Cochin, also known as Kochi, lies on the Lakshadweep Sea, and is one of the largest and most storied ports in India. Cochin is comprised of the Ernakulam area on the Malabar Coast as well as a series of natural and man-made islands found in the Mattancherry Peninsula. The city is highlighted by its tremendous geographic and cultural diversity; Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews all call Cochin home, and the tourist visiting this port city will delight in the sights and attractions that this multi-faceted destination provides.
Cochin has been continuously inhabited since the days of antiquity, yet it remained a sleepy fishing village for centuries, until discovered by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Vasco da Gama landed in Cochin in 1502 and established a trading outpost in the city, bringing a wealth of spices, silks, and coffees to the region. A stroll through downtown Cochin will still reveal many Portuguese influences on the landscape, including remnants of European architecture and local infrastructure. Today, Cochin remains a major economic center of shipbuilding, fishing, and coconut oil production.
The tourist visiting Cochin will delight in visiting the Cochin Museum, featuring breathtaking collections of Indian artwork. A stroll through the Dutch Palace is a wonderful way to get acquainted with Cochin's European roots. When the sun sets over this scenic coastal city, enjoy a fine meal in one of Cochin's delicious international restaurants, and end the evening at the Cochin Cultural Center, watching a performance of the Kathakali Dancers, famous throughout the Indian subcontinent.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Cochin located on Willingdon Island. Taxis will be waiting to take you to your destination in the city.
Cochin is served by a system of private city buses that can take you all around the city. Be aware that during peak hours, these buses are very crowded, and pickpockets are always on the lookout for tourists. Rickshas are a very popular choice in Cochin. They are affordable and can be hailed from most street corners. In addition, taxis can be found all over the city. Lastly, if you'd like to rent a car while in the city, contact Avis (484/667-172) to arrange for a quality automobile.
The Dutch Palace, located on Bazaar Road (484/222-6085), is a highlight of any trip to Cochin. It is an ornate structure built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and given to the rajas (Indian princes and chiefs) of Cochin some time later. Featuring an extraordinary mix of European and Indian architecture, the Dutch Palace is open Saturday through Thursday, 10am to 5pm.
The Jewish Synagogue of Cochin has survived since the 16th century and is the only synagogue in the region of Kerala. Jews migrated to Cochin beginning in the 6th century BC, and many more came in the 1st century AD to escape Roman persecution. The synagogue is a testament to their storied and tumultuous history in Cochin, and the intricate tapestries and scrollwork that can be found at this site are especially memorable. The synagogue is closed to visitors during the Jewish holidays.
Cochin, and the surrounding region of Kerala, is famous for its Kathakali Dance shows, which feature elaborate costumes and beautifully choreographed dance routines. Contact the Kerala Kathakali Centre (River Rd., 484/221-5827, www.kathakalicentre.com) for more information on a Kathakali show playing in Cochin during your stay.
Fort Cochin Beach is the closest to the city and is often extremely crowded with tourists as well as local beachgoers. If you happen to be in Cochin during New Years, you'll be treated to the fabulous Fort Cochin Carnival held at this beach annually on New Year's Eve. If you are looking for a more secluded beach with tranquil seas and scenic splendor, head to Cherai Beach.
Rice Boat (484/266-6811), located at the Taj Malabar Hotel on Willingdon Island, features delicious seafood entrees amidst a beautiful and romantic setting. If you're looking for a menu featuring a great variety of international cuisine, look no further than Pandhal (484/367-759), located at MG Rd. Wonderful beef, Chinese, Indian, and other multicultural dishes can be found here. Reservations are strongly recommended, as Pandhal is known as the place to dine for miles around!
Kairali located on MG Rd., is a great shop to purchase hand-crafted souvenirs and trinkets. The Indian Arts and Curios, located on Jew Town Rd., features a wonderful series of shops and stalls selling a variety of exquisite brass and glass-blown works of art. In addition, the Kashi Art Gallery, found on Bazaar Road (484/215-769), features wonderful works of art by local Cochin craftsman.