This is a comprehensive Kochi Travel Guide covering all the information you will need to plan a Kochi trip, from the places to visit in Kochi to what to pack for Kochi.
With Kerala making it to both TIMES World’s Greatest Places Of 2022 and New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2023, Kochi, the gateway to Kerala, should be on your travel bucket list. Rightly called the “Queen of Arabian Sea,” Kochi is a beautiful port town in the heart of Kerala, in southern India. Here you will find a spice-rich blend of history, culture, and art, with footprints of Portuguese and Dutch colonial legacy, permanently etched into its architecture.
If you are looking for a place to get closer to nature, encounter serene beaches, witness a coastal village life, discover a forgotten Jewish legacy, and experience elaborate cultural performances of Kathakali and ancient martial arts of Kalaripayattu, Kochi is where you need to go.
Places to Visit in Kochi
The top attractions in Kochi can be covered in just two days making it an ideal weekend getaway from nearby states. However, if you really want to experience Kochi, plan a week’s stay. Check out my top picks of places to visit in Kochi on this Kochi travel blog to make your trip wholesome.
Fort Kochi is the most scenic place to visit in Kochi with spectacular beaches, churches, historical monuments, and the famous Chinese fishing nets standing tall. Fort Kochi was the first European township in Kerala, and the churches and monuments stand witness to its colonial past.
The places to visit in Fort Kochi include churches, museums, and experiencing the scenic beauty by taking a stroll by the colonial buildings or at the walkway by Vasco Da Gama Square.
Places to Visit in Fort Kochi
St Francis Church
Did you know that Vasco Da Gama, the famous Portuguese explore who lived in 1500s was buried in St Francis church in Fort Kochi? St Francis church, built in 1503 is one of the oldest surviving European churches in India, a must visit attraction in Kochi.
Santa Cruz Basilica
Apart from St Francis church, you can visit Santa Cruz Basilica in Fort Kochi, a splendid gothic-style architectural marvel with fresco and mural paintings all over the ceiling by an Italian painter.
Vasco Da Gama Square and Fort Emmanuel
Fort Emmanuel is a bastion of the Portuguese and the very fort that gave Fort Kochi its name.
Fort Kochi Museums
Fort Kochi is also home to some of the best museums in the state, including:
- Ernakulam District Heritage Museum in the 17th century European building called Bastian Bungalow
- Indian Naval Maritime Museum: Narrates the naval history of India
- Indo-Portuguese Museum: Narrates the influence of Portuguese culture in the Indian art and history
Jew Town Kochi
Jews Town Kochi is a place to visit in Kerala if you want to witness the religious tolerance and cultural inclusiveness of the people of Kerala since ancient times. The major attractions in Jew Town are the Mattancherry Palace museum, Paradesi Synagogue, and the Jain Temple, less than a kilometer from Mattancherry Palace.
Mattancherry Palace Museum
Mattancherry Palace is a conglomeration of Dutch and Kerala architecture, a palace of the kings of Kochi since the 1500s.
The Mattancherry Palace now functions as a museum that narrates the life and times of the royal family of Kochi.
When a ship of Spanish Jews arrived as refugees at Kochi in the mid-1500s, the king of Kochi welcomed them and offered a plot right next to the palace to build their synagogue. That is the story of how the Paradesi Synagogue came into being in 1568, right next to a Hindu king’s palace.
The street leading up to the synagogue came to be famously known as Jew Street. A blend of spices, antiques, and everything rustic, a stroll through the street will be something to cherish.
Ashley’s Tip: If you are a collector of antiques or if you are looking to buy souvenirs to take back home, Jew Town is one of the best places in Kochi for it. They charge you a fortune, but you can use your haggling skills to strike a fair price.
Kochi Jain Temple
A lesser known, but equally important final piece of marvel in the Jew Town puzzle is Kochi Jain Temple, one of the most important Jain pilgrimage temples in India. Kochi Jain Temple was established in 1904 by the Jain traders from Gujarat. The temple is adorned with white marble flooring, sculpted pillars, and artworks.
Cherai Beach is the most happening beach to visit in Kochi, a blend of sea, backwaters, coconut groves, and Chinese fishing nets all at one place. Cherai Beach is at the northern side of the Vypin Island
You can find an array of water sports centers in the 10 kilometer stretch of beach here with a variety of activities, like speed boating, banana boating, kayaking, catamaran ride, and quad biking on the sand.
Apart from these, the fact that the tides stay low at Cherai Beach all the time makes it a great choice for swimming. No wonder, Cherai Beach is one of the most visited beaches in Kerala.
The touristy atmosphere at Cherai Beach has made it a hub of some of the best beach resorts and hotels in Kochi. The restaurants here range from shacks that sell refreshing local drinks and light snacks to fine dining.
Puthuvype Beach and Vypin Lighthouse
Puthuvype is a stretch of beach on the length of Vypin Island, facing the Arabian Sea. A great place to spend your evening watching the sunset. You will find many structures erected here to click photographs. The line of colored fishing boats is a common sight here.
Very close to Puthuvype Beach, you will find Vypin Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Kerala. It is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can enter the lighthouse for a nominal fee of Rs.20 + Rs.10 for photography and get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful town, definitely a major tourist attraction in Kochi.
Marine Drive is a backwaters promenade in Kochi famous for its view and photogenic characteristics. Head to Marine Drive for a calm and serene evening, taking in the beauty of Kochi, relishing the live fresh fruit drinks and light snacks by the walkaway and shopping for trinkets from the hawkers.
Marine Drive is also a ferry and cruise ship spot in Kochi, about which I have explained further down in “Things to Do in Kochi.”
Marine Drive is a must-see attraction in Kochi, especially in the evening when the lights play music on the waves.
A little over 6 kilometers from Puthuvype Beach, you can find the beautiful Vallarpadam Basilica, a pilgrimage entre and an important tourist attraction in Kochi near Puthuvype Beach. The Basilica is steeped in the historical and cultural narrative of Kerala.
The picture of the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus installed at the alter of the church was brought in 1524 from Portuguese by the merchants under Vasco Da Gama. The church hosts a lamp that has been burning all day from 1676 in honor of a prime minister of Maharaja of Cochin who donated the land for the present church after the Portuguese church was destroyed in a flood.
Another legend associated with Vallarpadam Basilica is that of a young woman of royal birth, Meenakshi Amma and her son, who while caught in a flood vowed to devote her life to the service of Virgin Mary was miraculously saved.
This Basilica has an interesting tradition. Devotees offer to sweep the courtyard of the Basilica as an act of worship. You can find a large collection of brooms on the side of the Basilica for this purpose.
Ernakulam town is on the city-side of Kochi. Head to Ernakulam town if you want to explore and learn about the cultural and historical facets of Kerala. If you are interested in art, history, and architecture, the museums in Ernakulam are the places to begin your Kochi trip.
Kerala Folklore Museum
Kerala Folklore Museum, an architectural marvel, and a treasure trove of over 35,000 antiques and artifacts spanning over 1000 years, is a must visit attraction in Kochi. This is a private museum curated by George J Thaliath, an art enthusiast and art collector.
Major attractions offered by Kerala Folklore Museum include:
- Face Art Gallery: The collection of art and antiques
- Folklore Theatre: Offers live cultural and traditional performances
- Spice Art Café: Offers a taste of the Kerala cuisine
Timings: 9:00 am-6:00 pm (Open on all days)
Nearest Metro Station: Kadavanthra
Museum of Kerala History
The Museum of Kerala History is a art gallery and museum that offers a light and sound show narrating the lives of 87 influential personalities in the history of Kerala. The show is narrated in both Malayalam and English to cater to the needs of the visitors. The museum uses sculptures to narrate the stories.
Timings: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (Closed on Monday and Thursday)
Nearest Metro Station: Pathadipalam
Hill Palace Museum
A little outside of Ernakulam town, is the Hill Palace Museum, the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. Spread across 54 acres, the Hill Palace was the residence of Kochi Maharaja (king) in the colonial times. The Hill Palace complex includes a heritage museum, an archeological museum, a pre-historic park, a deer park and a children’s park.
Timings: 9:00 am-4:30 pm (Closed on Monday)
Nearest Metro Station: SN Junction
Wonderla Amusement Park
For a day of fun and adventure, head to Wonderla Amusement Park in Kochi. With over 56 types of rides, comprising of water rides, land rides, and kids rides, Wonderla Kochi is one of the best amusement parks in South India.
Wonderla is a great option if you are traveling in a group and have children with you.
Things to Do in Kochi
Kochi is an incredible place to explore, with activities ranging from cultural performances to village tourism, to ship/houseboat cruising. Kochi is also the hub of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an international art exhibition.
Note: Some of the activities to do in Kochi require you to connect with tour operators. By principle, I do not make recommendations for tour operators in my blogs. You can use the information here to choose the activities you want to explore on your Kochi trip and plan accordingly.
Kathakali is a story act performance in elaborate makeup and extravagant costumes, a cultural performance native to Kerala. Kerala Kathakali Centre near Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi presents daily Kathakali performance in the evening at 6:00 pm.
The elaborate makeup for the performance takes one hour to complete. If you get there by 5:00 pm, you can see the makeup procedure with your own eyes. If you ask, they will apply the makeup on you as well.
Kerala Kathakali Centre also arranges live classical music, classical dances and native martial arts performances at their center.
Ashley’s Tip: Strike up a conversation with the organizers. They will be very excited to share their knowledge of traditional performances with you.
Kumbalangi Village Tourism
How would you like to visit a Kochi village set a few decades back? This is exactly what Kumbalangi Village Tourism is about. Kumbalangi is a quaint and rustic island village in the backwaters of Kochi with over a hundred Chinese fishing nets and homestays to give you the authentic Kerala experience.
You will need to connect with tour operators to book a guided trip to Kumbalangi. A typical Kumbalangi village tour includes a traditional boat trip from Fort Kochi to Kumbalangi, a guided tour of the traditional practices of beedi rolling, traditional broom making using coconut leaves, thatched roof layering of coconut leaves by hand, basket weaving and many such local practices.
It is typically a four-hour tour and a traditional boat ride back to Fort Kochi. You can opt for tour packages with or without lunch.
Kochi Ship Cruising
Kochi backwaters is a great place for ship cruising and a laid-back time. Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) operates a luxury cruise, Nefertiti, and a budget cruise on Sagarararani.
These cruises are operated from Marine Drive, and you can book your ticket online on the government website KSINC well in advance to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity.
A typical cruise has music, DJ, entertainment, and food. You should try the evening cruise for a surreal sunset experience on the cruise.
Kochi-Muziris Biennale is a contemporary art exhibition conducted across art galleries in Kochi. Artists from across the world showcase their work, ranging from paintings, films, sculptures, and installations. The Biennale is conducted from mid-December to mid-April every year.
Kochi-Alappuzha Houseboat Ride
How would you like an overnight sow cruise ride on a motorized traditional houseboat of Kerala? Well, if you are interested, you should book this tour from Kochi to Alappuzha. A houseboat is a unique boat with arched thatched coconut leaves fronds over a large black boat.
A houseboat typically has two to three bedrooms, a common area, a dining area, and a kitchen. You can have a go at fishing and even steer the boat!
A Kochi Alappuzha houseboat ride is an overnight package with meals included. You will need to book this with a tour operator.
How to Reach Kochi
Kochi is well connected by road, train, and air.
You can reach Kochi by state-run and private-run buses from Bangalore, Mangalore, or Chennai. Buses run between Kochi and these places on a daily basis.
Kochi has two major railway stations— Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction. Trains from across India run to either of these stations.
Cochin International Airport is just 25 kilometers from Kochi town.
How to Get Around in Kochi
You can get around Kochi by road, by water, and by metro.
Kochi is well-connected by road. You can hire a taxi or an auto rickshaw (Tuk Tuk) to get around. Always discuss the fare and come to an agreement before boarding.
You can also take a ride on the giant red and yellow Kerala government buses, fondly called “aanavandi” (meaning “elephant bus”).
The cheapest, fastest, and most fun way of traveling in Kochi is through the ferry boat services that connect every one of the islands of Kerala.
In Kochi, you can find both government and private boating services. While the government ferry boats cost less than Rs. 10 per ticket, the private boats cost Rs. 350 per ticket.
If you want to take the government ferry boat, you need to go to the ticket counter of the government ferry service and purchase your ticket. You can ask the shopkeepers to guide you to the ticket counter.
The private boat services approach you to take their boat and you have to pay only when you get to the boat. You can find the timings of the government ferry services here to plan your trip better.
Best Time to Visit Kochi
Kochi is a year-round destination with a warm and humid climate throughout the year. The day time temperature in Kerala is generally b around 33 °C.
June to September is considered the monsoon season, with heavy rain across the state. There has been incidence of floods in August a few times.
Where to Eat in Kochi
South Indian Vegetarian: Brindavan Vegetarian Restaurant, Ambiswamy’s Vegetarian Restaurant, Gokul Oottupura
Jain: Sreekrishna Inn
North Indian Non-Vegetarian: Sethi Da Dhabha, Rasoi Fort Kochi
Family Toddy Shop (native flavors and very cheap): Mullapanthal, Vellakanthari
Middle Eastern/ Barbeque: Zaatar, Arabian Palace Edapally, Pathirakozhi
Chic Seafood: Cheenavala, Oceanos Restaurant
Uptown and Fine Dining: Kashi Art Café, History & Terrace Grill Restaurant Brunton Boatyard, Colony Clubhouse & Grill Grand Hyatt, Malabar Junction
Where to Shop in Kochi
Jew Town: antiques and souvenir
Marine Drive-Broadway Market: Trinkets
Bazaar Road Fort Kochi: Trinkets
Kasavu Nilayam Kuttambuli: Handloom traditional Kerala saree
What to Pack for Kochi
Light cotton clothing
Hats and umbrella
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