Spreading across islands and promontories between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters, Kochi (long known as Cochin) is Kerala’s prime tourist destination. Its main sections – modern Ernakulam and the old peninsular districts of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin to the west – are linked by bridges and a complex system of ferries. Although some visitors opt to stay in the more convenient Ernakulam, the overwhelming majority base themselves in Fort Cochin, where the city’s complex history is reflected in an assortment of architectural styles. Spice markets, Chinese fishing nets, a synagogue, a Portuguese palace, India’s first European church and seventeenth-century Dutch homes can all be found within an easy walk.
While the majority of visitors use the city as a base for day-trips into the surrounding backwaters and satellite villages, there’s nothing to stop you doing the opposite, basing yourself in quiet backwater locations out of town – such as Vypeen Island to the north, or Kumbalanghi to the south – and travelling in to see the sights by bus, taxi or auto-rickshaw. There is some outstanding homestay accommodation in Kumbalanghi village.