The vision of boats racing to the finish line as each boatman strikes his oar into the water to a rhythmic chant. In the background, the crowd bursts into loud roars punctuated by loud silences as the fortunes of the teams they support rise and ebb through the afternoon. One team finally breaks past before the others to race across the finish line and is the winner.
The most defining image of Alappuzha or Alleppey is undoubtedly of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. This is where its traditional snake boats engage in an all-out demonstration of dominance interspersed with occasional playfulness. But it is Alleppey’s famed backwaters that routinely draw tourists from around the world. They head to one of its many houseboats, rocked gently by waves under the lazy sun, to unwind.
Here they become part of an intricate water network of canals, lagoons, backwaters, and beaches. As far as the eye can see, they are only surrounded by the sea. It is this that first gave Alleppey the title of the Venice of the East.
WHAT TO SEE
The backwaters and islands: Alleppey’s vast network of waterways are created by rivers that all journey into the Arabian Sea. Land is scarce in this landscape where water dominates. But its lagoons and islands are known as locations of unparcelled beauty. The best known among these is the Pathiramanal Island, which attracts migratory birds from around the world.
Alappuzha Beach: Among its best-known destinations, set against the Laccadive Sea, the Alappuzha Beach is also the setting of the 150-year-old Lacadive Sea. Its lighthouse is amongst the first such structures built on the Lacadive Sea.
Temples and churches: The home to many venerated Hindu and Christian shrines, Aleppey has the world’s first and oldest Nagaraja temple, Central Kerala’s oldest Anglican church, and also one of Kerala’s seven churches believed to have been established by the apostle Saint Thomas.
WHAT TO DO
One of the best ways to spend your time at Alleppey is on a houseboat cruise. This is also among the best locations in Kerala to experience the state's rejuvenating ayurvedic remedies.
Our tip: The best time to visit Alleppey is during the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, which is held every year on the second Saturday of August. It is truly an experience like no other. Alleppey is your access point to Kerala’s most famous race.
What to eat: The one cuisine item you must try on any visit to Kerala is its unique preparations of fish. For vegetarians, it is the best place to explore the Malayalee art of making avial. Only in this part of the country will you find a generous sprinkling of coconut over most of its vegetarian dishes. Like in the rest of India, a thali is a good option for those who want to sample a mix of the state’s offerings. Wash it all down, with one of the many varieties of Kerala payasam available here.
What to buy: Spices, oil, and masks are the things to pick up at most tourist destinations in Kerala. But in Alleppey, the art most representative of the city is its famed snake boats.
Getting around: Once you reach you enter Alleppey, the best way to travel to the city’s many lagoons is by boat. You could hire one through the homestay or resort where you will be staying.
Where to stay: The most scenic homestays are at the Pathiramanal Island. But even if you can’t rent accommodation here, we would recommend you book your accommodation at either a houseboat or an island for a real experience of Alleppey.
The best time to visit: Most tourists visit Alleppey between March and August.
How to get there: Alleppey is best connected to the rest of India by road and railway. By road, the city is closest to Changanacherry and Kottayam.