Alleppey or Kumarakom : Choice of Backwaters
Kerala , nicknamed God’s own country , is known for its palm-lined beaches and backwaters, a network of canals. National geographic traveler named it as one of the ten paradises in the world and it is also included as one of the fifty must see destinations of a lifetime by Forbes.
Kerala is famous for its rich heritage, ayurvedic tourism, enormous backwaters, traditional artforms, mouthwatering cuisine, and much more. Kerala backwaters provide an enchanting view of the scenic beauty Kerala has and is a must watch in a lifetime. If you are missing a trip to Kerala for something else, you are gonna add a big loss to your pocket. Aleppey (also called Alappuzha ) and Kumarakom are two famous backwater destinations which tourists prefer. For a backwater exploration houseboats are much preferred choice .
What is a houseboat ?
The history of Kerala houseboats goes a long back. Long before the Highways came into existence and railways lines became a reality, water bodies had been the transporting veins of Kerala. A typical houseboat is about 80 feet long. It consists of wooden planks tied together by coir ropes. Believe it or not: no nails, nuts or bolts are used in the construction of a traditional houseboat. For making the structure last long, a covering layer of black resin made from boiled cashew nut shells is applied. Add the partition inside the boats with wood and the roofing done either with coconut leaves or with bamboo slices, you have your traditional Kerala houseboat ready. Houseboats are also called Ketuvallams.
The Hindu wrote, “A cruise along the mirror-still lagoons, picture-book lakeside, palm-fringed canals and shimmering rivulets of `God’s Own Country’ is the most enchanting holidaying experience in the country. With a cruise along the palm-fringed waterways turning to be part and parcel of holidayers’ itinerary, the traditional kettuvallam has emerged as the mascot of Kerala Tourism.”
More than 900 kettuvallams ply the backwaters and there are various routes which are popular among the tourists.
The house boats have all the creature comforts of a good hotel: well-furnished bedrooms, modern hygienic toilets, cosy living rooms, a beautiful kitchen and in some cases even a balcony for angling. The crew of a kettuvallam comprises two oarsmen and a cook. Fresh food, cooked in inimitable Kuttanadan style is the rage of the international tourists. Tourists can opt for a day cruise or an overnight stay in a houseboat. Most tourists prefer to stay overnight in a houseboat or kettuvallam as it offers a holistic backwater experience.
Aleppey or Kumarakom , The Tough Choice
When you are on a vacation in Kerala and is thinking of a backwater entourage, the most probable names that would pop up in your mind might be Alleppey and Kumarakom. Still the confusion of which to choose can be avoided by just checking up the details of both locations and your trip planning. Regardless of the choice of destination, both Alleppey and Kumarakom will give you an exemplary trip through the eye soothing beauty, Kerala.
Alleppey (or Alappuzha) is a city on the Laccadive Sea in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It’s best known for houseboat cruises along the rustic Kerala backwaters, a network of tranquil canals and lagoons. The city is situated 28 km from Changanacherry, 46 km from Kottayam, 53 km from Cochin, and 155 km north of Trivandrum. A town with canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons.
Alleppey was described by Lord Curzon as the “Venice of the East”. Hence, it is known as the “Venetian Capital” of Kerala. Alleppey is considered to be the oldest planned city in this region and the lighthouse built on the coast of the city is the first of its kind along the laccadative sea coast.
The backwaters of Alleppey is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kerala. A houseboat cruise in these backwaters can be booked very easily. Cruising on houseboats in Alleppey is the best addition to the list of ways you csn enjoy the scenic beauty of this little town. Alleppey is gifted with a unique crisscrossing network of canals which spreads all over the town allowing you to access and explore the entire area while relaxing yourselves in the houseboat. It connects Kumarakom and Cochin to the North and Quilon to the South. It is the access point for the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held on the Punnamada Lake, near Alleppey, on the second Saturday of August every year. This is the most competitive and popular of the boat races in India.] The mullackal chirap is also one of the attractions of Alleppey which is the festive season held for ten days every year in December.
Whether you are planning for a long or short stay in Alleppey, the houseboat trips through the backwaters is a must try experience. It not only gives you a very pleasant and energizing sightseeing experience , but also a very deep insight to the life of the common people in Alleppey. You can also see occasional migratory birds, seasonal rains, village lifestyle like fishing, toddy tapping, coir-making, prawn farming, etc. Alleppey is known for its cuisine too which includes a lot of fish varieties as Alleppey has a rich coastal water availability.
Alleppey’s is also known as the Honeymooner’s paradise where newlyweds can enjoy splendid backwaters ,beautiful sunrises and sunsets , night views in lakes, lantern nights, try local food varieties and enjoy artforms. The trip in the houseboat provides you a splendid view of endless paddy fields and swaying coconut trees as they surround you on all sides throughout the trip. Alleppey evenings are great at providing the perfect ambience for a fantastic honeymoon admiring both the enchanting beauty of nature and your better half.
Top Places to Visit in or around Alleppey
While backwaters houseboating is the best you can get in Alleppey, Alleppey also has a lot another things that can mesmerize you. While you are at it , let’s get a peek through that .
The Alleppey or alappuzha beach is famous for its intrinsic beauty and a 150 year old pier which stretches into the sea. Relaxing under the palm groves and picnicking beside the beach are fantastic options to the visitors of the beach. The Alleppey beach hosts festivals like sand art festival and Alappuzha beach festival which may be a new sight to the tourists.
The Krishnapuram palace is a palace and museum located in Kayamkulam near Alappuzha in Alappuzha district. It was built in the 18th century by Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the Travancore kingdom. It is popular among cultural experience seekers, architecture enthusiasts, and history buffs. The visiting time is 9.30 am to 4.30 pm except on Mondays. The palace is famous for its architectural style and works as a museum and displays a wide range of specimens like sculptures, silver and bronze antiques, canvas paintings, stone inscriptions, archaeological remains, megalithic remains, coin collections, wooden carvings, mural paintings, etc.
Pallippuram is a small scenic village located 5 kilometers from cherthala, a town in the Alappuzha district. It’s a serene village surrounded by water on three sides and has Vembanad lake in its east and west side and Chengada river in its south. A bridge connects pallippuram and cherthala. In addition ferry service is also available and its from Vaikom.
Kuttanad popularly known as the rice bowl of Kerala is well known for its vast paddy fields and geographical peculiarities. It lies in the heart of the Alleppey backwaters and provides extremely gorgeous view for the tourists. It has the lowest altitude in India and is one of te few places where farming is carried out below sea level. Kuttanad has historical importance too.
Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple
Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna temple believed to have been built during 17th century AD by the local ruler Chembakasserry Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan Thampuran. The idol of Ambalappuzha is likened to be the Parthasarthi form of Vishnu. This temple is famous for its Payasam, a sweet pudding served in the temple and is believed that Lord Guruvayoorappan visits the temple daily to accept the offering.
Chettikulangara Devi Temple
Chettikulangara Sree Bhagavathi temple is one of the most renowned hindu temples in Kerala. The main deity worshipped here is Bhadrakali, which is an incarnation of Shakthi devi and is born from third eye of Lord Shiva, to kill the demon king Daruka. Bhadrakali is worshiped for prosperity and salvation. .
Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple is a very ancient and internationally known centre of pilgrimage for the devotees of serpent gods. This temple is is nestled in a forest glade. The temple has over thirty thousand images of snakes along the paths and among the trees. It is such largest temple in Kerala. Women seeking fertility often come here to worship and once child is born thanksgiving ceremonies are held here. The turmeric paste available at the temple is said to have curative powers. Mannarasala Aayilyam is the main temple festival.
Revi Karunakaran Museum
Revi Karunakaran museum is a privately owned museum that displays decorative art and artifacts, including a large private collection of Swarovski crystals and ivory. Revi Karunakaran was the architect of modernized coir industry of Kerala.
Marari Beach is a beach in Alappuzha , 11 kilometers from Alappuza town. It’s a typical Indian beach with basic facilities which is normally quiet and peaceful but busy on the weekends. ‘Marari’ originates from ‘Mararikulam’ a local fishing village on the Arabian sea coast.
St.Andrew’s Basilica Arthunkal
The largest shrine of St. Sebastian in the world is here in Arthunkal St. Andrew’s Basillica and St. Sebastian’s International Shrine in Arthunkal. This basilica was constructed by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. It was rebuilt in 1584 under the vicar Jacomo Fenicio, an Italian Jesuit whose devotees claim to possess powers to heal the body and mind. Devotees fondly referred to him as “Arthunkal Veluthachan”, who passed away in 1632. After his death the church was rebuilt again.
Pathiramanal is a small island in Muhamma panchayath. The name Pathiramanal means ‘sand of night’. The scenic beauty of both sides of the lake as well as that of the island is mind blowing. It is home to many rare varieties of migratory birds and so is a paradise for bird lovers.
Karumadikkuttan is the name of Buddha statue found in Karumady ear Alappuzha. The name literally means boy from karumady. This statue is believed to be as old as 9th to 14th century , was abandoned for centuries in a nearby stream called “Karumady Thodu”. Later in 1930s, Sir Robert Bristow, a colonial engineer found the statue and did appropriate actions to protect it. It is now under the protection of Kerala government.
St. George forane church in Edathua is a major pilgrim center where feast of St. George is a major festival. Edathua is in Kuttanad region. Situated on the banks of Pamba river, the massive shrine o St.George Forane church is a major attraction for people who visit the area. It is built more than 200 years ago and resembles the churches of medieval Europe.
Vijay Beach Park
It is the only amusement park in the venice of the east designed for children to interact with their family and school groups to play , learn and have fun by themselves. There are more than 50 rides including both indoor and outdoor zones. Laser show, magic show, virtual reality theater, etc are also available.
St.Mary’s Forane Church
It is one of the oldest churches and was established in 427 AD and rebuilt many times. There is an ancient open air Rock crossat Champakulam church. Here you can have a glance at various rock inscriptions and ancient artifacts.
Mullakkal Rajeshwari Temple
Mullakkal temple is a multi-faith place of worship. The temple is accessible for devotees from all castes and religions. It is structured in old Kerala architectural style. Being surrounded by a well-maintained wall and a pond inside , the premises have plenty of trees and jasmine plants.
Thottappally is a village and is especially notable for Thottappally spillway, a spillway cum bridge .This spillway is one of the two regulators used to regulate water level in the paddy fields of Kuttanad, the other being at Thanneermukkom. Thottappally is Kuttanad’s drain way-out to the Arabian sea. Thottappally is also known for its fish harbor and its coastal police station.
Punnapra is a coastal village that holds much importance in the freedom fighting history of Kerala, due to Punnapra-Vayalar uprising. There is a memorial known as the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising martyr’s column and every year a procession is held to the memorial.
Thumpoly is a coastal town is a must see destination with beautiful sandy beaches. It has a serene ambience and can see a lot many birds out there. In addition, the view of fishing villages is so pretty to watch. Thumpoly is also famous for its canals.
Vembanad lake is the longest lake in India and the largest lake in Kerala state. It spreads over several districts in Kerala like Alappuzha, Kottayam , Ernakulam , etc. Vembanad wetland is included in the list of wetlands of international importance. It provides boating, fishing, and sightseeing experiences which are exhilarating. It is a lovely picnic spot and has turned to a prominent backwater destination.
Punnamda lake is the alternative name of Vembanad lake . It is known so in Kuttanad. The Nehru Trophy boat race is conducted in here. The most popular event of the race is the competition of the Chundan Vallams(snake boats). Other categories of vallams also participate in various events of the race. The Nehru trophy boat race is held at the second saturaday of every August and is a famous tourist attraction.
The Alleppey lighthouse is situated in the coastal town of Alleppey. It’s a major tourist attraction. It was built in the year of 1862. It is the first of its kind in the Arabian coast of Kerala. Visitors are allowed in here with a small entry fes.
How can I reach Alleppey?
By Air. The Cochin International Airport, located at a distance of 75 kiolmetres is the nearest airport to Allepey. …
By Bus. Kerala State Run Transport Corporation buses connect Alleppey to most major cities in Kerala. …
By Train. …
Kumarakom is a popular tourism destination located near the city of Kottayam (16 kilometres (10 mi)) and is a village on the banks of Vembanad lake, the longest lake in India, Kumarakom is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a noted bird sanctuary where many species of migratory birds including cuckoos and Siberian storks visit. The Vembanad Lake, the largest backwater in Kerala, is habitat for many marine and freshwater fish species and it full with fish varieties like Karimeen (Pearl spot) , shrimp commonly known as Poovalan chemeen , etc. The bird sanctuary extends over 14 acres , and came into existence following the preservation efforts from the government. It is a major tourist attraction of this area. Kumarakom has a moderate weather and climate throughout the year. It has a balanced tropical climate, including two monsoons named south west and north east. The average rainfall at Kumarakom is 1100 mm.
Fishing, agriculture and tourism are the major economic activities of the people in Kumarakom. Kumarakom’s perfectly balanced tropical climate is very suitable for cultivation. The place has expanses of mangrove forests, paddy fields and coconut groves. Fruits like Banana, Mango, Jackfruit , Ambazhanga, Puli (Tamarind), Chaambenga (water apple), Peraycka (Guava), Aathaycka (sugar apple) and Pineapple grow here. Also, cocoa and coffee, chena (yam) and chembu (colocasia), grow well and were cultivated under the coconut trees. This rich agricultural environment is mainly irrigated using interspersed waterways and canals of the Meenachil river. The smaller canals are often lined by hibiscus plants which lean partly over the canals to form a green canopy, from which hang the lovely hibiscus flowers , like coloured earrings on a beautiful ear .
In the olden days, when the bund separating the backwaters from the sea was not yet built, the water in the canals moved in and out with the sea tide and it was salty. After the Thanneermukkam bund was constructed, the connection to the open sea was not free anymore, and so the tidal movement of the water in the canals stopped. It stagnated and then plenty of water hyacinths started growing densely in the canals, forming lovely green carpets with pale lilac flowers carpets.
Kumarakom has a wide variety of houseboats and is well known throughout the world for houseboat experience. The canals extending all around Kumarakom provides a scenic and superb view of the beauty Kumarakom has. The Aruvikkuzhi Waterfall and its surrounding rubber plantations are a photographer’s delight. There is also the Bay Island Drift Museum near the Kumarakom beach for history lovers.
Kumarakom is the first destination in India to Implement Responsible Tourism practices. Kerala Tourism was awarded for its path-breaking ‘Responsible Tourism’ project in Kumarakom, which has successfully linked the local community with the hospitality industry and government departments, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism.Kumarakom has been declared a Special Tourism Zone by the Kerala state Government in 2005.
With all scenic features and warmhearyed people Kumarakom is considered one of the best tourist locations in Kerala.
Top Places to Visit in or around Kumarakom
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
Kumarakom bird sanctuary is situated in Kumarakom, on the banks of Vembanad lake is a perfect place for bird watching. Since it is set in the backwaters, it is a favorite haunt for migratory birds. There are local birds like waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron, etc as well as migratory birds like Siberian crane, Parrot, teal, lark, etc. Some migratory birds come from Siberia and some other from Himalayas.
Bay Island Driftwood Museum
Bay island driftwood museum displays a unique collection of superior quality driftwood sculptures of very high artistic value. These sculptures are prepared through a rare and innovative modern art form. A visitor would find huge collection of root sculptures of various shapes and designs.
Thannermukkam bund was built as part of Kuttanad development scheme to prevent tidal action and intrusion of salt water into Kuttanad across Vembanad lake. It is the largest mud regulator in the country. The view of the bund and nearby are beautiful.
Mango Meadows Agricultural Theme Park
Mango meadows is the world’s first agricultural theme park spread across 30 acres of land with more than 4500 species of plants and trees. It is one of the most biodiverse pieces of land on the planet. In addition park houses fifty cottages and are placed so that it does not disturb the environment.
How To Reach Kumarakom?
By air: via Cochin International Airport, approximately 80 kilometres (50 mi).
By rail: via Kottayam railway station.
By boat: From Muhamma (near Alleppey) to Kumarakom Jetty.
By road: KSRTC (16 kilometres) Buses and taxis are easily available at all times of the day from Kottayam.
Whether you travel to Alleppey or Kumarakom, the journey is gonna be magnificent. So come, travel and take back a bunch of memories. Happy Journey.