Alleppey Kerala Backwater, Houseboats
Alappuzha once ranked among the wealthiest ports along the Malabar coast. It was a clearing house for spices, coffee, tea, cashew, coir and other produce shipped from the backwaters.
The main canal linking the waterways with the Arabian Sea was lined with factories and warehouses. Alappuzha prospered to such an extent that the successful British traders settled here.
With its trading history and interconnecting canals, tourist literature is fond of referring to Alappuzha as the "Venice of the East". Don't expect too much of a resemblance.
The town lies 55 km south of Kochi and 152 km north of Trivandrum. Alappuzha still commonly referred as "Alleppey' as in colonial times.
Like any mid-size Kerala town Alappuzha is busy and chaotic. But there are some quite suburbs with old colonial-era wharfs and bungalows.
The town is still a major hub in the coir industry. However the big bucks are made these days from houseboat cruises. Close to 500 Kettuvallam barges operate in Alappuzha.
Congestion of houseboats has proved a major challenge for the ecosystem of backwaters. Alappuzha offers some of the state's best value accommodation-much of it in characterful homestays.
Getting There and Moving Around
Cochin airport is the nearest airport. The airport is 90 km from Alappuzha.
The railway station lies 3 km southwest across town. The station is on the main Trivandrum - Ernakulam line.
Alappuzha is on National Highway. There are regular KSRTC buses to and from Kollam, Kottayam, Trivandrum, Ernakulam (Cochin) and most other major Kerala towns.
The main boat jetty on Vadai Canal has daily tourist ferry to and from Kollam. Local boat connections with Kottayam also arrive and depart in this jetty.
Local transport in Alappuzha consists of buses, auto-rickshaws, taxis and obviously-boats. Auto-rickshaws are convenient and cheaper than taxis.
The town has several tourist department offices. Most conveniently situated are the DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council) tourist reception centre and adjacent Kerala Tourism office. Both the offices are at the jetty itself.
ATDC (Alleppey Tourism Development Co-operative) main information office is on the second floor of the Municipal Shopping Complex.
Both ATDC and DTPC sell tickets for their ferries, backwater cruises and charter boats. They can also help you with local ferry timetables.
Note that many of the houseboat booking agencies around town call themselves "tourist information offices". But they are there with the purpose of finding clients for their cruises.
Alleppey, The Town
Alappuzha is surrounded by the backwaters. It is worth to set aside an afternoon to see the town's charm.
The town has intense traffic so you might browse the main bazaar, Mullackal Road, on foot. It is filled with typical Kerala shops. The shops range from gold jewellery to bell metal, spices and fishing hardware suppliers.
Southern side of the Mullackal Road has another sight. There is a row of umbrella show rooms, stocking every colour and size. Actually Alappuzha is main centre of umbrella industry in Kerala.
You can reach Alappuzha's lakes most straightforward by water. For short cruises, it is possible to charter motor boats.
More attractive twin-decked country boats are available from DTPC and ATDC. DTPC offer their own punted tours, carrying two people.
A highly recommended private operator is based at the Palm Grove Lake Resort. They have been ferrying tourists around Alappuzha's off-track backwaters for years. The resort is on Punnamada Kayal, 3.5km north of the boat jetty.
Alappuzha beach is long white sand beach on the west side of the town. The beach is not so suitable for swimming and sunbathing. Beach road has some of the best accommodation in Alappzha.
Alleppey Kerala Festivals-The Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race
Alappuzha really comes alive on the second Saturday of August. In the middle of the monsoon Alappuzha serves as the venue for the Nehru Trophy snake boat race.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was once invited for a boat ride from Koattaym to Alleppey. En route, Nehru witnesses a boat race on Alleppey's Punnamada lake. Excited Nehru jumped into the boat that won the race. The Punnamada boat race became world famous as the Nehru Trophy boat race after Nehru's death.
Snake boats are traditional longboats. They are more than 100ft long with raised rears resembling the hood of a cobra. Each boat carries 100 to 130 rowers and 20-25 singers. They row the boat with the rhythmic vanhipattu ("song of the boatman").
Similar races can be seen at Aranmula, Chempakulam and Payippad. The ATDC information office can tell you the dates of these other events, which change every year.
North of Alappuzha
Mararikulam is a fishing village between Alappuzha and Kochi. It is about 15 km north of Alappuzha. This peaceful beach has more local visitors. If you can afford the high tariff Marari offer tempting resorts and homestays.
Muhamma is 15km north of Alappuzha on the western banks of Vembanad Lake. Some of the best backwater resorts in Kerala are in Muhamma.
This village is also a centre of coir production. Local ferries run hourly from Muhamma to Kumarakom at the eastern banks of Vembanad lake.
Where to Eat During Your Alleppey Kerala Tours
Most of Alappuzha's homestays and guesthouse provide meals for guests. Usually delicious, home-cooked Kerala food is served to visitors. Many of them also serve cold beers.
Alappuzha's nearness to the sea, and the many canals, have made this area is famous for seafood. There are other food items too that you just have to try.
Alappzuaha's classiest restaurant.
Proper Kerala-Muslim restaurant. It has been an Alleppey institution for generations. Much of its old-world character disappeared in a recent face-lift. But the food is as delicious as ever.
All the food served in this little seafront restaurant is prepared in the kitchens of the Raheem Residency. So the quality and freshness are assured.
Hotel Green Corner
Try out the Appam and the stew.
Near Medical College
Serves excellent vegetarian food.
KTDC Motel Aaram
On National Highway
Serves lunch, with karimeen fry and vegetable done in local style.
Serves a fine dish of grilled prawns in Continental style.
Indian Coffee House
The food may not be up to much, but the coffee is OK. The location is pleasantly breezy in the afternoons.
(Run by DTPC)
Adjacent to its office near jetty.
A no-frills non-veg place. It has a roaring lunchtime with fish-curry-meals. In the evening you can have flame-grilled barbecue and tandoori chicken. The restaurant is a but dirty, but hygienic enough and cheap.
Next to Axis Bank, Just off Mullackal Road
An open-sided cafe overlooking one of the main crossroads in the market area. It serves fresh snacks with hot coffees and teas.
Boat Jetty Road
Great little veg and non-veg Kerala cafe. It serves tasty, freshly prepared thalis at lunchtime. Rest of the day snacks and biriyanis are served in neat white china bowls. It is cheap and popular, and much cleaner than the competition.
The True Local Food Experience
For the true local experience, you have to taste kappa (tapioca) and karimeen (pearl spot fish, a backwater fish). There are Karimeen pollichathu and karimeen curry. Karimeen pollichathu means, the fish is baked over coals and covered in banana leaves.
Konchu (brackish water prawns) pollichathu and varal fry are also equally delicious.
For a truly lovely eating-out experience, drop in at the toddy shop at the R-Block Island. Here apart from karimeen and konchu, all the delicacies are freshly caught from the water, cooked and served. You won't complain that the food takes time to be served, because you get to relish some toddy in the meantime.
Visit the Kalpakavadi Inn at Kannalipalam near the Thottapilly spilway, south of Alleppey on National Highway. The inn has fine Kuttanadan food and fresh toddy.
The inn is surrounded by a coconut grove, set next to a backwater. It has cottages where you can sit and relax while fresh fish caught from the lake is prepared.
Note, local food is generally very spicy.
Where to Stay in Alappuzha
Hotels in the town is not inspiring. Best hotels in Alappuzha front the Punnamad backwaters. The backwaters also has many beautiful homestays. You can also find some cheap hotels in Alleppey Kerala.
Many travellers chose to stay in a Kettuvallam (Houseboat). A unique offer in Alappuzha. All the hotels and resorts have some kind of tie-up with any of the houseboat operators.
Where ever you stay there will be mosquitoes. But don't worry, your hotels will make sure that it won't disturb you.
Alleppey Kerala Backwater-Houseboat Operators
ATDC (Alleppey Tourism Development Co-operative)
Tel: +91 477 2264462, 2261693
DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council)
Near Bus Stand, Opposite Canara Bank, Boat Jetty
Tel: +91 477 2253308, 2251796
Tel: +91 477 2251509
Aqua Holidays Tours and Travels
Opp Boat Jetty, Muncipa Shopping Complex
Tel: +91 477 2261209
Lakes and Lagoons
Tel: +91 477 2236181
Bharath Tourist Service Society
Raiban Complex, Boat Jetty
Mobile: +91 9447304376
Blue Lagoon Tourist Services
Kiosk No. 4, VCSB Road
Tel: +91 477 2260103
Lalbagh, Convent Square
Tel: +91 477 2245825
Bon Voyage Backwater
Raiban Complex, Boat Jetty
Tel: +91 477 2261079
Raiban Complex, Boat Jetty
Tel: +91 477 2252033
Coco Planet Tours and Travels
Near Nehru Trophy Finishing Point, Thathampally
Tel: +91 477 2239904
Akkarakalam House, Mullackal Road
Tel: +91 477 2664341
My Dream Cruis and Tours
Near Bus Station
Tel: +91 477 3290365
Pooja Tours and Travels
"Parambil", Near DTPC
Opposite KSRTC Bus Stand
Tel: +91 477 2239886, 87
Pulickattil Tour Links
Opposite Boat Jetty
Tel: +91 477 2251877
River and Country Tours
Opposite Boat Jetty
Tel: +91 477 2243581
Tel: +91 477 2264112
Muthoot Backwater Cruises
Near Pallathuruthy Bridge, A C Road
Tel: +91 477 2269932
NAS Tourism Group
Near Pallathuruthy Bridge, A.C.Road
Alleppey Kerala Tel: +91 477 2266432, 6451111, 6452222
Palma Verde Tours
Tel: +91 477 2236767
Mobile: +91 9744175544