless transport options, has dived into its more than 227 countries’ geography and territories to find those with more than narrow (boat) appeal.
Alleppey, Kerala, India
See another side of India with a trip to the southern state of Kerala and be in awe of the famous backwaters, comprising of 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) of canals, lagoons, lakes and rivers. Traditionally used by the locals for transport and fishing, tourists can experience authentic village life here. Set sail on a tourist cruise or opt for your very own houseboat stay and take in the tropical riverbanks and jade green waters. Or experience these magical waterways even more close up by exploring the area by kayak and canoe. The main entry point to the iconic backwaters is through Alleppey, which is a two hour drive away from Kochi airport.
Where to stay: Begin a voyage on your very own home on water, with a stay at the exquisite Marvel Cruise. Live like a local on the traditional houseboat, called “kettuvallams” and cruise along the Vembanad Lake to discover the backwaters of Alleppey. Sample authentic Kerala cuisine cooked on board and take in the shimmering vistas from the viewing deck.
Fenghuang, also known as Phoenix Ancient Town, is surrounded by natural beauty and emerald green vegetation and waters. The life of this ancient city flows through the Tuo Jiang River and this historic town is best admired aboard a traditional boat. On the water, you’ll see everything from locals washing their clothes to fisherman out for their next catch. Marvel at everything from the stilted houses, known as “Diaojiaolou” to 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. Swap stories with fellow travelers in the shared lounge and admire the peaceful waterways from your bedroom window.
The Corinth Canal is an impressive man-made waterway that separates the Greek mainland from the Peloponnese peninsula, and connects the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. It is also one of the world’s narrowest canals which was designed to link the two bodies of water to save time for passing ships. The Corinth canal, which was named after the nearby city and was built in the late 19th Century, can be considered more of a modern engineering feat, yet it was initially dreamed up first by 7th Century BC ruler Periander and later Julius Caesar hoped to streamline travel with a canal here. Visitors can marvel at the steep limestone walls from a tourist cruise from Piraeus Port or even while rushing downwards on an exhilarating bungee jump from the bridge crossing the canal.
Where to stay: Visitors to the canal can base themselves at nearby Studio Poseidonia (Canal of Corinth) a beach front apartment close to the waterway. The property boasts a sun terrace and all the mod-cons guests would need to make themselves at home during a stay. As well as visiting the impressive Corinth Canal, the apartment is perfectly located to visit the nearby namesake city, 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, bridges and the river Reie, making it the perfect destination for those who love to be surrounded by charming waterways. With the canals coined 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: Set in the heart of the medieval town, B&B La Suite offers a chic stay just a short stroll from the historical market square. This luxuriously designed bed and breakfast offers daily breakfast to guests and its on-site restaurant, Sans Cravate, boasts a Michelin Star which food lovers will love. Guests also love this property’s location as it offers guests the perfect starting point to explore Bruges and its charming waterways.
Leiden’s canals have a historic past as they were built to protect the city in as early as the seventeenth century, making the canal one of the biggest city defenses across Europe. Visitors can secure a prime viewing spot of passing boats at the Zijlpoort or explore further into the beautiful city of Leiden by climbing up the fortress known as the Leiden Citadel and 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 and the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands.
Where to stay: Guests can seek the perfect harbor views at the Kagg Resort and set sail on an ocean adventure as guests are able to rent a boat along the quay with accommodation who are able to facilitate this request. Guests can also indulge in the culture of the city by eating and cooking like a local in a well-equipped kitchen for guests to use.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Located on Vietnam’s central coast, Hoi An’s old town is a well-known UNESCO World Heritage site that has canals flowing throughout. The old town is a bustling hub with water running through it, with picturesque architecture and hanging lanterns on narrow streets. The ancient streets are best explored by bike or on foot, as during designated times traffic is restricted. Travelers can get to know the waterfront by taking a cruise along the canal or by taking in the sights, smells and tastes of Central Market fish dock offering foods and handcrafted goods. Crossing the canal is the Japanese Covered Bridge, a decorative wooden bridge that acts as a pedestrian passageway. At night time the waters of the canals glisten reflecting the famous lanterns, the perfect spectacle for an evening stroll or boat ride.
Where to stay: The Corner Riverside Villa is the ideal homestay to welcome guests who want to immerse themselves into beautiful canal scenery. Guests can bask in a day of fishing or soak up the atmosphere in the old town and return home to tranquility of the garden or view the scenic riverside from the accommodation balconies.