There are plenty of reasons , to feel that even twice wasn’t enough to explore Kochi well. It is one of the few cities in India that will make me want to visit the place again and again.
Ever since I started travelling, I always had a fervent wish to visit the God’s Own Country from a very long time. But somehow it never got materialised before. This was last year in march, while I was suddenly browsing through airfares, I scouted on a very reasonable deal to Kochi Ex-Kolkata and without even blink of an eye, I grabbed it. Kerala had always been on my wish-list to travel. And, so I went ahead to look for a reason, strong enough for me to be able to start with Kochi, if not more.
Kochi is a perfect amalgamation of culture, art, history and a healthy mix of modernity which I feel is way ahead from rest of Kerala. There is an eclectic comparison between modern side and as well as traditional influence in the streets of Kochi. Kochi is also called as “Cochin”. It was actually the colonial name given by Britisher way back.
Kochi is often referred as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea” and it was a major trading center for spices on the west coast of India. It was a preferred area of Portuguese, until they chose to shift their focus to Goa in 1530. Kochi is a part of Ernakulam district of Kerala (as the state is largely categorized into districts) but often referred as “Ernakulam” as well. It is believed that Kochi trades about 90% of the spices to the world.
So, why is it acclaimed to be in the top 10 cities to be visited in 2020 by Lonely Planet?
Because Kochi boasts some lovely colonial vibes also being a charming port town and a major hub for fishing as well. It is a melting pot of age old traditions being blended with modernity along with historic past. This is quite evident specially in Fort Kochi. And one of the reason I felt is that, Kochi is home to various lakes, beautiful backwaters, beaches, ancient architectures and some really lush green vibes. All in one place makes it all the more worthwhile to be one of the best place to stay in India. (Definitely my favorite)
I landed in Kochi Airport, which was a very cosy looking airport done up recently to give a very traditional feel. The moment you come out of the airport, an usual looking scene outside the airport will greet you. Same old cab drivers or auto drivers will hassle you (not much like in other places though) for the service. Tackle that part and it takes about 45mins – 1 hour to reach Fort Kochi area. So, why is it that it is called “Fort Kochi”? Initially I thought I was hoping to see some fort or something. But NAH! NOT really..
History says that Kochi was the first city in India where Europeans had their first fortification in Indian Subcontinent. The attractions in the historical destination of Fort Kochi are the Portuguese built houses, Churches, villas and other buildings of Indo European architecture, and the Jewish settlements of Mattancherry that house the Jewish Synagogue and the Dutch Palace that are over 400 years old.
As I walked around Fort Kochi, I could witness a Portuguese influence in the architecture. And it was because, Fort Kochi remained in Portugese possession for nearly 160 years.
Some of my recommended things to do in Fort Kochi
- Walk around the beaches and watch the beautiful sunset while sipping some refreshing coconut water .. Need I say more …
- Look around the beautiful Chinese fishing nets, try and catch the moments with fishermen about how they do it .. Usually early morn or during sunsets. Sit by the shore and seep in your memories (I did just that ). The tradition of fishing through big chinese nets have been a common practice adapted by fishermen here. Although, they also resort to normal ways to do the fishing as well.
- A visit to the Dutch cemetery and St. Francis Church are a must. The great sailor Vasco Da Gama was buried in the church before the same was taken back to Lisbon.
- Talking about Churches and Cathedrals, you will find plenty in Kochi for there are about 40% of the natives are practising Christians.
- Walking through the narrow lanes and observing the dutch styled houses.
- Shopping galore around Jewish quarter . As you wander across this narrow lanes area, your walk will not be completed unless you visit some of the antique shops around this area. One can shop souvenir and artefacts.
- Apart from Jewish town, Princess street is one of the famous tourist place for its plethora of shopping options . One can explore on clothes, spices , handmade soaps , artefacts and Oh yes BOOKS . When I say books, Fort Kochi has some of the wonderful and tastefully done bookstores and art cafe’s . As you walk around St. Francis church, the makeshift stalls will selling clothes , merchandise, masks, magnets or junk jewellery will definitely attract your attention.
- Fort Kochi is also very famous for its art and creative culture. And, one of my reason to visit Kochi around last year march was to witness their largest art festival which is held semi-annually. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is the amalgamation of the biggest Art fair in India. Various art installations, sculpture , visual and as well as contemporary art can be witnessed around this time. It is usually held around Dec- March as that being the only favourable months to visit Kochi. One can avail the maps for the same online and as well as in the various venues and cafe’s in Fort Kochi .
THIS YEAR , THE SAME WOULD COMMENCE ON DECEMBER 2020 AND WILL CONTINUE TILL APRIL 2021. FOR MORE DETAILS , ONE CAN GO THROUGH https://www.kochimuzirisbiennale.org/foundation/
9. Visit to Fort Kochi is incomplete as per me , until you explore the various quirky cafe’s . The most famous being Kashi Art Cafe , I headed there for a sumptuous breakfast and a chilled out ambience . It has a very laid back vibes and a lot of crowd generally comes for its delicious menu and more so for its natural ambience. Oh, there are other cafe’s around as well, but I hardly had time to visit them . The few recommended are Qissa Cafe , East India Street Cafe, Teapot Cafe, Pepper House Cafe or Farmer’s Cafe.
10. It is also a delight to tickle your gastronomical senses, at many of the classic colonial style beautiful hotels which has been maintaining its legacy since years. I would highly recommend to either stay or pay a visit at any of these hotels just to soak in the charm of the same. Some of them are:
- Old Harbour Hotel which has a very colonial ambience and the food is a wow.
- Asian Kitchen which is in Kochi Club
- Forte Kochi Hotel -A beautiful Portuguese age old mansion now a luxury hotel.
- Brunton Courtyard
- Neemrana Tower House
- Eight Bastion which has a Dutch influence in its architecture and even in food items.
Also Read about : Murshidabad- Stories from Ancient Bengal
It is located about 10 km from the heart of Kochi. This place is absolute must while exploring Kochi. Said to be a melting pot of culture and tradition, same is dotted with another set of ethnic cafes, showrooms and art centres. Apart from this, cycling around Mattancherry is real fun (Note: only early mornings or evenings). Since, there were people from different places who came down and got settled before, it now represents the amalgamation of many cultures which has been inherited since then. Mattancherry Palace is one of the main tourist destination. It is also called as Dutch Palace as the same was built by Portuguese trader for Veera Kerala Verma King. There are other places which can explored while visiting Mattancherry , they are Jew street, Dharmanath Jain Temple , Coonan Cross Shrine, PazhayannurBhagavathi Temple , Jeevamatha Church.
Ayurveda Treatment in Kochi
Not only because it is an important town in Kerala, but Kochi has some of the finest Ayurveda centres to pamper or to treat your inner senses with. If you have time, RATHER if I had time, I would have loved to book myself an Ayurveda treatment package for a complete rejuvenation. There are N number of Spa’s and Ayurvedic centres in Kochi apart from the ones in big hotels. So, choosing as per your budget will not be a constraint as such.
Beaches which are good to be visited
Sadly, couldn’t find time to visit, but how I wish I had more time in hand to do so. One can visit these lovely beaches in Kochi.
- Cherai Beach – A quaint beach near Vypeen Island for its sunsets. Also, famous for its water sport activities. You can definitely get those perfect Chinese Fishing nets shots as well.
- Fort Kochi Beach– As the name suggest, is quite accessible during your stay in Fort Kochi area. Its located in Old Kochi area. Again some lovely shots during evening stroll while exploring the nearby artefacts stalls.
- Marari Beach – Not exactly in Kochi but in Alappuzha District, can be visited once touring around Kochi.
A Short Trip to Alleppey – My Impression!
During my first visit, I didn’t plan anything outside Kochi, because I had so much to see in such little time but I made sure that I paid a short one-night trip to Alleppey Beach and the famous BACKWATERS and Oh Boy! I was so stumped by the beach and not backwaters actually …. I would not lie here but I was actually pleased by the beaches more as the calmness of Arabian Sea allured me , than the very touristic tour through the backwater canals.
Although, I will definitely suggest to make a stay in the houseboats while sinking in the backwater life to frame your own opinion.
So, till the time I do so, I would rant about my short beach vacay.
Alleppey is at about 58 kms away from Kochi and one can easily reach there within one or one and a half hour by road. You can also choose a slow boat ride from Kochi to Alleppey which can take more than 6-7 hrs through the beautiful backwaters . As I made my way through the winding roads towards Alleppey , I reached at this beautiful quaint looking property right on the beach called Colonel’s Beach Villa (http://www.colonelsbeachvilla.com/) .
I still remember Colonel Anthony, a retired officer who weaved his dreams into building this beach villa to pamper all kind of travel enthusiast. He greeted us with his warmest gesture and checked us in. A beautiful beach cottage which had a beautiful patio overlooking the wide blue expanse was a star attraction. This cozy place made sure that how successfully could I cancel all my exploring plans while having to just sit and relax in a perfect rejuve session with the nature.
Alleppey is one such laid-back place, where you can actually sit back and slow down. I also did a boat trip through the backwaters for about 1 hour which honestly didn’t appeal me much as compared to the beach scenes. It has a few good cafes and restaurant to cater to all kind of tourist from backpackers to budget to luxury travelers. One of the famous cafe’s I visited was Cafe Catamaran for his stunning sunset views. There are several such cafe’s and restaurant around by the beach.
Kochi has its own backyard backwaters life – Lake Vembanad
Little did I know about Lake Vembanad, till I visited Kochi for the second time during my Kerala Trip. And this time I got to explore Lake Vembanad while having to stay at this beautiful boutique property Baymaas Lakehouse. Till then I never knew about this side of Kochi. So, when Nature Resorts invited me to stay at their super luxurious lake-house , I made it a point to give my maximum time around Lake Vembanad. More on this in my blog on Baymaas Lake house Review.
Known to be a longest lake in India and a largest inland backwater lake in Kerala, Lake Vembanad is one of its kind. There are many islands around Kochi side of the lake, as the same stretches through Kochi, Alappuzha and Kuttanad. Vembanad Lake is also the heart of Kerala Backwater tourism specially in Kumarakom.
Lake Vembanad host many luxury resorts and lake-houses, which are a perfect retreat while being inside Kochi city.
Also read on : Kurumba Village Resort , Nilgiris
My two cent on Kochi
Kochi is an amazing city to start or/ and end your Kerala trip with. It has a major airport which connects domestically or internationally with major cities or countries.
Best time to visit- Kerala being a hot tropical place throughout the year, the ideal time to visit Kochi is from Oct to March as per me, after that either it gets too hot or the monsoons ushers.
By Railways– Ernakulam Station connects with major railway station throughout India.
Airport – Cochin International Airport which is 30 kms from the city centre/ Fort Kochi
Food- I think this needs a separate blog all together to talk about the Kerala cuisine. But being a cosmopolitan city it has a wide array of food options apart from delicious local cuisine. Appam, Beef fry, Curry meen, puttu and kadala curry, Malabar Prawn curry, Eriserry and of course the Ela Sadya are few of the recommended dishes but the list goes on….
So, if you like my post on Kochi and if I have missed out on any thing, please do write to me in comment section so that I can incorporate and make my way to this lovely city someday soon again. Kochi was part of my Kerala Trip but holds a special place among the favourite places I have visited so far.