Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, experienced a more varied array of foreign influences that any other city in India — and many remnants, including religion, are still around for the curious to contemplate. Located on India’s southwest coast, the current capital of the state of Kerala was a natural stopover for ships trading between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. A large harbor developed as a result, and when it was dredged, the port of Willingdon Island was created. It is here that the cruise ships berth amid Indian naval vessels and commercial container ships.
What We Love
Fort Kochi: While the city center propels modern Kochi, it is the Fort Kochi neighborhood that is most interesting to visitors because it reveals the many layers of foreign influence. The immigrants who arrived centuries ago to take part in the city’s early economy were Syrians, Jews, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and English — and they all left their mark. Fort Kochi is also walkable, and safer and more pleasant to explore than the modern, traffic-clogged central business district.
Fishing Heritage: The most romantic-looking holdovers from Kochi's multi-culti past are the giant Chinese-designed fishing nets that undulate with the wind near Fort Kochi's Vasco da Gama Square when they are not being lowered to sweep up a catch.
Best Known For
Historic Churches: Santa Cruz Basilica was built by the Portuguese in 1505 and later rebuilt in the 19th century after it was destroyed by the British in 1795. St. Francis, which dates to the early 16th century, once held the remains (now in Lisbon) of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. (His empty tomb is still here.)
Jew Town: In 1568, the once-large Jewish community built Paradesi Synagogue on Jew Street in what was known as, and still is, Jew Town. Most left when the state of Israel was established.
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Who It's Best For
History Aficionados: Anyone obsessed with the past will love the way cultures converged in Kochi, from colonial-era bungalows to the circa-1865 Hill Palace Museum, the former home of the maharajah that now houses an archaeological collection, paintings, and other memorabilia in its dozen rooms.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's Very Seasonal: March and April are the hot months to avoid, while October through February is the best period to visit. May through September has the heaviest rainfall, and for some, that is an attraction.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.