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Very much an off-the-beaten-track destination, Kochi is a backpacker’s paradise. A trip to this coastal city in the Indian state of Kerala invokes images of the town’s past, when it was instrumental in the spice trade. Here, an amalgamation of Arabian, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and British influences, make for a rich experience.
Qatar Airways’ flights to Kochi introduce both seasoned travellers and novice explorers to a location that, once experienced, is never forgotten.
A trip to Kochi is full of unique experiences and stunning places to see. For centuries, Kochi’s merchants traded black pepper and cardamom with Arabian, Chinese and Western customers. The result is a patchwork culture that bears the imprint of these early commercial visitors.
The most recognisable sight associated with Kochi is the Chinese fishing nets, which have been in use since the 14th century. For the perfect photo opportunity, head to the coast in the late afternoon, when the nets are strung up along the harbour.
Another attraction is Mattancherry Palace, constructed by the Portuguese and presented to the Raja of Kochi in 1555. Also known as the Dutch Palace, the building was renovated by Dutch colonists more than 100 years later. Today, it is home to a small museum distinguished by a collection of rare and unusual artwork.
A short drive from the Mattancherry Palace will take you to the Maritime Museum, which is housed in former bomb shelters. The museum traces the history of the Indian Navy and the state’s maritime trade during Portuguese and Dutch rule, through relief murals and information panels.
To learn more about Kerala's culture, head to the Kerala Folklore Theatre and Museum, on the outskirts of Ernakulam. To discover what lies beyond the city walls, take the ferry from Fort Kochi out to Vypeen Island and visit Cherai Beach.
Kerala is known as an important centre for ayurvedic medicine techniques, and there are plenty of spas in Kochi offering treatments for relaxation and wellness.
If you want to see classical Indian performances when you travel to Kochi, head to the Kerala Kathakali Centre, which presents Kathakali shows, an ancient form of dance-drama.
You can also turn your vacation into a tasty and culturally immersive experience by taking a cooking course. The lessons usually start with a visit to a local market to collect your ingredients, followed by step-by-step instructions on how to create authentic Kerala dishes.
Kochi features a maze of canals, lakes and lagoons. The best way to experience this is to take a boat tour, where you can also watch the sun set.
Kochi’s culinary offerings burst with flavour. More than 600 years of spice trade and colonial influences have created a taste unique to this region.
Because it is a coastal city, seafood plays an important role in local dishes, for both street stalls and high-end restaurants. Thattukadas are the city’s street-food vendors, selling stuffed or plain thattu dosas, hot Kerala parottas and kanzhi (rice porridge).
There are also several excellent Arabic restaurants throughout the city, offering shawarma and grilled chicken.
Kochi’s vibrant markets exude a certain level of organised chaos, with several small shops selling various knickknacks and souvenirs.
Away from the markets there are plenty of locations where you can buy authentic Indian clothing. Look for Ayurvedic clothing and fabrics made from organic cotton, which use natural herb dyes, producing a remarkable range of colours.
There are two main shopping festivals during the year: the Onam Festival (from August to September) and the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (15 December to 30 January). For the best bargains, head for the malls such as Lulu, which is the largest in India.
Essential facts about Kochi
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip