A Guide to the Historical Coastal Town of Cochin
|Quick Facts - Cochin India
Population 564,589 (2001 census)
Area 94.88 sq kms
Airport Cochin International Airport [COK]
Climate tropical monsoon climate
Av. temp. between 20C to 35C
Annual rainfall 2,743mm
Language Malayalam, Hindi, English
Phone code +91 (0)484
Cochin / Fort Cochin / Kochi / Ernakulam?
Confusingly there are several names for this area, and you may hear all used interchangably. Ernakulam is the name of the town on the mainland. Trains, coaches and buses usually list their destination as Ernakulam. Kochi (formally and still often referred to as 'Cochin') usually refers to Ernakulam and Fort Cochin, as well as the other islands in the region. Fort Cochin specifically refers to the island town which is the primary tourist destination of the area.
Ernakulam, by the way, is also the name of the district in
which all are situated!
Hisory of Kochi
The area of Cochin India and its surrounding Malabar coastal region was an important trading post since ancient times and was well known to the Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Jews and Chinese. The Kingdom of Kochi came into existence in 1102 and was ruled by a monarchy.
In 1503, after Vasco Da Gama's landing, the Portuguese took the island town of Fort Cochin and it became the first European colonnial settlement in India. It was later (1663) taken by the Dutch, though Ernakulam remained the capital of a princely state.
The Mysore King Hyder Ali had conquered mainland Kochi by 1773 and the Dutch in Fort Cochin signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty (1814) fearing outbreak of war, and Kochi was ceded to the British.
Kochi experienced a 'depression' following Idnia's independence from British colonnial rule in 1947. In recent decades however, the economy has flourished and today Kochi is a commercial hub. Fort Cochin, with its elegant Portuguese and Dutch buildings is now a major draw for foreign tourists.
Fort Cochin, the areas primary tourist destination, is a beautifully quiet town and the atmosphere created by the old Portuguese / Dutch houses, ancient mosques, 16th Century churches and palaces, winding streets, al fresco cafes, Jewish quarter and coast lined with Chinese fishing nets is unique in India, if not the world.
Mainland Ernakulam is the transport centre of the region, with trains, coaches and buses mostly stopping here. Fort Cochin (including Mattancherry), Willingdon Island, Vypeen Island and Valarpadam and Bolgatty are islands lying just off the coast. They are most easily accessible by boat, though there are bridges between them and the mainland.
Fort Cochin has seen increasing tourism over the years, and wherever there are tourists, there are people selling to them. Accept that you may pay a little more here than in other areas of India, and be clear about what you want / do not want.
|Tourist Info and Contacts
KTDC Tourist Reception Centre Shanmugham Road, Ernakulam tel. 2353234 / Calvathy Road, Fort Cochin tel. 2216567
Governement of India Tourist Office Willingdon Island tel. 2668352. Provide brochures and maps of India.
Ernakulam branches on: MG Road, Hospital Road and Broadway.
Fort Cochin branch: Main Post Office, Post Office Road.
Airport Links - Cochin India
Kochi International Airport [COK] tel. 2610113, situated 30km northeast of Ernakulam at Nedumbassery. If you want
to stay on the islands you can get a pre-paid taxi to one of Ernakulam's jetties and proceed by boat (see ferry links below). This is the cheapest option, though taxi drivers will take you over on the road bridges if you prefer. Traffic in Ernakulam can make for a long drive.
A busy airport handling lots of domestic and growing numbers of international flights, Cochin International is connected to all major Indian cities. International destinations from/to Cochin India include Dubai, Kuwait, Munich, Muscat and Singapore. Look at our air travel in India and cheap flights to India pages for more info about flights.
Train Links - Cochin India
The main stations for Cochin India are in Ernakulam. These are Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction The reservation office for both is at Ernkulam Junction. Whether you book tickets at the station, from a travel agent or online, make sure you get the correct point of departure! Ernakulam Town is in the north of town, Ernakulam Junction is in the south.
Local Keralan destinations are all covered from here as well as long distance trains from Cochin India to many other Indian towns and cites. Train travel is covered in depth on our getting around guide.
We booked tickets to Goa from Kochi via a travel agents in Fort Cochin and were charged an admin fee of R.150 which was definitely worth doing. Tickets can also be purchased online.
Bus Links - Cochin India
Buses to destinations in Kerala leave frequently from the KSRTC Bus Stand in Ernakulam. Buses from Ernakulam to Fort Cochin leave from a stop just south of Jos Junction on MG Road (south side).
Ferry Links and City Transport
Going by ferry is the easiest, cheapest and most fun way of getting between Kochi's Islands. To Bogatty get on at the High Court Jetty (Ernakulam) and for Vypeen Island use the Vypeen Island Ferry Jetty (Ernakulam). The Main Jetty (Ernakulam) handles boats to Fort Cochin, Mattancherry (on the same island), Willingdon Island and Vypeen Island. Services run every 20-50 minutes to Fort Cochin from about 6a.m. until 9:30pm.
There are two Jetties in Fort Cochin, Customs Jetty and Mattancherry. Services to Ernakulam's Main Jetty run from both from 6:20a.m. to 9:50p.m.
At the Main Jetty there are two queues, one is for men and one for women. Fares on all the ferries are very cheap, usually R.3 or so.
Rickshaws are available to get around on land. In Ernakulam they are very cheap but fares on the islands are higher - you can often bargain for a better price.
|Highlights of Cochin India
A stroll through old Fort Cochin. Pick up a map from one of the tourist offices centred around Princess Street and take a slow stroll through the old houses, stopping to see St Francis Church, the Dutch Cemetary and Santa Cruise Basilica.
Find art, antiques and curious. Fort Cochin's atmospheric Jew Town is laden with handicrafts, paintings and memorabilia and is a great place to pick up a souvenir.
Relax on the beach! 25km from Fort Cochin on Vypeen Island, Cherai beach is 15km of sandy beach. Catch a ferry from Fort Cochin and then a rickshaw or bus (1 hour journey) once on the island.
Ernakulathappan Utsavam Festival Held over 8 days in January/February at the Ernakulathappan Temple in Ernakulam, this Kerala festival culminates with fireworks and a parade of elephants. Performances of Kathakali and other forms of cultural dance / music also take place.
Places To Eat - Cochin India
There are numerous places to eat in Fort Cochin, many serving excellent food in beautiful surroundings or al fresco. I think 'Dal Roti' on Lily Street (Fort Cochin) served some of the best food I have had in India - and I've had a lot of good food in India. This one shouldn't be missed.
The Kashi Art Cafe of Burgher St. (Fort Cochin) is a great place for a lazy breakfast and serves excellent coffee and cakes. The area doubles as a gallery for local artists, and is extremely popular with locals and tourists.
Alcoholic drinks are rarely served in restaurants, but there are a couple of bars around Burgher St. area, and some places will consent to serve alcohol, hidden in a teapot!
Places To Stay - Cochin India
The homestay scene (where locals convert part of their house to accommodation for tourists) is growing in Kerala, and Kochi is no exception. Find homestay deals from tourist offices or online. Alternatively enlist the help of a rickshaw / taxi driver or simply pop into a few you like the look of - a good place to start is Fort Cochin. Princess and Burgher St. in Fort Cochin have several budget hostels and are a good place to start looking if you have not booked ahead.
Fort Cochin is full of old Dutch and Portuguese houses, many of which have been converted into hotels / homestays. While more expensive than Ernakulam, the historical areas of Fort Cochin, Mattancherry and Willingdon Island offer beautiful places to stay in areas that are full of atmosphere and character.
We stayed at the Spencer Home on Parade Ground Road in Fort Cochin where the dark-wood rooms were set around a garden courtyard, and the main building was a grand 300 year old house. There are many other equally stunning places scattered throughout Fort Cochin.
Be Aware Of...
Rickshaw drivers, especially in Fort Cochin are notorious for trying to take you to see their 'friend/relative's shop'. They recieve commission for bringing you (whether you buy or not). If you want to buy/are curious/have spare time you could let them persuade you to pop in - though you might find the sellers inside are even pushier than your rickshaw driver! If not, politely but firmly say no.
More useful advice and guides for travel to Kerala.
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