An all time tourist favorite and the commercial capital of Kerala, Cochin offers palaces, forts, beaches, backwaters, old churches, snake boat races, Kathakali, kalaripayattu, museums and the convenience of the big city. Cochin is also known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea' and consists of mainland Ernakulam, Fort Cochin, Mattancherry and the islands of Willington, Bolghatty, Vypeen and other smaller islands. Cochin has one of the finest natural harbours in the world. From time immemorial mariners from Arabia, China, Holland, Britain and Portugal followed the sea route to Cochin and left their impressions on this beautiful island city. The temples, churches and Synagogue are of special interest to archeologists and historians. The Jewish Synagogue, Chinese fishing nets, and St Francis Church are some of the major tourist attractions
Cochin is built on a cluster of islands, where many of the world's major religions are in evidence. Walk or drive around the island of Fort Cochin and encounter the daily activities of the many Hindu temples, the muezzin's call to prayer from the mosques, and the services at the 500-year-old Roman Catholic St. Francis Church, where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was first buried in 1524 before being disinterred and sent back to Portugal. The charming 16th century synagogue still serves Cochin's 20 remaining Jews, descendants of those who fled what is now Israel nearly 2,000 years ago. The museum adjacent to the home of Cochin's Catholic bishop displays the grandeur of the Christian faith, with its gold and silver chalices, processional crosses, and altar pieces.
In the evenings, visitors can take in performances of mohiniyattam, the dance for temple deities, and kathakali, the dramatic dance form that specializes in the expression of emotions from love to valor to derision. They can also go to one of the centres, where local youth practice an ancient, rigorous martial art called kalaripayattu
Places of Interest in and around Cochin
Bolghatty Island and Palace: A scenic island near the city of Ernakulam, Bolghatty is famous for the Bolghatty Palace built by the Dutch in 1744 AD.
Dutch Palace: Originally built by the Portuguese in the mid-16th century, the Dutch Palace or Mattancherry Palace is located at Mattancherry. It was presented to the Cochin Maharaja in 1555 AD and later taken over by the Dutch who carried out repairs and extended it further (Open 1000 to 1700 Hours. Closed on Fridays)
Jewish Synagogue: The Jews of Kerala are believed to have migrated to this place in the first century following the destruction of the second temple of Jerusalem in 72 AD. The synagogue is the oldest in India, built in 1586 AD by the prosperous Jewish community. (Open 1000 to 1200 Hours and 1500 to 1700 Hours. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays) The area around the Synagogue is a centre of spice trade and curio shops and is also known as The Jew Town.
St. Francis Church: Built in 1503 by Portuguese Francisan Friars who arrived with Albuquerque. The church - the burial site for Vasco da Gama is said to be the oldest European church built in India.
Santa Cruz Basillica: Close to the St. Francis church, is the Santa Cruz Basilica, built by Portuguese. It has a beautiful collection of paintings and a decorative ceiling, despite having suffered severe damage when the British fought with the Dutch to take control of Cochin.
Chottanikkara Temple: Chottanikkara temple, located near Ernakulam enshrines Bhagawati - the mother Goddess, one of the most popular deities in Kerala.
Tripunithara Temple: Famous for the festival of Attachamayam, held on the Atham day of the Malayalam month of Chingam (August/ September), at the historical town of Tripunithura.
Kanjiramattom Mosque: The festival of 'Kodikuthu' is celebrated on the 14th of January each year, in Kanjiramattom Mosque, 25 kms from Ernakulam.
Cochin Carnival: Cochin Carnival is a merry making feast observed during the last week of every year in Fort Cochin. The carnival dates back to the Portuguese New Year revelry held here during the colonial days.
Indira Gandhi Boat Race: Indira Gandhi Boat Race is a grand fest on the rolling backwaters of Cochin. Conducted in the last week of December, it is a fitting finale to the Tourism Fair.Kodungaloor: Kodungalloor, 50 kms north of Cochin, was the ancient port town of Muziris or Crangannore. Goddess Bhagavathi is the presiding deity of the ancient temple here. The Bharani Festival, which falls in the Malayalam month of Meenam (March/ April) attracts the largest congregation of 'Velichappadu' (Oracles) including women from different parts of the State. St Thomas one of the 12 apostles of Christ landed here in 52 AD. It was also the capital of Cheraman Perumal, a King of Kerala, whose famous palace Allal Perumkovilakam was situated near the great pagoda at ThiruvanchikulamMalayatoor: The feast or the 'Perunnal' at the famous Catholic Church at Malayatoor is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter, in March /April.
Bhoothathankettu: 63 kms from Cochin, it's a beautiful spot replete with a dam and boating facilities. Trekking through the forests here is an exhilarating experience.
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 of this beach.
Kodanad: 45 kms from Cochin, it is one of the largest elephant holding camp and training centre in India. It is on the southern banks of Periyar River amidst the beautiful high ranges near Perumbadoor. Even though elephant capture was banned in 1977, the training centre continues to function
The waterfalls at Athirappilly and Vazhachal are popular with tourists - a scenic area close to the forests at the foothills of the Sholayar ranges of the Western Ghats, about 80 Kms from Cochin. The Athirappilly falls joins the Chalakkudy River after plummeting 85 feet. The Vazhachal waterfalls, a few Kms away in green forest land also joins the Chalakkudy river. A cool shower in the cascading waters with the backdrop of thick green forests and rocky terrain will be a rejuvenating experience infusing freshness in any tired soul. The temple towns of Trichur and Guruvayoor are at a short distance from Athirappilly. Silver Storm and Dream World are two water theme parks in the area
Munnar is a beautiful Hill Station popular for its cool climate, the sprawling tea plantations, colonial bungalows, tea factories, picture-book towns, lakes and numerous waterfalls. This hill station was once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India. The town with its cool, bracing climate, exudes an old world charm and is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams - Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. The atmosphere is fragrant with extensive tea and cardamom plantations. There are enchanting high ranges (1600 meters above sea level), lakes and streams, and beautiful views of low-flying clouds and mist-filled valleys. The highest peak of south India – Anamudi (2,595 m) – is only a short distance from here - an ideal spot for trekking. Among the exotic flora found in the forests and grasslands here is the Neelakurinji. This flower which bathes the hills in blue every twelve years, will bloom next in 2018 AD.
Places of Interest in and around Munnar
Mattupetti: Located 13 km from Munnar, Mattupetty at an altitude of 1700 m, is known for its highly specialised dairy farm - the Indo Swiss Livestock Project. Over a 100 varieties of high yielding cattle are reared here. Mattupetti Dam set amidst the green tropical forests offers ample photo opportunities and a unique experience. The exotic rose garden, lush green meadows and boating on the dam are major attractions. Speed launches, motor boats and slow paddle boats are available on hire. The sprawling Kundala tea plantations and the Kundala Lake are other attractions in the vicinity.
Periakanal Waterfalls: At a distance of 18 Kms from Munnar is the Periakanal waterfalls which is an enchanting sight. A bath in the spray of water cascading down the hills will certainly refresh you
Eravikulam: The wildlife sanctuary here can be reached only by trekking from Rajamala (17 Km). Nilgiri Tahr can be seen in the early morning and evening in the area. Other animal sightings are panther, sambar, barking deer, gaur and giant malabar squirrel
Kanniar: 3 Km from Munnar is Kanniar which has a shallow mountain stream. A good location for a rejuvenating dip.
Pothamedu is located 6 km from Munnar and offers an excellent view of the tea, coffee and cardamom plantations in Munnar. The rolling hills, the lush mountain and the breathtaking scenery here is ideal for trekking and long mountain walks.
Devikulam is located 7 km from Munnar. The Sita Devi Lake with its mineral waters and picturesque surroundings is a good picnic spot - also ideal for trout fishing.
Pallivasal is 8 km from Munnar is the venue of the first Hydro Electric Project in Kerala and a place of immense scenic beauty.
Attukal is 9 km from Munnar is a panorama of waterfalls and rolling hills, Attukal, located between Munnar and Pallivasal, is a feast for the eyes. The place is also ideal for long treks.
Nyayamakad is 10 km from Munnar is located between Munnar and Rajamala, Nyayamakad is a land of breathtaking waterfalls. The waters cascade down a hill from a height of about 1600 metres. The enchanting surroundings makes an excellent picnic spot and trekking point.
Chithirapuram, 10 km from Munnar is known for sleepy little cottages, bungalows, old playgrounds and courts, Chithirapuram still exudes an old world charm. Home of the Pallyvasal Hydel Power Project, this hill town is also famous for its picturesque tea plantations.
Lock Heart Gap is an ideal place for adventure tourism and trekking. The fresh mountain air, the mist-clad hills and panoramic view make it worthy of a visit.
Echo Point , 15 km from Munnar, this scenic place gets its name from the natural echo phenomenon here. Echo Point is on the way to Top Station from Munnar
While Munnar has its tea gardens, Thekkady, Vandanmedu and nearby areas have
plantations of various spices like cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, ginger and cloves.
Thekkady is one of the best-known wild life centres in India. The Periyar wild life sanctuary offers a fairly good chance of seeing the great Indian tiger in its natural habitat Wild elephants, Sambar deer and wild buffaloes are commonly sighted. Trek into the forests with guides and overnight stay at forest rest houses or observation towers are popular with tourists.
The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (Thekkady) Spread over an area of 777 sq. km, Thekkady lies at an elevation of 914 m to 1,828m above sea level on the Periyar Lake in the hills of Western Ghats and is perhaps the finest sanctuary for watching and photographing Indian wild elephants. Though billed as a tiger reserve, Periyar is really famous for its wild elephants, the 100-year-old artificial lake and its setting in the virgin tropical forests. This is not your best shot at spotting the Bengal Tiger considering there are less than 40 of them that inhabit the Sanctuary - but there are plenty of other game like the Nilgiri langoor, Nilgiri tahr, bison, deer, antelope and about 700 elephants to make the trip worthwhile. Boating on the Periyar Lake to see wild animals in their natural habitat is popular with the tourists. If you are lucky you can spot antelope, bison, spotted deer, sambar, bear, wild boar, the majestic but elusive tiger and Leopard in their natural habitat while cruising on the lake in motorboats. Over 260 species of birds including Nilgiri wood Pigeon, Blue-winged Parakeet, White-bellied tree Pie, Laughing Thrushes and Flycatchers are also found here. Exotic flowers and trees abound in the region. The vastness of the wildlife, the naturally located foggy hills, the fragrance and flavour of the coffee and tea plantations impart the impressions of a truly divine land blessed by nature. The area produces some of the best spices in the country and is one of the world’s largest auction centres for cardamom. Most of the resorts in the area are set in spices plantations. A trek through the plantation with the aroma of the spices will be an exhilarating experience
Places of Interest in and around Thekkady
The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary : The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve in 1978. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mulla Periyar dam across the Periyar river adds to the charm of the park. Here, you can enjoy the unique experience of observing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar is the herds of wild elephants. Gaurs, sambar deer, tiger, jungle cat, sloth bear and wild boar can be sighted from the boats on a lucky day. There are about 265 species of birds including migrants.
Kumily : About 4 kms from Thekkady, this plantation town on the outskirts of the Periyar Sanctuary, is an important shopping centre and spice trade centre.
Murikkady : Situated 5 kms from Thekkady. Washed in fresh spice scented air, Murikkady is a panorama of cardamom, coffee and pepper plantations.
Pandikuzhi : This is about 5 kms away from Kumily. Cradled between Chellarkovil and the Tamil Nadu State border, this picturesque place is a popular picnic spot. Pandikuzhi offers great opportunities for trekking and is a photographer's delight.
Fishing boats glide silently over the velvety dark water as wiry men push their oars or draw in nets. Little canoes, called kettuvellums, carry women home after a day of selling flowers at the market. Long houseboats resembling floating bamboo huts that used to transport rice but now ferry tourists also pass by. Along the riverbanks, village life is in full swing as women wash clothes or pump water near their neat brick houses, children climb trees, and young men play volleyball. These are the famous "backwaters" of Kerala. This network of waterways branches out from Vembanad Lake near the sleepy town of Alleppey, an hour south of Cochin, the commercial hub of the Indian state of Kerala. A lush strip on the country's southwestern coast, Kerala, meaning "land of coconuts," has become one of India's most desired tourist destinations
Backwaters are unique to Kerala and are essentially inland lakes connected by a network of canals lakes, canals and estuaries opening into the sea. The biggest among these backwaters is the Vembanad lake, with an area of 200 sq km, which opens out into the Arabian Sea at Cochin port. The lifestyle in the area is unique as for about 9 months of the year the land is flooded. This area is probably the only place in the world where farming is done below sea level. The backwaters are a self-supporting eco-system teeming with aquatic life. The canals connect the villages together and are still used for local transport. There are almost a dozen of such backwaters in Kerala.
Kumarakom is a lovely village surrounded by paddy fields and the Vembanad Lake. The bird sanctuary here spreads over an area of 14 acres and numerous species of birds can be seen here. Siberian Storks migrate here every year. Set off on a small country boat through the mesmerising waterscape and the numerous canals and rivers.
Also described as the “Venice of the East”, Alleppey is an important tourist destination – the centre for backwater tourism. A large network of inland canals provide Alleppey its lifeline. Alleppey was a busy center of trade in the past with one of the best known ports along the Malabar coast. It is the centre for Coir carpet industries and prawn farming. A boat cruise along the serene backwaters of Alleppey offers a first hand experience of the life style and activities of the locals – paddy farming, toddy tapping, fishing for small fry, coir making, prawn farming etc. – a life style that has remained more or less unchanged over the years
Snake-boat Races: Alleppey is also known for its spectacular snake-boat races held on the second Saturday of August, every year. This competition - the Nehru Trophy Boat Race - inaugurated in 1952 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is an annual event in the tourist calendar. It is excitement all around as snake-boats, each manned by over a hundred oarsmen, cut through the waters like wind. The event is a tremendous success with tourists and the local population alike.
Places of Interest in and around Alleppey
Ambalapuzha: Located 14 kms from Alleppey, is the sleepy town of Ambalapuzha. The Sreekrishna Temple built in the typical Kerala style of architecture is famous for its 'Palpayasam' a milk porridge of exceptional sweetness offered to the deity.
Karumadikkuttan: Situated 3 km east of Ambalapuzha, this village is known for its 10th century Karumadikkuttan statue, a black granite figure of the great Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. There are many interesting legends connected to this idol.
Champakulam: The St Mary’s Forane Church built in 427 A D, famous for its beautiful mural paintings is a major attraction of Champakulam. This water logged village has two famous snake-boats – the Nadubhagum Chundan and the Champakulam Chundan that take part in the annual snake boat races.
Houseboat on the Vembanad Lake: Stay on the ‘Kettuvallom’ or the Kerala style houseboat is an experience of a lifetime. These boats, traditionally used for transportation of goods – mainly paddy - in this region before the road network came up, have now been converted for the tourists with a sitting room, bedroom, sun-deck and kitchen. The panoramic view of the backwaters kissing the palm fringed shores, the mirror-still lagoons, picture-book lakeside and the intricate network of canals and rivers connecting the interior villages all offer a unique experience. The staff on board includes a personal cook and two boatmen. All meals are served onboard. The boatmen propel the Houseboat from the bow and stern using bamboo-punting poles. An outboard motor is also used at times.
Completely new to the Holiday maker, Marari offers endless miles of superb sand beaches backed by swaying palms - virgin territory where you can experience the traditional hospitality at its best. Here you experience total tranquility, the stunning scenery and the feeling of being transported back in time. Set in 25 acres of coconut palm groves, is the Marari Beach Resort built in the style of the traditional fishing village with thatched villas. Ideal place to get-away-from-it-all, put your legs up and relax
Varkala is a sea side resort and an important Hindu pilgrimage centre, 54 km from Thiruvananthapuram and 37 km from Kollam. High cliffs with rich mineral springs rise majestically from the coastline bordering an excellent beach. This is the only place in southern Kerala where one can find cliffs adjacent to the Arabian sea. These tertiary sedimentary formation cliffs are a unique geological feature in the otherwise flat Kerala coast, and is known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological survey of India. The 2000 year old Janardana Swamy Temple and the Nature Centre are the two main attractions here. The temple has an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck, donated by the captain of the Dutch vessel which sank near Varkala without causing any casualties. Varkala beach is less ‘touristy’ as compared to the Kovalam beach. The beach is rich in mineral water springs that are known for their medicinal value. A dip in the holy waters of Varkala beach is believed to purge the body and the soul of all the sins hence the name 'Papanashini' for this shore. At the break of dawn following the new moon in the Malayalam month of 'Karkidakam', thousands offer 'Vavu Bali', a ritual for the souls of ancestors.
A former fishing village now known as the "Paradise of the South", Kovalam, about 16 kms from Thiruvananthapuram, is a beach town and an important tourist destination of the state. One of the world’s greatest beaches, Kovalam is a magnificent resort of Sun, Surf and Sea, a beach paradise with the boundless blue of the Arabian Sea and the unwinding miles of fine-sanded beaches washed endlessly by the surging waters in a sheltered bay, curving in an arc with three successive crescent shaped beaches, bordered on the one side by azure blue water and on the other by a sumptuous spread of green palm groves. Ayurvedic health programmes, yoga and water sports facilities are on offer at a number of resorts here.
Trivandrum city has an interesting blend of the traditional and modern architecture. The many palaces and temples in and around Trivandrum offer an insight into the traditional architecture styles
Places of Interest in and around Kovalam / Trivandrum
Napier Museum and the Sree Chithira Art Gallery: Located in the same compound in Trivandrum, the latter has a good collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Roerich, copies of the Rajput, Mughal and Tanjore schools of art and paintings of the Ajantha and Bagh caves.
The Zoo at Trivandrum: This is one of the best managed in India – and is close to the Napier Museum
Padmanabhaswamy Temple: This temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu has some interesting sculptures. The temple architecture is a blend of the Kerala and Dravidian style.
Veli Tourist Village: Located at the outskirts of the city, Veli Tourist Village has well laid out gardens and watersports facilities. The beach here is an added attraction. The fishing activity near the beach area is an interesting sight
Padmanabhapuram Palace: About 54 kms from Thiruvananthapuram on the way to Kanyakumari is Padmanabhapuram Palace, once the royal residence of the Travancore kings of Kerala. An old fort is situated here.
Poovar is truly a window into paradise - enveloped by the most serene
backwaters and opening out to the sea - with a dream golden sand beach. Some of the resorts have exotic floating cottages / sea facing land cottages.
Kanyakumari is at the southern-most tip of mainland India. Witnessing the
sunrise or the sunset from the meeting point of The Indian Ocean, The
Arabian Sea and The Bay of Bengal will be a memorable experience. This is the only place in India where one can enjoy the unique experience of watching the sunset and moonrise simultaneously on a full moon evening
Wayanad is a picturesque mountain district with rolling hills covered with tropical rain forests, Wayanad has vast plantations of spices, tea, coffee and cocoa. The area is home to many species of animal and plant life. Lakkidi Also known as the Gateway to Wayanad, Lakkidi enchants with its rolling hills, mesmerising valleys, meandering streams and lush vegetation. Lakkidi is also famous for its Monkey Zone where visitors can play with them. Chain Tree, Pookot Lake, Vythri, Finster Hills, Kalpetta, Chembra Park, Edakkal Caves, Pakshipathalam, Muthanga Wild life sanctuary, Kuruva Dweep, Soochippara Falls, Meenmutty Falls are places of interest in the area
Sixteen kilometers from Kozhikode (Calicut) etched deep in Indian history lies the Kappad beach where in 1498, Vasco-da-Gama arrived with his band of 170 men. There is a testimonial on the beach commemorating this historic event. An intriguing feature at the beach is a sprawling rock that juts out into the sea. The temple on the rock is believed to be 800 years old. The alluring backwaters and beach are major attractions.