Kerala is best known in India and around the world for its backwaters.
So, how to experience the famous Kerala backwaters in Alleppey?
You have options!
But maybe the best would be the option where you can get a taste for Kerala village life on the backwaters too!
Many of the best things to do in Alleppey are done through a trip to the Kerala backwaters!
Below is a list of the best activities on the Alleppey backwaters
This list goes from the most expensive to the cheapest way to see the Kerala backwaters.
Best things to do in Alleppey backwaters
1. Overnight houseboat on the backwaters
Cost: Varies, but not unusual to be 7,000+ rupees (US$100+)
Houseboats are what tourists who are familiar with Alleppey generally think of when they think about the Kerala backwaters.
These are basically private floating hotels… kind of like a mini-cruise!
They can be perfect for couples and groups of friends. You can find houseboats with a varying number of rooms and amenities, and you can get homemade Kerala food included in your houseboat stay.
Most people opt for overnight houseboats. But you can also go for houseboats that last for 2 nights or longer, and there are also options to just go during the day as well.
To get a better idea of what’s included in houseboats, you can take a look at the pictures of this houseboat on airbnb as an example.
And if it’s your first time booking on airbnb, then you can use this referral link to sign up and get up to US$40 off.
Now, if you’re a budget backpacker traveling in Kerala alone, a houseboat is pretty much out of the question.
But the good news is…
You have alternatives when it comes to backwaters activities that are a bit more budget-friendly!
2. Backwaters kayaking tour
Cost: 1,500 rupees (US$23)
If you’re looking to do more than just sit and have someone else do the rowing through the backwaters for you, kayaking the backwaters just might be the perfect activity for you!
A backwaters kayaking tour is typically a half-day activity. You can usually choose the early morning tour or sunset kayak tour.
My Alleppey kayaking tour came with:
- Ride to and from the starting point of my kayak by scooter (on the way there) and rickshaw (on the way back)
- Kayak guide to lead the route through the wide open lake and smaller canals
- Life jacket!
- Stop for chai twice
- Stop for coconut
3. Backwaters village canoe tour
Cost: 1,000 rupees (US$15)
Touring the backwaters by canoe can be the perfect way to experience the Kerala backwaters!
A village canoe tour can actually be more than just a canoe ride. It can encompass a few different aspects that will make you feel like it is totally worth it.
My Alleppey canoe tour came with:
- Ride to and from the ferry station by scooter (on the way there) and rickshaw (on the way back)
- Public ferry rides to and from Alleppey town to a village in the backwaters
- Visit to a village home
- FOOD: Kerala breakfast
- Canoe ride through the canals
- Stop for a coconut
- Stop for Kerala palm wine (aka toddy at a toddy shop)
- FOOD: Kerala lunch
4. Cycling tour along the backwaters
Cost: 500 rupees (US$8)
If you want to see some of the Kerala backwaters in a way that not many tourists do, then consider a cycling tour along the backwaters!
My cycling tour came with:
- Ride from bus stop outside of main Alleppey bus station
- Helmet (although I had my own)
- Guide to lead the cycling route crossing across some main roads of Alleppey district, rural Alleppey alongside paddy fields, and then of course, the backwaters!
- Ride to a ferry stop to catch the public ferry back to Alleppey town
I had to catch a bus from the Alleppey bus station to the designated meeting point but this was cheap and pretty hassle-free.
Or, if you want to do a DIY cycling tour, here are some cycling routes in Alleppey.
5. Public ferry on the backwaters
Cost: Starting at around 10 rupees! (15 cents)
Taking one of the best public ferry routes around Alleppey is by far the cheapest way to experience the Kerala backwaters.
If you are on a serious budget when traveling in India, then this would be the way to go.
It’s a public boat ride cruising the backwaters.
With people living right along the backwaters, locals take the public ferry to get around the waters.
And you can hop on a ferry right along with them!
Since ferries stick to the main waterways, you wouldn’t get to experience the smaller canals with a ferry ride, but you can get an introduction to the backwaters.
If you’re up for an adventure, you can take a ferry to anywhere around the Alleppey backwaters!
To do this, head to the main ferry station in town when you’re in Alleppey. Then you can hop on the first ferry you see, and then hop off at a random ferry stop!
Make sure you ask around about the time for the ferry back to Alleppey if you do this. Or, you can look at Google maps to find a main road where you are sure to find a bus back to Alleppey, or possibly a rickshaw.
Otherwise, there are 2 ferry routes around Alleppey that can make it easy for tourists to get a glimpse of the backwaters:
- Alleppey to Kottayam ferry
- Cost: 18 rupees (25 cents)
- Alleppey to Kuttanad ferry
- Cost: 15 rupees (25 cents)
Both of these ferries have return ferries to Alleppey shortly after they arrive at their final destinations.
Or, if you want to arrive to or leave from Alleppey Kerala-style (via the backwaters!), you can also take the ferry.
Munnar and Thekkady are both popular hill destinations in Kerala located in the Western Ghats mountain range.
And then there’s another public ferry that’s a good option for tourists:
- Alleppey to Kollam tourist ferry
- Cost: 400 rupees (US$6)
This is a full-day ferry.
And although this is still a government-run ferry, it’s geared more towards tourists so the price tag is more expensive than a normal public ferry.
There’s also a ferry in the opposite direction, from Kollam to Alleppey, if you want to take a ferry to go north.
The most popular way to take this ferry is probably between Alleppey and Varkala.
Okay, so now that you have a better idea of how to spend your time on the Kerala backwaters…
How to spend a perfect 2 days in Alleppey
If you have limited time, like just one week in Kerala, 2 days can be the perfect amount of time to stay in Alleppey.
Of course, the perfect 2 days in Alleppey includes time on the backwaters!
- Day 1: Alleppey Beach
- Day 2: Kerala backwaters
Day 1: Alleppey Beach
Arrive in Alleppey during the day. Find a place to stay near the beach, like at a beachside guesthouse or a beachside hostel, so that after a day of travel, you can just chill out and take in the ocean views!
If you arrive earlier in the day, go out into town and buy fresh fish, prawns, and a few spices.
And since you’ve chosen well and you’re staying at a guesthouse with a kitchen, you can fry your own seafood for dinner!
Kerala is known for its seafood so this makes for the perfect meal when in Alleppey.
Day 2: Kerala backwaters
Dedicate the next day to what Kerala is known for!
Take your pick with how you want to spend that time on the backwaters.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you have a coconut on the Kerala backwaters! 😀
And then once you’ve finished up your backwaters activity, off you head back to relax at your beachside accommodation!
Be sure to take a look at the rest of the best of Alleppey travel guide so you can plan the PERFECT trip to Alleppey!
HAPPY ALLEPPEY BACKWATERS PLANNING!
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! You might wait until India to buy this mosquito repellent that works for many foreigners! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train! Also see the easy way to get an e-visa. And this is the easy way to book train tickets online as a foreigner. I've used it, and it's simple! You can just show the e-ticket on your phone.
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Hostels in KeralaFor a hostel with international standards in Kerala, try Zostel!
More Zostels in Kerala:
Zostel is a top backpacker chain across India, and I've stayed at many Zostels in India! And outside of Kerala, if you'll be passing through Gokarna as you go from Goa to Kerala (here are options of how to get from Goa to Kerala!), then Zostel Gokarna is in an amazing location too! Here are pictures from the on-site cafe that overlooks the ocean.
Where to stay on the tourist trail in KeralaThese places basically go down the coast from north to south!
- Cochin: Try a homestay in the cute heritage area of Fort Kochi.
- Marari Beach: This is an "off-beat" location as Marari is mostly unknown to backpackers, but it can be a convenient stop to make between Cochin and Alleppey with chill laid back vibes. For an idea of what type of beach can be nearby, see my beach walk from Alleppey to Marari.
- Alleppey Beach:
- Funky Art Beach House again for chill vibes with a location among locals in a residential neighborhood
- And there's Zostel Alleppey too for another beach location to stay several days
- OR if Alleppey is a quick visit, try Dream Nest to be closer to town
- And see how to spend one day in Alleppey (short version: go for the backwaters village canoe tour instead of a houseboat!)
- Alleppey backwaters:
- Munroe Island: This is another generally kind of more off-beat location, and you can see a different part of the Kerala backwaters on a quiet island
- Varkala cliff:
Retreats in KeralaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, also see:
- Yoga retreats in Kerala
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
How to book India train tickets online as a foreignerIf you don't want to go through the complicated process of setting up an IRCTC Indian railways account as a foreigner...
Then the most convenient way to buy train tickets online is through this booking website. I've used it, and it's super simple! You buy the ticket, and then show the electronic version on your phone once you're on the train. Compared to buying directly through an Indian ticket booking website (IRCTC account required) or directly at the train station in India, there is a small convenience fee, as well as a less flexible cancellation policy, though!