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Cochin Cruises

About Cochin, India

Known as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea,” Cochin has been a bustling port for more than 1,000 years. In late medieval days, this city of cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and countless other spices put India on the maps of European traders, attracting colonists to India’s shores for the very first time. Since then, Cochin has never stopped exporting these plants for culinary and medicinal uses. Still today, it is regarded as the world’s leading producer of pepper. Modern-day Cochin serves as the capital of the Indian state of Kerala and reflects the varied people who have settled here seeking their own spice fortune.

The British may have had a major influence on Cochin’s development, but their presence was restricted to a small area that comprised Fort Kochi, British Ernakulam on the mainland and the Crown’s regional capital on Bolgatty Island, today draped in picturesque parkland. Indian maharajahs from the Kerala state capital of Thripunithura remained in power and worked in tandem with the local diwan, or prime minister. This left the maharajahs free to finance the arts, culture and education, making Cochin a major center of India.

Cochin Lifestyle and Culture

Portuguese, Dutch, British, Chinese and others have all influenced the cityscape, culture and cuisine of Cochin. Leisurely strolls reveal giant fishing nets whose origins lie in China, picturesque Portuguese houses, an old English village and synagogues and mosques. Many Catholic churches and Hindu temples also dot the bustling streets.

But Cochin is Indian through and through. Residents hail from all over the state of Kerala and much of India. Numerous Indian ethnic communities make up the rich tapestry of the city, and many of them, like South India as a whole, follow a philosophy that embraces the eternal universe by celebrating the beauty of the body and of motherhood. Still, modern fashion is also very much a part of Cochin’s daily life, with many choosing modern wear over traditional saris.

Cochin Sights and Landmarks

In the picturesque district of Mattancherry, the city’s small Jewish community maintains the Paradesi Synagogue and antique shops. Paradesi is the oldest functioning synagogue in India. The Dharmanath Jains Temple is another important institution; two carved elephants greet you at the entry stairs. The Mattancherry Palace is a fascinating example of Euro-Indian convergence as its European exteriors belie the Hindu temple art within.

Cochin’s Chinese fishing nets have become an enduring symbol of the city. These enormous cantilevered web-like traps hover over the water along Fort Kochi’s northeastern shore, waiting to be lowered by a team during high tide. The court of Kublai Khan introduced this high-volume fish trap to Cochin when they arrived here on a trade mission around 1400.

Cochin Entertainment and Activities

Simply wandering the streets of Cochin peels back its many layers of history and imported culture. The Fort Cochin district, the city’s historic center, is at the tip of the Mattancherry Peninsula. Tudor manors have been transformed into hotels, though many are still owned and run by prestigious tea and trading companies still operating today. The region’s inviting beach walkway offers long strolls and wide-open views of the coast. The Indo-Portuguese Museum keeps the ecclesiastical heritage of Portugal alive. You’ll find more evidence of that nation’s religion at St. Francis Church. Built in 1503, it is the oldest European church in India and held the body of Vasco da Gama, the first European to land here, for 14 years until it was moved to Lisbon. Nearby, the Santa Cruz Basilica is one of India’s most impressive and grandest churches.

Marine Drive is another pleasant place for a walk. Shops, cafés, picturesque vistas and soft breezes from Vembanad Lake lure locals and visitors alike. The promenade is known for three bridges that strike dramatic poses over its canals: Rainbow Bridge, Houseboat Bridge and China Net Bridge, each uniquely designed to evoke Cochin’s rich local culture.

Cochin Restaurants and Shopping

Known as the “Land of Spices,” the state of Kerala and its capital of Cochin are world renowned for their flavorful cuisine. Fish, poultry and meat are typically served with rice. Coconut is a common ingredient, as the fruit grows in abundance throughout the region.

To find that perfect Kerala keepsake, visit Cinnamon, home to beautifully crafted Indian clothing, jewelry and home goods. To browse handcrafted items made by local communities, step into Tribes India, run by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Proceeds support the artisans who are keeping their people’s craft traditions alive. For a completely different experience, wander the countless shops of Lulu Mall, the largest shopping mall in India. The 17-acre complex offers around 200 brand-name stores and the chance to ice-skate or bowl ten-pins.