Kerala, a state in south India, has been dubbed as ‘God’s Own Country’ for more than one reason. With the verdant Western Ghats mountains running along the state’s eastern border and the azure Arabian Sea gracing it on the west, Kerala is laced with breathtaking beaches, glorious tea gardens and spice plantations, incredible wildlife, alluring backwaters and so much more! While you should explore everything that the beautiful landscape has to offer, the labyrinthine Kerala backwaters should be at the top of your list. There are several regions in Kerala that are famous for the beautiful backwaters, but none as much as Alleppey, the Venice of India! There is no better way to spend a day in Kerala than by touring the backwaters in Alleppey aboard a charming houseboat.
The little state of Kerala has as many as 44 major freshwater rivers crisscrossing its length and breadth. Inlets of these rivers, various lagoons along the Arabian Sea and interconnected canals form the backwaters that stretch for over 900 kilometres across the state. The backwaters are an important ecological hotspot that anchors the aquatic flora and fauna of the state. The Kerala backwaters also have immense economic significance. The agrarian economy of Kerala is aided by abundant irrigation water from the backwaters. Fishing and fish curing are two of the primary livelihoods of people living in the region. The state-run regular ferry service along the backwaters is the cheapest mode of transport in the region.
You will be transported to a world of lush greenery and serenity the moment you step foot on a houseboat in Alleppey. Far away from the maddening crowd and bustle of city life, the backwaters in Alleppey will reinvigorate you with their beauty and tranquility. The check-in usually happens at noon, and the cruising starts immediately after. The best seat in the house is definitely the comfortable deck right behind the seat of the driver. Time will fly by as you get lost in the palm and coconut trees, shrubs, bushes lining the emerald waters of the backwaters, and it will be time for lunch before you know it.
Lunch or dinner atop a houseboat is something you should look forward to as you will be served Kerala cuisine at its best! The on-board chef will rustle up lip-smacking delicacies such as fish moilee (traditional Kerala fish stew cooked with coconut milk and special spices), chemeen fry (fried jumbo prawns coated in a traditional marinade), lemon rice, Malabar porotta (traditional Keralan flatbread), karimeen pollichathu (Pearl spot fish coated in traditional marinade and then wrapped and baked in banana leaves) and so much more. Apart from these, you can always request for customizations such as a vegetarian fare or a gluten-free one. After lunch, reclaim your spot and soak in the beauty of the various lakes, paddy fields, fishing villages, quaint churches, that will lace the route of your journey.
In the late afternoon, ask your driver to anchor the houseboat for a while in front of a market and go shopping for fresh prawns, crabs and fish, that the chef can cook for that night’s dinner. It will be an amazing experience as you will get to interact with villagers and get a taste of the calmness and simplicity of your bucolic settings. In case of an overnight cruise, the houseboat is anchored at the shore of a village at 6 PM and remains there the whole night. It will be a unique experience as you will lounge with your group, have your dinner in a boat while the chirping of crickets, the occasional mooing of cows, the fluttering of bird feathers, will surround you. The cruise will start again at 8 AM next morning, and you will be bidding goodbye to your previous night’s abode at 9 AM, of course only after having an authentic Keralan breakfast on board!
While a few houseboats are always available for spot booking, if you intend to visit Alleppey in the peak season during the months from October to February, it is wise to book in advance. And do not forget to request for the inclusion of a canoe ride in the package, if possible, as exploring the brackish lagoons on a canoe has the potential of being the highlight of the cruise. There are houseboats with a single room and a kitchen, there are those with several rooms, living space and a kitchen. And then, there are the double-storied ones with open upper decks. Each room has a washroom attached with it, so privacy is never going to be an issue even with the crew around. There are more than 500 houseboats in the Alleppey backwaters, and you will definitely find the one that will suit your needs.
The nearest airport from the city of Alleppey is the Cochin International Airport which is located 75 kilometres away. You will easily find cabs outside the airport for your trip to Alleppey. The Alleppey Railway Station is well-connected with the two main Keralan cities, Cochin and Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. Kerala also has an efficient public transport system. Buses of the Kerala State Transport Corporation connect Alleppey to all major cities in the state. Private luxury buses ply between Alleppey and neighboring states’ cities including Chennai, Coimbatore, Mysore and Bangalore.
Cruising the Kerala backwaters while being surrounded by the comforts of a quaint houseboat in Alleppey is an experience of a lifetime. Every houseboat, with its intricate woodwork, is a work of art in itself. There is hardly any place more picturesque than the gorgeous backwaters in Alleppey. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head towards the Venice of India!
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