Alvin Thomas recommends, Alleppey, India.
There’s much to love about Alleppey. With its coastal setting and sparkling, tranquil backwaters, the city nicknamed “Venice of the East” is a magnet for tourists visiting the southern part of the Indian state of Kerala. Alleppey – also known as Alappuzha – is a 40-minute drive from Kochi, the state’s most happening city. The earliest members of the Chera Dynasty lived in Kuttanad (a taluk, or administrative division, in Alleppey), and their settlement can be traced back to the first century. Today, Kuttanad is known as the “Rice Bowl” of Kerala for its paddy fields and lush, green coconut trees. Alleppey was also once a trading zone for spices and pulses with the west from the Middle Ages.
The city was at the forefront of Christianity in the state, where the Portuguese and Dutch established themselves in the 17th century. Alleppey was a major driving force in India’s push for independence from the United Kingdom (won in 1947) and became an administrative district in 1957.
Currently, Alleppey district comprises of six taluks, namely Cherthala, Ambalapuzha, Kuttanad, Karthikappally, Chengannur and Mavelikkara, and is the 10th-largest city in Kerala, with a population of more than 21 million. It also has the third-highest literacy rate in Kerala.
My favourite place- Hailing from the city, I never get tired of the backwaters of Alleppey. There are plenty of boating options for tourists looking to explore the Vembanad Lake; from boats, which can cost RO5 to RO10 for a day’s worth of boating to more impressive house boats, which can charge you anywhere from RO20 to RO50 for a night’s stay. If boating is not your thing, make sure you visit the Krishnapuram Palace, an 18th-century building that now serves as a museum.
Highlights- Alleppey is obviously an urban environment, albeit coastal. However, the rural areas of Kuttanad have low population levels. There aren’t any hills or mountains in the region, and the city is flanked with vast, fertile lands. The city has a humid and hot climate for most of the year due to its proximity to the sea. The temperatures in the city range from a high of 32 degrees Celsius in summer and 27 degrees in winter. Rain is common during the monsoon season, and certain areas of the city can be prone to flooding. The backwaters and wetlands of Alleppey also host ducks, teals and cormorants that migrate from the east.
Lowlights- Most tourists visit Alleppey for its backwaters. However, some locals have been known to heavily overcharge unsuspecting foreigners for boating services.
Souvenirs- Alleppey cuisine is by far the best souvenir to take from the city. The fish and duck curries are widely-known for their savoury tastes. Aside from the food, you can also buy wooden handicrafts from local stalls around the city.
Where to stay- Alleppey isn’t an expensive city but you can opt for long stays in houseboats. Early booking is required. Modern houseboats offer everything from WiFi to air conditioning and satellite television.
Top 5 things to do:
1) Visit the Alappuzha lighthouse
2) Take a stroll on Alleppey beach
3) Visit the St. Andrews Basilica in Arthunkal
4) Go kayaking in the backwaters
5) Cheer with the crowds at the Nehru Boat Race