Kochi or Cochin (as it was previously known) is one of the most vibrant cities of Kerala. This city is a melting pot of different cultures and cuisines. In Kochi, you will find both modernity and antiquity. There are palaces and forts in Kochi which remind us of the rich history of Kerala. At the same time, we also find huge shopping malls and restaurants which are the symbols of modern Kochi. This is a city where every culture easily blends in. Tourists love the city for its rich cultural treats and natural beauty. Blessed with a majestic coastline, Kochi is aptly referred to as the ‘Queen of Arabian Sea.’ Our Kochi Travel Guide will give you all information that you need before planning a visit to Kochi.
How To Reach Kochi
By air: Kochi has an international airport with excellent connectivity. The airport is located at Nedumbassery, which is at a distance of 25 kilometres from the city center. Kochi International Airport is well-connected with all major cities in India and across the world. Kochi has the busiest airport in Kerala. It was the first airport in the world to become entirely powered by solar energy. Terminal 1 of the airport handles domestic traffic, and Terminal 3 is for international traffic.
By train: Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town are the two major railway stations in Kochi. Ernakulam is a major junction for all south bound trains. So rail connectivity to Kochi is very good. Some of the major trains that arrive here are the Trivandrum Rajdhani Express, Swrana Jayanti, Nizamuddin Duronto Express and Kerala Express.
By road: The Government owned road transport service, KSRTC operates regular services from Kochi to most major towns and cities in south India. There are several private bus operators too, with sleeper and semi-sleeper options.
Tourist Attractions in and around Kochi
The seaside promenade Marine Drive is the pride of modern Kochi. Though the name of the place is Marine Drive, this place is not for driving. In fact, vehicles are not allowed on Marine Drive. It is a long and beautiful walkway constructed along the shores of Kochi backwaters. There are chairs here and there, where you can sit and adore the beauty of the serene waters. Or you can take a relaxed stroll at your own pace. There is a children’s park by the name Subhash Park on one end of the walkway. There is also a boat jetty from where you can take boat rides to nearby attractions like Mattancherry, Fort Kochi and Vypin. A boat ride in the backwaters of Kochi is the best idea for a romantic evening.
Three wonderfully constructed bridges are the major attractions in Marine Drive. Cheenavala (Chinese fishing net) Bridge is the first bridge in the row of three. It resembles a Chinese fishing net, and is the favorite place of shutterbugs. The second bridge is the Rainbow Bridge. The arch over the bridge is shaped like a rainbow. Kettuvallam (house boat) Bridge is the last one in the row. As you may have guessed, this bridge is designed like a traditional Kerala houseboat. All the bridges look splendid. On one side of Marine Drive, you will find plenty of shopping malls and roadside eateries. This is the place where the youngsters of the city hang out with friends. So it tends to be teeming with people in the evenings. If you are not very enthusiastic about crowds, it is best to visit early in the morning.
According to our Kochi travel guide, Mattancherry Palace is one of the finest tourist attractions in Kochi for those who love the feel of antiquity. Dutch Palace is another name for this palace. Portuguese rulers constructed this palace and gifted it to the King of Kochi, in an attempt to build an amicable relation. When the Dutch rulers took over Kochi, they carried out renovations to the palace, which resulted in the name ‘Dutch Palace.’ The architectural structure of the palace is a blend of the traditional Kerala style and the European style. Wooden roofs and designs with golden motifs are the pride of Kerala architectural style, while the arched entrances speak of European influence. This Palace currently houses a museum where you will find many relics pertaining to the history of Kerala. It is housed in a double storied building.
If you are a history enthusiast, Mattancherry Palace is a must-visit attraction for you. The entire visit will take one to two hours, depending on your pace. There are tour guides who will give you detailed information about the various aspects of construction. You can manage without a guide also, since there is a description in English beside every artefact on display. Exquisite murals on the walls will amaze you with their timeless beauty. Some of the exhibits such as weapons, carriages and the attire of the erstwhile kings give us insights into the lifestyle of Kerala rulers of the past. Even if you are not interested in history stuff, the architecture of the building makes it worthy of a visit. The Palace is open to the public from 10 AM to 5 PM on all days except Fridays.
Jewish Synagogue / Paradesi Synagogue
The Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi is located very close to the Mattancherry Palace. Our Kochi travel guide suggests that tourists can fit in both these on the same day without making it too hectic. It is the worship place for the Jew community who made their home and hearth in Kochi several centuries ago. This synagogue dates back to 1568 AD, and is the only functioning synagogue in Kochi as of today. Once you step inside the main hall, you are bound to be marvelled by the amazing architecture. Glass chandeliers, intricately designed pulpit and railings, and the multi-colored tiles immediately catch our attention. The clock tower outside is also a feast for the eyes. The place will give you an in-depth knowledge of the Jewish community in Kerala, and also about their customs and traditions.
In December 2018, the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi celebrated its 540th anniversary. Jews from all corners of the globe gathered at Kochi to celebrate this event. Although there are only a handful of Jews left in Kochi now, they still follow their customs and celebrate their festivals. Jewish Synagogue is at the end of a narrow alley lined with shops selling curios. Parking facility is available at a distance, and you will need a 5 minute walk from the parking area to the synagogue. Working hours of the synagogue are from 10 AM to 6 PM. The working hours on Fridays are from 10 AM to 2 PM. Saturdays are holidays for the synagogue. A visit to the Paradesi Synagogue will be an enriching experience for tourists.
When you have visited the Mattancherry Palace and the Paradesi Synagogue, you are already in Fort Kochi. This is a part of Kochi that is totally unlike the rest of Kochi or Ernakulam. Did the pictures of Chinese fishing nets in Kochi ever fascinate you? Fort Kochi is the place where you will find them. The moment you step into the lanes of Fort Kochi, you feel like stepping into a different era. Quaint cafes, cobbled alleys, and the colorful graffiti on the walls are a visual treat. Colonial buildings which are the remnants of Portuguese, Dutch, and British era are the outstanding features of Fort Kochi. Jew Town in Fort Kochi is home to the handful of Jews who remained steadfast in their devotion to Kochi. It is here that we find the Jewish Synagogue as well.
Apart from the synagogue and Mattancherry Palace, there are many more tourist attractions in Fort Kochi. A sunset view of the Chinese fishing nets from the Fort Kochi beach is to die for. It is a sight that will awaken the shutterbug in you. Then there are a lot of shops selling local handicrafts, dresses, brassware, and whatnot. There are a few churches also in the locality that offer a different spiritual experience. St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi is one of the oldest European churches in India. It was built in 1503. The mortal remains of the great Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama were buried in this church. Fort Kochi is one of the best tourist attractions in Kochi.
Hill Palace Museum Thripunithura
Our Kochi travel guide rates the Hill Palace Museum as one among the top tourist attractions in Kochi. This palace is located at Thriupunithura, about 10 kilometres from Kochi. It was the official residence of the Maharaja of Kochi. This palace is not as old as the Mattancherry Palace, but is equally charming as the latter. Traditional Kerala architecture is visible in every part of the palace. There are 49 buildings in total, of which each block is demarcated for a specific purpose, and has a specific name. For example, there are blocks such as Oottupura (dining hall), Madappally (kitchen), and Homappura (worship room). All parts of the palace are not accessible to visitors. Presently, the place complex houses an archaeological museum, a heritage museum, a deer park and a children’s park.
Thripunithura Hill Palace was an integral part of many Malayalam movies. It is located on a hill top and looks majestic even from far. The palace and its surroundings are abodes of peace in the midst of a bustling city. Exhibits inside the museum tell us about the past of the Cochin royal family. Crowns, ornaments, weapons, coins and carriages of the bygone era are on display at the museum. It is a fantastic place for history lovers.
But there are some points that the tourists need to note while planning a visit to this place. Cameras are not allowed inside the palace. You have to leave your camera at the locker room outside the entrance. You are also not allowed to wear your shoes inside the palace. A walk inside the palace will take 2 to 3 hours. So be ready to walk barefoot for so long. The Palace is open to visitors on all days except Mondays. Visiting hours are from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM, and from 2 PM to 4:30 PM.
When you visit the coastal city of Kochi, you will obviously love a romance with the ocean waters. Our Kochi travel guide recommends that Cherai Beach in Kochi is the safest place for enjoying the backwaters and the ocean waters of Kochi. This beach is located in Cherai, which is at a distance of 25 kilometres from Kochi. This splendid beach stretches for 10 kilometres! The beach is a bit rocky, and there are coconut trees adorning the shore. It is a picture-perfect spot for holiday goers and honeymooners.
The best part about Cherai beach is that it is ideal for swimming. Tidal waves are mostly gentle, and so, you can get into the water without fear. Of course, you have to follow the instructions given by the lifeguards who will be roaming around to ensure the safety of swimmers. If the sea is rough, they caution the tourists, and forbid them from entering the water. It is advisable to listen to them, so as to avoid any mishaps.
Cherai Beach is one of the cleanest beaches of Kerala. You will find less garbage as compared to several other beaches nearby. If you go in the evenings, the place will be teeming with huge crowds. But if you visit in the mornings, there will be hardly anyone to disturb the tranquil charm. There are several eateries near the beach, where you can enjoy the local seafood dishes.
Bolgatty Island and Palace
Kochi is a seaside city with several picturesque islands surrounding it. Bolgatty Island is one of them. The magnificent Bolgatty Palace sits on this island. The island is connected to the mainland by a Goshree Bridge. But the best way to reach Bolgatty is by a boat ride from Kochi Marine Drive. If you opt for a sunset cruise, nothing can match the beauty of the ride! The golden rays of the setting Sun reflected in the waters will give you a perfect backdrop for photographs. The island itself is an amazing place for shutterbugs. Serene surroundings, plenty of trees, water on all sides, and a majestic palace that functions as a resort, these are the attractions for tourists in Bolgatty.
Bolgatty Palace is the most eye-catching structure on the island. The Dutch rulers constructed this palace back in the days when they ruled over Kochi. Later on, the British rulers took possession of the palace. Currently, the palace is under the control of Kerala government. They have converted the palace into a heritage hotel and resort. Due to this, the general public has limited access to the island. Kochi travel guide recommends this as a good option for tourists. If you are looking for a peaceful stay away from the bustling city, Bolgatty Palace and Island Resort is perfect for you. This is one of the premium stays in Kochi.
All the tourist attractions that we mentioned till now were more or less close to Kochi city. Take a short drive from Kochi, you will find a brilliant waterfall, the Athirappilly Waterfall. Kochi travel guide recommends this as one of the best places to visit near Kochi. Athirappilly is located in Thrissur district, and is at a distance of around 70 kms from Kochi. This astounding waterfall is surrounded by thick green cover on all sides. This is the largest waterfall of Kerala, and is probably India’s answer to the mighty Niagara Falls. Of course, it is not as enormous. But Athirapally Falls have the charm to steal any traveler’s heart.
The only way to reach the waterfalls is by road. The waters in the falls originate from the Western Ghats, and joins the Chalakudi River. Athirapally is very close to the entrance to Sholayar forest ranges. Athirapally Falls is a year-round destination. Even during summers, it is a pretty sight and attracts lots of tourists. The waterfall is 80 feet high, and 330 feet wide. It falls in three separate cascades. A short walk will take you close to the top of the waterfall. From here, you can enjoy the breath-taking views of jungles and gushing waters. A peep down to the depths of the falls may be possible, provided the season is good.
To reach the bottom of the falls, you need a slightly difficult trek down through rocky terrain. It can be treacherous in rainy seasons. Only the physically fit travelers should attempt this downhill trek, and only in good weather. The view from below is so magical that it makes up for the arduous trek. Travelers going by road to Tamil Nadu can view the Athirapally Falls from the viewpoint along the roadside, but you will get only a fleeting view.
Houseboat cruise in Alappuzha
Houseboats are a part of Kerala culture. Kerala houseboats or ‘Kettuvallams’ were originally used as a means of transportation. With the advent of faster means of transport, people no longer use the traditional boats for conveyance. Today, they have turned into charming attractions for tourists. A trip to Kerala is incomplete without a houseboat cruise. There are luxury houseboats with bedrooms, living rooms, kitchen and balconies. A day or two spent in houseboats in the lap of backwaters of Kerala will be a heavenly experience for tourists. They guarantee your own space and privacy. If you are sceptical that luxury boats will weaken your pockets, there are cheaper options as well. Or you can even opt for a day cruise in a houseboat.
There is no better place than Alappuzha for enjoying a houseboat cruise. Alappuzha is at a distance of around 50 kms from Kochi. A drive of less than two hours will take you to Alappuzha from Kochi. There is a reason why our Kochi travel guide directs you to Alappuzha for a houseboat trip. Alappuzha, fondly called the ‘Venice of the East,’ is a beauty blessed with numerous backwaters. The long network of canals, lagoons and backwaters is ideal for a relaxed journey in the waters. While cruising through the backwaters, you can witness a slice of life of the local village crowd. All along the shores, you will see people busy with fishing, coir making or some other chores. Houseboats serve excellent traditional Kerala food, with a special emphasis on seafood specialties.
Shopping in Kochi
Whether you are a compulsive shopper or not, a tour is incomplete without a few hours that you spend for shopping. And Kochi is a city that will never stop tempting you. From dresses and jewelry to food items, everything that you lay your eyes on will lure you. As per our Kochi travel guide, there are a few items that will add value to your shopping bag. Kochi is an excellent place for buying spices. Mattancherry spice market is famous for its collection of spices such as cardamom, cloves, and pepper. The moment you set foot in the market, a penetrating aroma of spices captures you. Jew Town in Fort Kochi has several shops selling curios and handicraft items. Replicas of houseboats, Kathakali face masks, and handicrafts are some items that you can purchase from here.
Traditional Kerala sarees or the ‘Kasavu Set Mundu’ are also a must-add to your shopping kitty. This unique two-piece saree with golden thread work looks exquisite. If you are touring Alappuzha, you should include coir products as well in your shopping cart. Alappuzha has several stores selling indigenous coir mats, baskets, and other handicrafts made from multi-colored coir and coconut shells. For the lovers of vintage items, a Nettur Petti or an Aranmula Kannadi will be a valuable buy. Nettur Petti is the traditional jewelry box of Kerala. It is carved from rosewood and embellished with gold-colored decorations. Aranmula Kannadi is a handmade mirror made from a unique metal-alloy mixture. In fact, only a few families in Aranmula know the exact ingredients and proportion of this metal-alloy mixture. This is a product that has received a GI tag, and is a must-buy when you are in Kochi.
Where To Stay In Kochi?
Kochi is a city where you can find all types of accommodations for tourists. You might be looking for an island or seaside resort, or a hotel right in the middle of the city. You will always find one suited to you. As we already mentioned, Kochi Airport is located a little far from Kochi city. So if you opt for a hotel near the airport, you will be away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are several good options for you near the airport. Courtyard by Marriot Kochi Airport, Flora Airport Hotel, and Port Muziris are a few premium hotels near the airport. Bluebell Airport Hotel, and Quality Airport Hotel are more affordable options.
Taj Malabar Resort and Spa located on the Willingdon Island and the Bolgatty Palace and Island Resort are two of the best island resort stays in Kochi that offer fabulous waterfront views. Radisson Blu, Novotel Kochi Infopark, and Crowne Plaza Kochi are a few hotels which are centrally located in the city. Apart from all these, there are several affordable homestays in and around Kochi, where you will get the ambiance of traditional Kerala homes. We hope that our Kochi travel guide helped you to know your destination better before your tour. Do read Best Seafood Restaurants in Kochi, to get the best seafood experience during your tour.