One of the finest natural harbors on the Arabian Sea coast, Kochi has been a port of call, for foreign traders from early times. One of the most interesting towns in South India; its cosmopolitan character is reflected, in its low rise, picturesque buildings and structures.
A prime tourist destination and commercial hub of Kerala, with its wealth of historical associations and its settings, in a stunning location, between the Arabian Sea and Backwaters, the city of Kochi, perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala. A city of peninsulas and islands, it is one of the largest ports of India, a major naval base, and one of the finest natural harbors in the world.
Kochi was earlier known as Cochin. From 1795 until the Independence of India; the long outer sand spit, with its narrow beach, leading to the wide bay inland, was under British political control. The inner harbor was in Kochi State, while most of the hinterland was in the separate state of Travancore.
The division of political authority, delayed development of the harbor facilities, until 1920-23, when the approach channel, was dredged to allow any ship, that could pass through the Suez Canal to dock safely, opening the harbor to modern shipping. With its wealth of historical associations and its settings on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, ancient mariners from Arabia, China, Holland, Britain and Portugal have all left their mark on this beautiful island city.
The culture is a sort of mix and match, with variety being the spice, of "The Spice Garden of the World". As a combination evolution, the people of Kerala are very definitely nature lovers. Industrial growth is tardy, due to local political upheavals. Towns and villages are intermingled with one another, in one large rural-urban agglomeration.
Accessible health care, reduced infant mortality rates and family planning measures, have met with resounding success. Women are now free, to employ their creative powers elsewhere. Coconuts and cashew; cardamom and cinnamon; as well as the black gold pepper, all made it a treasure trove, in days bygone. The Western efforts to break the Semitic monopoly in trade, were realized when Vasco Da Gama landed here.
Then a long line of succession of the Dutch, the French and finally the British Raj followed. The rest is history!
The most popular fare is rice, fish, coconut and seafood.
The main shopping stores are on M G Road on the mainland, including emporia and private showrooms. There's the huge GCDA shopping complex on Marine Drive, which should be explored at leisure. Items worth taking home include rosewood artefacts, coir floor coverings and tablemats, old dowry boxes from Travancore, gold jewellery exclusive to the South, cotton saris, traditional khadi attire and antiques from Jewtown.
On the coast of the Arabian Sea with Kottayam and Alappuzha districts in the south, Idukki in the east and Thrissur in the north.
AI, IA (operates from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore), Jet Airways (operates from Mumbai). International airlines like Air Maldives, Swissair and British Airways also fly in and out of Delhi. Airport: Local airport at Willingdon Island. The international at Nedumbassery , 20 km away from the town and 7 km from Ernakulam, is comparable to the best in the country.
There are several trains that run between Delhi and Kochi. The Kerala Express, the Ernakulam-Nizamuddin Express and the Trivandrum Rajdhani Express come in from Delhi. The Himsagar Express plies between Jammu and Kerala. You also have the Trivandrum Chennai Mail that runs from Chennai to Kochi. Railway station: Kochi has three railway stations — Ernakulam Junction , Ernakulam Town and Kochi Harbour Terminus.
KSRTC luxury coaches run from Chennai, Bangalore, Salem, Coimbatore, Madurai and Pondicherry to Kochi. Bus terminus: The KSRTC Central Bus Station is near the Junction Railway Station about half a kilometre away. Private buses ply from High Court, Junction Railway Station and Kaloor Junction.
Tropical. The summer (April to June) temperatures range between 24°C and 33°C and winter (October to March) temperatures range between 22°C and 32°C. During monsoons (July to September), the temperatures range between 22°C and 28°C.
This lovely beach, bordering Vypeen Island, is ideal for swimming. Dolphins are occasionally seen here. A typical Kerala village, with paddy fields and coconut groves nearby, is an added attraction of this beach.
It was built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Kochi. As the Dutch renovated the palace in 1663, it is also known as the Dutch Palace. On display here, are beautiful Murals, depicting scenes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata and some of the puranic Hindu legends.
Named after Lord Willington, a British viceroy to India, this man-made island, is surrounded by beautiful backwaters. The island is the site of the city's best hotels, customs and trading centers, the port trust and the headquarters of the Southern Naval Command.
Five Portuguese priests, who arrived with Albuquerque, built the St. Francis Church, located in Fort Cochin. Built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan Friars, this is India's oldest European church. It was restored in 1779, by the protestant Dutch, converted to an Anglican Church, by the British in 1795, and is presently used by the church of South India. Vasco da Gama's remains were buried here, in 1524 and later moved to Lisbon in Portugal, but his tombstone still remains.
Chottanikkara temple, located near Ernakulam, enshrines Bhagawati - the mother Goddess, one of the most popular deities in Kerala. Enroute is the Poornatrayesa temple at Tripunitura. The Devi is worshipped, along with Lord Vishnu. Together, they are known as Lakshmi-narayana.
This monumental church dates back to 1558 and has beautiful paintings on the ceiling. A historic church, built by the Portuguese, Pope Paul IV, elevated the Santa Cruz Basilica, to a cathedral in 1558 AD. In 1795 AD, it fell into the hands of the British, when they took over Cochin and was demolished. About a hundred years later, Bishop Dom Gomez Ferreira commissioned a new building at the same site in 1887 AD. Pope John Paul II proclaimed the church a Basilica in 1984.
Once a Governors palace for the Dutch and later the home of the British Governors, Bolghatty Palace is on an island, off Cochin, in the Arabian Sea. Built by the Dutch in 1744 AD, the Bolghatty Palace is two-storied and contains well-decorated bedchambers and a huge lounge, wherein historical portraits are displayed. The ferry ride from mainland Ernakulam, to the island is a pleasurable experience. There is a golf course to boot.
The mosque is situated at Kanjiramattom, 30 km from Kochi. It is believed, that the mosque was erected over the mortal remains of a Muslim saint, Sheikh Parid. Another great Muslim saint, Baver is supposed to have prayed here and attained salvation.
Lined along the sea front, these fishing nets exhibit a mechanical method of catching fish, introduced by Chinese traders from the court of Kublai Khan. These nets are also seen, along the backwaters between Cochin and Kottayam, and between Alleppey (Alappuzha) and Quilon (Kollam). They are mainly used at high tide.
Often called" The Venice of the East", Alappuzha is famous for its boat races, houseboat holidays, beaches, marine products and coir industry. Set in the labyrinth of backwater channels, the town is one of the best gateways, to explore the inspirit countryside. A venue for the spectacular snake boat races, there is little else of interest. Surrounded by coconut trees, Alappuzha is the headquarters of Kerala's coir industry and an important center for cashew nut processing.
This unique backwater destination, situated on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, is considered the gateway to the backwaters of Kuttanad. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a favorite haunt of migratory birds from across the world, which makes it a renowned bird watching center. Kumarakom is also a center for houseboat cruises.
Perched amidst rolling hills, tea and cardamom plantations and dense greenery, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, is one of the largest wildlife reserves in India and more popularly, a tiger reserve. A boat rides on the splendid waters of the Periyar Lake provides the perfect recreation. The Country's sole Tiger reserve, with its bountiful treasures of many an endangered species and a rich tribal culture, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, is a pleasant heaven on earth, for those who love nature in its wild manifestations.
ALUVA - Just north of Kochi, this town is situated, on the banks of the river Periyar. In February- March, this town celebrates the famous Sivarathri festival, attended by thousands of devotees. HILL PALACE MUSEUM - 10 km from Kochi, Hill Palace, the official residence of the Kochi royal family, was built in 1865 AD. Consisting of 49 buildings, built in the Traditional Architectural Style of Kerala, the palace complex is surrounded by 52 acres of terraced land. JEWISH SYNAGOGUE - Constructed in 1568, this is the oldest synagogue in the commonwealth. Destroyed in a shelling, during the Portuguese raid in 1662, it was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. PAREEKSHITH THAMPURAN MUSEUM - This sprawling, traditional Kerala style building, previously called the Durbar Hall, houses 19th century oil paintings, a collection of old coins, sculptures and Mughal paintings. The museum remains open all weekdays except Mondays.