Boat and Ferry Travel

A houseboat cruise is the quintessential way to experience Kerala. The District Tourism Promotion Council has houseboat information. Private companies, the K- Corporation (KTDC), and the Tourist Desk operate motorboat and houseboat tours from Alleppey; these only run when a minimum number of passengers has been reached. Prices range from Rs. 400 for one hour by motorboat to Rs. 7,000 for a 24-hour houseboat tour with meals. The Alleppey Tourism Development Cooperative (ATDC) has had daily ferry trips between Alleppey and Quilon (Rs. 500), but it takes eight hours and isn’t recommended. There is also a public ferry from Alleppey to Kottayam (close to Kumarakom) for Rs. 10.

Boat and Ferry Information

ATDC. Municipal Library, Thathampally, 2nd Fl., Alleppey, Kerala, 688013. 91/477–2264462; www.atdcalleppey.com.

District Tourism Promotion Council. Kerala. 9400051796; 477/2251796; 477/2253308; www.keralatourism.org/dtpc.php.

Houseboat Cruise. The Kuttanad, a 74-km-long (46-mile-long) network of beaches, lakes, canals, rivers, inland sea, islands, and brooks, links Alleppey, Marari, Quilon, Kochi, and beyond to Varkala, Kovalam, and Poovar. It's a tropical kingdom of coastal canals, sheltered by trees, that wanders past two houses-and-a-palm hamlets, mosques, temples, whitewashed chapels, flocks of ducks, floating bazaars, paddy farms, and bridges. Your camera will have a hard time keeping pace with the scenes flitting past.

Shaded by a woven bamboo canopy and fanned by cool breezes, you can drift past simple but often gorgeously colored, tile-roof houses with canoes moored outside; and people washing themselves, their clothes, their dishes, and their children in the river.

A houseboat cruise provides a window into traditional local life. Women in bright pink-and-blue dresses stroll past green paddy fields, their waist-length hair unbound and smelling of coconut oil. Graceful palms are everywhere, as are village walls painted with political slogans, the inevitable portrait of Che Guevara (worshipped in Kerala), and ads for computer-training courses. Backwater trips can be designed to suit any time constraint or budget. Motorized or punted canoes squeeze into narrow canals, taking you to dreamy roadless villages, and big ferries ply the eight-hour Quilon–Alleppey route as if it were a major highway. Romantic houseboats give you the opportunity to stay overnight on the water. Any travel agent, hotel, or the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, can help you hire a private boat or plan a trip. Most cruises depart from Quilon, Alleppey, or Kumarakom. In addition, the Trident Hilton (Oberoir) in Kochi can book you a stateroom on the MV Vrinda, an eight-bedroom luxury cruise ship. 484/235–3234; www.ktdc.com.

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