Kochi, or Cochin as it used to be called, is one of the most unique destinations in Asia. Thanks to its history as Kerala’s port city, people from all over the world – from China to Portugal to the Middle East – have passed through Kochi and left their cultural imprint. Today it’s still one of South India’s most important cities, and the many travellers catching flights to Kochi have helped preserve its cosmopolitan roots.
Kochi is one of South India’s busiest cities too, with 600,000 people calling it home. The city is spread across a series of peninsulas and islands, connected by a network of water taxis and bridges. Think of it as broadly divided between three main areas: the city of Ernakulam on the mainland, Willingdon Island, and to the west, the peninsula of Fort Kochi. It’s on the peninsula, in Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, that you’ll find the city’s top attractions – including St Francis Church and Mattancherry Palace – and the best heritage hotels, plus some fantastic restaurants and cafes.
But it’s not just about the historic sites. There’s a modern side to Kochi as well, including one of the most interesting art communities in India. That’s thanks in no small part to its role as host of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India’s first art biennale, an event that attracts creative people from all over the world.
Kochi is an easy place to explore on foot and the pace of life is a lot more laid-back than other parts of India. For an even more relaxing experience, head north to Vypeen Island and seek out Cherai Beach. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing and, depending on the season, you might even spot some dolphins.