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The beautiful city of Cochin, also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, is one of the major tourist destinations in Kerala.
The state is often called as God’s Own Country because of its natural beauty and scenic splendour. Several mesmerising sights of this splendid place can be enjoyed in this fantastic city which is also called Kochi.
From shopping arcades to breath-taking natural spots, the place has a treat for every visitor.
Here is a guide to some of the best places to visit in Cochin :
1. Chottanikara Bhagavathy Temple
Situated near Ernakulam, the Chottanikkara Temple is one of the most important temples of the state due to its religious and architectural significance.
It is believed to be among the finest works of the Vishwakarma Sthapathis, who have also sculpted the Sabarimala temple.
This revered place is among the best places to visit in Cochin. It is dedicated to Bhagavathy, who is worshipped here in three different forms – Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga.
The goddess, when worshipped as Saraswati is draped in white. In the afternoon, she is worshipped as Lakshmi and is draped in red and in the evenings, the deity is worshipped as Durga and is draped in blue.
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The most important attractions at the temple are the Guruthi Puja in the Keezhkavu temple at Chottanikara. Lord Shiva is also worshipped at the Chottanikkara Temple.Several festivals are held at the Chottanikkara temple.
Some of the most important ones being the Thiruvonam feast where annadanam is given to all pilgrims, the Navarathri Agosham, the Vrishchika Mandala Mahotsavam, the annual festival in the month of Kumbham and the Ramayana Maasam in the month of Karkitakam.
The temple can easily be reached through rail, roadways and air. The Cochin airport is situated at a distance of 38 km, the Ernakulam South Railway Station is situated at a distance of 15 km and the North Railway Station is located at a distance of 17 km. The nearest bus stand is the Ernakulam bus stand which is at a distance of 17 km.
2. Kerala Kathakali Centre
The Kerala Kathakali Centre was founded in 1990 and was established with the objective of encouraging and popularising the classical arts forms of this region.
Several traditional arts and rituals are performed at the Centre, making it an important place to visit in Cochin. The dance forms taught and performed here include Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Mohiniattam. Furthermore, Carnatic and Hindustani music performances are also held at the centre.
The traditional martial arts form of Kerala called the Kalaripayattu is also shown here. The centre also holds short and long term courses in Kathakali music, Kathakali make-up, chenda, madalam, mrudangam, tabla and gingira, violin, veena, sitar and flute.
Kathakali is the one of the most recognised form of traditional arts of Kerala. It is a beautiful combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance. It is also one of the oldest theatre forms in the world.
This dance form may be performed solo or in a group and is usually based on themes from the Hindu epics – the Ramayana or the Mahabharata.
The Kerala Kathakali Centre organises Kathakali performances every day. Some of the other types of dance taught and performed at the centre include Koodiyattam, which has been recognised as a Human Heritage Art by the UNESCO, Nangiarkoothu and Pavakoothu.
3. Folklore Museum
The Folklore Theatre and Museum is one of the most popular places to visit in Cochin. The exteriors of the museum looks like a temple and the interiors are aesthetically appealing.
It houses some of the most valuable artefacts and items of ancient Kerala providing an educational insight into the history of Kerala. One of the most remarkable items on display is the collection of mural paintings by Unnis M Mani Achary.
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The building itself is a splendid example of the traditional style of architecture of Kerala. Presenting a unique blend of Malabar, Cochin and Travancore design, the museum is built of wood, laterite stone and roofing tiles.
One of the most remarkable features of the museum is that the interiors and exteriors are made of unique and ancient items; some of them date back to the 15th and 20th centuries or are more than 2000 years old.
4. Chinese Fishing Nets
The Chinese Fishing Nets have now emerged as a symbolic representation of the coast of Cochin. These incredible fishing nets have become one of the favoured places to see in Kochi.
They are different from other fishing nets due to their elegant design and construction. Furthermore, they are very popular among photographers who try to capture the sunset at here amidst these beautiful nets.
These nets are horizontal and are held out by huge mechanical contrivances. Each structure measures at least 10 metres in height and is operated by a team of up to six fishermen.
The system is balanced and strong enough to carry the weight of a man. It is descended into the waters for a very short time and raised by pulling on the ropes.
The catch is not enormous and usually comprises of a few fish and crustaceans which is sold fresh to buyers. It is believed that these nets were introduced by the Portuguese Casado settlers from Macau.
The beauty of them attracts tourists from all over the country and the world. Another important attraction near these fishing nets is that the fresh catch can be bought from fishermen and cooked to your taste by a street entrepreneur who runs an eatery near these nets.
5. Santa Cruz Basilica
The Santa Cruz Basilica in Fort Kochi is one of the finest and most impressive churches in India.
It is among the eight basilicas in the country and one of the best places to visit in Kochi. This revered structure is counted as one of the heritage edifices in the country and attracts tourists from all over the world.
The church is not only important because of its religious significance, but also its architectural and historical importance.
It was originally built by the Portuguese during their occupation of Fort Kochi. It was spared by the Dutch, who had otherwise destroyed most of the Catholic institutions built by the Portuguese.
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The basilica now serves as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Cochin, which is the second oldest Diocese in India. The Cathedral was demolished by the British and under the guidance of Bishop D Joao, the construction of a new building was commissioned in 1887.
The building was consecrated in 1905 and was proclaimed a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984. The exteriors are remarkably bright and white washed, while the interiors have a beautiful pastel colour. Inside you will witness the Gothic touch and the main altar that was decorated by a famous Italian painter.
It is one among the most popular places to visit in cochin.
6. Hill Palace of Tripunithara
The Hill Palace Museum in Tripunithara in Kochi is also one of the largest archaeological museums in Kerala that was earlier used as the administrative office by the Kochi kings.
The palace was built in 1865 and spreads across 54 acres. There are about 49 buildings that present the traditional architectural style of Kerala.
The complex has a children’s park, a pre-historic park, a deer park and an archaeological museum. Throughout the campus, several medicinal plants have been planted. The structure is situated at a distance of 12 km from the Ernakulam town and the museum is open to public on all days, except Mondays.
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In here are about 14 categories of exhibits which include the paintings, stone sculptures, marble sculptures, weapons, inscriptions, coins and even the Crown and ornaments belonging to the erstwhile Royal family of Cochin.
While most of the exhibits have been contributed by the Cochin Royal Family, some exhibits have been procured from the Travancore Royal House, Pallam Devaswom and the department of Archaeology. The most important attraction at the museum is a crown made of gold and encrusted with precious stones.
The other exhibits at the museum include valuable coins, samples of epigraphy, majestic beds and ornaments.
7. Matancherry Palace (Dutch Palace)
The Mattancherry Palace is also known as the Dutch Palace and was built by the Portuguese. It was constructed and gifted to the Raja of Cochin in 1555 by them.
Some renovations and extensions were made to the palace by the Dutch and it came to be known as the Dutch Palace. The structure today houses some very beautiful murals depicting Hindu temple art, exhibits of the Kochi kings and their portraits, which makes it one of the best places to visit in Kochi.
The palace has a portrait gallery. It is believed that the Portuguese built the place to appease the king after they looted a nearby temple.
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The temple is built in the Naalukettu style and has a quadrangular shape. The palace has a central courtyard which has a small temple dedicated to the ‘Pazhayyannur Bhagavathy’. He is believed to have been the protective goddess of the Cochin Royal Family.
8. Cherai Beach
The Cherai Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Kerala and also among the popular places to visit in Cochin . Situated on the northern end of the Vypin Island, it stretches to a length of 10 km.
The beach is particularly famous with photographers who take great interest in catching different frames of the golden sands and the beautifully translucent waters.
Tourists from all around the globe come to this seashore to enjoy its beauty, particularly of the sun set and sun rise. There are several other tourist places in and around the Cherai Beach. Of them, the Tranquil Lake is the nearest.
This pristine water body is separated from the backwaters by a very narrow strip of land.
The other places of interest include the Gowreeswara Temple, Pallipuram Church, the Juma Masjid, the Portuguese Fort and the SahadooraBhawan.
The Gowreeswara Temple was built in 1912 and is dedicated to Lord Muruga. It is an important pilgrimage centre and is also known as South Pazhani.
The Pallipuram Church was built by the Portuguese in 1577 and has a beautiful picture of Ave Maria on the top of the altar, which was brought from Portugal.
9. Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi, also known as Old Kochi or West Kochi, is situated to the south west of Cochin. It is a part of a few water bound regions and is located close to Mattancherry. This place was a small fishing village in pre-colonial Kerala and a belonged to the Kingdom of Kochi.
The part which later gained the name of Fort Kochi was granted to the Portuguese by the Rajah of Kochi. The Portuguese had supported him during an attack by the Saamoothiri of Kozhikode and as a token of gratitude; the king gave a part of his kingdom to them.
They built a fort called the Fort Emmanuel near the waterfront to protect their commercial interests.
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The city of Fort Kochi derives its name from this fort. It remained under the Portuguese influence for 160 years till the Dutch established their rule in 1683.
A number of Portuguese establishments and institutions, especially Catholic, were destroyed by the Dutch. The city continued to remain under the Dutch for 112 years.
Their rule ended with Indian Independence in 1947. There are several places of interest in and around such as Indo Portuguese Museum, Chinese Fishing Nets, Dutch Cemetery, St Francis Church and Santa Cruz Basilica. The Fort Kochi is one of the best places to visit in Cochin.
10. Marine Drive
Marine Drive is a beautiful promenade in Kochi which faces the backwaters and is a popular hangout among the local people of Kochi.
However, no vehicles are allowed in the driveway. It is also an important shopping centre in Kochi and a number of shopping malls are situated in this area. The Marine Drive is an important tourist place in Kerala and attracts visitors from all across.
The highlight is the beauty of the sunrise and sunset over the Vembanad Lake. The walkway starts from the High Court Junction and continues till the Rajendra Maidan. It also has two bridges called the Rainbow Bridge and the Chinese Fishing Net Bridge.
There are several important places to visit in Cochin and around the Marine Drive. They include the public ground, Skyline apartments, Federal Bank building, Abad Bay Pride Mall, GCDA Shopping Complex and Ashoka Tharangini Apartments.
The walkway is the best place to spend a leisurely evening. The cool breeze and the beautiful sights from the bridges on the walkway attract the locals and tourists every evening. Due to its breath-taking beauty, it is one of the most popular Cochin tourist places.
11. Jew Synagogue and Jew Town
While in Cochin, do not miss an opportunity to visit the Jew Town and Jew Synogogue. These two fascinating places are crowd pleasers.
It is situated in a quarter of the Old Cochin and is also known as the Pardesi Synagogue. This revered structure is the only one of the seven synagogues in the area that is still in use.
It belongs to the Malabar Yehudan or Cochin Jewish Community and is also called the Cochin Jewish Synagogue or the Mattancherry Synagogue, as it is situated very close to the Mattancherry Palace.
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The land for building the place of worship was given the Cochin Jewish Community by the Rajah of Kochi.
There are several interesting things about this synagogue. It has separate seating sections for men and women. Also, worshippers are required to enter here barefoot only, as the rules of Hindu, Nasrani and Islamic traditions of the state.
The unique traditions and customs of the Cochin Jewish community include distribution of grape soaked myrtle leaves during certain ceremonies, special colours of clothing for each festival etc. Visitors can enter the synagogue after paying an entry fee.
There are several objects of antiquity such as the Scrolls of Law, gold crowns, Belgian glass chandeliers, a brass railed pulpit etc.
12. Bolgatty Palace
The Bolgatty Palace was built by the Dutch and is located on the Bolgatty Island near Kochi. Built in 1744, the palace is one of the oldest existing ones built by the Dutch outside Holland.
The building was used as the then Governor’s palace for the commander of the Dutch Malabar. However, in 1909 it was leased out to the British.
It was then used by the British Governors as residence and served as the seat of the British Resident of Cochin during the British Raj. In 1947 post independence, the palace became the property of the state and was converted into a heritage hotel resort.
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Today, it has a swimming pool, a 9-hole golf course, Ayurvedic centre and daily Kathakali performances, which makes it one of the most important places to see in Cochin. It attracts a large number of tourists from all over the country and the world.
There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva within the palace complex. Initially only the palace was built but later on extensions were made and a garden was laid around it.
13. Kodanad Elephant Training Centre
Kodanad is a beautiful riverside village near Kochi. It is situated on the southern bank of the River Periyar, at a distance of 42 km from Kochi.
The village is a major place to visit in Cochin because of the Kodanad Elephant Training Centre. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kodanad was one of the largest elephant training centres for captured elephants. These rescued animals were trained by specially skilled mahouts called ‘paapaan’ in Malayalam.
However, with the Government of India issuing a ban on the capture of elephants in 1977, the training centre is now mainly used as a rescue centre. Kodanad has also been enlisted as an ecotourism destination sponsored by the Government of India.
Other local attractions include the Malayattoor Church, boat rides, elephant rides and the Thattekad Wildlife Sanctuary.
14. Athirapally Falls
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Situated on the River Chalakudy, the Athirapally Falls is a 24 metre waterfall. It was also called the Niagara Falls of India.
The Vazhachal Falls are situated very close to the Athirapally Falls. The Chalakudy River originates in the Anamudi mountains in the Western Ghats and is about 145 km long.
The otherwise smoothly flowing river becomes turbulent as it nears Athirapally. On reaching here, the river moves around huge rocks and cascades down in three separate plumes.
The area around the falls abounds in flora and fauna. Some of the commonly found animals in the region include lion tailed macaque, sambar, bison, leopard, tigers and Asiatic elephants.
15. St Francis Church
The St Francis Church is the oldest European church in India. It was built by the Portuguese in 1503, but later on demolished by the Dutch and rebuilt.
The church holds great religious and historical significance. It is considered to one of the witnesses of the European colonial struggle in Kerala. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died in Kochi in 1524 during his third visit to the country.
He was initially buried at the St Francis Church but fourteen years later his remains were moved to Lisbon. However, his grave stone can still be seen at the church. The church also bears a cenotaph in memory of the people who fell in the World War I.
This cenotaph was erected in 1920. The St Francis Church is one of the most important places to visit in Cochin.
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