Kochi Information

Kochi the commercial capital and the most cosmopolitan city of Kerala is an excellent blend of traditions and modernity.  Kochi, the “Queen of the Arabian Sea” is full of history, legends and natural beauty.  Since time immemorial, Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British and Portuguese had trade relations with Kochi.  The beautiful town considered to be one of the most attractive destinations in the world is also a shopper’s paradise.  The shopping list comprises of antiques, wood carvings, wooden jewellery boxes, oil lamps, coir products, textiles, spices and other handicraft items.

Cochin is not the capital of Kerala, but it is its most charming city, blessed with its own international airport and a relatively good infrastructure, making it the ideal gateway to the state. This has been the case since 1341, the year nature carved out Cochin’s harbor with a massive flood. As a result, Cochin became the first port of call for Arabs, Chinese and, finally, European sea merchants, who sailed for barter into what came to be known as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea.” Lured by the promise of pepper, the Portuguese under Vasco da Gama arrived in 1500, and the Franciscan friars who accompanied the explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral established a church and set about converting the locals. By 1553, the Maharaja of Cochin had granted permission for the construction of the first European fort in India, and what had been an obscure fishing hamlet became India’s first European settlement. In 1663, Cochin fell to the Dutch, and then to the British in 1795. Each of these foreign influences left their mark, resulting in a distinctly Indo-European culture, most evident in the architecture. Today, Cochin (or Kochi, as it has been renamed) comprises three distinct areas. Down at heel, but wonderfully atmospheric, the historic districts of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin lie on one of two peninsular arms that shield the Kochi harbor—this is where you should try to find accommodations and spend most of your time. Opposite it, on the mainland that creates the eastern peninsula, lies modern Ernakulam. Between the two are the islands, well connected to the mainland by bridges. Fort Cochin, the oldest European settlement in India, retains an old-world charm. Its battlements no longer stand, but the combination of Portuguese, Dutch, Jewish, British, and local influences is evident in the tiled, steep-roofed bungalows that line its quaint streets, and it’s home to the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Plan to spend at least 2 nights in Cochin, enjoying its charming atmosphere and low-key sights at a lazy, relaxed pace. Take in a Kathakali performance, dig into the delectable seafood, enjoy a romantic sunset cruise around the harbor and, if you’re at all interested in bargains in antiques, get ready to wade through stores packed with unexpected curiosities.

Kochi Tourism Information

Cochin is the most charming city, blessed with its own international airport and a relatively good infrastructure, making it the ideal gateway to the state of Kerala.  This has been the case since 1341, the year nature carved out Cochin's harbor with a massive flood.  Cochin is also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea.

Location

Cochin or Kochi is located on the southwest coast of India at 9°582'N and 76°132'E, spanning an area of 94.88 sq. km.  The city is situated at the northern end of a peninsula, about 19km along and less than one mile (1.6km) wide.  However, much of Cochin lies at sea level, with a coastline of 48km.

Climate

Cochin's climate can be classified as an equatorial type of climate.  Basically, there are three seasons, the Monsoon season extends from June to September.  There is the relatively cool and dry season, which extends from October to February, March, April and May are hot and humid but breezes from the ocean cool the air slightly.

History

The rulers of Cochin, earlier known as Kochi had a long history of conflict with the Zamorin of Calicut.  They granted the Portuguese rights to trade from Kochi in 1499.  However, with the defeat of the Portuguese at the hands of the Dutch, the Raja again found favors with the victors by granting them trading rights much to the wrath of the Zamorin who had earlier befriended the Dutch.  However, the Dutch were defeated in the battle of Kolachal in 1741 by Raja Marthanda Varma and the Zamorin was forced to withdraw from Kochi in 1758. Kochi had a brief period of freedom before the ravaging onslaught of Haider Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan.  Their defeat at the hands of the British in 1792(Treaty of Seringapatnam) made Kochi, a princely state under the direct suzerainty f the Britishers.

Homestays in Kerala

A homestay, in which you board with a local household, is a great way to immerse yourself in real Indian culture and hospitality. It is highly recommended as an alternative or addition to the one-size-fits-all hotel experience. Kerala has a number of homestay options, including the sublime Tranquil Resorts, our favorite in all of India, as well as homestays in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Kottayam and the backwaters.

WHAT TO SEE & DO

Lazy and laid-back, Fort Cochin offers a tranquillity that is in complete contrast to the heaving city experience of Ernakulam, which is ultimately missable. Comprising Mattancherry and Jew Town, Fort Cochin has a historic atmosphere—it is, after all, a town where 14 different languages are spoken, and tumbled-down mansions line narrow ancient lanes. Near the water’s edge, old warehouses (or godowns) are filled with the state’s treasured cash crops—pepper, tea, Ayurvedic herbs, whole ginger, and betel nuts—being dried, sorted, and prepared for direct sale or auction. The area is wonderful for historic walks, particularly into Jew Town, which hosts a community that dates back to the 1st century A.D. and was augmented during the 16th century when the Inquisition brought a fresh wave of Jewish immigrants here. Today only a handful of aging “white Jewish” families remain in Cochin, but their residential quarter retains a charming ambience, with cobbled streets and fascinating antiques shops and spice markets. Man-made Willingdon Island, a short ferry ride or bridge journey away, was created in the 20th century by large-scale dredging. There are several good hotels here, but the island is primarily concerned with naval and commercial port activity and is not worth visiting unless you’re based here. Bolgatty Island, reached by ferry, is of no interest other than the rather lovely palace, which has been converted into a government- run hotel.

EXPLORING FORT COCHIN ON FOOT

Start your tour at the harbor near Vasco da Gama Square, where you can watch fishermen hoisting their catch from the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that line the shore, then head along Church Road to St. Francis Church. Keep going toward Parade Road (near the Malabar House Residency; see “Where to Stay,” below), making a left onto Peter Celli Street to explore a few local shops before you drift down Bastion Street, in the direction of Santa Cruz Cathedral. Then head back toward Princess Street, where you can see Koder House. Built in 1808 by Jewish patriarch Samuel Koder, this is a good example of the hybrid Indo-European style that developed in Cochin. It’s still occupied, so you’ll have to appreciate it from the sidewalk. On the same road, the Pierce Leslie Bungalow is a charming 19th-century mansion reflecting Portuguese and Dutch influences on local architecture. Take a break at Kashi Art Café , where the food and service are uninspired but the contemporary art and vibrant atmosphere provide a colorful contrast to the historic surroundings. Afterwards, catch an auto-rickshaw to Mattancherry, where you should visit Mattancherry (Dutch) Palace and Paradesi Synagogue (see below) before discovering the fragrant scents of Kerala’s spice warehouses. Make time to visit a few of the antiques warehouses, and don’t be put off by the layers of dust and grime—there are some real treasures to be found. End your day full circle with a sunset cruise around the harbor; this is the best way to enjoy the most-photographed of Cochin’s historic sights, the Chinese fishing nets that form wonderful silhouettes against a red- and orange-hued sky.

Chinese Fishing Nets

These huge cantilevered fishing nets are the landmark of Malabar Coast.  The nets were introduced between 1350 and 1450AD., by traders from the court of Kublai Khan in China.  They are set up on teak wood and bamboo poles and are mainly used during the high tide.  The Vasco da Gama Square affords the best view of these nets, especially during sun-set time.

Fort Kochi Beach

The beautiful beach extends from Kamalakada to the entrance of Kochi harbour.  Along the beach are many colonial bungalows.

St. Francis Church

It was built in 1503, by Portuguese Francisan friars and is believed to be the first church built by the Europeans in India. Vasco da Gama, the discovery of sea route to India, died in Cochin in 1524 and was initially buried here.

Vasco House

This 16th century building is one of the earliest residences built in Fort Cochin and is said to be the house of Vasco da Gama.

Willingdon Island

It is set amidst mainland Ernakulam and the old town Matancherry and was named after Lord willingdon, one of the British Viceroys.  Some of the finest hotels and trading centres of the centres of the city are located here.

Jewish Synagogue & Jew Town (Mattancherry)

It synagogue built in 1568, is the oldest in the country.  The township around the synagogue is known for spice trade and curio shops dealing in antiques as well as rare glass and beads. The Great Scrolls of the Old Testament, copper plates on which the grants of privilege made by the Cochin rulers were recorded, gold and silver crowns gifted by various patrons to the synagogue and exquisite Chinese hand-painted willow patterned tiles are of interest here.

Dutch Palace (Mattanchcherry)

It was built by the Portuguese and presented to the Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma in 1555, but was later taken over by the Dutch. The palace has fine murals depicting scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharta and other mythological figures.  Royal costumes, palanquins and other royal memorabilia are also exhibited here. The Cochins rajas held their coronation ceremonies in the Central Hall of this double-storey quadrangular building.  Rooms adjacent contain breathtaking 17th century murals depicting scenes from the Puranas and the great epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Bolghatty Island

The scenic island located in the Kochi Bay is known for the Bolghatty Palace built by the Dutch in 1744.  It also served as the seat of the British Resident and is not a heritage hotel run by the KTDC.  The lush green landscape with great views of the backwaters makes it an attractive picnic spot.  There is also a small golf course.

Vypin Island & Light House it is one of the most densely populated islands of the country.  The light house at Ochanthuruth affords an awe-inspiring view of the Kochi City and Aluva town.  The Pallippuram Fort on the northern end of the Vypeen Island was built by the Portuguese in 1503.  It is said to be the first fort built in India by the Europeans. Another attraction is the charming Cherai Beach.

This long narrow palm-fringed island, easily accessible from the mainland, is where the Bolgatty Palace is situated amidst 15 acres of lush green lawns.  In 1976 the palace was converted into a hotel under the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.

Erunakulam Tour Information

The ‘Gateway to Kochi’ is regarded as the ‘Commercial Capital of Kerala’.  There are beautiful parks, children playgrounds and beach side pavements.  The Naval base and the Cochin Shipyard are also located here.  The places of interest of Erunakulam are Mangalavanam small bird sanctuary, Marine Drive Park Avenue Fine Arts Avenue, St. Francis Assisi Church (Naduvileppalli) and Siva Temple,one of the largest temples of the State.

Indira Gandhi Boat Race

The famous snake boat race is held during Onam celebrations.  It can be enjoyed from the marine derive promenade.

Kochi Tour Information

Aluva (Alwaye) (25km)

The important pilgrim centre and summer resort lies on the left bank of Periyar River.  It is famous for the Mannapuram Shiva Temple and St. Dominic Syrian Church.

Kaladi (45km)

The beautiful pilgrim site on the banks of river Periyar is the birth place of Adi Sankaracharya, the great Advaitha philosopher and Bhakti saint of 8th century.  There are two main shrines one is dedicated to Adi Sankarcharya, as Dakshina Moorthi, while the other is of Goddess Sharada, the patron deity of Sringeri Mutt.

Kodungallor (Crangnore) (32km)

The small historic port town was an ancient centre of trade and commerce and had relations with the Jews, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and the Arabs.  It was earlier known as Muziris to the Greeks and Romans.  Pliny, the great traveller described it as the ‘first emporium in India’.  St. Thomas, the Apostle is believed to have first landed at Muziris port in 52AD.  The first mosque in India was also built here.  The unique mosque faces east unlike others which face Mecca in the west.  Kodungallor is also known for the Kurumba Bhagavathi temple and its Bharani Festival in March – April.

Tripunittura (9km)

This important cultural centre, enroute to Kottayam was the seat of erstwhile Cochin Rajas.  The main attractions here are Sri Poornathreyesa Temple and Hill Palace Museum.

Hill Palace Museum, Tripunithura

Set on top of a hillock, this prodigious palace-turned-museum display 13 categories of exhibits, including paintings, carvings and other royal antiquities donated by the Cochin and Travancore royal families and the Paliam Devaswom.  The Heritage Museum, located on the rear side of the palace buildings, familiarizes you with the traditional lifestyles of ancient Kerala.  As part of the establishment of a mini zoo, a deer park with spotted deer, sambar and peacocks is run by the Society for the Preservation of Hill Palace Premises.  The museum premises has also been converted into a botanical garden with exotic tropical trees from central America to Australia.

Museum of Kerala History & Its Makers

It exhibits the rich historical legacy of Kerala. An image of the legendary sage Parasuram is set outside the museum. M.N.F Gallery of Paintings & Sculptures. It is located next to Museum of Kerala History and has a rich collection of original paintings of eminent Indian painters.

Mangrove Forest, Ernakulam

This small protected area, a haven for birds, is located Dr.  Salim Ali Road, adjacent to the High Court of Kerala. Winter migrants include species coming from Kashmir and even distant Siberia.  The best time to visit this place is mid-January to early March.

St. Francis' Church, Fort Cochin

This Protestant church, originally built by the Portuguese in 1510, is believed to be he oldest existing European church in India.  Vasco da Gama was originally buried here in 1524 before his remains were sent to Lisbon, 14 years later.

Santa Cruz Cathedral, Fort Cochin

There are some beautiful paintings in this Roman Catholic church situated close to the St. Francis' Church.

Vamanamoorthy Temple, Thrikkakara

Set in a land of great mythological significance, this ancient temple, dedicated to Vamana the fifth avatara of Lord Vishnu is venerated by the Vaishnavaites as one among the 108 holy places in India.  The temple holds a large number of lithic records, some of great historical significance.

Festivals

Cochin Carnival

Cochin Carnival is a merry making feast observed during the last week of every year in Fort Kochi in Kerala.  The carnival dates back to the Portuguese New Year revelry held here during the colonial days.  Fort Kochi puts on a festive look and the highlight of the Carnival is the massive procession on the New Year Day.

Athachamayam Festival

This marks the beginning of the Onam festival on the Atham day of the Malayalam month, Chingam at Tripunithura, Kochi.  Festival highlights are a spectacular procession of caparisoned elephants, colorful floats, and musical ensembles in a well-designed park containing fine sculptures by local artist Canai Kunuram.

Kochi Distance Guide

Kochi Changannassery 89 Km
Kochi Guruvayur 72 Km
Kochi Kaladi 36 Km
Kochi Kalpetta 252 Km
Kochi Kannur 266 Km
Kochi Kasaragod 355 Km
Kochi Alappuzha 64 Km
Kochi Kodungallor 34 Km
Kochi Alappuzha 148 Km
Kochi Kottayam 67 Km
Kochi Kovalam 224 Km
Kochi Kozhikode 180 Km
Kochi Malappuram 142 Km
Kochi Munnar 127 Km
Kochi Muvattupula 39 Km
Kochi Painavu 74 Km
Kochi Palakkad 135 Km
Kochi Sabarimala 139 Km
Kochi Shoranur 106 Km
Kochi Sultan Bathery 277 Km
Kochi Thalassery 244 Km
Kochi Thiruvananthapuram 211 Km
Kochi Thrissur 74 Km
Kochi Vaikam 31 Km