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Kerala Tourist Places - ERNAKULAM (KOCHI)

Area 2408 sq. km
Population 2,797,779 (2001 census)
Altitude Sea level

Ernakulam is located on the coast of the Arabian Sea with Kottayam and Alappuzha districts in the south, Idukki in the east and Thrissur in the north. The commercial capital and the most cosmopolitan city of Kerala, Kochi, in Ernakulam, is also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea. With one of the finest natural harbours in the world, this was once a major centre for commerce and trade with the British, Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch etc.

Inside Ernakulam - Fort Kochi
Access : Backwater ferry/bus/autorickshaw

A leisurely walk through the city is the best way to discover historic Fort Kochi. An obscure fishing village that became the first European township in India, Kochi has an eventful and colourful history. Its reputation as a seafaring commercial town was such that Nicolas Conti, an Italian traveler of the Middle Ages remarked: If China is where you make your money, then Kochi surely is the place to spend it. The town was shaped by the Portuguese, the Dutch and later the British. The result of these cultural influences are seen in the many examples of Indo European architecture that still exist here.

Chinese Fishing Nets/Vasco da Gama Square

These huge cantilevered fishing nets are the legacy of one of the first visitors to the Malabar Coast. Erected here between 1350 and 1450 AD by traders from the court of Kublai Khan, these nets are set up on teak wood and bamboo poles. The best place to watch the nets being lowered into the sea and catch being brought in is the Vasco da Gama Square, a narrow promenade that runs along the beach. The Square is an ideal place to idle, with stalls serving fresh delicious seafood, tender coconut etc.

Pierce Leslie Bungalow

This charming mansion was the office of Pierce Leslie & Co., coffee merchants, founded in 1862. a representative of the Fort Kochi colonial bungalow, this building reflects Portuguese, Dutch and local influences. Characteristic features are wood panels that form the roof of the ground floor, arched doorways, carved doors and sprawling rooms. Waterfront verandahs are an added attraction.

OldHarbour House

This elegant old bungalow built in 1808 is in the possession of Carrit Moran & Co., renowned tea brokers, who now use it as their residence. The house was once a boat club.

Koder House

This magnificent building constructed by Samuel S. Koder of The Cochin Electric Company in 1808 is a supreme example of the transition from colonial to Indo-European architecture. Features like verandah seats at the entrance, floor tiles set in a chess board pattern, red coloured brick like façade, carved wood furniture and a wooden bridge connecting to a separate structure across the street are all unique to this bungalow.

Delta Study

Once a warehouse, this heritage bungalow built in 1808, houses a high school today.

Santa Cruz Basilica

This historic church was built by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. in 1795 it fell into the hands of the British when they took over Kochi, and was demolished. About a hundred years later Bishop Dom Gomez Ferreira commissioned a new building at the same site in 1887. The church was proclaimed a Basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.

St. Francis Church

Built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars, this is India’s oldest European church. This was initially built of timber and later reconstructed in stone masonry. It was restored in 1779 by the Protestant Dutch, converted to an Anglican church by the British in 1795 and is at present governed by the Church of South India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524 before his remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The tombstone still remains.

Mattancherry Palace ( Dutch Palace )

Open : 1000 - 1700 hrs. Closed on Friday
Built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Kochi, the palace was renovated in 1663 by the Dutch. On display here are beautiful murals depicting scenes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and some of the Puranic Hindu legends. The palace also houses Dutch maps of old Kochi, royal palanquins, coronation robes of former maharajas of Kochi as well as period furniture. The thee dimensional portraits of the Maharajas are also noteworthy.


Open : 1000 - 1200 hrs; 1500 - 1700 hrs. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Constructed in 1568, this is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Destroyed in a shelling during the Portuguese raid in 1662, it was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. Known for mid 18 th century hand painted, willow patterned floor tiles from Canton in China, a clock tower, Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, great scrolls of the Old Testament, ancient scripts on copper plates etc.


The area around the Synagogue is a centre of spice trade and curio shops.


This island is famous for its palace of the same name. The Bolgatty Palace was built in 1744 by the Dutch and later taken over by the British. Today it is a hotel run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, with a small golf course and special honeymoon cottages.

Willingdon Island

Named after Lord Willingdon, a former British Viceroy of India, this manmade island is surrounded by beautiful backwaters. The island is the site of the city’s best hotels and trading centres, the Port Trust and the headquarters of the southern naval command.
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In and Around Ernakulam

The Hill Palace Museum , Thripunithura

Open : 0900 - 1230 hrs; 1400 - 1630 hrs. closed on Mondays
10 km from Kochi, Hill Palace, the official residence of the erstwhile Kochi royal family, was built in 1865. The palace complex consists of 49 buildings in the traditional architectural style of Kerala and is surrounded by 52 acres of terraced land with a deer park and facilities for horse riding. A full-fledged ethno-archaeological museum and Kerala’s first ever heritage museum are the main attractions. Displayed inside the thirteen galleries are oil paintings, 19 th century paintings, murals, sculptures in stone and plaster of Paris, manuscripts, inscriptions and coins belonging to the royal family.

Parikshith Thampuran Museum

This museum houses a collection of coins, bronzes, copies of murals and megalithic relics of Kerala.

Madhavan Nayar Foundation

Open : 1000 - 1700 hrs; Closed on Mondays
Just 8 km from Ernakulam, at Edappally, the Foundation houses the Museum of Kerala History and its Makers. The museum showcases historical episodes from the neolithic to the modern era through life size figures. Light ‘n’ sound shows are regularly organized with commentaries in English and Malayalam. There is also a gallery of paintings and sculptures, displaying over 200 original works by contemporary Indian artists. The Centre for Visual Arts has a collection of the authentic reproduction of selected world masters and larger-than-life mural reproductions of Indian art.

Kaladi : (35 km)

The birthplace of Adi Sankaracharya, the great Advaita philosopher of the 8 th century, Kaladi is 10 km from Aluva. Temples dedicated to Sri Sankara, Sarada Devi, Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna add to the sanctity of the destination. A place called Crocodile Ghat is where Sri Sankara took his vows of renunciation. According to legends, a crocodile caught hold of him and refused to release him until Sankara’s mother Aryamba permitted him to accept Sanyas (renunciation).


Distance : 30 km from Kottayam town
Situated in the high ranges on the southern bank of the Periyar, Kodanad is one of the largest elephant training centres in south India. Elephants specially trained for safari are provided with saddles for riding. There is also a mini zoo for wild animals here.


Distance : 42 km from Ernakulam town
This is a rare geographical combination of three rivers, seven inlets, hillocks and vast expanses of green plains. The Paliam Palace, abode of the Paliath Achans, hereditary Prime Ministers to the erstwhile Maharajas of Kochi, represents the architectural splendour of Kerala. The Palace houses a collection of historic documents and relics. The hillocks at Kottayil Kovilakom presents the unusual sight of a temple, a church, a mosque and the remains of a Jewish synagogue, all situated next to each other. Also interesting is a visit to the remains of the Vypeenkotta Seeminary built in the 16 th century by the Portuguese.


Distance: 47 km from Kochi
Malayatoor is famous for the Catholic church on the 609 m high Malayatoor hill (dedicated to St. Thomas). Thousands of devotees undertake the pilgrimage to the shrine to participate in the annual festival - Malayatoor Perunnal (March/April). St. Thomas is believed to have prayed at this shrine.


Distance: 50 km north east of Ernakulam town
A picturesque haven situated in a vast virgin forest, this mythologically popular picnic spot lies close to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Thattekkadu. Two of the main irrigation projects of Ernakulam district - the Periyar Valley Irrigation Project and the Idamalayar Irrigation Project - are also located nearby. Trekking through the enchanting wilderness to the old Bhoothathankettu holds promises of excitement to adventure lovers.

Thattekkadu Bird Sanctuary

Distance: 20 km from Kothamangalam on the Kochi - Munnar route
This sanctuary, nestled in evergreen forests, was discovered by the renowned ornithologist of India, Dr. Salim Ali and is named after him. The sanctuary is noted for indigenous birds like the Malabar grey-hornbill, the woodpecker, rose-ringed and blue-winged parakeet etc. Rare birds like the Ceylon frog-moth and the Rose-billed roller are also seen here. Diverse migrant species home in here during season. Wildlife can also be sighted often.