Kochi was the centre of spice exports and trade under Portuguese rule in the 1500′s, followed by the Dutch in the mid 1600′s, and then the British until India’s independence was declared in 1947. This mix of different nations and religions is reflected in the sights to see in the area – there’s a Dutch palace, a synagogue decorated with Belgian chandeliers, Chinese fishing nets and a 500 year old church. You can hone your bargaining skills at the markets in Jew Town, or check out the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, one of eight basilicas in India.
Many of the popular tourist sights are within the Fort Kochi area, about 15km from the main city centre and named after a fort constructed by the Portuguese in the 1500′s to keep an eye on the sea and protect their commercial interests. The fort was later destroyed by the Dutch on their arrival at Kochi. The city itself derives its name from the Malayalam word ‘Cochazi’ which means small sea or lagoon, and Kochi is considered to have one of the finest natural harbours in the world.
If you’re looking to swim, a number of beautiful beaches (sure to gain fame in the future) are nearby, and the internationally known Cherai Beach is 25km from Kochi. Day or overnight excursions can be planned from the city to explore the state, including trips to the Kodanad Elephant Training Camp, Athirapally Waterfall or trips to India’s first ecotourism village, Kumbalangi.
Places to Visit in Kochi
- Fort Kochi
- Willingdon Island
- Cherai Beach
- Kuzhupilly Beach
Unique Things to See and Do in Kochi
- Attend a kathakali or cultural show, a live evening performance that plays daily
- Visit the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese and gifted to the King of Kochi
- See the Chinese fishing nets which are shore operated lift nets
- Visit St Francis Church, where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was buried
- Check out the Paradesi Synagogue and the antiques in Jew Town
Kochi’s Multicultural Sights
Kochi features many reminders of its rich multicultural heritage. There’s the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese and gifted to the King of Kochi in about 1555. The palace has a fine collection of murals based on Mahabharat and Ramayana scenes.
Adjacent to the palace, you can visit the Paradesi Synagogue, the hall of which is decorated with hand crafted tiles and Belgian chandeliers. Outside is a market known as ‘Jew Town’, where you can buy antiques, jewellery, dresses and more. To maximize profit, shopkeepers will often quote higher prices so bargaining is suggested.
From Mattanchery, you can go down the road about 2km to Kochi, and see the Chinese Fishing nets, used by fishermen to earn their livelihoods, and either try your hand or watch how local fisherman work on them.
At Fort Kochi Beach and Walkway, you can see European-style buildings, Nehru Park, views of ships sailing in the sea and some remarkable sunsets – picture perfect for photos.
You can continue walking to visit St Francis Church, where Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama was buried before his remains were relocated to Lisbon, and where his tombstone can still be seen. Near the beach you can catch a glimpse of Fort Immanuel and the Dutch Cemetery – from the outside, as it is locked. You can also walk to the parade ground where the Portuguese, Dutch and British once conducted military parades.
Getting Around Kochi
Travellers can fly into Cochin Airport or train to Ernakulam Junction or Ernakulam Town.
From the airport, an air conditioned, comfortable bus is available to Kochi which takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
Upon reaching Ernakulam, travellers can bus directly to Fort Kochi or hop aboard a boat from the jetty near Marine Drive for ₹4 per person, which takes about 25 minutes. Tuk tuks and taxis are also very easily available, and are inexpensive means to cover distances of two to five kilometres.
Frequent buses from Fort Kochi are available for intracity transfers and these are clean and cheap. From main Ernakulam, inter city buses can be caught for other districts in Karala including Alleppey and Munnar. Advance reservations are recommended for travel to various areas including Kanyakumari, Chennai, Bangalore and Pondicherry.
Did you know…?
Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India by sea. He was buried in Kochi at St Francis Church after his death in 1524, but his remains were returned to Portugal 14 years later.
Did you ALSO know…?
Kochi is also known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’, which texts say is due to the quality of its natural harbour.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Kochi
Kochi is a coastal area so the climate is always moderate.
From October to March, the area has a pleasant climate, with temperatures during the day ranging from 25-28 °C and during the evening from 20-23 °C.
In April, May and mid-June, it is comparatively hot and more humid, ranging from 28-34 °C in the day and cooling off to about 25-28 °C at night.
Mid-June to August is the rainy season, with cool winds and more greenery. September is the end of the rainy season, when one can enjoy discounted rates for hotels until the last day of the month.
The best time to visit is October to February, but if you want to save money and prefer luxury, then visit during the month of September. Peak season is from 20 December to 5 January when almost all hotels hike their prices by 50% to 60%.
Ready to plan your visit to Cochin? Check out these popular guides and trips.