No visit to Kerala can be completed without making a halt at Kochi. It happens to be an old city with a long-standing tradition of tolerance for all religions. However, it is the natural beauty found in and around the town that strikes the first time visitor forcefully. The swaying trees and amazing backwaters create a magnificent picture that has leaves of the visitors pining for more. The coconut palms that sway gently in the breeze resemble a fairy tale like setting while the charms of the old and biggest city of the State draw admiration from all and sundry.
Kochi is indeed the primary city of Kerala without being its capital. The breathtaking landscape and vivid greenery all around make the visit to Kochi totally worthwhile for people who are accustomed to the concrete jungles of urban locations! Almost all tourists instantly make a beeline for the beautiful backwaters that are both novel and magical in its appeal. Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, is a busy metropolis with a serene region within it. The waterways and green palms beckon the travelers big time who are mesmerized by the scenic grandeur despite the human-made structures evident close by.
Hard though it is to turn one’s eyes away from nature, the tourists cannot help but marvel at the enchanting city that had been grazed by multiple cultures from around the world in the ancient time. The Arabs, British, Portuguese, and Chinese have all made their homes here once upon a time with Kochi being the only city in India to sport a synagogue built by the Jews who had been persecuted everywhere else but here. An enthralling tradition that speaks its volumes in favour of the local people!
History buffs will undoubtedly be overjoyed to find museums, architectural wonders and old relics that make Kochi come alive through different ages. The religious minded would not be disappointed either for there are temples galore here long with European churches along with mosques and a synagogue that showcase how quickly the great religions had blended without a hint of animosity. The culture of Kochi is evident in its prestigious dance form, the Kathakali. These enigmatic performers do get ready in bright colours and costumes and tell the emotional lyrical story of their native land by their movements and awe-inspiring expressions. The adventure minded is free to pursue a number of activities while the laidback tourist can choose to relax on the sand, near the sea with the waters lapping gently at the feet.
Erstwhile Cochin, the modern day Kochi had been the hub of trade and commerce in the ancient time. It’s proximity to the Arabian Sea made it easily accessible by the traders from Arabia and Portugal as well as from various other regions of Europe. The city gets a mention in the chronicles of the Chinese traveler Ma Huan as well as the writings of Niccolo da Conti who visited Cochin in 1440 AD. However, many of the facts about the city have been obscured by time with Cochin beginning to gain prominence only after the fall of the Kulashekhara kingdom.
Cochin did have a titular head through long years of colonial invasion, but the land was ruled directly by a host of foreign invaders from Europe predominantly. A factory was founded by the Portuguese ruler at Cochin who had to go to war against the local Zamorin in order to defend it. It ended in the total destruction of the Arabic trading posts, and Fort Manuel was built to safeguard the factory. The ascendency of the Dutch followed the defeat of the Portuguese, but it was the British who ruled for a long time afterwards. Cochin became the first state to join the Indian Union post-independence. The city was slowly rebuilt keeping the welfare of its citizens in mind, and now a vast metropolis as well as a significant industrial and commercial centre of South India.
Kochi had been at the crossroads of civilizations from almost all parts of the world. The sea traders, travellers and invaders have been lured by the exquisite spices of the region for centuries. While most of them departed the land in time, each left behind a tiny portion of their culture that was assimilated by the local people of Kochi creating an amalgamation that is hard to find elsewhere. The relics of diverse cultures are still located within Kochi with the Mattancherry Palace of the Dutch, the elaborate fishing nets of the Chinese, the Dutch Bolgatty Palace and the remains of British structures coming together to create an enticing history of civilization that took place here.
Almost half of the city’s populace follows Hinduism while the Syrian Christians and Roman Catholics come a close second. However, there are many Muslims along with a dwindling population of Jews found here as well. All communities coexist peacefully and take part in each other’s festivals making it an example of sorts for showcasing religious harmony.
Onam, the harvest festival is celebrated by the residents of Kochi with much fanfare every monsoon. Goes on for ten days,it is the main festival that has the entire city rejoicing. Vishu is yet another festival, celebrated in March-April for enhancing economic progress of the community. The main festivals of Holi, Diwali, Christmas, Easter and Id Ul Fitr are observed as per the traditions here along with the rest of India.
At the end of December, the city of Kochi come to an absolute standstill for the Kochi Carnival. A ten-day long affair that ushers in New Year amongst gaiety, fun, and pageantry. This is a continuation of the Portuguese era when the end of the year was celebrated with colourful parades and parties. Kochi remains true to this tradition of merrymaking with people strutting about in finery and embellished costumes laughing and meeting one another. The children become boisterous too with a number of sporting activities held to double the fun. However, it is the elephant parade held amidst the sweet tunes of Panchavadyam on New Year’s Day that has thousands of people pouring in from all corners of the world to witness this gargantuan event.
What you will like
- The backwaters and lush greenery.
- The cultural scene.
- The coastal food.
- Historical edifices.
- Classical Dance performances.
What you might not like
- Huge crowds at tourist places.
- Accumulation of rubbish by the side of the roads.
- A tendency of local cabs and auto rickshaws to overcharge tourists.
Nature lovers, honeymooning couples, families, history buffs, people interested in culture.
Best Time to Visit
Well, Kochi has pleasant weather throughout the year, the average temperature stays in between 20° and 30° Celsius. It’s nice to visit in the monsoon season when one can explore the lush greenery of the town but its ideal to visit in the months of October to February when the city faces the winter season, it is the best time to explore and enjoy the alluring beauty of Kochi.
How to Reach
One of the best tourist destination Kochi, people travel from far-flung places to traverse around this city, and here are the best possible ways:
By Air– Kochi has its own International airport, namely the Cochin International Airport, that is located at a distance of 20 km away at Nedumbassery. The international and domestic flights available here to connect you to different parts of the country and around the world.
By Rail– Kochi railway junction is the central railway station, while the other station is at Kochi Harbor Terminus. By rail, Kochi is linked with important cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.
By Road– Kochi has connectivity to all the major towns and cities in South India and other parts of the country.
Kochi cuisine is an integral part of its rich culture. Banana happens to be included in almost every dish because of its abundance. The crisp banana chips along with Kaplan, a dish made with bananas and yoghurt is extremely popular. Hot and spicy fish varieties especially the local take on Jewish food such as Chuttuli Meen are delicious as well. Visiting Kochi can be incomplete without tasting the Appams, Puttu, and Pazham Pori there.
This city has been a hot trade centre for ages. The local bazaars are chock-a-block with articles that attract the eye and makes one yearn to buy everything in sight. It is necessary to bargain furiously with the local shopkeepers for obtaining the best gifts at affordable prices. Almost all tourists carry small packets of banana chips for a home that also double up as convenient gift items.
Silk sarees and dress materials in every hue imaginable are a lucrative item for people who do not mind spending a few thousand rupees. Gold and silver jewellery in exquisite designs often catch the eye, but it is advisable to buy such items only from reputed shops in Kochi. Trailing along the spice market can be exciting indeed. People often pick up handicrafts and tasteful pieces of art at the galleries and antique shops as well. Visiting the Princess Street is an absolute must for its tourist-friendly items that are sold at reasonable rates.
You are in for a grand spectacle that encompasses history, culture, and the mesmerizing natural beauty when you come to visit Kochi, the thriving commercial city in the heart of Kerala. While there are many hotels of prominence across the city, you could opt to stay for a night in a houseboat on the backwaters and soak in the atmosphere of Kochi. Do freshen up and go for a walk along the waterfront and enjoy the thrill of finding the influences of Portuguese, Jewish, English, and Dutch colonists come together most effectively.
Day 1- Go right to the heart of Fort Cochin to watch a cricket match at the old ‘Parade Ground.’ Visit St. Francis Church, deemed to be the oldest church in India. You can also look for the tomb of Vasco Da Grama along with numerous other graves marked by the Dutch colonials. A visit to Santa Cruz Basilica, the biggest and one of the most beautiful churches across India is an absolute must. Be sure to walk along the seafront and sample the delicious crabs, mussels, and prawns cooked with coconut and spices. Eat out of the banana leaf wrappings and call it a day as the night falls.
Day 2- Head out to the East coast and visit the old Paradesi Synagogue of the Jewish town located in Mattancherry. Learn about the Jewish tradition and how it has been kept alive in Kochi to this day. Shop for curios and antique items on Old Jew Town Road, and you will be sure to come across some beautiful coloured glass items as well as beautiful souvenirs of Kerala.
Day 3- Keep the day free for exploring the backwaters of Kochi. You will indeed be amazed to find an interweaving network of canals, lagoons, lakes as well as rivers that you get to meander around from a coconut coir woven boat. Come back to the pier in 4 hours and enjoy a fantastic Kathakali dance performance in the evening. Partake a Kochi style meal before you retire for the night.