Alappuzha, formerly known as Alleppey is one of the most visited backwater tourist spots in Kerala. Situated on the southwestern coast of India and occupying a total area of 1,414 sq kms, it is known as the gateway to the backwaters. Roughly mid-way between Kollam (85 kms south) and Kochi (64 kms north), Alappuzha was one of the best-known and wealthiest ports on the Malabar Coast such that a large number of British expatriates lived here even after the independence of India in 1947. They were forced to leave when the newly elected Communist government of Kerala clamped down on private businesses in 1957. It is the centre for the Coir carpet industry and prawn farming.
Alappuzha is prominent on the tourist trails as one of the major centres for backwater cruises. Palm fringed waterways open up to isolated villages or crowded towns giving one the opportunity to get a close look at village life along the way. Cruise down the waterways along the picturesque lagoons on a houseboat. The Vembanad Lake with a length of 84 kms is the biggest backwater destination in Kerala.
On the second Saturday of August it plays host to the Nehru boat race and is transformed into a mélange of colour, people, excitement and festivity.
There are a number of temples in the villages along the main coast. The Sri Krishna Temple at Ambalapuzzha is Kerala’s most important Krishna temple after Guruvayur; the Nagaraja Temple at Mannarsala dedicated to the snake-god said to help childless couples to conceive; and last but not least, the Subramanya Swami Temple at Harippad. Besides being impressive and attractive, these temples have the added beauty of not being touristy.
There is a mouth-watering array of spicy Keralan curries on offer. Like all other coastal towns, seafood at Alappuzha tops the list of gastronomical delights. Try the Karimeen, lobsters and tiger prawns grilled or in typical keralan style cooked in coconut and spice. Crispy Keralan snacks are available everywhere.
Temperatures range from 20C to 35C. Though its tropical nature makes Alappuzha a year-round destination, the best time to visit is between September and March.
There is a variety of good quality local textiles, handicrafts and souvenirs which is in high demand. Coir products are available in plenty and there is also abundance of fresh local fruits. Anywhere in Kerala is good for buying spices.
The nearest railhead and airport is Kochi, about 70 kms away.
The hotel industry has taken full advantage of nature’s gift to Kerala and developed a host of beautiful resorts, most being ayurvedic health resorts. Among them are:
Coir Village Resort – This resort located on a small island Thrikunnapuzha, along the backwaters of Alappuzha and Kollam offers the ultimate experience of relaxation and leisure. The various packages at the Ayurveda Centre caters to every requirement of the guests.
Keraleeyam – Traditionally designed air-conditioned accommodation, traditional cuisine, and a wide range of Ayurveda programmes are some of the facilities available in this enchanting heritage-styled resort built on the water front 70 years back.
Palmgrove Lake Resort – An eco-friendly resort, Palmgrove is a tropical paradise on the banks of the Punnamada lake.
Kayaloram Heritage Lake Resort – This Heritage Resort offers accommodation in houseboats as well as traditionally built Tharavads (ancient Kerala houses). The facilities include a swimming pool, ayurvedic centre and traditional cuisine.
Pampa Theeram – Situated on the banks of the Pampa river, this resort also provides Ayurvedic treatment. Kuttanad, the area on which the resort stands, is surrounded by lush paddy fields which must be the only ones to be grown below sea level.
Coconut Country – It is one of the very few vegetarian resorts in Kerala and like most other resorts, authentic Ayurveda treatment is available.
Tharavad Heritage Resort – This 100 year old mansion along the backwater canal is built in a typical Keralan style with tera-cotta tiled roof, teak flooring, native furniture set in teak to make for an exotic home-stay.
Marari Beach Resort – A truly luxurious experience, the Marari Beach is spread over 55 acres of lush tropical green. Modelled along fishermen huts, the accommodation here is a blend of traditional with modern settings. Most of the vegetable and fruits consumed here are grown organically in the premises. It has a fully equipped Ayurveda centre run by expert therapists.