Back in 2020, I was looking to plan an epic vacation, and I wanted to go somewhere that I had never been to before. So I checked out the list of top 10 cities in the world to visit, and two destinations jumped out at me – Cairo, Egypt and Kochi, India.
While I knew plenty about Cairo already, I honestly didn’t know much about Kochi, so I did a bunch of research. And I fell in love with the area and all it had to offer, so I decided to book a vacation there. But then the pandemic happened, and any thoughts of travel went right out the window for the foreseeable future.
Now, two years later, it’s safe to travel once again, so I’m excited to finally make this vacation a reality and experience all that this region has to offer. If you’ve never heard of Kochi before, let me give you a little background on it and why you might want to visit there.
Kochi (also known as Cochin) is a major port city on the Malabar Coast of India bordering the Laccadive Sea, which is a part of the Arabian Sea. It is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala and is commonly referred to as Ernakulam. Kochi is the most densely populated city in Kerala, and its home to a solar-powered airport, great bohemian cafes, traditional and contemporary Keralan art, celebrated southern Indian cuisine and colonial British, Dutch and Portuguese architecture.
If you want to visit Kochi, you’re going to want to fly into Cochin International Airport, located at Nedumbassery, which is about 17 miles north of Kochi. This airport handles both domestic and international flights and provides direct connections to popular international destinations in the Middle East, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. For me, the easiest way to get there was flying out of New York City to Dubai, and then connecting on a Dubai to Kochi flight.
With so many things do to, you should definitely plan out your activities in advance. A great way to get started is by doing a Backwater Day Tour, where you sail through the palm-fringed backwaters on a houseboat. Relax on board a renovated rice barge as you watch the Kerala countryside slide past. Enjoy the sun or retreat to the shade, and indulge in some delicious local food for lunch, served on a banana leaf.
You absolutely must take in a Kathakali performance. This classical art form emerged from the ancient art forms called Krishnattom and Ramanattom. Kathakali means “story-telling by pantomime”. The actors don’t speak – the performances are completely based on facial expressions, movements and gestures of the actors. Applying the Kathakali make-up is a slow transformation of the actors from mortal beings to immortal divinities and demons. This metamorphosis takes place in front of the audience and takes around 2–3 hours until the actors are fully costumed and painted.
Fort Kochi, situated on the Fort Kochi/Mattancherry peninsula, is the historical part of the city and home to many tourist attractions, such as the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, the Mattancherry Palace and the Santa Cruz Basilica. The famous Kochi-Muziris Biennale which is an international exhibition of contemporary art is held in and around here.
Jew Town, a narrow street between Mattancherry Palace and the Synagogue, is a very popular tourist destination for shopaholics and antique lovers. There are popular antique shops along the street containing beautiful items with quirky and interesting stories, along with spice and perfume shops. The colonial buildings lined up in the street add to its quaint charm too. A large bronze vessel (Vaarpu) which is around 3 meters in diameter is a big attraction here.
Sports fans will definitely want to check out Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (also known as Kaloor International Stadium). With a capacity to hold 80,000 spectators, the stadium was built in 1996 originally as a football stadium and has played host to a number of international cricket and football matches. The architecture of the stadium is unique compared to others in India.
If you’re a foodie, you’re in luck, as Kochi is called the official food capital of Kerala, with the largest number of restaurants and cafeterias in Kerala that serves every kind of delicious cuisine. Keralite cuisine is generally characterized by an abundance of coconut and spices, and being close to the ocean and the backwaters, Kochi has an abundance of seafood. A service known as You Buy, We Cook is available at the waterfront of Fort Kochi, where fresh seafood purchased from the nets is cooked as per the customers’ needs.
You can also get hands-on and really immerse yourself in the local flavors by taking a cooking class. Not only will you get to experience some great Keralan cuisine, but you’ll get to spend some time with locals and learn all about them, something you can’t get at a restaurant. Maria’s South Indian Cooking Class comes highly recommended online, and the class takes place in her second-floor home on Burger Street. Unlike many other cooking classes which offer a relatively fixed menu, Maria asks what you would like to cook and eat together. For the class itself, the ingredients are pre-prepared and laid out so that you can focus on learning about the food, understanding the ingredients, and helping Maria to cook it all. At just $11 per person, this is a bargain!
As we mentioned earlier, Kochi is also known for its great bohemian cafes, and Kashi Art Café is one of the hippest and most stylish spots to escape the heat while enjoying some amazing food and drinks. Choose from modern twists on local food, vegetarian and vegan friendly meals, and smoothies, juices, and coffee. It’s also a good place to get some work done, if you need to check in with work while you’re away.
Lastly, you will want to figure out where you want to stay while in Kochi. Depending on your budget, you can choose between hostels, guesthouses, and traditional hotel chains. Regardless of which you choose, prices are extremely reasonable, with basic rooms starting at $16/night, and high-end accommodations like Le Meridien Kochi starting at $80/night. Talk about an incredible bargain, am I right?
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface about what Kochi has to offer, but as you can see, there’s a lot for visitors to take in here, all without breaking the bank. So if you’re looking for a vacation that consists of more than just laying out at the beach and working on your tan, consider visiting Kochi. You won’t be disappointed. If Kochi is your first stop in Kerala, then chances are that you’re flying into Cochin International Airport. It’s easy to find a Dubai to Kochi flight, so that might be your best bet.
Once you arrive here, there are three options to get to Kochi, the airport bus, a local taxi, or a private taxi. The airport bus is the cheapest at just $1.2, but the trip will take you 2 hours or more depending on traffic. A local taxi costs a bit more at $17, but travel time is only around 90 minutes. A private taxi will cost the most, but this option will take you straight from the airport to your hotel.
Happy travels, and be sure to let us know what your favorite part of Kochi was!