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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

A walk through old-world Alleppey

There’s so much more to this town than cruising in a barge…

By Rani John
Historian and Conservation Activist

When people think of Alleppey, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the backwaters. This excursion, however, shows you that there’s so much more to this town than cruising in a barge. I’ve been doing this tour for 22 years as a founder of the Preserve Alleppey Society, whose members are dedicated to preserving the culture and old buildings of this charming town.

Alleppey, built originally as a planned port town, was once a busy trade hub. Now it’s in retirement mode with long roads, canals and a mix of Hindus, Christians and Muslims living harmoniously together. You explore all of this on a two-hour walk with one of our guides who are fountains of knowledge when it comes to the area and know exactly how to translate its history.

We walk through the faded architecture of the Gujarati quarter reminiscent of the spice trade, whose communities arrived from the north of the country. Since you’re in the heart of the coir industry, you’ll also get to visit a coir factory, a real highlight. Here you’ll see first-hand how the locals use their hands and legs to weave the important fibre that’s turned into floor mats sold in the likes of Habitat and John Lewis. Then we normally invite you back home for a fish curry where we can reflect on the morning’s activities.

As you’ll see Alleppey has changed quite drastically, and I foresee the presence of high-rise buildings on the horizon. The whole town will likely change so it’s important to preserve as much as we can. Though more importantly it’s still here today offering a fleeting glimpse of its beautiful, original character.

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Alfred & Rani John

Rani is a well-known figure in Kerala’s tourist domain and particularly famous for her work in Alleppey. She was the driving force behind establishing the Preserve Alleppey Society in 2004, an all-women, independent charitable society which aims to preserve and protect the character of the historic town. At present, the ladies of the PAS conduct heritage tours covering the history, architecture, and communities that make up this town.