Aug 302010

Cochin, or Kochi, is the historical capital of Kerala; Trivandrum is the new modern capital city. Cochin is by far the most interesting and is probably most famous for its Chinese Fishing Nets which line the harbour front along historic Fort Kochi – now a World Heritage site. Set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, Kochi is a city of cultural diversity – winding streets, shady trees, Kathakali dance, modern Indian art, 500 year old Portuguese houses, mosques, a tiny Jewish community with ancient roots – and ferry boats scuttling backwards and forwards. We can organise an English speaking guide to escort you around the places of interest. In order to fully appreciate this fascinating city, we would recommend a stay of at least 2 nights in Cochin.

  • Cochin Harbour

    Cochin Harbour

  • Jewish Quarter

    Jewish Quarter

  • Cooling Off

    Cooling Off

  • Fishermen at Cochin Harbour

    Fishermen at Cochin Harbour

  • Fish Auction

    Fish Auction

  • Fabindia!


  • Cochin School Children

    Cochin School Children

  • Cochin Laundry

    Cochin Laundry

  • Cricket on the Parade Ground

    Cricket on the Parade Ground

  • Chinese Fishing Nets

    Chinese Fishing Nets

  • Santa Cruz Basilica

    Santa Cruz Basilica

  • Lessons on the Parade Ground

    Lessons on the Parade Ground

  • Catch of the Day

    Catch of the Day

  • Sunday Papers

    Sunday Papers

  • Old Harbour Hotel Pool

    Old Harbour Hotel Pool

  • Santa Cruz Basilica

    Santa Cruz Basilica

  • Kathakali Costume

    Kathakali Costume

  • Vasco de Gama's Tomb

    Vasco de Gama's Tomb

  • Heavy Load

    Heavy Load

Things to see

Chinese Fishing Nets

Brought to Cochin by early Chinese traders between 1350 and 1450 AD, these fascinating fishing mechanisms remain a way of life for the fishermen of Cochin. Groups of six to eight men lower the nets into the sea and after a while heave them back up, usually with a very modest catch. The collection of spread out nets on their frames of masts and poles forms a unique backdrop to Cochin’s harbour, particularly in the evening against the magnificent crimson sunsets.

Jewish Synagogue

Cochin is also home to what must be one of the world’s most far-flung Jewish communities. While the date of their arrival here is debated, they came to trade spices and stayed. Today, only a handful remain, since most left India in the 1950’s after being given free passage to Israel. But the Paradesi Synagogue, with its elaborate glass chandeliers and 17th century blue ceramic floor tiles, is a charming testament to their once powerful presence in the city.


No trip to Kerala would be complete without a visit to a Kathakali performance. Tracing its origins to 17th century India, Kathakali, the masked dance drama of Kerala, is an art form so widely appreciated that it almost defines the people and culture it originates from. This spectacular dance draws its inspiration not only from religious myths and legends, it is also firmly grounded in various forms of martial arts, folktales and stylised drama. Elaborate costumes and makeup together with intricate facial and hand movements, portray the various stories. It takes up to an hour prior to the performance for the actors to apply their make-up and undergo the transformation into their Kathakali character. This is performed on stage and is very much part of the experience. We can arrange tickets to a Kathakali performance at one of two theatres in Cochin – personally we would recommend the non-air conditioned theatre.

The Dutch Cemetery

The tomb stones here are the most authentic record of the hundreds of Europeans who left their homeland on a mission to expand their colonial empires and changed the course of history of this land. The cemetery was consecrated in 1724 and is today managed by the Church of South India.

Santa Cruz Basilica

This historic church was built by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. In 1795 it fell into the hands of the British when they took over Cochin, and was demolished. About a hundred years later Bishop Dom Gomez Ferreira commissioned a new building at the same site in 1887. The church was proclaimed a Basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.

St. Francis Church

Built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars, this is India’s oldest European church. It was initially built of timber and later reconstructed in stone masonry. It was restored in 1779 by the Protestant Dutch, converted to an Anglican church by the British in 1795 and is at present governed by the Church of South India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524 before his remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The tombstone still remains.

Vasco House

Believed to have been the residence of Vasco de Gama, this is one of the oldest Portuguese residences in Fort Cochin. Built in the early sixteenth century, Vasco House sports the typical European glass paned windows and balcony cum verandahs characteristic of the times.

Parade Ground

The four acre Parade Ground was where once the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonists conducted their military parades and drills. The buildings around the ground housed their defence establishments. Today, the largest open space in Fort Cochin, the Parade Ground is a sports arena.

City Laundry

Not one of the normally listed sights of Cochin but we think this is a fascinating place. A vast outdoor laundry catering primarily for the needs of the city’s tourists with immense fields of brightly coloured laundry swaying in the breeze. The local workers each pay a rental fee to the laundry to have a washing ‘station’ and a room for their belongings. The ironing & pressing equipment is out of the arc but the results are amazing!

Places to Stay

Brunton Boatyard

Over a century ago, George Brunton & Sons set up a boat-building facility in Cochin which grew to become one of the biggest ship-builders in the country.  On the same site, many years after the boatyard was shut down, Brunton Boatyard was built. For what is essentially an intimate sea-facing property, Brunton Boatyard possesses a remarkable sense of scale and takes you back in time to the days of the British Raj.

Malabar House Residency

An 18th-century Dutch colonial residence which has been converted into a small luxury boutique style hotel, the Malabar House has retained its calm spaciousness. Based in the historical centre of Fort Cochin, it faces the St Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. Painted in heartening yellows and whites and furnished with antiques and artwork, the resort is a haven of tranquillity amidst a bustling harbour city.


ReceptionTrinity is the second offering by Malabar Escapes for stylish, boutique accommodation in Cochin. Situated diagonally across the Parade Ground from Malabar House, Trinity is a much smaller property offering greater privacy. Not really a hotel but more a cluster of suites leading off a central first floor room which doubles as reception and communal lounge. Unmistakeable Malabar chic but with a more contemporary edge.

Tea Bungalow

View "front-of-hotel.jpg"A small exclusive luxury heritage boutique resort in Fort Kochi, Kerala.  Once the residence of the Brooke Bond Tea Company’s top management, the elegant colonial bungalow is set in a lovely garden with a swimming pool shimmering in its midst. Add to that an unbeatable location in the heritage area of Fort Kochi. Almost a hundred years old, Tea Bungalow lovingly restored to its classical colonial elegance, offers luxury accommodation in ten spacious en suite rooms.

Old Harbour Hotel

A 300 year-old building that has for long been a heritage monument of this town, now reopened as a boutique hotel. Built in the Dutch style of architecture with hints of Portuguese influences, it was the first hotel of old Cochin. Later it remained a residential home to employees of English tea-broking firms until it was left unused for a period of time.

Old Lighthouse Hotel

The Old Lighthouse Bristow hotel is situated right on the Fort Cochin beach. Surrounded by abundant greenery and the great Arabian sea, the hotel couldn’t be in a more perfect location