Kochi Ernakulam, Fort Kochi Beach
Meandering waterways, Criss-crossing canals, Lazy lagoons, Golden beaches, Tree-lined avenues... Hugging the coast of the Arabian Sea, the charming Kochi bustles with life. A thriving cosmopolitan metropolis, the exotic fragrance of spices still pervades this region which was once the hub of traders from across the globe.
The city of Kochi is hailed as the commercial capital of Kerala. Blessed by one of the finest natural harbours in the world, Kochi has been celebrated as the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
A fascinating blend of diverse cultures, in and around Kochi are several sites of historical value. But the old-world charm is best retained in Fort Kochi, the first European township in India and one of the country's most glorious cities.
Fort Kochi probably has the best Preserved history of colonial times and you can relive the illustrious past as you tread the hallowed grounds of its ancient forts or view the magnificent Chinese fishing nets that sketch spectacular skyline.
Sightseeing in Kochi
The Portuguese had initially built the Mattancherry Palace way back in 1557 and gifted to the Raja of Cochin, Veera Kerala Varma, partly as compensation for a temple they had destroyed and partly as a bribe for allowing them trading privileges.
By 1663, the Portuguese had been ousted from Cochin, and the Palace then passed to into the hands of the Dutch, who renovated it-which is why it is still also known as Dutch Palace.
The Mattancherry Palace is fairly plain from the outside-stark white walls, sloping brown roofs and trees make up the picture. Where the palace comes into its element is in its interiors-the rooms inside are beautifully ornamental, with exquisitely carved wooden ceilings, stunning murals and an entire gallery of regal memorabilia, including palanquins, turbans, weapons, costumes, jewellery and more.
Located in the sub-district of Mattancherry, the Jewish Quarter is one of Kochi's most interesting areas. Kochi's Jewish community is now very small, but was once an important section of local society.
Most of them had come here supposedly about 2000 years ago, settling in the area today known as the Jewish Quarter. Many of the buildings-shops and houses-along the streets in the Jewish Quarter have lovely tilework, and Jew Street is lined with shops selling curios, antiques and spices.
The oldest synagogue in the commonwealth, the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi is a building of great historic and cultural significance. This interesting building was constructed in 1568, and although it was destroyed by shelling during a Portuguese raid in 1662. The Dutch who succeeded the Portuguese rebuilt the synagogue in 1664, however, and it is today one of Kochi's top attractions.
An imposing structure, the synagogue has many features which merit a visit: a delightful clock tower; Belgian glass chandeliers; floors decorated with beautiful hand-painted tiles all the way from Canton in China; scroll from the Old Testament; inscribed copper plates recording grants given to the Jewish community by the rulers of Cochin, and some ancient inscriptions in Hebrew.
Santa Cruz Basilica
The Santa Cruz Basilica ranks as one of Kochi's most impressive-and striking-building, but not one to thrill those who like their monuments staid and simple. This one is gaudy, ornate and heavily decorated all through!
It was constructed in 1558 by the Portuguese and taken over in 1795, by the British, who initially used it as a warehouse and later destroyed it. The present building, a confection of prettily painted pastel interiors, a painted ceiling and exquisitely carved wooden panels, was built at the start of the 1900s.
St Francis Church
Like the Mattancherry Palace and the Santa Cruz Basilica, the St Francis Church too was built by the Portuguese and holds the distinction of being the oldest European church on Indian soil.
The church dates back to 1503, when it was constructed of timber (later replace by stone). The St Francis Church has a rather chequered history; each of the colonial and rulers of Cochin had a hand in it. The Portuguese built it; the Dutch restored it in to a Protestant church, and British eventually acquired it in 1795, when they transformed it into an Anglican church.
The church, a granite building, has a typically Latin facade. The main highlight of it, however, is not its architecture but the fact that this was where Vasco da Gama was initially buried (his remains were later shifted to Portugal by his son); the famous navigator's tombstones still stands in the cemetery.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Perhaps the most enduring feature of Kochi's coastline is its row of distinctive cantilevered Chinese fishing nets. Chinese traders, who had come to Kerala, all the way from the court of Kublai Khan, erected these nets along the shore of the city between 1350 and 14450.
Built of teakwood and bamboo poles, the nets stretch along the seafront and are best seen at Vasco da Gama Square, where visitors can watch local fishermen lower than the nets into the sea and haul in the catch. Local stalls serve freshly cooked seafood, making this a popular place for dining out.
Portugal's influence on the region, particularly in terms of religion, is showcased in this historical site, which has been functional as a museum for over a century.
Hill Palace Museum
The Hill Palace lies 10km outside Kochi, proper in Thripunithura. Originally the residence of the rulers of Kochi, the palace was constructed in 1865 and consists of all 49 separate buildings (each one of them stunning example of traditional Kerala architecture), situated in the midst of 52 acres of terraced parkland.
The main features of the Museum include an excellent ethno-archeological museum and a Kerala heritage museum, containing memorabilia donated by the royal families of Travancore and Cochin. The museums stretch out over thirteen galleries hosting an impressive display of stone sculptures, coins, murals, manuscripts, inscriptions and paintings.
Museum of Kerala History
The Foundation houses the Museum of Kerala history, which showcases historical episodes from the Neolithic to the modem era through life-size figures. Light n' sound shows are regularly organized with commentaries in English and Malayalam.
There is also a gallery of paintings and sculptures, displaying over200 original works by contemporary Indian artists. The Centre for visual Arts has a collection of the authentic reproduction of selected world masters and larger-than-life mural reproductions of Indian art.
Kumbalangi Tourist village
Essentially a fishing hamlet, this tiny village fading the Kochi harrbour in the western pan of the city is the first ecotourism village in India. All man-made tourist structures like resorts, walkways etc. are banned here.
Kalagramam, an artist's village, displays handcarts and fishing equipment. Mangroves are nurtured here as also fish farming. Bait fishing is popular among tourists here. Many houses in this village are homestays and visitors can book their stay directly through homestay operators or seek the assistance of the village council.
(30km from Kochi) situated in the high ranges on the southern bank of the Periyar, Kodanad is one of the largest elephant training centers in South India. Elephants specially trained for safari are provided with saddles for riding. There is also a mini zoo for wild animals here.
42 km from Ernakulam; This is a rare geographical Combination three rivers, seven inlets, hillocks and vast expanses of green plains. The Paliam Palace, adobe of the Paliath Achans, prime ministers to the erstwhile Maharajas of Kochi, represents the architectural splendour of Kerala .The palace houses a collection of historic documents and relics.
The hillocks at Kottayil Kovilakom presents the unusual sight of a temple a church, a mosque and the remains of a Jewish synagogue, all situated next to each other. Also interesting is a visit to the remains of the Vypeenkotta Seminary built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.