If you have ever seen postcard pictures of big majestic houseboats in a lake, then chances are they are from Alleppey. Allapuzha or Alleppey as it is popularly known is a charming town in the State of Kerala. It is truly the golden card to Kerala’s Tourism for if you ever ask someone about things to do in Kerala, “backwaters” is usually the first prompt reply you will receive. It is also often referred to as “Venice of the East” as the vibes really match. If you are looking to cruise the backwaters or have a relaxed idyllic holiday, Alleppey is the main gateway; here is where the magic begins. After all, the lake and the canals are their lifelines!
The best time to visit Alleppey is from November to February when the weather is much more pleasant and cooler and the skies clearer. The sunsets at the beach are spectacular around this time as well. It might not be that enjoyable in the monsoons with grey skies and a constant downpour, whereas in the summer it gets fairly hot and it is usually impossible to stay out long after ten in the morning.
Getting to Alleppey
There are various ways to get here namely by flight, train, cab. Alleppey is located a few hours south of Kochi and north of Kollam, in the middle. If Kochi is your first stop, you could take a taxi, train, or bus to get here. Post-Covid, trains, and buses are very unreliable, so do call them well in advance before you intend to depart.
If you are arriving by flight, you would have to land at Cochin International Airport from where you can hire a taxi to Alleppey. But, if you are arriving by train, you would have to get off at “Allapuzha Junction(Jn)” from where you take a prepaid autorickshaw to your accommodation.
Public transport by buses is frequent in Alleppey and rickshaws are available round the clock as well. If it is a specific bus you are looking for, do enquire with the bus station before you depart.
Covid Test on arrival in Alleppey
As of January 2021, they are not actively testing people arriving at the railway station. They do however sanitize your belongings and request you to fill a form with your ID number and information on how long you will stay plus the list of places you might visit.
Places to Stay in Alleppey
While you can always hire a houseboat for the entire night for you and your family(more on this later) there are some amazing options on land too. My top luxury option on land is “Punnamada Resort” whereas my top budget option is “Zostel Alleppey” While Punnamada Resort is towards the interiors giving a lot of importance to privacy etc, Zostel is a backpacker hostel right on the beach meant for solo travellers to network and interact with each other.
Things to do in Alleppey
Houseboats are the main reason why people visit Alleppey. It is amazing to hire a houseboat for a day or two, for yourself or a group of people, and cruise down the river and eating local Keralite meals, or perhaps sipping on some Toddy (local alcoholic drink) while gazing at the gorgeous view.
However, there are other ways to explore the local life lived by the people of Alleppey. One can hire a canoe or a shikara (a bit bigger than a canoe, with an electric motor) and cruise down the narrow canals witnessing the locals go about their daily routine. You might see someone washing their clothes, someone ferrying vegetables or other goods. The Shikara usually costs 500 per hour in peak season, and the longer you hire it for, the more distance you get to cover. It is a great way to cover all of the majestic Vembanad in Kumarokom, Kottayam, and experience the tranquil waters. Whatever time you begin, I recommend keeping the boat till after sunset as they get magical every single time.
During the boat ride, you might be asked for lunch after which they stop at one of the local restaurants by the river and serve Kerala meals on a banana leaf. It usually consists of rice, pickle, a variety of veggies, Rasam (a spicy soup of sorts, very therapeutic and aids in digestion), papadum. Do drink the coconut water as well! I would suggest to not have any other plans for the evening, as this will definitely wipe you out and you will want to crash in bed right after you are back.
To truly experience the way the locals live their life here, you should take one of the public ferries from Alleppey to Kottayam. The entire journey to and back takes many hours; you will be exhausted after so keep nothing planned for the evening. The ferries are a normal way of life for the people here, so you will see businessmen, school children, other office goers, and the regular folk all getting on the ferry at different intervals. Since Covid, the ferries are not frequent so be prepared to wait a bit. Once you arrive in Kottayam, if you intend to explore, you will need to take a rickshaw as it arrives in the middle of nowhere.
If you fancy a swim, you could visit Alleppey beach which has amazing sunsets. The water is clean and warm which makes for a fantastic time in the water. Do note that the official entrance to the beach is closed, but walk North down the path for 5 to 10 minutes and it will be fine to play on the beach or swim in the sea. If you stay at Zostel or any of the other hostels in the area, the beach is a 1-minute walk from there.
For those of you who feel like connecting with the divine, I highly recommend visiting the Shri Krishna Temple in Ambalappuzha which is near Alleppey. This temple is historic and was built in 790AD. The temple is dedicated to Shri Krishna and is connected with the Shri Krishna Temple in Gurvayoor. It is famous among devotees for its pal payasam.
Places to eat in Alleppey
While Alleppey usually sleeps early, places shut shop earlier than usual because of current Covid protocols. Alcohol in Kerala is a task to get and 6 pm becomes too late to get any. People wishing to drink may purchase it from the liquor shops directly with a permit, as they do not sell it in any restaurant, not even in 5-star hotels.
If you are looking to eat, Catamaran is a fancy restaurant overlooking the beach but is comparatively overpriced because of its amazing location. The Canoe is an old and famous restaurant at the main junction near Beach road serving local authentic cuisines. I would suggest trying out the Kadala Curry and Porotta. Ramada serves amazing food as well, but they close at 8.30 pm. Punnamada resort has a restaurant as well, one I would rate 10/10 as they serve the most lip-smacking meals at an affordable price. Most restaurants serve hot water boiled with herbs giving the water a pink hue and a slightly different taste. This herbal water makes for a healthy hot drink to have when you are not drinking tea or coffee.
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