A complete guide to the Alleppey houseboats & charming Kerala backwaters

Alleppey houseboats on Ashamudi Lake, Backwaters Alleppey Kerala

Alleppey houseboats, Kerala backwaters and other experiences not to miss.

The Backwaters of Alleppey have been used for centuries by local people for transportation, fishing and agriculture. Today backwater tourism can be added to the list as people flock to the Kerala backwaters after the monsoon to experience life on the Alleppey houseboats and to see some of the surrounding village life for themselves.

Kerala houseboats were once used to transport fish, rice and spices but are now being converted into a floating hotels or rooms where people can enjoy a night or two out on the water.

The Kerala backwaters was something that was on our bucket list for some time. We planned to go two years ago but after our Goa travels our train was delayed and all our plans unravelled. This trip to India we made Kerala a priority and staying on an Alleppey boat house was a must!

We put together this post to write about our own Alappuzha boat house experience and answer all the questions we had while planning our trip. Hopefully this post will help you plan a memorable Kerala boat house adventure and tie up all the loose ends you unsure about. Experiencing the backwaters of India was an experience we certainly will never forget!

Where are the Kerala backwaters in India?

The Kerala state can be found in South India on the Malabar Coast. It is known as the land of coconut because of the endless coconut palms seen on every horizon.  The back water Kerala region is commonly referred to as ‘Gods own country’ and only once you have visited this beautiful state and breathtaking backwater regions will you truly understand why.

Boathouse Kerala, Backwaters of India
Alleppey Houseboats on the Kerala backwaters

Kerela has a 900km network of interconnected canals, lagoons, rivers and lakes known as the backwaters. These canals run inland from the coast of Kerala from Kochi to Kollam. The main entry point situated between Kochi and Kollam is Alleppey. We decided to enjoy our backwater experience in Alleppey. The area is known as one of the best backwaters in Kerala.

Map of Alleppey

Check out this map below for a basic breakdown of the Alleppey area. You can find most of the Alleppey house boats and backwater resorts here.

Kerala backwaters map, Map of Alleppey, India backwaters

When is the best time to visit Alleppey?

The best time to visit Alleppey is during the months of September to March. See a breakdown of the seasons below.

Back water india, backwater in Alleppey Kerala
Alleppey During Summer: From April till June

Alleppey has moderately hot summers with April and May being the hottest months. The temperature usually goes up to 37 degrees. Not many tourists visit Alleppey during this time. If you are a traveller that likes to avoid crowds and don’t mind the heat this is the time to visit. You can get competitive hotel rates and Alleppey houseboat rates. Just remember to wear light cotton clothing and pile on that sunscreen when you go outside.

Alleppey During monsoon: From July till September

There are heavy rainfalls during monsoon in Alleppey. However, the area does come to life during this season so if you love nature and don’t mind the rain its a good time to visit. This is the season when you will find the lowest rates for Alleppey houseboat packages and there are fewer boats that operate on the backwaters. It can be a little unpleasant at times as there are sudden downpours and the wind does blow the rain in all directions. Don’t forget your rain coat and umbrella!

Alleppey during Winter: From October till Mid March

Winters are when all the tourists flock to Alleppey. The weather is mild and pleasant and spirits are high. The temperature ranges between 17 and 30 degrees. It is the perfect time to enjoy the Kerala’s backwaters in one of Alleppey’s houseboats. This is the season for lots of temple festivals, boat races and don’t forget the beaches! Marai Beach being the favourite. This is also when Kerala backwater houseboat rates will be at their peak. All the guide books will tell you this is the Kerala backwaters best time to visit.

What you need to know before taking an Alleppey boat house tour:

Lagoons in Kerala, boating at alappuzha, alleppey backwaters

What type of Alleppey houseboats are available?

Firstly you have to narrow it down to exactly what kind of houseboat package you want and how much you want to spend. The boats come in all shapes, sizes, and prices.

There are Kerala house boats with one bedroom deluxe and up to ten rooms, A/C or non A/C.  Some have an upstairs area or deck and some come with luxury extras. You even have the option to share with other travellers or you can opt for a private cruise.

There are different houseboat Categories

Here are some house boat categories starting from the budget houseboats. Other categories include deluxe houseboats, luxury houseboats, premium houseboats, special cruises and ultra luxury houseboats. The Alleppey houseboats offer everything from very basic amenities to extras such T.V, lounges even going as far as PlayStation for the kids or Karaoke machines.

Houseboat Food

The food seems to be pretty standard on all houseboats, offering a vegetarian or non vegetarian option. It does change slightly according to which boat you choose to go with or whether you have special requirements.

Your trip will usually start with a welcome drink which is a fresh coconut. For lunch they prepare rice, Sambar, mixed vegetables Fish Fry (fried fish) pickles and fruit. Dinner, you can expect an Indian curry veg or non veg, Chappati, Dal, Rice vegetables or salad. If you looking for a snack you will get tea, coffee and banana fritters. Finally for breakfast you will get a choice of eggs, bread, butter and Jam and either a Dosa or Poori Masala.

If you want to have a few beers or a bottle of wine on board then you can normally pre-request this or take your own.

food on houseboat, fish fry in kerala, cooked fish

What areas or routes do the Kerala houseboats go to?

The backwaters of Kerala is made up of interlocking canals and lagoons. There are a number of routes in these canals and lagoons in Kerala where houseboats can sail. Out of a number of backwater destinations in Kerala, Alleppey and Kumarakom are the most popular ones. They both offer something unique set in beautiful relaxing nature.

From Alleppey to Kumarakom the houseboat distance is 32.6 km as these are the two corners of Vembanad Lake. Kumarakom is a laid back village where Alleppey is more of a town. Alleppey and Kumarakom are both starting points of the boat cruises through the backwaters.

Different operators will offer slightly different routes, depending on your budget, how long you want your Kerala tour to be or what you want to see – you can choose your preference. Enquire and get all the details before making your Alleppey houseboat booking.

Sailing along in a boat house through the enchanting backwaters of Allappey or Kumarakom will both give you an amazing experience. You will see palmed ringed narrow canals that wind through green paddy fields and mangrove forests. There is also a chance to witness daily rural village life, farming and fishing. Look out for the ample wildlife ranging from ducks swimming and waddling on the river banks to different species of birds.

If you on a low budget and looking for an affordable budget houseboat, it is a wise decision to choose Alleppey as your starting destination.  However if you are looking for more of a luxurious stay or if you are a honeymooner Kumarkom may be a better destination.

lagoons of kerala, village woman in kerala, kerala backwaters

Alleppey

Alleppey is beautiful, the water is level gives you the advantage of getting a closer look at the village life on shore while on the backwaters. Being close to the city, these canals are busier allowing you to see more of the villages and passing boats. Most boats in Alleppey will give you the option to stop along the way at a fish shop to buy prawns or extra fish that the houseboat cook will cook for you with lunch.

Kumarkom

Kumarkom is a charming village surrounded by a cluster of small islands with interlinked lagoons. It is more rural and has more luxury resorts than Alleppey. It is a popular vacation destination for a number of VIP’s and celebrities.

Kumarakom offers a quieter natural beauty it is known for its bird sanctuaries where you can see a number of rare migratory birds. You can go on a canoe to explore the small surrounding islands and visit places where house boasts cannot go.

Alleppey Vs Kumarakom

Alleppey is the best if you want to stay on a overnight cruise and Kumarkom is best if you want to do a day cruise with a culture and village feel. You do have the choice to stay in a houseboat overnight in Kumarkom but keep in mind there are many exquisite luxury accommodations available to stay in too.

bedroom houseboat, kerala, backwater regions in alappuzha

How long should you stay on a Kerala houseboat?

Day trips

Many houseboats offer day trips in Alleppey and Kumarkom. If you do not prefer to sleep on a house boat then this is the next best option. Most day trips offer lunch and snacks and you head back to shore at sun down.

One Night

This is most popular option which gives you enough time to enjoy your surroundings, see some village life and relax a little. It also gives you the experience of sleeping on the water and witnessing a beautiful sunrise.

Two Nights

I have read many testimonials and reviews that two nights on the water gets a little boring especially because you are confined to a small space for so long. If you really need to recharge your batteries away from the busy city life, be in nature and finish a really good book then this is for you.

Best of both worlds

If you are looking for a more unique two night backwater experience then I would suggest start from Alleppey and stay in a house boat one night make your way up to Kumarakom to spend the second night in a luxury resort.

kerala backwaters hotels, backwater alleppey kerala
Houseboats Kerala

Is it safe to stay on a houseboat?

We do not recommended that you head straight down to the canals to book a overnight house boat,  especially if you are a solo traveller or two females. On a house boat you will have two or three crew members with you, a chef and a skipper who are usually men. You will not personally know them nor will know exactly where they are taking you.  We not saying its dangerous at all but you have to be cautious and rather be safe.

The best advice we can give to you if you have not managed to secure a referred Kerala Alleppey houseboat booking already, is to speak to your hotel manager. Book into a hotel for a night or two when you get to Kerala and ask your hotel for assistance.  They get hundreds of queries and will be able to give you a reputable referral. An advantage of going through your hotel is that they will know where you are and who you are with.

There are  health and safety factors to consider too, you don’t want to be getting on a boat with inexperienced crew.

man rowing in alappuzha, backwater cruise alleppey

Planning a romantic getaway or honeymoon on a Kerala houseboat?

Kerala is a favoured honeymoon destination because of its peaceful beautiful surroundings. Weddings can be quite stressful so relaxing on the tranquil waters is a popular choice among  honeymooners.

The honeymoon packages along the backwaters all have lavishly decorated boats on offer with an exclusive feel for luxury, class and elegance. It is a great idea to start off on a boat in Alleppey exploring the backwaters, spend a few days in a luxurious resort in Kumakom and end off with a few days at one of Kerala’s exquisite beaches.

Our over night Kerala Alleppey houseboat experience

kerala alleppey houseboat, hotels in alleppey backwaters

We didn’t get a chance to book online before we got to Alleppey but I had seen a photo of a one bedroom boat with an upper deck that looked perfect for us. We spoke to our hotel manager when we got there who called up a contact that he usually recommends to his guests that want a backwater cruise to Alleppey. It’s highly recommended that you get a boat with a upper deck, we had more privacy and got great views from above.

How much did we pay for our over night Kerala boat house?

We ended up paying 7000 rupees and included in the price was lunch, a snack, dinner and breakfast and the meals were delicious.

What did we do? Basic Houseboat itinerary 

Our hotel was on the backwaters edge so the boat came to pick us up at 11am.

We admired the views from our upper deck and just relaxed. After about an hour the chef came and asked us if we wanted to dock and get some prawns that he would cook for us with our fish for lunch. We opted out as we were not really that hungry to start off with. The afternoon was spent watching other houseboats come past and  the busy village life along the backwater banks.

The boat cruised along the backwaters for about another two hours and then stopped for lunch alongside a river bank. The fish fry was a first for us and it was actually pretty good.

After lunch we carried on for about another 2 hours through the lake and eventually we docked on the side of a quiet canal for the night. For dinner our chef cooked a huge curry which was enough to feed an army. We played some cards and eventually called it a night.

The next morning we headed out again by 8am. we ate breakfast and were back at our hotel an hour later.

What was our boat house like?

Our boat we had a private room with a double bed, shower and toilet. There was a air con and all bathroom amenities were provided. Next to the room was a open dinner table where we ate our lunch, dinner and breakfast with great views.

In front of the table were two sitting couches, we only sat on them once to watch our captain steer and navigate through the backwaters as we had the upper deck to enjoy the view too.

To get to the upper deck there are some stairs going up to the side of the boat. It was spacious and we had the whole place to ourselves. There was a sitting area going all around the front with cushions so it was really comfortable to just chill and relax.

The two staff members were very quite and gave space, not once did we feel uncomfortable or uneasy about anything.

We had a few down pours while we were out but it was overall an amazing experience. The only thing about our cruise was that we were there during the Kerala floods, which was quite an experience. You can read more about our flood experience and how we got stranded in Fort Kochi in the link above.

kerala coconuts, houseboat food, alleppey boat house

Is it worth booking a houseboat in Kerala?

Yes! We got to relax, take some amazing photo’s, interacted with locals and ate some delicious meals which were prepared on the boat. We think one night was just enough time on the boat with  time to chill, enjoy the experience and all the surroundings. If you still unsure if you should experience the backwaters then check out this video from Kerala tourism which will give you goosebumps!

Looking for Alleppey houseboat prices and want to book a Kerala houseboat online booking?

We would recommend Booking.com as it is a good, reliable and established accommodation booking resource and probably the best site to book houseboats online. The site has Alleppey houseboat rates for one day or you could choose longer.

You can read other peoples reviews of their Alappuzha houseboat experience and compare the different Kerala houseboat prices before booking your house boat. There are dozens of different boats to choose from with everything from budget, luxury, romantic and top of the range Kerala boat houses.

visiting alleppey tourist places on houseboat, houseboats kerala

You can also choose between private houseboats, shared houseboats and houseboats that can accommodate families too.  Remember taking the cheapest Allaphuzha house boat cruise is not always the wisest, read the reviews and do some research about the different Alleppey houseboats packages. Compare different Kerala boat house cost and features that you are getting before making a booking.

budget houseboats kerala, boat house in Alappuzha, kerala

4 MORE Things to do in Alleppey while visiting the backwaters:

 

1. Take a paddle Boat and explore the local villages 

paddleboat in alleppey backwaters, houseboat booking

It was recommended that we take a village tour with a local on a paddle boat. We jumped at this opportunity because we knew we would see so much more at a much slower pace. The boat goes through narrow canals that only canoes or small boats can get to.

Our paddle boat was called “Love Nest” and it was perfect to see some of the villages up close without the noise of a motor and get to places that the houseboats cant get to. We did see some canoe tours online that would give you a similar experience but we are photo junkies and it would have been difficult to paddle and take photo’s at the same time. This was perfect!

local woman washing kerala, alleppey lagoon

Love Nest charged a hourly rate of 500 rupees and we went out for three hours in total. You have the option to go early morning or late afternoon, we chose early morning.

We felt like travellers, not like tourist. People were doing their doing washing, daily chores, kids were playing and men were fishing. They did not seem to mind us at all, they were really friendly and full of smiles.

village life in alleppey, kerala backwaters tour

We docked on the side of one of the canals and our guide took us for a short walk to the rice paddy fields. We learnt about the different stages of rice and about how they make and maintain the rice paddies.

rice paddies in kerala, alleppey rice fields, tour guide in kerala

This was a great morning out for us, showing us parts of the rice paddies and villages that we couldn’t see on our own. We loved every minute and highly recommend it. To make a booking, you can contact +91 93888 44712 and check out the reviews on TripAdvisor.

2. Catch a Government Tourist Boat/Ferry

government ferry in kerala, tourist boat backwaters

There are boats that are run by the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) of Kerela.  The boats are the lifeline of people around the backwaters. There are many stops in different locations with people getting on and off.

The boats are slow but you also get to witness life of the people on the backwaters and probably speak to a few locals too. The ferries are also really cheap, making it a great alternative if you are a budget traveller.

If you are heading from Varkala to Alleppey then there is a boat that runs from Kollam just a short distance from Varkala to Alleppey. This boat takes approx 8 hours and offer some scenic photo ops. There are different boat times throughout the week and it’s cheap. We have heard good things about this boat and if we knew about it before we planned to get to Alleppey, we probably would have taken this option.

Alleppey tourist places, backwater region, kerala boats on water

3. Experience the Alleppey resorts or hotels on Backwaters Edge

Even if you don’t like boats or water there is still a way for you to enjoy the Kerala backwaters hotel. There are not many hotels on the backwater edge in Alleppey but there are a few are real gems worth checking out.

You can take full advantage of sitting on the waters edge and watch all the different boats go up and down. While we were there in August 2018, we watched the boats practising for the Nehru boat race which was really entertaining. Unfortunately we didnt get to watch the actual Nehru trophy boat race as it was cancelled due the the devastating Kerala floods.

alleppey resorts, alleppey backwater resorts, looking at kerala view

Recommended resorts and hotels in Alleppey Backwaters:

During our time in Alleppey we stayed at Palm Grove resort. The location is marked on our Alleppey Kerala backwaters map in the beggining of this post. We were supposed to stay for 2 days but enjoyed it so much that we ended up staying 4 nights.

The resort is right next to the backwaters and the staff were very friendly and very helpful. The rooms were clean and spacious with our own little balcony and had everything we needed. Views of the backwaters were a highlight.

Other places to stay along the backwaters that are also worth checking out include: The Rain, Keralan homestay, Bamboo Lagoon backwater front resort and Whitelow Homestay

 

4. Take Day Trip tours of Alleppey backwaters

In Alleppey if you want to take a boat and go on a day cruise around the backwaters then there are tons of options available.

Sunset and Sunrise cruises are all day every day. If you head down to Boat Jetty Road in Alleppey.(see map at the beginning of the post) There are all the different kind of boats lined up ready and waiting. Believe me, they come in all shapes, colours and sizes.

alleppey places to visit in 1 day, alappuzha tour boats

Some boats include lunch or refreshments, some you can hire privately or you can hop on with other tourists. When it comes to sun set cruises that are advertised,  the sun actually sets over the ocean. Never the less the concept and boating at Alappuzha makes it a worthwhile experience.

Kerala Backwaters, Selfie, view from Alleppey houseboat

Have you been to Kerala? Have you experienced a houseboat? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.

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Published: September 2018

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Liza Williams

Born in South Africa, fascinated with culture and loves wood fire pizza. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away” Follow me on twitter: @soul_drifters

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