Among all the experiences that touch the heart and imprint it with eternal memories, a ride down the Kerala backwaters tops the list. Difficult to put in words, a description would go like – the sun busy painting the sky, the swaying palms reflecting in the waters below, traditional boats & the whole world halts.
All the magic that God’s own Country is blessed with, seems to come alive right here in the lap of Kerala backwaters.
Popularly called ‘God’s Own Country’, it is best experienced on a houseboat ride down its canals, sipping the aromatic tea, drinking in the mesmerising views and rejuvenating your soul. A ride along the Kerala backwaters is truly an experience to cherish.
Houseboats or kettuvallams , as they are called, offer the unique opportunity to cruise the Kerala backwaters and spend a night sleeping out on the water, before returning to Alleppey Kerala the next morning. Service and meals are included on board, and it’s often mentioned as one of the best travel experiences in India.
You can choose to take a houseboat, shikara or kayak your way through these beautiful canals. A local ferry is also a good introduction to the Kerala backwaters.
There are actually backwater networks all over the state & it is possible to visit the Kerala backwaters from many locations. Amongst them, Alleppey and Kumarakom Kerala are the most popular ones.
Having been to both places, we were thinking which to choose for our recent trip in 2019. What made me choose Alleppey was the beach & the stays on the beach. I did not regret it a single bit.
If you can’t choose between the Kerala backwaters & beaches, enjoy the best of both in Alleppey Kerala! It is sandwiched between the sea & the rivers, sprinkled with coconut trees & golden sands. It also has a great beach & the distance between the beach & backwaters is just 4 kms, so you get both in one place!
It’s a small city & easily walkable for those who’re used to it. The scenic villages surrounding the Kerala backwaters in these towns offer beautiful opportunities for intriguing village walks. There are many beaches near Alleppey Kerala — Alleppey main beach with pier, Thumpoly beach, and Marari beach,all with golden sands and beautiful stays.
Most boats in Alleppey Kerala will give you the option to stop along the way at a fish shop to choose your fish for lunch. You can also enjoy the traditional Kerala food on a banana leaf (Sadya) at various places along the Kerala backwaters.
The local ferries run by SWTD are much more frequent & let you taste local life at only a few bucks. Check out their ‘See Kuttanad’ ferries which have an upper deck for tourists & lower deck for locals.
Things to do in Alleppey Kerala
1. Tour the Kerala backwaters- Houseboat, Shikara or Kayak
Passing beautiful blue lagoons and narrow creeks, overlooking greenery and serenity included! Cruise the Alleppey backwaters by Kerala houseboat for a memorable experience.
It’s a place where silence flows in the wind and the water to create an eternal experience that stays in your heart.
You can choose between private houseboats, shared houseboats and houseboats that can accommodate families for cruising the Kerala Backwaters; do consider a houseboat with an upper deck for better views, privacy & pics.
You can also take the Shikara (decorated motorboat) and get the opportunity of closely observing village life on the shore while cruising through the Kerala backwaters.
Kayaking is organised by many groups. It is the most eco friendly way to view the wonderful backwaters; however do mind the weather, it can get really hot.
You can also take SWTD ferries for a local feel. It costs hardly anything to go from one place to another. You can look at local life closely.
Do visit Kuttanad which is about dense paddy fields, waterways, coconut lines, fishing & duck farming. It is famously called the Rice Bowl of India. It is also the lowest point of India and guess what! Farming is done about 4-10 ft below sea level.
While on the Alleppey backwaters cruise, make sure to ask your boatman to stop at the rice fields which are below sea level and make for a perfect photo op.
2. Alleppey beach
The Alleppey beach is known as one of the best beaches throughout Kerala, due to its white sands and intrinsic natural beauty. Alleppey Kerala’s glorious past as a prominent port city is depicted by the 137-year-old pier that stretches out into the sea & gives it a unique landscape. Since our hotel was right ON the beach we used to walk up to the pier every evening and just gaze at the sky changing colours at sunset by the pier. It was unreal, really.
A km away from the main beach, you will find some cosy restaurants & no crowds as you have a delicious meal overlooking the sea.
3. Marari beach
The stunning Marari Beach is located about 11 kilometers from Alleppey Kerala in the quaint town of Mararikulam. The serene surroundings of Marari Beach make it the perfect place to relax, take a stroll alongside the endless ocean. The views during sunrise and sunset at the Marari Beach are not to be missed; it ranks high amongst the places to visit in Alleppey.
The water is clean and safe for swimming, the crowd is lesser and there are also few holiday resorts and home-stay accommodation options in the nearby areas.
4. Canoeing and Kayaking
Apart from taking a houseboat or Shikara, you can enjoy a closer look at the Kerala backwaters by kayaking. There are various tours that conduct this as a full day tour , including visit to a local village & lunch on banana leaves.There are also dedicated birdwatching tours that can be clubbed with canoeing or kayaking packages.
5. Snake Boat Race
The famous Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race takes place during August in the Kerala backwaters. The race is undoubtedly beautiful, but crowded. Hence, visit Alleppey Kerala around July, when the practice sessions are on and click unique photographs and get to interact with the rowers comfortably.
7. Ambalapuzha Temple
The Ambalapuzha Temple is the house of the revered deity Lord Krishna and is also known as the ‘Dwaraka’ of the south. Famous for its Temple Festival,the Ambalapuzha Palpayasam (sweet milk porridge) is a specialty of the temple. It is a must amongst the places to visit in Alleppey for the religious.
8. Fishing at Vembanad lake
It’s one of the famous places to visit in Alleppey; go fishing in the Vembanad lake, which is the largest in Kerala and longest in India. Fishing is a livelihood for the people in Kerala backwaters.
In fact, there are conducted fishing tours. Choose from angling, fishing with nets and handpicking of clams. It is quite a popular activity to try out when you’re in Alleppey Kerala.
9. Revi Karunakaran Museum
This museum has many crystals, precious and semi-precious stones, silverware pieces from the Revi Karunakaran family, but the best thing to witness here is the Swarovski crystal collection,which is one of the world’s largest private collections of Swarovski crystals. So, what can be better things to do in Alleppey in Kerala than admire this collection.
10. Watch sunset from a seafront restaurant
There are some cozy seafront cafes to enjoy an evening over stunning sunsets. Cafe Dreamers & Cafe Catamaran are the not to be missed cafes for a memorable evening.
Our Shikara ride in the Kerala backwaters
We had been in a houseboat in Kumarakom earlier & wanted to take the shikara this time.
We also wanted to take the See Kuttanad tourist boat but found that the upper deck was closed due to a mishap; hence decided against it.
When we reached the boat jetty, there were shikaras in all sizes & colours lined up which could be rented by the hour. We checked out 5-6 shikaras & decided on one, based on the sitting style.
We agreed at a rate of rs 400 per hour, for 2 hours. I wanted to get down at the rice fields & that was conveyed to the boatman before we started the journey.
We were also clear that we wanted to go in the narrower canals.The trip was beautiful, with a sole strip of land sandwiched between the lagoons in many places. We got down at the rice fields & took some snaps.
We saw palmed ringed narrow canals that wind through green paddy fields and coconut trees. It is also a chance to witness daily rural village life, farming and fishing by the Kerala backwaters. All houses had a boat tied in front.
Shopping in Alleppey Kerala
Do buy Khadi items, handicrafts, artifacts, spices and coir products in Alleppey Kerala. The International Coir Museum in Alleppey Kerala is one place where you also get to see how coir products like bags & wall hangings are made.
Food in Alleppey Kerala
There are many famous restaurants in Alleppey, mostly around the beach or the boat jetty near Alleppey backwaters…
- Cafe Catamaran & Dreamers – Both are right on the beach, with a global cuisine and great view of the sea and sunset
- Chakra & Harbour are frequented more by foreigners.
- Thaff near boat jetty & Halais is famous for south Indian & non veg food.
Veggies Only Corner:
The restaurant in Hotel Aryaas Residency- fantastic food, great lunch thali.
Nearby is Mahadev restaurant, north Indian & pure vegetarian.
Shree Mahaveer Bhojanalaya nearby is basic , but north Indian.
Arya’s restaurant near boat jetty is another pure veg place.
Indian Coffee House is also a good option for food.
How to Reach Alleppey Kerala
Cochin International Airport, 83 kms away,serves as the nearest airport to reach Alleppey Kerala by air. Regular cabs to the town are also available at the airport.
Alleppey Kerala has its own railway station which is 4 kilometers away from the city center. Alleppey Railway Station has regular trains to major cities across the country.
The town is well-connected with NH-47 and easily reachable from Kochi, Kottayam, Trivandrum, and Kozhikode. Visitors can also board KSRTC AC & regular buses from major cities.
Best Time to Visit Alleppey Kerala
The winter months from November to February are the best time to visit Alleppey Kerala. Summer months of March to May do see tourists due to summer vacations in schools, but it is hot. Places to visit in Alleppey & beach activities are generally closed during the monsoon season and hence should be avoided. Kerala backwaters tours do run, but are not recommended during monsoons.
Where to stay in Alleppey Kerala
There are many clusters of hotels & resorts near the Alleppey backwaters & beaches.
I preferred staying on the beach- near to- but not next to main Alleppey beach. The best part was that we were right ON the beach & yet away from the crowds. At night, we could take a stroll, sit on beach chairs till midnight hearing the waves & still be next to everything in town including restaurants.
Whichever way you decide to cruise the Kerala backwaters, it is a beautiful & unique experience in itself. Do share your experience.
Other places to visit from Alleppey include: