10 ways to enhance your Cochin experience
Cochin is an internationally renowned destination in South India and functions as a gateway to destinations of Kerala, popularly known as “God’s Own Country”. Cochin is renowned for its Fort Cochin heritage area, Cochin Shipyard harbour front, ancient churches and shopping. There is more to Cochin that can be explored for an enhanced experience.
1. Kumbhalangi Village Tour
Kumbhalangi is a village by the backwaters, just 18 kms from Cochin town centre (Ernakulam) where you have for a wide range of experiences. Here you experience activities such as crab farming, clam meat processing, net making, weaving coconut leaves, Chinese Fishing nets, broom making, etc. and enjoy activities such as farm visits and country boating. A typical programme ends with a traditional Kerala style lunch overlooking the backwaters. Kumbhalangi is a must-do for experiential travellers looking to capture the very essence of backwater character, lifestyle and cuisine of Kerala.
2. Cycling Tours
A 2.5 – 3 hour morning cycle trip in Fort Cochin heritage area is a popular activity to capture its heritage character. Here, you peddle through the heritage bylanes, Chinese Fishing Nets and vibrant markets. You proceed towards the Matancherry area, the typical bustling Old city of Fort Cochin with a distinct Jewish heritage. The tour is excellent for experiential and heritage travellers. There are longer half-day trips available for cycling enthusiasts covering the surrounding backwater villages and experiences around it.
3. Guided Bird Watching
Thattekad (60 kms – 1.5 hours drive) is a prime bird watching destination (also known as Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary) in the outskirts of Cochin. Thattekad is home to 400+ species of birds and is considered one of the best bird watching experiences in India. Thattekad is where you can have a walk in the 25 sq km of reserve forest comprising hills, water bodies, grassland and forests. There are trekking routes, walking trails and view points, all offering the opportunity to sight wide-ranging birds with species such as Malabar Trogon, Srilankan Frogmouth being the prime attractions. Thattekad excursion is typically a full day (8 hour) trip with simple Kerala style lunch in between the walks.
4. Heritage Walk / Rickshaw Ride in Fort Cochin
Cochin offers a number of heritage walk options that would interest an experiential traveller. A popular walk is one that covers heritage monuments, bylanes of Fort Cochin and Matancherry areas. There is a variant of this walk that also has a rickshaw ride between Fort Cochin and Matancherry, adding to the overall experience. More evolved travellers may want to opt for a leisurely evening walk in Matancherry area (Jewish area of the old city) that offers a glimpse of the fascinating history and heritage of the area. Guests staying longer in Fort Cochin area may opt for a ferry ride across mainland Ernakulam to experience the bustle of traditional markets there.
5. Ethnic Cuisine
Kerala is home to a unique blend of cuisine, popular with travellers across India and all over the world. Kerala cuisine extensively uses local produce, herbs and spices and every region in Kerala has its own cuisine variants, making the whole Kerala experience fascinating for foodies and experiential travellers. So, it is not unusual for Cochin, the commercial capital of Kerala to have many authentic Kerala Cuisine restaurants. The restaurant at The Grand Hotel on MG Road is recommended for travellers for an authentic Kerala cuisine experience. Cochin has a Home Cuisine option where those interested in a cookery experience can spend a couple of hours learning to cook Kerala cuisine under the guidance of an expert before the meal (You eat what you cook plus other recipes cooked by the expert Kerala home chef).
Note: During Onam festival, Kerala cuisine restaurants serve “Sadhya meal” for lunch, a festive cuisine from Palakkad region of Kerala (vegetarian) served on a banana leaf.
6. Romantic Dining
Fort Cochin heritage area is renowned for its small heritage hotels having charming restaurants that are popular with couples for a romantic dinner. There are simple cafes by the street-side to fine dine restaurants overlooking the harbour, all having their own character and charm. Restaurants at Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel, Brunton Boatyard, Fort House and Xandari Harbour overlook the Harbour and Arabian sea and are therefore popular for special occasions. The cuisine served in the restaurants of Fort Cochin is often an interesting mix of western cuisine and Kerala herbs and spices, therefore unique to the area.
7. Greenix Village Experience
Greenix Village in the heart of Fort Cochin heritage area is spread over 28,000 sq ft dedicated to presenting Kerala’s art and cultural heritage. It comprises 2 large theatres for dance performances, a cultural museum, a Kalaripayattu training & performing square, an art gallery, a restaurant, a wellness centre and souvenir shop. Greenix Village is where experiential travellers can undertake a wide range of activities / programmes that happen all through the day. Other tourists popularly arrive in the evenings for cultural performances that are scheduled daily and showcase wide ranging Kerala performing and martial arts.
8. Plantation Visit with Lunch
Cochin lies at a base point of the plantation highlands. There are plantations within 50 kms radius of Cochin where you arrive for a half day, loaded with activities such as a rubber plantation walk, visit to a rubber factory, village walk and recreational cycling. Thereafter, you are treated to a most sumptuous and extensive Syrian Catholic style Kerala cuisine before returning to Cochin by the evening. Plantation visit with lunch is popular with a family or small group of friends looking for a plantation experience.
9. Abhayaranyam Zoo Kodanad Excursion
Excursion to Abhayaranyam Zoo Kodanad (45 kms – 1 hour) is a popular excursion option for family travellers with young kids. Here you arrive for an intimate interaction with elephants that includes an elephant ride, elephant feeding, elephant scrubbing and elephant bathing. The zoo is spread over 200 acres having 100 Spotted deer, Sambar deer and young elephants. If you arrive early, (opens 8 AM and closes 5 PM – Monday closed) then you can spend a couple of hours with elephants before returning to Cochin.
Note: Abhayaranyam Zoo Kodanad can also be visited enroute on Cochin – Munnar route.
10. Experiential Stays
There are many stays in Cochin and surrounding areas that offer offbeat / experiential character.
- The Bungalow Heritage Homestay in Vypin area is where you live in a heritage home full of antiques set around the most relaxed setting.
- Poochakkal Backwaters area in the outskirts of Cochin is home to Olavipe Homestay and Ayanat House, both offering the most relaxed setting and fine ethnic cuisine.
- Gramam Homestay in Kumbhalangi is where you arrive for a stay in the heart of a village by the backwaters around wide ranging experiences.
- Kayal Villa is a 2-bedroom villa set in an exclusive 6.5 acre estate overlooking backwaters in the outskirts of Cochin, offering an exclusive experience for a family or small group of friends.
- Beach Gate Bungalows are 3-bedroom bungalows in the heart of Fort Cochin, offering guests exclusive living around prime Fort Cochin heritage area.
In addition to these there are a number of small heritage stays, homestays, villas, etc. – each offering travellers a unique experience.