Affectionately known as "the Queen of the Arabian Sea", the port of Cochin or Kochi at the south west coast of India is a great place to start exploring the state of Kerala.
A group of islands form old Kochi, but today's main tourist hub is centred on waterfront Marine Drive and Kochi Marina. Cochin International Airport is situated approximately 28 kms north of the city, offering travellers both international and domestic flights. Passengers have direct connections to Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East from here as well as links to most major Indian cities. Cochin International Airport ranks as India's seventh busiest airport.
Things to do and see in Kochi
Situated along the eastern coastline of the Bolgatty Island, which is one of the city of Kochi islands, the international Marina opened in April 2010, when it became the first marina of international standards in India. Since then, the marina has grown to accommodate around 50 yachts. The Bolgatty Palace heritage hotel is a great place to stay or, if your travel budget doesn't stretch that far, to have a drink and watch the maritime world go by.
Kochi Shopping and Eating Out
The city boasts several shopping malls, including Gold Souk Grande Kochi, Oberon Mall, Lulu Mall and Bay Pride Mall. Lulu Mall is India's largest shopping complex, stretching for an amazing 17 acres and offering 1.7 million square feet of retail space to shoppers. There are more than 215 outlets, restaurants, food courts and family entertainment zones to explore, including a multiplex cinema for your fix of Bollywood movies, an ice skating rink and a bowling alley, where you can work off calories piled on at Lulu Mall's food courts.
If you're a little nervous of trying Keralan cuisine in markets and from street vendors, shopping malls are a good place to start exploring the often coconut flavoured dishes of southern India.
Here you'll also find Chinese and North Indian restaurants as well as a plethora of seafood restaurants, for which Kochi is well known. The place to look for seafood is at Fort Kochi, where freshly caught fish ends up on a plate within the shortest possible time.
Kochi Excursions by Boat
Passenger ferries operate between Kochi, Lakshadweep and Colombo, the latter make great destinations for excursions. A number of boat operators offer tours from the port, including trips to Mattancherry.
Mattancherry is a great place to visit to see the "real Kerala", one filled with traditional markets, mosques, temples and palaces. It lies about 9 km distance from Ernakulam town. Frequent bus and boat services connect from Ernakulam to Mattancherry, starting from the main boat jetty near Subash Park at Enrakulam.
Visit Mattancherry Museum, which exhibits a large collection of swords, spears and artillery once used to protect Kerala's borders and also houses a wonderful collection of murals and paintings. See the lovely Jain Temple, locally known as Mahajan Wadi, or spend time at Mattancherry Pashayannur Royal Temple. The museum is easy to reach, as a private bus depot is adjacent and the boat jetty is very close. Here visitors can also board boats to Fort Cochin and Willington Island.
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1. Paradesi Syngagogue, built in 1568, can be found in the Mattancherry area of Kochi. It is currently the oldest functioning Jewish house of prayer in southern India.
2. For a restful afternoon, visit Cherai. With a smattering of beach resorts, it makes for a relaxing break away from the hustle and bustle of the main city square.
3. Take a trip down history with a visit to the Portuguese Mattancherry Palace. With exhibits and paintings of rulers, it is a must for any history buff.