Kettuvallom - Riceboats - Houseboats - romance of kerala backwaters


    The Queen of Arabian Sea

The commercial capital of Kerala and the most cosmopolitan of the state's cities, Kochi or Ernakulam has long been eulogised in tourist literature as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea.' That simple heckneyed phrase does little justice to the city's charms, which go beyond its stunningly different beauty and long-standing maritime importance. Strategically located on the east-west sea route, Kochi is Kerala's major port, boasting of one of the finest natural harbours in the world which forms the hub around which the city revolves-a fact the world's sea trade seems to have known for long. Today's Kochi is a fascinating blend of these alien influences. This fact is tangibly evident in the city's well-known landmarks-the Chinese fishing nets in the backwaters, Jew Town and the Jewish synagogue in Mattancherry, St. Francis Church and the Dutch Palacein Fort Kochi. All these are suffused over the fabric of Kerala's culture and heritage, providing a tapestry of rich contrasts and surprising similarities. Most of the city's commercial centres and shops are located in the mainland, the town called Ernakulam which also lends its name to the district. The backwaters extend east and south of the harbour and in them can be found tiny island formed naturally over long periods by alluvial deposits from the rivers.


Places to visit

Bolghatty Island:
A narrow stretch of an island easily accessible from the mainland, Bolghatty Island is the site of the Bolghatty Palace built by the Dutch in 1744. Later it became the seat of the British Resident of Kochi. Today it is a hotel run by the KTDC. The grounds have a small golf course and several vantage points for lovely views of the harbour and the sea. 

Willingdon Island: 
Another of Kochi's famous islands in Willingdon Island, named after Lord Willingdom the British Viceroy of India. It is a man-made island created from the material dredged while deepening the Kochi port. Situated between Ernakulam and Mattancherry and separated by the backwaters, Willingdon Island is an important part of Kochi. It sites some of the city's best hotels as well as the Government of India Tourist Office, the Southern Nava Command Headquarters, the Kochi Port Trust, the airport and the customs house. Also on the island are the offices of several major trading and industrial houses as well as the Kochi Chamber of Commerce and Industry,

Gundu Island: 
With an area of 5 acres, Gundu Island is the smallest island around Kochi. The only building in it is a coir factory run by a co-operative society. Here can be observed the process of manufacture of coir from coconut fibre, with weavers making colourfully designed doormats and floor coverings. 

Vypeen Island: 
Lying close to Gundu Island, Vypeen Island is known for the Portuguese fort at its northern end, at Pallipuram. 

Cherai Beach:
This lovely beach bordering Vypeen Island is ideal for swimming. Dolphins are occasionally seen here. A typical Kerala village with paddy fields and coconut groves nearby is an added attraction.

The Hill Palace Museum, Tripunithura:
Hill palace, the east while official residential of the Kochi royal family, was built in 1865. The palace complex consists of 49 buildings in the traditional architectural style of Kerala and is surrounded by 52 acres of terraced land with a deer park and facilities for horse riding. A full-fledged ethno-archaeological museum and Kerala's first ever heritage museum are the main attractions. Displayed inside the thirteen galleries are oil paintings, 19th century paintings, murals, scripture in stone and plaster of Paris, manuscripts, inscriptions and coins belonging to Kochi royal family. Tripunithura is also well known for the nearby Chottanikara Temple and the Tripunithura Temple. 

Historical Museum: 
Just 8 km from the heart of Ernakulam, the Museum of Kerala History and its Makers, is the best place for a quick trip down the ancient lanes of Kerala's history. Greeting the visitor outside is a statue of Parasurama, the mythological sage who is said to have created Kerala. Important historical episodes from the neolithic age to the modern era are depicted through life-size figures. A one-hour recorded commentary (in English and Malayalam) fro each scence offers a minor sound-and-light show. 

Cheraman Mosque:
Is believed to be the first mosque built by Muslims in India in 644 A.D. Adding to this religious amity is the fact that the Jews first settled here before moving south to Mattancherry.

To the South of Kochi is the town of Vaikom famous for its Shiva Temple. This temple was where the historically important Vaikom Satyagraha, which led to the opening of temples to the Harijans, took place under Mahatma Gandhi's leadership during the independence movement.

On the banks of the Periyar river is Kalady. This small town, 45 km from Kochi, is a pilgrim centre and the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya, the great 8th century Indian philosopher of Advaita Vedanta. Here are two shrines in his memory, one dedicated to him as Dakshinamurthy and the other, to the goddess Sharada, maintained by the Shringeri Mutt. The spot where Adi Shankara's mother, Aryamba, was cremated is called Brindavan.Nearby is an old Shri Krishna Temple, the family temple of Shankaracharya. Another, the Shri Ramkrishna International Temple, was built in 1976, with the hope that it would ultimately become a temple for all religious and an abode of peace.

Chinese Fishing Nets: 
The entrance to the Kochi harbour is dotted by the Chinese Fishing Nets, called cheena vala in Malayalam, which were introduced during (1350 and 1450 AD) the medieval ages by traders from the court of Kublai Khan. These are large nets, which hang from bamboo and teak posts and are still used by local fishermen in fort Kochi to catch fish attracted by the lights suspended above the nets. Silhouetted against the sunset, they present a spectacular sight of Kochi's waterfront. These nets alone the backwaters are a fascinating sight.

Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace):
originally built by the Portuguese in the mid-16the century. (Timings: 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed on Fridays and National Holidays. Photography prohibited) It was presented to the Raja of Kochi in 1555 and was late taken over by the Dutch who improved it through extensions and repairs in 1663. Since then it has come to be called the 'Dutch Palace', though, at no time did the Portuguese or the Dutch actually stay there.Today it is a portrait gallery of the Kochi Rajas. In the centre of the palace is the Coronation Hall where the Kochi Rajas held their coronations. On display here are the dresses, turbans, palanquins and weapons from that era. In the adjacent rooms are 17the century murals of mythological figures like Shiva, Vishnu and Krishna as well as scenes from the Ramayana, in the tradition of Hindu temple art.The floor of the palace reveals the unique traditional Kerala technique of achieving a polished black surface by combining eggwhite, coconut shell, charcoal and lime. 

Jewish Synagogue:
Also at Mattancherry is the Jewish Synagogue built in 1568 AD by the prosperous Jewish trading community whose links with Kerala begin in Kodungallor (Cranganore) in the north of the state. (Timings: 10 AM to 12 Noon and 3 PM to 5 PM. closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays) This is the oldest synagogue in India. It was partially destroyed in the war of 1662 and was rebuilt by the Dutch. In the mid-18th century the clock tower was added and the floors paved with exquisite hand-painted blue willow tiles from China. Two hundred years old, no two tiles are alike. The interior offers more beautiful surprises: a Belgian chandelier, the great scrolls of the Old Testament, and the copper plates on which were recorded the grants of privilege made by the Kochi rulers to the Jewish community in the 4th century. There are also five finely wrought gold and silver crowns gifted to the synagogue by various patrons. The rabbi will normally give visitors a full account of the synagogue and the history of the Jews in Kerala. Although this ancient community of Kochi has now dwindled to a few families, strong elements of their culture and tradition as well as the Hebrew language remain in Jew Town, which is what the area surrounding the Mattancherry Synagogue has come to be called. The by-lanes that wind around Jew Town offer charming sights of houses built in Dutch, Portuguese and British styles. 

St. Francis church: 
Fort Kochi is the site of the St. Francis church which was built in 1510 by five Portuguese priests who arrived with Albuquerque. This church, said to be the oldest European church built in India, was the original burial site for Vasco da Gama in 1524 (Fourteen years later his mortal remains were exhumed and sent to Lisbon, Portugal.) Later the church was successively taken over by the Dutch in 1633, the British (when it became the Anglican Church) and, finally, the Church of South India. Telling this hoary history are gravestones inside the church as sell as an 18th century register of marriages and baptisms.

Santa Cruz Cathedral:
Also in Fort Kochi is the Santa Cruz Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Church close to the St. Francis Church, also 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 Kochi, 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. It is said to have suffered severe damage when the British fought with the Dutch to take control of Kochi. Its attractions include some beautiful paintings and a decorative ceiling. 

Kochi Shipyard: 
The biggest ship building yard in India, the Kochi shipyard is situated in the southern part of Ernakulam on the way to Willington Island. Set up with Japanese collaboration, this shipyard has a building dock for ships up to 85,000 DWT and a repair dock that can accommodate ships up to 1,00,000 DWT. Motilal Nehru, the first oil tanker made in India, was built here.

Vasco House: 
Believed to have been the residence of Vasco da Gama, this is one of the oldest Portuguese residences in Fort Kochi. Built in the early sixteenth century. Vasco House sports the typical European glass paned windows and balcony cum verandahs characteristic of the times.
This is a rare geographical combination of three rivers, seven inlets, hillocks and vast expanses of green plains. The Paliam Palace, abode of the Paliath Achans, hereditary Prime Ministers to the erstwhile Maharajas of Kochi, represents the architectural splendour of Kerala. The Palace houses a collection of historic documents and relics. The hillocks at Kottayil Kovilakom presents the unusual sight of a temple, a church, a mosque and the remains of a Jewish synagogue, all situated next to each other. Also interesting is a visit to the remains of the Vypeenkotta Seminary built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.

Malayatoor is famous for the Catholic Church on the 609 m high Malayatoor hill. Thousands of devotees undertake the piligrimage to the shrine to participate in the annual festival Malayatoor Perunnal (March/April). 

Thattekad Bird Sanctuary: 
Kerala's first bird sanctuary, Thattekad is made up of moist deciduous forest on 25 Sq. Km. of peninsular land formed between the branches of Periyar River in Malayattoor Forest Division. This sanctuary, nestled in evergreen forests, was discovered by the renowned ornithologist of India, Dr. Salim Ali and is named after him. The sanctuary is notable for indigenous birds like the Malabar grey-hornhill, the woodpecker, rose-ringed and blue-winged parakeet etc. Rare birds like the Ceylon frog-moth and the Rose-billed roller are also seen here. Diverse migrant species home in here during season. Wildlife can also be sighted often.Season : September to March. 

A picturesque have situated in a vast virgin forest, this mythologically popular picnic spot lies close to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at 

About Kerala
About Kettuvallom
About Houseboats 
About Backwaters


Kerala  Tour Operators 
 Fact Sheet
Population: 2,797,779
Area: 2408 sq km
Altitude: Sea level
Rainfall  254 cm
Climate:  Tropical
Summer Max      Min
35C     22.5C
Winter 32.3C  20C 
Season Aug to May 
Clothing: Tropical cottons 


Kochi International Airport is 30 kms from the city. Linked by direct services of Indian airlines and East-West Airlines to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Goa, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram. Also services to Middle east countries and.....

Periodical Ship services ply to Lakshdweep Islands.

Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town Station are connected to most important cities.

Kochi is well connected to several important destinations. Bus services-both government and private-are available to Alappuzha, Quilon, Thiruvananthapuram, Thekkady, Munnar, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Bangalore, Mysore, Madurai, Chennai, Pondicherry, Kanyakumari, Erode, Tuticorin and Velankanni.

Local Transport:
There are plenty of private bus services that service Kochi and nearby towns. Yellow-To Taxis and auto rickshaws are available.

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Houseboats Backwaters Kerala