Alleppey is rightfully called the Venice of the East. With its labyrinth of backwater streams and interconnected lakes, Alleppey or Alappuzha is no less than the famous European city - neither in beauty nor in history and culture. Perhaps the most sought after destination in God's Own Country for a peaceful two to three days trip, Alleppey is the heaven for the nature lovers with the soul-soothing greenery and the soft waves of the backwaters. The experience is almost too good to be true for those who like to take a small, silent trip down the path lesser taken. Though that is not true for the backwaters, it is still quiet and peaceful once you hire your own boat and get started along the flow of the stream.
While on one of the backwaters trips, do not forget to pay attention to the everyday life of the villagers and their activities down in the lower backwaters, or the variety of avian species that you will most certainly come across. Kingfishers, storks, hornbills, swifts and many more domestic and migratory birds are easily spotted in the backwaters, making it a paradise for avian enthusiasts. Other than that, what you get to see or experience depends on the route you choose.
Keep an eye out for the most magnificent sunsets during the afternoon and a majestic sky for the nights. These are the added bonuses of these trips that no one will mention but are equally special.You can also go kayaking or canoeing on your own, but you have to be sure you can control the boat. Otherwise, there is a chance you will be quite motionless in the middle of the water.
The boat fares vary from one company to another, and also on the size of the vessel you choose. From the tourism department, backwaters tours are conducted by the government. The Alappuzha-Kollam 8 hours' trip departs at 10:30 AM every day and costs INR 300 per head. It covers Kumarakody, Alumkadavu, Kayamkulam Lake and other attractions. The other tour departs at 11:00 AM for Kuttanad and covers Kumarakom. It costs INR 150 per person. Other than these they have luxury boats for cruising purposes, whose prices depend on the vessel size and capacity.
Cruising on houseboats in Alleppey is the latest and probably the best addition to the list of ways you can enjoy the mesmerizing natural beauty of this quaint little town. Alleppey is gifted with a unique crisscrossing network of canals that runs throughout the town which allows you to access and explore the entire area while you're relaxing on your houseboat. It is manned by at least 3 people- a cook, a guide and an oarsman. Delicious meals are provided on the houseboats by your in-house cook which are a local favourite. The guide keeps you posted of all the important landmarks you pass and the oarsman makes sure you have a wonderful time cruising along the calm backwaters.
There are a number of routes that you can take while visiting the Alleppey backwaters to go around the water streams, and mainly Lake Punnamada. You stay the night aboard enjoying the beautiful starlit night before the cruise drops you to your destination. The boarding point for Houseboats is usually the Punnamada Lake, the venue of the infamous Nehru Boat Race. The costs of renting the houseboat differ with the type of houseboat you are looking for- budget-friendly, deluxe or luxury boats and the Houseboat package you opt for. Essentially, there are two types of packages available- 1 Night/2 Days package and 2 Nights/3 Days package.
Read more about Houseboats in Alleppey Backwaters
The Backwaters of Alleppey are known for its traditional snake boat races, all of which mark the celebration of the Onam festival. While the others fix their date according to the lunar positions, the one held in Alleppey (Nehru trophy boat race) takes place on the second Saturday of August every year. Even though snake boats are a long-nurtured tradition in Kerala, this particular race started in 1952 with a visit of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It has been held ever since on the given date.
Snake boats are named so because of their shapes - they are elongated and can accommodate from 80 to 100 people depending on the length of the boat. The rowers are divided on either side equally, each one pulling their own oar and competing with the other boats. Each village brings their own boat to participate in this fun-filled extravaganza held in the Punnamada Lake of Alleppey. This is a very unique and uncommon experience to behold that exists only here in the entire world and that is why tourists from around the globe flock here to be a part of the audience.
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If you want to see the boat races, you will have to visit during the Onam, which takes place in the beginning of August. Otherwise, October to April is a good time. Avoid the summer and monsoon months, because with a scorching sun or showering clouds over your head, you will not be able to enjoy the houseboats trips much.
The rail stations of Kottayam, Kollam and Thrissur are nearest to Alleppey, and Cochin airport is only 75 kilometres away. From all these places, you can hire cabs to Alleppey which will drop you off at one of the popular jetties or take you to your hotel or homestay location. There are interstate buses as well from Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and other cities at reasonable fares.
Alleppey has many places where you can taste the local cuisine. Ditch the regular restaurants and explore the authentic cuisine of the backwaters - shrimps, lobsters, the variety of seafood, coconut rice, chicken chettinad and definitely banana chips and toddy - do not miss out on these.
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