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!
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!