Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the most famous of all boat races (Vallam Kali) held in Kerala. Conducted on second Saturday in August every year, this boat race is a famous tourist attraction. Atmosphere gets charged up as supporters cheer loud for their boats (Chundan Vallams). Boats, looking like snake, move sharply through the water as 100+ rowers hit their oars in a super coordinated manner at thumping sound. Rowers’ energy, drum sounds and cheering amplify as snake boats reach the finishing line and competition gets fierce.
It was an astonishing experience for us to witness this unique race. You can find our first hand account here – Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race – Kerala’s Water Olympics
Here are the top tips for our fellow travelers looking to plan their trip for Nehru Trophy Boat Race in the coming years –
Timing and Venue for Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Race is conducted on second Saturday of August every year. Venue for the race remains a 1.4 km long course on Punnamada Lake in Alleppey, Kerala. Though Nehru Trophy is the most famous of all but similar boat races are organized in different parts of Kerala during the harvest season – Festival Calendar of Kerala
Tickets for Nehru Trophy Boat Race
Tickets range from Rs 100 to Rs 2500 depending on the pavilion location. Top category ticket (Gold – Rs 2500 and Silver – Rs 1500) pavilions are situated on the island at finishing point and are best managed. Though costly but these are best in case you are travelling with kids and elders. You can sit comfortably and watch the fierce finishing point competition without much disturbance.
Rose Corner (450/person, Rs 750 for two) is right opposite to the island and second best location. This year, there was a separate entry gate for Rose Corner but all other pavilions were mixed up and even ticket counter officials were confused about which pavilion was Victory line or lake view or lawn 🙂 . Finally, we realized that except Rose Pavilion, all others were mixed up and people were roaming all around. We took rose pavilion tickets. It was also crowded but a mix of family, tourists and locals. Plus, nothing can replace sharing excitement with locals cheering for their favorites. So, we would recommend rose pavilion amidst the locals & tourists.
You can also watch the boat race from both banks of the lake along 1.4 long race course (with no tickets) but it gets very crowded as locals love the race and at times, occupy balcony seats on top of the coconut trees too 😛 . Also, you will miss the adrenaline rush of close finishes as you will be far from the finishing line.
Where to buy tickets for the race
Gold and Silver category tickets are limited and are not sold on the spot. This year, you could also buy them from bookmyshow or in advance from Kerala Tourism offices. Rest all category tickets can be purchased on the spot on race day from Kerala Tourism office at the finishing point (near pavilions). Tickets are sold from 9 AM to 10 AM only as after that entry starts. However, there was a separate counter on the road (also be Kerala Tourism) which was selling tickets till 12 noon.
Here is the list of offices from where tickets for the boat race can be purchased in advance.
What about Houseboat packages
Many operators offer full day house boat packages to watch the race. Packages start from Rs 2000 per person including lunch. These houseboats line up next to the island one after another and tend to get away from the finishing line. In case, you are with elderly and kids, then you may consider houseboat packages as they are comfortable (but boring too). If you want to watch the action at finishing line, cheer up boats with local supporters and have energy to sit and stand in a crowded pavilion, then go for the rose pavilion. By the way, real fun is in pavilion if you can bear the rush and weather.
Food, beverages and others
Don’t forget to carry food and water as the wait for the race gets longer. Though there are few stalls but it gets difficult to make your way through the crowd. Carry caps (for sure) and umbrellas as it gets very sunny and also rains at times (actually locals wish for rain to add to their fun). And yes, there are no toilet facilities available. Strange but true!!
Accommodation options in Alleppey
Alleppey has ample accommodation options including heritage homes and houseboat stay. We recommend to book your stay in advance as the town gets flooded with tourists for the event. There are ample hotels and home stays around Lake Punnamada itself.
We have always been in love with Kerala and this was another beautiful experience with the culture and people of God’s own country.