An ancient trading port and coastal town, Kochi has been the gateway to India long before other cities like Mumbai came to the fore. This is a city packed with history, an entry to the Far East for European colonists, and one of the main destinations that came to define the spice route. Cochin or more commonly known as Kochi among locals, has come to be defined by all of this and a lot more.
Kochi is a relatively small city. This is where the Arabian Sea and the prized backwaters of Kerala come together. Kochi has an interesting influence of primarily South Indian and European culture that traces back to all the European powers that once occupied this beautiful city.
Kochi has many spots offering beautiful views of the sea; you may have come across images of Chinese fishing nets by the sea, the most commonly practiced method of fishing in Kerala. Bustling spice markets and quaint boutique cafes come to define the beautiful enigma that is Kochi.
History And Culture Of Kochi
Kochi has been around longer than most cities in India. Its significance traces back to the common era, where Kochi was frequently visited as one of the most important markets on the spice route for its abundance in spices and sandalwood.
With the arrival of the Portuguese came the establishment of the trading center in the heart of the city. This would soon lead to the Portuguese establishing Kochi as the first Indian city to ever be a European colony. Kochi remained the seat of Portuguese India till the 16th century, before the Portuguese decided to make Goa the new capital of their overseas colonies.
The Portuguese influence can still be seen in some of the houses built in Kochi. The St. Frances Church in Kochi is where Vasco Da Gama was originally buried before his remains were moved to Lisbon. Along with the Santa Cruz Basilica and the ruins of Fort Emmanuel and a lot of smaller buildings around the Fort Kochi area show its Portuguese influence.
Soon after the Portuguese moved their seat to Goa, the Dutch captured the Malabar coast and established the Dutch Malabar, a network of the Dutch East India Company with Kochi as its capital. The Dutch contributions came in terms of Hortus Malabaricus, a detailed study that covered the various flora of the Western Ghats and primarily the Malabar region.
The Dutch played a pivotal part in building the Kochi Harbor and the piers, before it finally became a part of the British Colonial Empire. Kochi has since been a part of Kerala after India attained independence. The Communist Party of India formed the first freely elected communist government in the world.
Kochi has a lot of similarities with Pondicherry, when you come to think of it. On a quick visit to Kochi, it’s hard not to fixate on the unique contemporary culture of this place, you may also get a sense of what life in colonial Kochi might have been like.
The Chinese fishing nets that are so synonymous with the city have also played a part in lending Kochi its name (Co – Chin; like China). While we know that Kochi has some of the most beautiful churches you can find, the Jewish Synagogue and the Jain Temple are also stunning pieces of architecture and give a strong perspective of the religious diversity of Kochi.
Watching a Kathakali performance at the Kerala Kathakali Centre is a great way to understand the intricacies of an art form that has not only stood the test of time in Kerala, but has also been celebrated and acclaimed internationally.
Cochin International Airport is quite likely the coolest airport in the world. In 2018, it became the world’s first fully solar powered airport. Kochi also has the biggest airport in Kerala. The city enjoys great connectivity with most metros and Tier-1 cities in the country and flying into Kochi is always an option. We recommend booking flights to Kochi early as they’re likely to get expensive due to the city being a major touristic hotspot.
Getting To Kochi By Train
Ernakulam Junction, the main railway station for Kochi, is one of the most important railway stations in Kerala. This means that Kochi is again extremely well connected to most cities by train, especially on the Western network. Kochi is also well connected by rail to neighboring states like Tamil Nadu.
Getting To Kochi By Road
Kerala has great roads. So driving within Kerala or taking a bus due to great state transport infrastructure is super easy. However, due to the location of Kochi and its distance from other cities outside Kerala, driving to Kochi will be one long drive.
Best Time To Travel To Kochi
Kochi is accessible throughout the year. While the weather is humid and the summers are hot, they aren’t unbearable in comparison to say Rajasthan or some other parts of North India.
Monsoons can play spoilsport to your sight-seeing plans, but Kerala is something else during the monsoons. The term God’s Own Country is at its most accurate during the monsoons. This is especially true when you visit the Athirapally Waterfalls, which are about a two-hour drive from Kochi.
The winter months are the most pleasant in Kochi. While the afternoons can be slightly hot, the weather has a nice pleasant breeze to it making it the best time to visit Kochi and the rest of Kerala.
Getting Around Kochi
Fort Kochi, as a neighborhood is really small and is extremely easy to explore by foot, you could also rent a bike to explore this neighborhood which is full of vibrant cafes and art galleries.
To explore other parts of Kochi, you can easily hire a rickshaw, even the local state transport buses are great, The Kerala state buses also have A/C buses operating on local routes. To visit places like the Athirapally Waterfalls, hiring a cab is the most convenient option.
Breaking Stereotypes About Kochi
“South Indian food is more than Rice and Sambar”
Kerala is a food lover’s paradise.While they love their Sambar and Rice, the options are plenty and they are all delectable. Kerala food is extremely nutritious and even after a hearty non vegetarian meal you are unlikely to feel as heavy. This is due to the way the food is prepared and since it isn’t cold like North India, Ghee and Butter aren’t used as much, food is primarily cooked in coconut oil which is much healthier.
Go Check Out
Kathakali Show at Kerala Kathakali Centre every evening
Located in Fort Kochi near the Santa Cruz Basilica, the Kerala Kathakali Center has a Kathakali performance every evening from 6 pm to 7:30 pm. The performance is as authentic as it gets with the elaborate costumes and the heavy make up. The performances are usually a medium to narrate classic epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. This is a must visit when in Kochi.
Chinese Fishing Nets In The Morning
Wake up early to see the local fisherman drop these massive Chinese fishing nets into the sea as they start another day of work. While this method of fishing is not as commonly used as you may think, you can still catch a glimpse of the method and how it works. The place can get chaotic during the day, so the best time to visit is definitely in the morning at sunrise or at sunset.
St Francis Church
This is one of the most iconic churches not only in Kochi or Kerala but the entire country. This is also the church where the legendary Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama was buried after his death before his ruins were moved to Lisbon a good 14 years later.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica
Built in the 16th century, this church was one of those that was not destroyed by the Dutch. This cathedral was built in the Gothic architectural style, and was given Basilica status by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and is frequented by tourists throughout the year.
Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in India as well and the entire British commonwealth. Located in the Jewish quarters of the old town, the synagogue is an absolute must visit and of the many defining landmarks of the city.
Kochi is a port town, which means there has to be a beach worth visiting. Cherai Beach is just that, separated from the backwaters by a thin stretch of sand. This is the perfect spot for swimming and just relaxing.
The largest artificial island in India is where the port of Kochi is located. It’s also where the commercial and the industrial districts are located. But at the same time, Willingdon Island is also surrounded by the scenic backwaters.
Athirapally Waterfalls are about a couple of hours away in the Thrissur district. They’re the highest and the largest waterfalls in Kerala.If you’re in Kochi during the monsoon, you must also consider visiting Athirappally as the experience is truly surreal.
Is Kochi Worth Visiting?
Yes! Kochi should definitely be in your travel bucket list. This port city has been significant for millennia, and can appeal to those who enjoy exploring a fast-paced city and those looking for a leisurely vacation alike.
How Many Days Are Enough For Kochi?
We recommend you keep aside at least 3-4 days for your vacation in Kochi. Apart from the city proper, Marine Drive, Cherai Beach, and the religious places, the areas around the city are worth visiting too.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Kochi?
The best time to visit Kochi is in the winter months of November to March. This is when the weather is pleasant. If you’re in the city around Christmas, make sure to take part in the Cochin Carnival.
Is Kochi Safe At Night?
Kochi generally is a safe city for tourists, even at night. But as a general precaution, we recommend not venturing into shady alleyways and be vigilant.
How Is The Climate In Kerala?
Kerala has a wet tropical climate and has three major seasons – summer, monsoon and winter. The summers are hot and humid, the monsoon season sees heavy downpours while the winters are generally pleasant.
What Is The Name Of Cochin Railway Station?
Ernakulam Junction is the railway station that connects Kochi by train. Ernakulam Junction is about 7 km away from Kochi.
Is It Safe To Travel From Kochi To Munnar In Night?
It’s quite safe to travel from Kochi to Munnar at night. But if you’re driving your own vehicle, we’d advise you to not drive at night as the roads are quite windy. A better option would be to hire a driver who’s well-versed with the route or get a cab.
How Far Is Munnar From Cochin?
Munnar is about 123 km away from Kochi if you take the NH85. If you’re not driving there yourself, cabs and bus services are easily available.
Is Kochi Below Sea Level?
No, Kochi is pretty much on the sea level. This is why rising sea levels can wreak havoc on this city.
How Far Is Kochi From Ernakulam?
Kochi is about 10 km away from Ernakulam. But you may need to know that Ernakulam is the name of the district, which is also used to refer to the city in the mainland, whereas Kochi refers to the peninsula.