Pristine backwaters, rustic houseboats, lush green hills, and fresh seafood make Kerala a dream vacation. The labyrinth of backwater pathways was certainly our favorite, and a fantastic way to experience Kerala. We are excited to share our Kerala adventures with you.
Kochi is the capital and commercial hub of Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast of India. With several architectural, cultural and natural attractions, Kochi never ceased to captivate us. There are 5 airports in Kerala, but the largest is Cochin International Airport. Kochi is also referred to as Cochin. Kochi is a major port city and also nicknamed the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
Winters are the best time to visit Kochi. Peak season is October to March, where the weather is perfect and not too warm. March marks the beginning of summer and temperatures rise to the hottest of the year in April. July to September is monsoon season where rainfall is high. During this off-peak season, you can get great deals on hotels. Remember an umbrella and raincoat if you plan your trip during monsoon season.
We stayed at the Taj Malabar Resport & Spa in Cochin, which is about an hour away from the Cochin airport. This enchanting hotel combines old-world charm and luxury services, while overlooking the harbor. While we checked into the hotel, we sipped on a lovely welcome drink, some warm tea. We were also given some local spices.
Breakfast at the Taj was fantastic. Delicious spreads of local Indian favorites and traditional American continental breakfasts were available. We ate dosa, croissants, eggs and lots of fresh fruit.
Taj offers an hour-long cruise on on the Cinnamon Coast in a stylish luxury yacht. The breathtaking views of the sea during the sunset make for a delightful experience. We sipped on tea, while eating cookies, muffins, sandwiches, light beverages.
During the cruise, we saw the Chinese fishing nets, which have been used in Kerala for over 500 years. These nets symbolize the rich exchange of culture in India.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Kerala in 1498. The Portuguese dominated the trade and governance of Kerala for ~150 years. Their power was destroyed by the Dutch in 1663. We visited the Mattancherry Palace, which is also known as the Dutch Palace. This Palace was built in the 1550s and gifted by the Portuguese as a present to the king of Cochin. Inside the palace are several beautiful Hindu murals.
Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in the the former British territories. This synagogue was constructed in 1567 in Old Cochin, and is currently the only one of seven synagogues in the area that is still in use. It’s adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace. Paradesi means “foreigners” and this applied to the synagogue because it was built by Sephardic or Spanish-speaking Jews, some of them from families exiled in Aleppo, Safed and other West Asian localities. It is also called the Cochin Jewish Synagogue or the Mattancherry Synagogue.
The highlight of our trip were the backwaters in Alleppey. Alleppey is known as the Venice of the East. Backwater trips on houseboats can be overnight or a day trip. We selected a day trip, but if we had to do it again, we probably would have done it as an overnight trip. These serene natural backwaters offer views of lavish paddies, small chapels, Chinese fishing nets, ducks, water lilies and more.
Our lunch on the houseboat was fantastic. We bought some crab and fish from some local fisherman that the crew prepared in typical Kerala fashion. We also ate chicken curry, dal with roti and rice.
We highly recommend a visit to the picturesque island of Bolgatty and the beautiful Bolgatty Palace. This exclusive mansion was originally built by Dutch traders in 1744 and it is the oldest Dutch palace outside of Holland. In 1909, the Palace was leased to the British and in 1947, when India attained independence, the palace became the property of the state and was converted into a heritage hotel. The grounds are spectacular and we highly recommend a visit.
As the gateway to Kerala, Kochi has been an important spice trading center since the 14th century. At the Kochi Spice Market, the fragrance of spices penetrates all your senses as soon as you step inside the market. You won’t be able to walk away without buying some of the finest ginger, cloves, cardamom, turmeric and pepper.
We saw some beautiful handmade Rajasthani dolls in a stall in the market. They were colorful and vibrant.
Kathakali is a classical Indian dance in Kerala that is full of elaborate colorful make-up, costumes and masks. This dance traditionally performed by male dancers incorporates movements from ancient Indian martial arts and athletic traditions of South India.
We stopped by a Hindu temple on our last day. We highly recommend a trip to Kochi, the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
“God’s own country Or a heaven on earth. Place full of mountains, greenery and streams, Oh Kerala, God created you with utmost care”. – Rekha Menon