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Alleppey Travel Guide

Alleppey Backwaters, Kerala Package Tours


Surface
Alleppey is on the NH 47 highway and is connected to all important cities in South India by public state transport buses. There are bus services operating from cities such as Cochin (1315 hours, Rs 33), Trivandrum, Kozhikode, Chennai, Bangalore (overnight luxury buses Rs 650), Mysore, Coimbatore (overnight bus Rs 220) to Alleppey. Alleppey is also connected to these cities by private taxi. These tourist taxis are the most convenient way to enjoy sightseeing, move around attractions, especially when traveling in a group. Most airports and railway stations have a decent tourist taxi service.

Train
Alleppey has recently been connected to Cochin by rail. The Alleppey Railway Station is about 5 kilometers (3.12 miles) from the central bus stand and the boat jetty. You can also reach Alleppey from other cities such as Trivandrum, Kozhikode, Chennai, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Kolkata by train.

Air
The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, about 64 kilometers (40 miles) to the north, and Trivandrum International Airport is approx. 159 kilometers (99.3 miles) to the south. You might have to pay about Rs 450 for a taxi to get from Cochin airport, then a bus or train to Alleppey. Alternatively, you can arrive at the airport in Trivandrum or Kozhikode (Calicut), Chennai or Bangalore, and further on catch a train to Alleppey.

Sea
Alleppey is linked by motorboat service through the backwaters to Kollam (Quilon), Changanassery, Kottayam, Cochin, Kumarakom, Kovalam, Chengannur and Kuttanad.

Punnamada Kayal (lake)
Punnamada Kayal is the lifeline of Alleppey. It opens up a serene world of emerald green canals past scenic islands, lush paddy fields and coconut groves, Chinese fishing nets, and a clear sapphire sky reflected in the still waters. Cruise the backwaters in a canoe and enjoy the languid pace of country life on this narrow strip between the Arabian Sea and Punnamada Lake.

Edathua Church
Edathua Church is a lovely medieval style structure from the 19th century dedicated to St. George. This colossal shrine nestles on the banks of River Pampa, about 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Alleppey on the Alleppey-Thiruvalla Road. According to legend, prayers and offerings made at this church help recover from mental imbalances and other ailments. The church is thronged with devotees especially during the annual feast from 27 April to 7 May (the Malayalam month of Medam).

Sri Krishna temple at Ambalapuzha
Sri Krishna Temple at Ambalapuzha is about 14 kilometers (9 miles) south of Alleppey, and is among Kerala’s famous temples for its typical temple architectural style. Devotees at the temple also look forward to the palpayasam, a sweet pudding made of rice and milk offered to the deity. The Aaraattu celebrations at the temple take place in March - April.

Karumadi village
The quaint Karumadi village is about 3 kilometers (1.87 miles) east of Ambalapuzha which is 14 kilometers (8.75 miles) from Alleppey. Surrounded by brackish water and lush paddy fields, the village is popular for its Karumadi Kuttanm – a black quartz statue of Buddha said to belong to the 9th or 10th century, standing by the side of the public canal. Historians are of the opinion that Buddhism prevailed prominently in Kerala in the 9th and 10th century, and the idol stands testimony to this.

St. Andrews Church, Arthinkal
St. Andrews Church in Arthinkal is about 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of Alleppey town (near Cherthala), set up by the Portuguese missionaries in 1581. The church is one of the oldest in Kerala, but for this great church there is nothing remarkable about the village of Arthinkal.

Krishnapuram Palace
Located about 47 kilometers (29.3 miles) from Alleppey on the way to Quilon, the Krishnapuram Palace was constructed during the reign of the Travancore monarch, Marthanda Varma. Though, the age of the palace is not known. Its double-storied façade displays a typical Kerala style of architecture complete with gabled roofs, dormer windows and narrow corridors. The palace is home to one of the largest mural paintings in Kerala, called the Gajendra Moksham.

Alleppey Beach
The Alleppey Beach, also known as Alappuzha Beach, is a pristine stretch of sand lacing a choppy Arabian Sea. An old character-filled pier, about 140 years old, extending into the sea adds to the idyllic charm of this beach.

Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
Sree Nagaraja Temple is one of the most important and ancient centers of snake worship in Kerala, located at Mannarasala about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Alleppey near Haripad on NH 47 on the Alleppey-Kollam route. Interestingly – and probably one of the rarest in the world - the temple has women priests to worship the serpent deities and conduct the rituals. Its thatched hut like architecture is typical of Kerala, and is also a fine example of an eco-friendly existence. The temple is about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) to the south-east of the bus station in NH 47 at Haripad.

Backwater cruise
Alleppey is the pivotal start point for trips into Kerala’s famed backwaters and the state’s rice bowl, Kuttanad. There are ample houseboats and motorboats to Quilon (Kollam) to the south, and Kottayam to the east. It is an eight hour ride on the backwaters from the Alleppey backwater jetty to Quilon, past some of the most entrancing scenery of palm-fringed banks, quaint islands, quiet fishermen villages, Chinese fishing nets and little rice boats carrying locals around the village and across it. If you are on a motorboat/steamer, it is a straight 8-hour journey on the backwaters with occasional pauses at little islands with a coffee shop or a traditional shack selling delicious local snacks typical of Kerala. One of these islands has a rustic shack selling an array of oddball antique silver jewelry. Majorly popular with tourists, the place sees an occasional steamer or houseboat stopping by to pick up armloads of silver junk such as anklets, earrings, necklace and bands among other counts.

Pandavan Rock
Pandavan Rock is a popular picnic spot close to Alleppey. The rock gets its name from the Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata who stayed in a cave here during the time of their exile. A brief climb brings you to this spot, and once at the top of the rocky outcrop you can take in exceptional views over Alleppey. Along the trail, there are several vantage points with brilliant panoramic views. The trip offers ample photo opportunities.

Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple
Sree Bhagavathy Temple is located at Chettikulangara, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of NH 47 on the Mavelikara-Kayamkulam route. Believed to be over 1200 years old, the temple is dedicated to Bhadrakali or goddess Jagadambika. There isn’t any historical evidence to support the origin of the temple, though legend has it that the temple is among the five established by Lord Parashurama. Some also believe that it was consecrated by Padmapadacharyar, a leading disciple of Adi Shankara. The deity at Chettikulangara is believed to possess miraculous powers, bringing devotees in droves to pay tribute.

Alleppey is the focal point of most trips to the famed backwaters of Kerala. Dubbed the ‘Venice of the East’, Alleppey (Alappuzha in Malayalam) is a backwater haven with a unique crisscrossing network of canals and lagoons that spread across the center of the town. The Venetian ambience of Alleppey is enhanced by the coir-made houseboats that punt along leisurely on the backwaters. A wealth of temples and churches add character to this understated seaside resort. The Alleppey Beach is another highpoint – it is a pristine stretch of sand lacing a choppy Arabian Sea, with an old character-filled pier, about 140 years old, extending into the sea.


History
When Raja Kesavadasan, the king of Travancore founded the town in 1762, there was just one canal through the strip of sand between the backwaters and the Arabian Sea. Gradually he developed it into a bustling waterway, complete with shops, factories and commercial establishments on either bank of the canal. This subsequently attracted merchants from as far as Europe and America.

By the mid-19th century, the sea had ebbed a mile, creating more land along the sand strip. Soon trading vessels began to call on Alleppey. In 1859 the first organized coir factory began producing matting from coir yarn on a loom developed by an English sea captain. Soon other British company-owned weaving establishments followed.

It was in 1851 that Alleppey had the honor of housing the first post office in the erstwhile Travancore State (Kerala).In the interim, in 1816, the Church Missionary Society set up its local headquarters in Alleppey. Christ Society of India and three years later the first Anglican Church was built. The commercial importance of Alleppey saw a downward trend in the late 1920s with Cochin, popularly referred to as the Queen of Arabia, coming into prominence as a major port city.

Today Alleppey is still a major center for trade in coir products, copra (dried coconut meat) and coconut oil for cooking and Ayurvedic products. Thanks to its long coastline, it is also a center for fishing and marine products processing activities. Meanwhile, the government continues to make efforts to promote tourism in this lovely seaside resort.

Getting Around
Alleppey has a decent local bus service system, and is very cheap. Auto-rickshaws are available just about everywhere – a great way of commuting from one attraction to the other. Local taxis can also be availed at a reasonable cost. There are a number of car rental companies offering cars with chauffeurs or self drive. They charge close to Rs. 7 per kilometer. If you are visiting places such as Kuttanad, the mode of transport is boat, as many places in Kuttanad are inaccessible by road. Besides, there is a good ferry service to Kollam (Quilon), Kottayam, and between places that are widely used by the locals – a cheap and scenic way of getting around. Also, some attractions are so close to each other that you can consider walking over or taking a cycle-rickshaw.

Tourist Traps in the City
Houseboats are luxurious and offer a great view of the backwaters. But the size of these houseboats mostly makes them unfit for a cruise down narrow and more intimate quarters of the backwater which are still charming. They mostly meander along the very touristy stretches such as larger rivers and canals, and could miss you out on a more authentic backwater experience. Other than this, some houseboats can be a tad noisy, what with outboard motors and often generators. Mostly, houseboats cause environmental degradation since most of their garbage goes into the river. Get your cabin crew to use a waste bin, and make sure the utensils are not washed in the local water. It is disheartening to see some stretches of backwater littered with flotsam.

Local Custom
Whatever season you choose to visit, it is wise to carry appropriate clothing, mindful of the fact that short clothes not only risk overexposure to the harmful effects of the sun but also could offend the locals who are a tad conservative. It is ideal to bring light cotton clothing of the long-sleeved and long-legged variety, if you intend spending a longer time in the sun. Don’t forget a high SPF sunscreen. You need to take off your shoes before entering a temple, and avoid carrying leather objects inside a religious place.

Shopping
An unlikely shopping destination, Alleppey is a place to find one-off coir matting and exquisite carpets – quite popular with foreign tourists. The array is pretty large and the quality fine, not to mention the prices reasonable. You will be impressed by the collection of coir products and rugs available here. It is a great chance to get a glimpse into the coir manufacturing process in Alleppey, from the coconut husk to the final rope/coir yarn stage. The local markets offer a range of coconut oil, areca nut, pepper, cardamom and sugar among other condiments. And if you are staying in this seaside resort for a longish period, don’t miss out a trip to the vegetable market, lush with farm-fresh vegetables and fruits. Keep an eye out, you might stumble upon some unique little souvenirs in the local market - a perfect gift for your loved ones back home.

 

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