Were we nervous? Actually, yes! We had just arrived at Kochi Airport, Kerala after spending 10 days in Dubai. Our first trip to this enormous country with the 2nd largest population in the world and we had nothing planned but the first 3 nights at the Waterfront Granary Hotel in Mattancherry, Kochi. What were we thinking? Who arrives in an unknown country like India at 7 pm at night with no plans at all? Guess we do, would we do the same again? Yes, of course. We would like to share with you what to do in Kochi Kerala when you have no plans or even when you have plans you will find lots of tips and recommendations here.
A few years ago we were chatting with a fellow travel blogger who had started running tours to India and we never forgot his words of wisdom – “spend a month at a time in India and start in the more relaxed states of Kerala and Goa”. Boy, are we glad we took his advice.
Where is Kerala, India
Kerala is situated on the Malabar Coast of Southern India. To the North and North East, it is bordered by Karnataka, to the East and South the state of Tamil Nadu and to the West the Lakshadweep Sea. The South of India which includes Kerala and Tamil Nadu is situated between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Kerala is the 13th largest state of India and its Capital is Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the official language spoken in Kerala.
The state of Kerala has been described as a ‘palm-fringed paradise’. A small Indian state full of silvery white beaches, breathtaking views, lush green valleys and mountains, stunning tea plantations and calming backwaters to relax on in rustic old rice boats. A state that offers innovative and delectable cuisines, friendly and warm people, and a range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. Kerala is a ‘dry state’, but you can purchase alcohol at Government shops and some restaurants, bars and hotels.
It is worth doing some research before you visit Kerala and what better than a Lonely Planet Guide Book.[su_box title=”Lonely Planet South India & Kerala Guide Book” box_color=”#52e8e2″] The Lonely Planet Guide has 82 maps to help you plan your itinerary around the State of Kerala, India. [/su_box]
Where is Kochi
Cochin or Kochi? You will see two different types of spelling, the official spelling is Kochi as declared in the 90s. Cochin was the name the British used for Kochi. Kochi is one of the most popular destinations in India.
Kochi is an island linked by bridges to Willingdon Island and then onto Ernakulam on the mainland.
Kochi was an important centre for spice trading and was known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea from the 14th century onwards. It is the commercial, financial and industrial capital of the state of Kerala.
Places to Visit in Kochi:
Did you know...
You can now download our article and take it with you when you wander Kochi. Click here for more information.
The St Francis Church is located at St Francis Church Road and has 2 claims of fame. It is the oldest church in India built by the Europeans in 1503 and the famous explorer Vasco de Gama was buried there for 14 years before his body was removed and reburied in his homeland.
Located between Vasco de Gama Square and the local ferry to Vipin you will find the Chinese Fishing Nets. The best time to visit is at sunset. It will be busy as it is a major tourist attraction and don’t be surprised about the amount of rubbish lying around, it is just India.
Fishing nets are fixed to bamboo and teak poles. A mechanism lowers the nets into the sea for approximately 4 -5 minutes, then they are raised with the meagre catch of fish. The number of Chinese Fishing Nets has diminished over the years and so have the fish.
Check out our Youtube video.
A visit to Kochi would not be complete without attending a Kathakali dance performance at Greenix Village located on Calvathy Road. Kathakali is a cultural dance based on the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The evening starts at 5.00pm where you can watch the actors apply their makeup, which is a very detailed process and well worth attending. We are really not sure what they must be thinking as we take photos and videos of their hour-long process, but it does assist in the understanding of the dance. The performance starts at 6pm with some time spent learning the intricate facial and hand expressions and how they are played out in the dramatic performance. It finishes at 7.00pm.
Current cost as of 2019 for two people for the 2 hours INR700 (USD11.00).
Check out our 2 Youtube videos of the performance:
The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in 1545 AD and gifted to the Rajah of Cochin. The Palace was later known as the Dutch Palace due to the renovations by the Dutch in 1663. The building is famous for the murals inside on the walls depicting the great Indian stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Open 10.00 – 17.00 every day except Friday.
The Jewish Synagogue that we visited recently in Barbados whilst on a walking tour has a similar history to the Jewish Synagogue in Kochi. Both are the oldest in their countries and both built around the same time. Kerala’s Jewish Synagogue houses the great scrolls of the old testament.
Be prepared for the hustle and the bustle and the strong aromas of spices as you walk down the 2km Bazaar Road of Kochi. Here you will find old warehouses selling wholesale spices such as cinnamon, peppers, chillies, bay leaves, cardamom and cloves. The aroma is intoxicating, the area teeming with sellers, buyers and trucks unloading their goods.
Everyone is happy and smiling, even the goats that wander around in the shops and stop the traffic on the very busy dusty road.
As you wander around Fort Kochi beach you will come across an old Gunnery which was part of Fort Emmanuel which was built in 1503 to protect the port of Kochi from attack.
If you would like to take a tour of Kochi here are some suggestions for you:
Fort Kochi Restaurants:
We stayed at the Waterfront Granary at 641 Bazaar Road, Mattancherry and enjoyed our breakfasts and dinners at the restaurant that looks over Vembanad Lake. The food was excellent, the staff warm, friendly and efficient and the location perfect for an escape from the hustle and bustle outside. The Waterfront Granary is not only a hotel but a museum with some interesting antiques and Indian pieces of art, part of the owner’s personal collection.
Happy Hour at Killian Hotel
After a busy day sightseeing, happy hour at the Killian Hotel is a great way to spend a few hours before heading off to dinner.
Address: River Road, Fort Kochi, Kerala
A special find is the Celestial Cafe located at 481 Calvathy Road Fort Kochi. The Celestial Cafe is excellent for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner and includes a great variety of vegan organic dishes on their menu. It is closed on Fridays and closes at 6.30pm. Their cakes are to die for.
The waterfront Seagull Restaurant is worth a visit, not only for the water views but their food as well. It is one of the few restaurants and bars in Fort Kochi that sells alcohol.
Address: 8 Calvathy Road, Fort Kochi, Kerala
The Loafer Corner Cafe is located at 351 Princess Street with great views over the busy street outside. Our coffee and cake hit the spot, something sweet after walking the back streets of Fort Kochi. Although we were not there for lunch, the menu looked inviting. It is a busy meeting place for locals and travellers.
Tripadvisor has a ‘top 10 recommended list of restaurants‘ reviewed by travellers just like you.
Where to Stay in Kochi:
To be honest, we don’t think we would stay anywhere else when visiting Kochi again. Our very large bedroom with 4 poster bed overlooked busy Bazaar Road. The bathroom was modern and spacious. We were well looked after by the staff in reception as well as in the restaurant. The Museum Hotel is quaint and perfectly located for sightseeing around Kochi.
Our top 5 Star recommended hotel in Kochi:
Kochi Marriot Hotel located in the Lulu International Shopping Mall, Kochi India
Our recommended 3-star hotel in Kochi
The Xandari Harbour is located on Bazaar Road, Mattancherry. Our comment would be that this should be rated a 4-star hotel.
The latest reviews and the lowest hotel prices from TripAdvisor help you find the best value hotels for your trip.
Where to Enjoy an Ayurveda Massage:
One of the top things that you should not miss is an Ayurvedic massage. Kerala is the top state in India for this 5,000-year-old traditional healing. The state of Kerala grows the best medicinal plants and herbs for ayurvedic treatments due to its climate. Here are some of our recommendations:
Some examples and prices:
Full body massage 60 mins INR2000 (USD31.44)
Head massage 30 mins INR1000 (USD15.72)
Three-day package INR12000 (USD188.64)
The Punarnava Ayurveda Hospital offers a wide range of holistic Ayurvedic treatments. Check out what travellers have said about Punarnava Ayurveda
To Travel Too Tip
As you wander down Bazaar Road Kochi you will come across the Women’s Cooperative Shop. Apart from selling spices they can also arrange Ayurvedic Massages in your hotel room.
Kochi Beach Destinations
Fort Kochi Beach is located in Kochi but beware it can be very busy.
Marari Beach is another beach location that is popular with travellers and is located about 46km from Kochi. It has a laid-back vibe and picturesque with swaying coconut trees and golden sand. Check out Hotels Combined for their recommended 9 hotels for Marari Beach with competitive prices and availability.
The best time to visit Kochi is in the winter months between October and February and it is also the peak season, prices are higher and there are more visitors. During the summer months of March to June, temperatures can reach up to 37 degrees. The monsoon season hits between July and September.
Health in India
Our health is important when we travel, we ensure that we drink plenty of water, eat healthily and exercise regularly. As temperatures are high in India, you must ensure that you drink plenty of water and we recommend eating cooked foods. We carried Hydralyte tablets with us in case of dehydration and stomach upsets.
We have a post on our Best First Aid Kits and what we carry, read here for more details.
How to get from Kochi Airport to Cochin
On arrival at Kochi Airport, you can prepay a taxi for the journey for INR1129 (USD17.75).
You may like to organise a private transfer click here for more details
Further reading recommendations:
We recommend travel insurance for every journey that you undertake.
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