When one thinks of Alleppey, scenes of backwaters and houseboats flash across the mind. Nicknamed as ‘Venice of the East’, Alleppey is homeland to a unique backwater lifestyle. The city is richly connected with many natural and man-made channels, as also large lakes. It is no wonder then that the major tourist attraction of this city is the backwaters. Houseboat stays are the must try attraction of Alleppey!
Unique houseboat experience
Simply put, a houseboat is a floating house. These boats boast of all the luxuries that a tourist can ask for. Typically, every houseboat has a captain, a cook and a helper who will be travelling with the tourists. But this small crew remains largely invisible, without spoiling your privacy or experience. These accommodation facilities vary in size from 1-bedroom boats to huge 2-storeyed boats which can easily accommodate around 100 people. There are also luxurious huge multi-storeyed boats which are nothing short of floating hotels.
- Typical Cruise Timings: 10 AM – 5 PM
- Standard Cruise Route: Alleppey to Kumarakom and back
- Houseboat Stay options: Tourists can book houseboats for a 2 hours, 1 day, 1 day and night or extended cruises. Depending on the duration of the stay, the houseboat takes tourists around Alleppey.
Booking a Houseboat
Just like any typical hotel, bookings can be done through the tour operators or online hotel booking sites. A tourist can select the duration of the cruise, number of rooms, option to have an exclusive boat or shared boat, route of the cruise etc. at the time of booking itself.
- Average Costs: A good houseboat for a 1D/1N package may cost around Rs. 8,000 – 10,000 for an adult.
- Trivia: The cost of a houseboat is inversely proportional to its age. A good boat can be at its prime for a period of 4-5 years and after that, it may creak and age gradually.
- Tip: There are many add-ons and custom features available in houseboats like AC, upper deck, custom menus etc. Discuss all these factors with your boat operator before booking.
Tourist attractions of the backwater cruise
Unlike several other tourist destinations, a cruise on an Alleppey houseboat is not about the destination, it is about the overall experience. But as you cruise along the calm backwaters, there are many tourist destinations that you will come across.
Jawaharlal Nehru Pavilion: Most of the boat cruises generally start from this reputed venue. The Jawaharlal Nehru Pavilion on Punnamad Lake holds the famed Nehru Boat Race each year in August. The tourists are generally taken on a sightseeing trip around the pavilion where the colourful snake boats, used in the last year’s race, can be seen.
Vembanad Lake: Spanning across miles of Kerala’s waterways, this is the world’s second largest freshwater lake. It is so large that tourists may even mistake it for a sea. The lake is algae rich and is marked with two variations of water (brackish and freshwater). The shores of this lake are dotted with coconut trees, Kerala villages and some tourist attractions too. Also while you cruise along the lake, do not miss the tourist attractions such as Kumarakom tourist village and bird sanctuary.
Kuppappuram Village: As you cruise along, the boat will take you to this small and picturesque village situated on the shores of the lake. Take time to stroll around the village and soak in the unique lifestyle. Agriculture and fishing are their major occupations and the villagers lead a stress-free laidback life. While at the village, some houseboats may also arrange for fishing on request.
Pathiramanal Island: Situated on the shores of the backwaters, this island will blow your mind away with its scenic beauty. Pathiramanal in local language means “sands of night” and there are some great beaches here. The island is also home to many rare varieties of migratory birds.
Kumarakom: This would be your last stop, before the houseboat takes you back to Alleppey. Kumarakom constitutes of a cluster of small islands and scenic beaches. The land is full of paddy fields, coconut groves and mango groves. Apart from this, Kumarakom also has a list of remote tourist attractions, all or some of which you may explore depending upon the stay.
NOTE: You may or may not cover some of the above mentioned tourist attractions based on the duration of houseboat cruise opted for.
Taste the Delicacies
As mentioned before, each houseboat has a cook, who is responsible for preparing fresh Kerala styled food for the guests. The boat will take guests to local fisheries where any special fish can be bought, these can then be prepared by the cook. Houseboats have a pre-set menu, so requests for any special food need to be mentioned early. While you stay in the houseboat, do care to taste Neymeen (Kerala-delicacy fish preparation) and Pazhamboori (a savoury snack made of banana). Vegetarians can enjoy the Kappa dishes of Kerala.
- Best Time to Visit: December – February & August (during Nehru Boat Race)
- Shopping: Handicrafts items made of wood and coir.
- Nearest railway station: Alleppey