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Kochi (Cochin): St. Francis Church: This centuries old church at Fort Kochi was originally built completely 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 originally after he died in 1524 before his mortal remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The empty tombstone can still be seen in the church.

Kaladi is the birthplace of Adi Sankaracharya, the great Advaita philosopher of the eighth century. It is 35 kilometers or 22 miles from Kochi. There are temples dedicated to Sri Sankara, Sarada Devi, Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna in Kaladi. There is a popular legend that a crocodile caught hold of him and refused to release him until Sankara's mother Aryamba permitted him to accept Sanyas (renunciation). The place where this event occurred is called the Crocodile Ghat.

Vamanamoorthy Temple is located at Thrikakkara, near Ernakulam and has inscriptions from the tenth to the thirteenth century

Santhanagopala-Krishnaswamy Temple: The original foundation of this temple was laid in 947 CE according to the inscriptions found at this temple.

The Synagogue at Fort Kochi is 10 kilometers or 6 miles from Ernakulam town in central Kerala. It was constructed in 1568 and is the oldest in the Commonwealth. Destroyed in a shelling during the Portuguese raid in 1662, it was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. In mid-eighteenth century it was hand painted, willow patterned floor tiles imported from Canton in China were installed. A clock tower, Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, great scrolls of the Old Testament, ancient scripts on copper plates in which the grants of privilege made by the erstwhile Kochi rulers were recorded are some of the articles of great historical interest in this synagogue. The area around the synagogue has traditionally been a center of spice trade and curio shops. The synagogue is open from 10 AM to 5 PM except Fridays.

Fort Kochi is 13 kilometers or 8 miles in Ernakulam town. The walking tour of the old streets of Fort Kochi takes about 60 to 90 minutes. This is the ideal way to discover this historic town brimming with tales of myriad seafaring visitors who came here to trade. Many of them stayed in this impressionable land. The eventful history of this city began when a major flood in 1341 CE threw open the estuary at Kochi. It was till then a land locked region. These floods converted it into one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Kochi thus became a haven for seafaring visitors from all over the world. It was the first European township in India when the early Portuguese traders/explorers settled here in the fifteenth century. The Dutch wrested Fort Kochi from the Portuguese in 1663 CE and later in the last phase of the colonial saga, the British took over, the town in 1795. The stature of Fort Kochi reached its peak during the 1660s as a prime commercial center. Its fame spread far and wide - variously as a rich trade center, a major military base, a vibrant cultural hub, a great ship building center, a haven for Christianity among many other reasons. Today, centuries later, the city is home to thirteen different religious and ethnic communities. A few interesting sites included in a typical tour are the Chinese fishing nets along the Vasco Da Gama Square, Santa Cruz Basilica, St.Francis Church, VOC Gate and Bastion Bungalow. Apart from these architectural splendors an assortment of restaurants serving fresh seafood are also popular among tourists. The huge cantilevered Chinese fishing nets are a legacy of its spellbinding past. The nets, set up on teak and bamboo poles, were brought by one of the first visitors to the Malabar Coast, the traders from the court of the legendary Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan. They are erected on teak wood and bamboo poles. Ancient records state that they were first set up in Kochi between 1350 and 1450. Vasco Da Gama Square, the narrow promenade that is parallel to the beach, is the best place to watch the nets being lowered and pulled out of the sea.

The Santa Cruz Basilica is a church built originally by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by the Pope in 1558. It was spared by the Dutch conquerors in 1663. The Dutch destroyed many Catholic buildings and converted most other big buildings into warehouses for goods and weapons. Later the British demolished it partially in 1795. Bishop Dom Gomez Vereira commissioned a new building in 1887. It was rebuilt with beautiful carved wooden panels and pulpit and consecrated on November 19, 1905. The Italian paintings on its walls and most of the interiors are original from the period of its renovation. Considering the historic role of the Cathedral, Pope John Paul II raised it to the status of a Basilica through a special decree in 1984. In 2004 there were elaborate celebrations of its five-hundredth anniversary.

Mattancherry Palace is 10 kilometers or 6 miles from Ernakulam. The Portuguese constructed it in 1557 and presented to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Kochi. The Dutch restored it in 1663. The palace is built in the typical Kerala Mansion architecture and has the Bhagvathi Temple in its central courtyard. Nalukettu is the home of the aristocracy, nobility and upper classes, with four separate wings opening out to a central courtyard. The twin storied palace has panoramic views of the Kochi back waters. It has an exquisite collection of murals covering over 300 square feet of its walls. The themes of these murals have been borrowed from the great Indian epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, and other texts of Hindu mythology as well as legends about the Hindu gods especially the Guruvayurappan. Some murals depict scenes from Kumarasambhavam and other works of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. Also on display are royal paraphernalia like weapons, swings and furniture which offer a glimpse into the lifestyle of the former royal family. It is open from 10 AM to 5 PM everyday except Fridays.

The Hill Palace Museum at Thripunithura is also 10 kilometers or 6 miles from Ernakulam. It highlights the royal collection of the erstwhile Maharaja of Kochi. It was the official residence of the Kochi royal family and is today the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. It was built in 1865 and consists of 49 buildings in the traditional architectural style of Kerala surrounded by over 52 acres of beautifully landscaped terraced gardens that have a deer park and facilities for horse riding. Numerous species of flora including rare medicinal plants grow here. On display in the full-fledged Ethno-archaeological museum are oil-paintings, murals, sculptures in stone and manuscripts, inscriptions, coins, belongings of the Kochi royal family and the royal furniture including the Simhasana (throne). Over 200 antique pieces of pottery and ceramic vases from Japan and China are also exhibited in this museum. Kudakkallu (tomb stone), Thoppikkallu (hood stone), granite memorials, rock cut weapons from the stone age, wooden temple models, plaster cast models of objects from Mohanjodaro and Harappa of the Indus Valley Civilization are some other interesting objects in this museum. This museum houses a gallery of contemporary art that is also worth visiting. It is open everyday from 9 AM to 12.30 PM and 2 PM to 4.30 PM except Mondays.

Kathakali: Kerala owes its transnational fame to a great extent to this nearly 300 years old classical dance form which combines facets of ballet, opera, masque and the pantomime. It is said to have evolved from other performing arts like Kootiyattam, Krishnanattam and Kalarippayattu. Kathakali explicates ideas and stories from the famous Hindu epics Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas. The Kathakali is presented in the temple precincts after dusk falls and is heralded by the Kelikottu or the beating of drums with accompaniment of the Chengila (gong). There is a happy blending of color, expressions, music, drama and dance in this unique Kerala traditional art. Kathakali Make-up: The Costumes that Kathakali dancers wear are very elaborate and the dancer’s face is painted according to a strict code. Great emphasis is laid on the Vesham or make-up which is of five types - Pacha, Kathi, Thadi, Kari and Minukku. The pomp and magnificence of Kathakali is partly due to its typical facial make-up, head décor and the ornamental costumes. An integral part of it is the Kireetam or huge headgear, the Kanchukam the over sized jackets, and a long skirt worn over a thick padding of cushions. The identity of the actor is completely hidden to create a super human being of larger-than-life proportions.
Following are some interesting facts about this unique dance / drama of Kerala:

  • Pacha (Green) - Pacha Vehsam or the green make-up portrays noble protagonists.
  • Kathi (Knife) - Kathi Vesham portrays villainous characters.
  • Thadi (Beard) - There are three types of bearded or Thadi Veshams.
  • "Vella Thadi" or White beard for superhuman monkeys like Hanuman.
  • "Chuvanna Thadi" or Red beard is for evil characters.
  • "Karutha Thadi" or Black beard for the hunter.
  • Kari (Black) - Kari Vesham is used for she-demons.
  • Minukku (Prettying Up) - The "Minukku Vesham" is used for female characters and sages.
  • Mudra - Mudra is a stylized sign language used to depict an idea, a situation or a state of mind or being.Kathakali actor enacts his ideas through a whole range of Mudras. For this he follows a systematic sign language based on Hastalakshana
  • Deepika, a treatise on the language of hand gestures.
  • Kathakali Music - The orchestra is formed of two varieties of drums - the Maddalam and Chenda; the Chengila which is a bell metal gong and the Ilathalam or cymbals.
  • Kathakali Training - Students of Kathakali have to undergo rigorous training replete with oil massages and separate set of exercises for eyes, lips, cheeks, mouth and neck. Abhinaya or expression is of prime importance as is Nritya or dance and Geetham or singing.
  • Together with highly evocative facial expressions, the Mudras and the music that is both vocal and instrumental, Kathakali unfolds stories from a bygone era in a lofty style reminiscent of the Greek plays. Kerala Kalamandalam is the prominent institution imparting Kathakali training in the traditional style.

Ayurveda in Kerala: Ayurveda evolved around 600 BCE in India. Jivaka was a famous Ayurvedic medical practitioner who had trained in the university at Takshila (north of Islamabad in Pakistan) and had treated Lord Buddha when he had wounds in his feet from his long wanderings. This ancient system of medicine stresses on the prevention of body ailments in addition to curing them. Followed by the Dravidians and Aryans alike, Ayurveda has been practiced for thousands of years in India. Today, it is a unique, indispensable branch of medicine - a complete naturalistic system that depends on the diagnosis of the human body's humors - Vata, Pitta and Kapha - to achieve the ideal balance. Ayurvedic practitioners believe in the treatment of not just the affected part of the body, but the individual as a whole. Making it the natural way to refresh and eliminate all toxic imbalances from the body and thus regain resistance and good health. Kerala's equable climate, natural abundance of forests (with a wealth of herbs and medicinal plants), and the cool monsoon season from June to November are best suited for Ayurveda's curative and restorative packages. There are special clinics in many hotels in Kerala that offer the special Panchkarma body massage and other typical Ayurvedic treatments under supervision of qualified and government approved practitioners.

5-star hotels:

Le Meridien Resort & Convention Center – 150 rooms
Taj Residency – 108 rooms
Taj Vivanta Malabar – 96 rooms

Crown Plaza Kochi (Ernakulam) - 269 rooms
Courtyard by Marriott Hotel at airport - 107 rooms
Trident Hilton Cochin – 93 rooms

4-star hotels:

Gokulam Park Inn – 65 rooms
Best Western The Avenue Regent – 53 rooms
Hotel Presidency – 49 rooms
Renaissance Cochin Hotel – 47 rooms
Casino Hotel – 67 rooms
Old Harbour Hotel - 13 rooms
Brunton Boatyard Hotel - 22 rooms
Holiday Inn Cochin - 212 rooms
Ramada Resort Hotel - 42 rooms
Le 3 Elephants Eco Resort - 11 Thatched Roof Cottages on Cherai beach
Ann's Residency - 9 rooms
P J Princess Regency - 30 rooms
Malabar House - 17 rooms
Abaam's Hotel - 26 rooms

3-star hotels:

Fort Queen - 17 rooms
Fort House - 19 rooms
Hotel Arches - 11 rooms
Grand Hotel - 39 rooms
The Mermaid Hotel – 80 rooms
Abad Airport Hotel – 56 rooms
The Metropolitan Hotel – 39 rooms
Hotel Abad Metro – 37 rooms
Sealord Hotel – 35 rooms
Hotel Abad Plaza – 80 rooms
Hotel Abad Atrium - 52
Grand Hotel Cochin – 39 rooms
Sajhome Homestay - 6 double bedrooms
Tissa's Inn Homestay - 9 rooms
Le Colonial Heritage Hotel - 8 rooms (built in 1506)
Eighth Bastian Hotel - 19 rooms
Tea Bungalow - 10 rooms
Palm Grove Service Villa, Ernakulam - 13 rooms
The Malabar House – 17 rooms

Distance from Kochi in Kilometers and Miles:

Cochin International Airport: 30 Kilometers or 19 Miles
Alleppey (Alapuzha):
53 Kilometers or 33 Miles
Kumarakom: 63 Kilometers or 39 Miles
Thekkady: 191 Kilometers or 119 Miles
Calicut (Kozhikode): 225 Kilometers or 140 Miles
Kottayam: 76 Kilometers or 47 Miles
397 Kilometers or 111 Miles
270 Kilometers or 168 Miles
Kanyakumari: 307 Kilometers or 174 Miles
Thrissur: 79 Kilometers or 49 Miles
Thiruvananthapuram: 220 Kilometers or 176 Miles
Kovalam: 238 Kilometers or 148 Miles

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