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Cochin

Cochin, also known as Kochi, is the great port city of South India’s Western Malabar Coast, sprawling over islands and headlands in the Arabian Sea and leading into the winding canals of Kerala’s Backwaters. Documented as the oldest European settlement in India, Cochin has been drawing traders and explorers in for over 600 years. Its melting pot of cultures, the giant Chinese fishing nets sweeping above the water, Portuguese churches, Dutch architecture, Hindu temples, ancient mosques and a 400-year old synagogue, make for an intriguing visit.

We recommend making Cochin your last destination during your South India holiday, it’s the perfect blend of buzzing city life with traces of Kerala’s relaxed essence. Wander through the pretty tangle of alleyways, merchant houses and markets in the old town of Fort Cochin and take your time to immerse yourself in museums, laze in the arty cafes sprinkled around the town and find our favourite antique shopping spots down Lilly and Napier Street; Anokhi, Aambal and Fab India to name a few. Cochin also stages performances of Kathakali, a classical Keralan art form combining music, painting, dance and literature where performers wear elaborate costumes and spectacular face-paints. 

Approximately 32.5 kilometres southeast of Fort Cochin lies Mattancherry, the centre of the spice trade. On foot, bike or rickshaw, visit the thriving spice markets and make a stop by the Mattancherry Palace – a gesture of goodwill presented to the Raja of Cochin, Veera Kerala Varma I (1537–1565), by the Portuguese in 1555. The combination of European and Keralan styles only goes on to reveal the astonishingly preserved and intricate colourful details of the Hindu murals found in the royal bedchambers. In the midst of ginger, cardamom and cumin aromas, you can find the old Jewish Quarter, home to Mattancherry’s 1568 synagogue. What was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1662 has been beautifully rebuilt and restored by the Dutch colony, showcasing elegant wooden benches, Chinese hand-painted, willow-patterned titles and illuminating Belgian chandeliers.

After a gentle journey through Kerala’s tranquil backwaters on CGH Earth’s Spice Boat Cruises, make your last colonial inspired night’s sleep at an Ampersand Favourite – Brunton Boatyard. This elegant white-washed building lies on Cochin’s waterfront, just a stone’s throw from the old town, and has the most picturesque and memorable views across the Harbour. Historical towns of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry, are well-touristed during the winter months of October to February, but remain culturally atmospheric with a thick smell of India’s colonial history throughout the whole year. The busier, more modern district of Ernakulam is on the mainland – Cochin’s cosmopolitan hub and hectic transport link. 

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