If you want an experience…
Only in India…
Only in Kerala…
Then one type of experience to have is going to see a snake boat race competition in Kerala!!
These are races in which there are tons of people rowing a single long canoe-type boat.
The event is held in such a way that there’s a festival-like atmosphere with every race with people lining the waterway.
And before the race begins, locals may take their own boats out on the river and possibly even try to entertain the crowd with very Kerala type dance moves. 😉
You may also see teams warming up before the race start time.
Or you might even see people (local kids) swimming across the river.
For some races, it may be possible for you to rent a boat so you can enjoy the festivities directly on the water.
When are snake boat races in Kerala?!
The first snake boat race of the year is in June or July
This is in Champakulam.
The 2019 date of the Champakulam snake boat race was July 15.
THE biggest snake boat race in Kerala is in August
This is the Nehru Trophy boat race in Alleppey, and it’s typically held on the second Saturday of the month.
But what if you’re not going to be in Kerala on these specific weekends in June, July, or August?!
Champions League snake boat race
New to Kerala in 2019 is the Champions Boat League.
The concept is very great.
The plan for this champions boat league will give you a chance to see this unique Kerala (and India!) experience if you are in Kerala in August, September, October, or November!
This series starts with the Nehru Trophy boat race in Alleppey (that race that’s the biggest of the year), and then it ends with the President’s Trophy boat race in Kollam.
These are both in central and south Kerala, and on the main Kerala backpacker route that’s between Fort Cochin and Varkala.
The first race of the Champions Boat League is usually the second Saturday of August, with the big Nehru Trophy Alleppey race.
In 2019, because of bad weather in Kerala around this time, they moved the Alleppey snake boat race (and the start of the boat league series) to the end of August, to August 31.
The last race this year in 2019 was also shifted, to November 23. The original plan was to have the President’s Trophy Kollam snake boat race on the first Friday of November, on November 1.
And then there is a race scheduled nearly every Saturday between these two snake boat races. (The exception being September 21.)
That means that if you’ll be in Kerala in September, October, or November, you’ll have the chance to see a snake boat race! (If you’re planning for future years, this would be more like August, September, or October, though! Since 2019 was a little different due to weather.)
Or so goes the plan. 😉
This is India, so… nothing is guaranteed. 😉
Even the race calendar may change.
Some races may get canceled.
The series may even be canceled as the series progresses.
So be sure to look at the latest calendar about dates and location on the Kerala tourism website.
As for the official timing of each event, it’s said to start at 2:30pm. You can likely expect it to take a couple of hours before you see the final boats race.
Where can you see a snake boat race in Kerala that’s a part of the Champions Boat League?!
Have a look at the map below for the locations of the CBL 2019 snake boat races!
These locations of the boat races on the map below are approximate and not the exact location of the race.
This is intended as a guide to give you an idea of where in Kerala the races will be taking place.
Since snake boat races take place along a river or on the lake, there could be several good places along the race course that could be good for watching.
Once you are in town, you can ask locally for the more exact location!
Also listed on the map are some of the more popular backpacker destinations in Kerala for reference.
Where to stay when you’re in town for the snake boat race
For most races, you can stay in one of the backpacker cities and then take a bus or auto rickshaw to get to the race site.
Many of the races take place in Alleppey district (THE hub of the Kerala backwaters), which means staying in Alleppey can be convenient.
You can choose to stay in town (okay), or you can choose to stay near the beach (better! ;)).
When you’re in Alleppey, there are some very Kerala things you can do.
There is also a race in Kottayam district.
There is an Alleppey to Kottayam ferry.
This is another very Kerala experience, so it could be good to stay in Alleppey for the Kottayam race too.
Then once you arrive at the Kottayam ferry station, maybe take a rickshaw the rest of the way. After the race, you can take the bus back to Alleppey from Kottayam.
Dates of races in Alleppey district as of end of August 2019:
- August 31 (Nehru Trophy boat race, Alleppey)
- November 2 (Pulikunnu)
- October 26 (Kainakary)
- September 14 (Karuvatta)
- November 9 (Kayamkulam)
Date of race in Kottayam district as of end of August 2019:
- September 7 (Thazhathangadi)
Another notable location is a race in Ernakulam district, which is the same district that the popular Fort Cochin is located.
Dates of races in Ernakulam district as of end of August 2019:
- September 28 (Piravom)
- October 5 (Marine Drive)
And then another notable location are the races in Kollam district, which is near where you can have a Munroe Island backwaters homestay experience.
There is also a ferry from Alleppey to Kollam, although this is an all-day ferry.
Dates of races in Kollam district as of end of August 2019:
- November 16 (Kallada)
- November 23 (President’s Trophy boat race, Kollam)
So take your pick for a snake boat race to attend when you’re in India!
Welcome to Kerala!!
And welcome to the Kerala backwaters!!
HAPPY WATCHING A SNAKE BOAT RACE IN KERALA!
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Where to stay on the backpacker trail in Kerala
- Fort Cochin: Zostel Kochi
- Alleppey: Zostel Alleppey or Funky Art Beach House for chill beach vibes! (see my pics - zostel / funky) OR Dream Nest to be closer to town // and see how to spend one day in Alleppey
- Alleppey backwaters: cottage right on the waters
- Munroe Island: cottage backwaters homestay right on the waters (and see why you should consider munroe island!)
- Varkala cliff: Seawin or Prashanthi with ocean views