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Editor's Note Kochi  

Kochi was actually Cochin. And the name is synonymous with images of the massive Chinese Fishing Nets against the background of the setting sun. But really, there is much more here to see and experience. True, Kochi is credited as being the only place (except China) to house these engineering marvels. But this does not, in any way, undermine the importance of the old churches and traditional Nalukettu-style palaces and houses; or even the importance of this port town as a busy centre of spice trade. The rich fragrance of cinnamon and cardamom, together with fresh sandalwood leaves an endearing image of this city that still today retains its old-world element as being the spice hub. Take a cruise along with lagoon, watch the stained glass paintings of its churches and savour the yummiest of seafood, caught and cooked right before you. This is definitely the best way to discover what the world must have, at one time, been...

Summer Summer
March-June, Moderately hot & humid
Temperature: 22.5°C-35.0°C
Monsoon Monsoons
June-September, Heavy rainfall
Annual rainfall - 350 cm
Winter Winter
December-February, Cool & pleasant
Temperature: 20.0°C-25.3°C
Local Languages: Malayalam & English
Best Time to Visit: September - May
Clothing: Light, tropical clothes throughout the year
Moving Around:

Plenty of transport options available, though you could take the auto-rickshaws that ply the streets between Fort Kochi and Mattancherry. A must-try are the ferries that take you through some of the highlights of the area.

Tourist Offices: KTDC Tourist Reception Centre
Opp Hotel Taj Residency
Shanmugham Road Ernakulam
Tel : 0484-2353234

Chinese Fishing Nets: These huge cantilevered fishing nets are a marvel of this town. Believed to be the only place, after China, where these nets are found, these are believed to have been introduced by merchants from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan. These nets are locally known as Cheenavala and can be best viewed at the Vasco De Gama Square at Fort Kochi. The nets are balanced on teakwood and bamboo poles and are lowered and raised in the sea by six fishermen, who must maintain the balance of the net at all times.

Fort Kochi Beach: Though small, a walk on the fine sand is highly recommended. Especially watch the spectacular sights of the Chinese Fishing Nets, as they are lowered and raised in the sea. Several European-style houses line the shores and an old lighthouse is also visible at one end of the beach.

St. Francis Church: Located at Fort Kochi, this is one of the oldest European churches built in India. Originally built in timber, it was later replaced by stone-work. Vasco De Gama's remains were buried here and later transferred to Lisbon. However, his tomb still exists here. Worth watching is an ancient marriage register, dating from 1751-1804!
Open from: 6.00 am-7.00 pm

Vasco House: Sited on Rose Street in Fort Kochi, this is one of the oldest Portuguese houses, where Vasco de Gama is said to have lived. Watch the beautiful European glass panes and balconies.

Santa Cruz Basilica: Believed to be well-over 500 years old, the church is distinctly gothic with high spires. However, its interiors are truly spectacular with stained glass paintings, huge sculpted female figures used as pillars and a number of confessional boxes.
Open from: 9.00 am-1.00 pm, 3.00 pm-5.00 pm


Jewish Synagogue: Also known as the Pardesi Synagogue and Mattancherry Synagogue, it is said to be almost 400 years old and is one of the 7 Synagogues that are found in the region. The interior is beautiful and exhibit a Belgian-crystal chandelier, a carved teak arc, the ancient scrolls of the Old Testament and the two copper plaques with the grants of privilege made by the rulers to the Jews. Also found are a set of gold Torah crowns inlaid with precious gems. Especially watch the floor, which is laid with hand-painted porcelain tiles, each sporting a different design! Visit the Clock Tower whose floor has hand-painted blue willow tiles, and the four dials, which have numerals in Hebrew, Latin, Malayalam and Arabic.
Open from: 10.00 am-noon, 3.00 pm-5.00 pm (closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Jewish Holidays)
Note - Video cameras not allowed inside

Mattancherry Palace: Also called the Dutch Palace, the palace is defined by the Kerala murals that adorn its walls. Built in traditional Kerala style, a small temple dedicated to Pazhayannur Bhagavati, the patron deity of the Kochi royal family. Smaller temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and Krishna. Watch the floor of the dining hall, which looks like black marble, but actually is a combination of burned coconut shells, charcoal, lime, plant juices and egg whites! The highlight of this palace is the large number of murals depicting scenes from Hindu epics and mythology. The king's room especially, is noted for its exceptionally low wooden ceiling and almost 48 illustrations from the Ramayana that adorn its walls. Other murals include paintings of Lakshmi, Vishnu, Parvati, Shiva and Krishna with the gopis. Other interesting exhibits include an ivory palanquin, a howdah, royal umbrellas, ceremonial dresses used by the royalty, royal coins, stamps and drawings.
Open from: 10.00 am-5.00 pm (closed on Friday)

Bolgatty Palace: Located on Bolgatty Island, this is one of the oldest Dutch palaces in the world. This is now converted into a hotel run by KTDC. The island also has a golf course and is one of the best places to catch panoramic views of the port and harbour.

Hill Palace: Once the official residence of the Kochi royal family, it has now been converted into an archeological museum. The complex consisting of 49 buildings has been built in traditional Kerala architecture, complete with landscaped gardens, a deer park and facilities for horse riding. Interesting exhibits include oil paintings, murals, stone sculptures and manuscripts, royal coins and the royal throne. Also on display are collections from Japan and China, including pottery, stone-age weapons, wooden temple models and plaster objects from the Indus Valley civilization.

Vypeen Island: A long island between the sea and the backwater, this is credited as being one of the densely inhabited islands. Highlights here include the old lighthouse at Ochanthuruthu and the Pallipuram Fort, which is one of the oldest surviving European forts in India. Also take a stroll at the Cherai Beach, which is lined by coconut groves and paddy fields.
Open from: Lighthouse - 3.00 pm-5.00 pm

Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary: This is a protected bird sanctuary situated right in the heart of Kochi. This is also one of the greenest areas of Kochi,, owing to the dense mangroves found here. Popular sightings of exotic and rare bird include little cormorant and black-crowned night heron.

Museum of Kerala History: This 'live museum' draws significance from the 36 spectacular sound-and-light show depicting the history and culture of Kerala. Other interesting sections would be the Gallery for Paintings and Sculptures, which exhibit specimens of Indian art of the last 200 years; and the Dolls Museum, which has a collection of 150 dolls handcrafted from all states of India.

Pareekshith Thampuran Museum: This durbar-turned museum houses a vast collection of relics, including oil paintings, coins, murals and wooden models of temples and buildings in Kerala. Built in traditional Kerala-style, other significant collections include scriptures made in stone and Plaster-of-Paris and artifacts belonging to the Cochin royal family.

Veega Land: This is Kerala's largest amusement park and features attractions including mini castle tours, water theme park, ferris-wheel, rides, slides, shows and fountains.

Willingdon Island: This man-made island is home to the Cochin Port and houses some of the most important hotels and offices.

Guruvayur: This is famous for the temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, which is one of the oldest temples in the region. In fact so sacred is the temple, that on some days almost 100 marriages take place here! Also located close to the temple is Punnathur Kotta, where elephants are trained for temple purposes.

Kathakali Centres: When visiting Cochin, don't forget to watch a show of this spectacular dance form, typical to South India. Noted centres include See India Foundation at Kalathiparambil Road, near Ernakulam Junction railway station, The Cochin Cultural Centre at Manikath Road and Art Kerala at Kannanthodathu Lane. These institutes hold Kathakali dance shows every evening.


Kochi is one of the best places to savour Kerala cuisine, especially the freshest of seafood. The signature dish here meen pollichathu, fish fillet coated with local spice paste, wrapped in banana leaf and roasted - try the one at Grand Hotel. For traditional Kerala cuisine, including appam-stew, appam-chicken curry and neer dosa, head to Nalukettu on Chittoor Road and Krishna Inn on Warriam Road. Especially popular is the biryani at Kaikka's located in Mattancherry. Try the avial and payasam at Bharat Tourist Home and Wood's Manor. One of the best vegetarian restaurants in Kochi is Sri Krishna Café - its vegetable masala dosai and stuffed parottas are especially recommended. For basic Tamil food, try Arya Bhavan; they are surprisingly affordable and their roast dosa is a must-have! Hotel Bharat at Durbar Hall Road serves extremely cheap Kerala food on banana leaves for lunch. For some yummy confectionary, try the Art Café, which serves the most heavenly chocolate cake and banana cake! An interesting culture here is the You Buy I Cook food stalls, where you can buy your own fish and seafood caught by the Chinese Fishing Nets and get them cooked by the locals. And if you can, don't miss the Pai Brothers, who conjure up 36 varieties of thattu dosas!


The major shopping areas in Kochi are Mattancherry and Jew Street in Fort Kochi, and Broadway and MG Road in Ernakulam. Here, you can pick up interesting articles like antiques, spices, and sachets of coffee and tea. Near the St. Francis church, there are numerous stalls laden with local crafts. Peacock feather fans, hand-made postcards, statues and figurines and local jewellery. Ernakulam's MG Road abounds in textiles, silks and sarees, which are relatively cheaper than the ones available at Fort Cochin. Also check out some quaint curios, including carved panels reclaimed from old churches and buildings, interesting pottery, spice boxes and Kerala masks. In Mattancherry, look out for mirror frames and metal locks, along with rose-wood products and beautiful furniture. A special buy would be the coco fibre ring with your name inscribed! This is best available at the stalls lining the beach area. Authentic Kerala spices packaged neatly are popular carry-home. Try the RK Spices at Mattancherry for dry ginger, red chilli and black pepper, Malabar Spices and the Jew Street wholesale spice market for a large variety of fresh spices, including star anise, cinnamon and mace. Several shops in Fort Kochi deal in all kinds of furniture and masks, ideal for decorating your room. Book-lovers will have much to buy on the history of Kerala and Cochin, and how the Chinese Fishing Nets came about. But what is especially striking in the collection, is the one on wall paintings from Mattancherry Palace. For more antique stores, head to the road leading to the Pardesi Synagogue - its elaborate list includes snake boat replicas, bronze spice boxes and carved wooden temple offerings. Also, MG Road is known for its wide array of shops dealing in a good variety of gold and jewellery. Emporia here include Kairali, Khataisons, Curios and Surabhi. Remember, that no matter what you buy, bargaining is a must and almost expected!


Onam is quite obviously the most celebrated festival, held in August. Celebrating the beginning of the harvest season, the festival is marked by celebrations, trade fairs and beautiful floral designs created outside each home. Also held in August or September, Attachamayam is celebrated to commemorate the legendary victory of the Raja of Kochi. Another annual festival is Cochin Carnival, which takes place in the last week of December to welcome the New Year. Highlight of this festival is the Indira Gandhi Boat Race, whose venue is the backwaters of Kochi.

Finding a place to stay here is quite easy and hotels are available across all budgets. One of the best hotels is the four-star Trident Hotel located on Willingdon Island. Also close to Fort Cochin, the hotel offers contemporary facilities in a relaxed and serene ambience to both business and leisure travelers. Situated close to the Nedumbassery Airport, Ned Star Airport Hotel is perfect for all business travelers as well as relaxing holidayers. Another popular 4-star hotel, The Travancore Court exhibits a colonial architecture and offers several room types with exclusive comforts and services. Among budget hotels, Paulson Park Hotel is located in South Ernakulam close to the business centre and railway station. For a comfortable home-away-from-home option, head to Mermaid Hotel. It offers spacious rooms, attentive and efficient service, attractive facilities and a great location. Another budget-style hotel is Hotel Cochin Tower located in the heart of the town and offering all required comforts. Located in Ernakulam, Grand Hotel is one of the most traditional hotels with its old-world charms and modern comforts. Also located near major attractions in Ernakulam, Avenue Regent offers a world of hospitality in its 53 well-maintained rooms with excellent services. Rossitta Wood Castle, on Rose Street, is a mansion-turned hotel complete with old-world constructions including teakwood flooring, high wooden ceiling, tiled roofing and huge European windows. Park Central at Kaloor is a premium luxury hotel suited for business travellers and holiday-goers. The Woods Manor at Ernakulam is one of the leading luxury business-class hotels with elegantly appointed rooms and well trained personals that make your stay a memorable experience. Tucked away strategically between the two main roads of Ernakulam the International Hotel is a welcome departure from the clichéd and synthetic feel of many a star hotel. Also check out the Casino Hotel, located on Willingdon Island. This 5-star hotel is extremely popular for its beautiful rooms, fine dining and great views of the sea.

Air: Air Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery is 34 km from the city centre. Regular flights connect it to Trivandrum, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Mumbai, Chennai and Colombo.
Rail: Railway Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction are connected to Kozhikode and Trivandrum. Regular trains also connect it to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
Road: Roadways Kochi is linked to Willingdon Island via Ernakulam on NH47A. Cities connected to it are Palakkad, Thrissur, Alleppey, Kollam and Trivandrum. Ernakulam's KSRTC Bus Stand is serviced by regular buses to and fro Trivandrum.

Kochi's most significant highlight is the Chinese Fishing Nets, locally known as Cheenavala. These huge cantilevered fishing nets were believed to have been brought here by merchants from the court of Chinese ruler Kublai Khan. Set up on teakwood and bamboo poles, watch the wonderful mechanism of these at the Vasco De Gama Square, a narrow walkway along the beach. Interestingly, except China, these nets can be seen only at Kochi!