Cochin: Natural Beauty

by Ellen Clark

Nov 1, 2018
November 2018

TANTALIZING FOR BOTH its rich history and natural beauty, every year Cochin (also known as Kochi) welcomes visitors from all parts of the world. But what makes it particularly attractive to cruise ships is its harbor. Known as one of the finest and safest natural harbors on the Arabian coast of India, it’s no wonder it makes a preferred port of call on repositioning cruise itineraries between Southeast Asia and Europe.

Navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral founded Cochin when the Portuguese penetrated the Indian Ocean in the late 15th century, thus giving Cochin the distinction as the first European settlement on Indian soil. Split into two sections, its more modern Ernakulam district boasts high-rises and a bustling modern vibe, while across the water on a peninsula, the old districts of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin speak to the city’s past. In the historic districts you’ll find spice markets, an impressive collection of colonial architecture, 17th-century Dutch houses, India’s first European church, a synagogue and a Portuguese palace.

One of Cochin’s more unusual sights is the Chinese fishing nets. According to legend, the Chinese explorer Zheng He introduced the nets, brought from the court of the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan. Huge mechanical contrivances hold out the horizontal nets measuring 65 feet or more across, with each installation operated by a team of up to six fishermen. It’s a lot of work for a modest catch, so today the nets remain more of a tourist attraction than a way to reel in loads of fish.

While the nets might be Cochin’s most iconic attraction, one of its most mesmerizing has to be the backwaters. Part of the 560 miles of waterways making up the Kerala backwaters, they consist of a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets. Many cruise ships offer backwater excursions; cruising along the waterways offers a chance to observe a unique way of life. Small villages, individual dwellings and houseboats dot the shore, surrounded by palm trees and lush foliage. Water birds, like kingfishers and cormorants, fly overhead, adding to the overall feeling of tranquility.

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