Kerala is famous for its backwaters, lakes, lagoons and canals located parallel to the arabian sea. The most famous place to visit all these is Alleppey or alappuzha. I visited alleppey on march of this year. House boats cost a lot of money and for a solo traveler like me it’s an expensive proposition. So, for all the budget travelers and backpackers who want to see the backwaters and cannot afford to spend a buck load of money can easily tour the backwaters on the ferries provided by the Kerala State Water Transport Department. The government ferries are very cheap and this is the cheapest way you will find to visit the backwaters. I stayed 4 days in alleppey and have spent less than 100 rupees/day while touring the backwaters. All the pictures taken below were taken while touring with the government boat amidst local people and I learnt a lot about the people living there. While in the city, we travel by foot or have access to a vehicle, in the backwaters each and every house has a boat, because in place of streets there are water canals or rivers.
Kerala State Water Transport Department Boat Jetty
The state government boat jetty is located in the centre of alleppey. You can visit the Kerala government’s website which is https://www.swtd.kerala.gov.in to find more about the schedule and prices. The boat services start from 5:30 am in the morning to 9:30pm in the night and they are super cheap starting from 5 rupees a ticket. The costliest ticket I brought was 30 rupees when I took a 2.5 hr boat ride to kottayam. There is an enquiry office where you may ask any information. While getting on the boat, ask the ticket checker where the boat will go and whether it will stop at your desired location. I have seen all of them know English, so it should not be a problem communicating with them. If you do not feel like getting down, you can simply stay in the boat and enjoy a round trip back to alleppey.
Villages on the way
These boats pass through a network of rivers, backwaters and narrow canals with innumerable villages on its way. They stop at every jetty on the way to pick and drop passengers. One can see famous spots like finishing point of world famous nehru trophy boat race, lakes, resorts, temples, churches, other houseboats, small narrow canals, villages and paddy fields. One can learn a lot about the culture and lifestyle of people living there. These boats go to various places like Kottayam, krishnapuram, nedumudy, kollam etc. While traveling, I used to get down at a jetty, which I felt would be scenic, then take a walk along the river bank, take some pictures and then get back to the jetty and wait for the next boat. If you do this and get lost, just ask the local people for directions and they will help.
Nedumudy or Nedumudi is a scenic village the banks of the river Pamba in the Alappuzha district. Several ferries travel to and fro from morning till night from alleppey. It takes about one and half hour to reach nedumudy by boat and the fare is only 9 rupees.
Alleppey to Kottayam takes around 2.5 hrs by boat, costs 30 rupees and goes through very remote areas uninhabited by people. Actually, the boat does not reach Kottayam, but stops at Kanjiram. Paddy cultivation is done in some of these remote islands. There are also several remote jetties along the way and it is advised not to get down at any one of these jetties as you may get lost. Generally tourists take a round trip which takes about 5 – 6 hours. If you do not want to return by boat, you can also get a direct bus to alleppey from kottayam bus stand, which is way faster than boat. It took me 50 rupees to reach Kottayam bus stand from Kanjiram boat jetty.
Krishnapuram is another important backwater location in alleppey district and it falls enroute to Nedumudy. You can see beautiful churches, schools, house boats, government banks and narrow canals in this route.
Mangalasserry jetty is one of those places where one can see the vast expanse of vembanad lake and houseboats sailing. It is an important stopping for all government boats and touristic houseboats.
Sunrise at Punnamada finishing point
Punnamada finishing point located in alleppey is one of the best places to see a stunning sunrise. Head out early in the morning to watch the sun rising slowly over the backwaters.
There are numerous jetties from which you can see sunset. In case you are scared of venturing far away, Punchiri Jetty is one of the best options to see sunset. Get down at the jetty and walk through the banks of the lake. The locals are very friendly and you can ask them when the next boat will come, although some of them may not know English. In that case, use sign language or tell them the name of your destination, which in my case was Alleppey and they will be able to tell the approximate time. Once you hear the sound of approaching ferry, flash your torch or mobile at the direction of the sound and the boat will stop at the jetty.
There is no need to carry water and snacks as there are a lots of shops and eateries catering to tourists at these jetty points.
Alleppey has excellent bus and rail connectivity. Going to nearby places like alleppey beach, marari beach, muhamma or kumarakom should not be a problem as buses regularly ply from alleppey bus stand to these places. To check bus schedules, one of the best websites I use is https://www.aanavandi.com/.
When to visit:
The winter season does not exist in Kerala but it is better to visit Alleppey from October to March, as there are lot of tourists and you won’t feel lonely. Also, the heat becomes unbearable during summer.