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Kuttanad, Alleppey Overview

Kuttanad is a region covering a large part of Alappuzha and some of Kottayam district, the heart of the backwaters of Kerala. Kuttanad is the 'rice bowl of Kerala', being home to lush green rice fields spread extensively, divided by dykes. Travelling through this secluded alcove of nature will give you a feel of traditional countryside life of Kerala.

A special peculiarity of this place is its geography. It lies around 2 metres below the main sea level, making it the lowest altitude place in the country. In these lowlands, Kerala produces large portions of the everyday meal on reclaimed lands, split up by many small and big rivers and creeks. These streams are perfect for the tourists to sail over and soak in the absolute best the region has to offer in an hour-long cruise on a houseboat or shorter trips on canoes. These trips offer scenes and sceneries that are worth remembering as well as capturing, thus making them ideal for the nature-lovers, shutterbugs as well as the odd romantic.

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Things To Do in Kuttanad

1. Cruising Through the Backwaters

Kuttanad is most famous for its heavenly backwaters that break and merge into a hundred channels, thus making agriculture and tourism easy. These backwaters, flanked by the greenest patches of agriculture - rice, banana and some more are a paradise for those who prefer serenity over stereotype. The best way to experience the waterways is to hop on a houseboat cruiser and drift through the calmness, taking in all the nature around you.

Many hustlers provide these services all along the Alappuzha district, the most famous route being a full day houseboat trip between Kollam and Alappuzha. Some of the usual sights along these boat trips are large groups of ducks quacking their way into the streams as they are shepherded by people on small boats; elsewhere the villagers fish with large nets and their traditional cane basket called Ottal while youths take splashing dives into the rivulets to collect lime shells.

2. Canoe Rides in the Water Inlets

Other than being the greenest patch in God's Own Country, Kuttanad is also dominated by some water bodies which criss-cross with each other to form a most attractive labyrinth of waterways to explore. The bigger streams can be accessed by houseboats, but for the smaller inlets which lead into the quaintest and idyllic places which you would have otherwise missed. Though these little boats or canoes cover a lesser distance in the specific time, they take you right to the authentic rusticity of Kuttanad and let you witness the lifestyle of the locals from close quarters.

On request, these boats often will take you for village tours, which include witnessing cultivation, boat building, coir making and fishing; along with a traditional Keralite meal. The local shacks serve a delicious and wholesome meal, and if you have a habit of experiencing unique delicacies, then you can ask for toddy which is a very popular native alcoholic drink.

3. Champakulam and River Pamba

Kuttanad, though mainly famous as a tourist attraction for its backwaters, also has some other unconventional spots that the wanderers would love to explore. One of them is Champakulam. It is a small hamlet located in Kuttanad region. It is divided by the river Pamba, and both banks of the river are covered with paddy fields and Kerala's trademark coconut trees. River Pamba is considered to be holy and is given the nickname of Dakshina Ganga, making its significance in Kerala very clear by comparing it to the Holy Ganges.

A notable place to visit in this village is the St Mary's Forane Church. Written records of it date back to 427 AD, making it one of the oldest Christian churches in India. Other than this, it is a quiet and peaceful place to simply take in nature, converse with the locals and enjoy a riverside walk.

4. Punnamada Lake

Punnamada Lake is an eastern extension of Lake Vembanad, which is the second largest lake of India and along the shore of this lake is located a good part of Kuttanad region. The place is engulfed in nature as the rest of the area and attracts a big number of travellers every year, especially those who love nature and a bit of distance from the maddening crowd in the more popular tourist spots. It is also known for the Nehru Boat Race which it hosts every year with much festivities.

Rice Bowl of Kerala

Kuttanad and rice fields are kind of synonymous, given the place is named the rice bowl of Kerala. It is from here the majority of the State's staple food comes from. The stretches after stretches of green paddy fields are a major attraction for those who appreciate nature. However, these green fields have a unique secret of their own. The lands which are cultivated include large areas reclaimed from the water bodies around and are actually a few feet lower than the sea level. The average undulation of this region is from 0.6 metres above to 2.2 metres below the water level.

The mechanisms are quite similar to that used in the Netherlands. It is the place with the lowest altitude in India and one of the very few places in the world where such extensive agricultural cultivation is done below MSL. The ideal way to see the rice fields is on a boat ride.

History and Legend of Kuttanad

As per historical facts, Kuttanad was under the rule of Chera dynasty over South India. The city of Kuttanad is said to be the seat of power and administration of one of the kings of that dynasty - Cheran Chenguttavan. Around the same time, this region also used to be a famous centre of Buddhism, thus getting the name Buddhanad, which later got changed into Kuttanad, according to many.

A mixture of local myth and real facts of history has given birth to many legends about Kuttanad. One of them is that the dense forests of the Kuttanad region were destroyed due to a wildfire. Burnt wooden logs and pieces were unearthed from the paddy fields for a long time until even some years ago. They might still be found somewhere. Many places in Kuttanad region have their names ending with 'kari' which means burnt charcoal - Ramankari, Putthukari, Oorukkari and many more.

For this reason, Kuttanad got the reputation of being the ancient Khandava forest mentioned in the Mahabharata, which the Pandavas visited on their exile and it was burnt down to ashes, as per the story. Another theory is that Kuttanad got its name from the words Kuttan - those who dig soil, as the place was dug out of the water and reclaimed for extensive agriculture.

Best Time To Visit Kuttanad

Kerala is extremely hot with typically humid tropical climate during the summer and monsoon months. If you want to avoid that, it is best to visit Kuttanad from October to March when the weather is pleasant.

Tips For Visiting Kuttanad

Look after your children more carefully if visiting the place during Onam celebration.

How To Reach Kuttanad

Kuttanad can be reached from the nearest airport at Cochin (85 km) or the railway stations of Alappuzha or Changanacherry hiring a cab. However, the best way to reach for the experience of it is by boat-way from Alappuzha. The boats of State Water Transport Department travel to and fro, each side taking a time of around an hour, covering the area of Kuttanad on its way up and down as a part of its passenger-cum-tourist service.

For the upper deck, the charge is INR 40 for one side of the trip and INR 80 for the return trip as well. To enjoy the beauty of Kuttanad, it is ideal to purchase an upper deck ticket.
For regular passenger and locals, the lower deck charge is INR 10 for one side and INR 15 for both. 

The Government boats start from 10:45 AM from Alappuzha and runs till 9:15 PM to Alappuzha.

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