The annual exams are over and the schools have closed for the summer vacation. Now it is the time to have some fun and what better way for that than setting out on a short trip. Residents of Kochi are much fortunate in this regard as there are numerous internationally-renowned destinations in Ernakulam district. The place lures travellers with its picturesque hills, green midlands, and stunning coastline.
Kochi's own Chinese fishing nets
Kochi backwaters are lined with grand Chinese fishing nets. This sight has been attracting tourists from all parts of the world. The nets can be seen on the Vembanad Lake, Periyar river and its tributaries. Travellers can head to areas such as Kottuvally, Varapuzha, Pizhala, Cheranalloor, and Kadamakkudi to enjoy the view of these nets.
Sea trade has connected the ancient Muziris port, and later Kochi, to foreign countries for ages. It is believed that Chinese sailor Cheng Che introduced these nets in Kochi. Another legend says that the Chinese nets were the contribution of Portuguese sailors who arrived in Kochi from Macau.
Apart from the Chinese nets, a trip to Marine Drive in the heart of the city is also rewarding, especially in the morning. For children, Subhash Park and Children’s Park are ideal locations.
Five beaches in a radius of 25 km
Kochi is also blessed with an amazing coastline that flaunts several stunning beaches. There are, in fact, five beaches in a radius of 25 km in the Vypeen area. The nearest to the Kochi city is Puthuvypeen beach and its highlight is a lighthouse. A little further ahead is the Chathangad beach. Visitors can frolic on the sands and engage in a game of beach volleyball or football here.
Meanwhile, Kuzhuppilli beach lures travellers with its casuarina trees which provide the shade for visitors to enjoy the views of the sea. The place is also the landing area for small fishing canoes and tourists can observe the live catch at close quarters.
At Rakteswary beach, statues of Dr Ambedkar, Ayyankali and others greet visitors. The next destination is the Cherayi beach, which is a 15-km-long clean area along coast. Near the beach are located several resorts built in Keralite traditional architecture, adding to the charm of the place. Cherayi is also well-known for eateries serving local dishes.
Munambam-Muziris beach is quite near Cherayi and visitors can experience the sea from very near by climbing to the top of the groynes.
Fort Kochi and Mattancherry are two ancient quarters of Kochi that attract the largest number of foreign tourists in this region. A major trade centre since ancient times, Mattancherry witnessed the arrival of several foreigners, including Arabs. Later, it became the residential area of Jews. Most of the Jews left for Israel when that country was formed, but some still remain in Kochi. The highlights of the place include Jew Street, Synagogue, Mattancherry Palace, and Jain temple.
Meanwhile, Fort Kochi was the European quarter of Kochi. It was also the first European township in Kerala. Places of interest in Fort Kochi are Santa Cruz Basilica; St Francis Church, where Vasco da Gama was initially buried; Portuguese Museum; Dutch cemetery; Chinese Fishing Nets and other historic places. The European architecture in Fort Kochi still draws numerous visitors. In addition, Carnival, the biggest new year celebration in Kochi, is also held in the area.
The green destinations
While the sea and the backwaters are the attractions in the west of the city, an entirely different topography beckons visitors to the East of Kochi. It is the Periyar river that dominates the land here. At Vengoor, near Perumbavoor, is located Paniyeli Poru, a charming waterfall in the Periyar. However, the place is quite dangerous with slippery rocks and the Tourism Department has left out Paniyeli Poru from its official list of attractions. Authorities have not banned visitors, but advise them only to enjoy the sight and not venture into the waters.
The other attractions in the area are the Bhoothathankettu Dam and the pristine forests of Thattekkad. The dam is 11 km from Kothamangalam town across the Periyar. Even before the dam was built, a natural rocky structure resembling a dam existed at the spot which still can be seen. Several rocks have been arranged between two huge rock formations blocking the smooth flow of the river. According to myth, this was an ancient dam built by ghosts (Bhoothathans).
The Thattekkad forest which includes the Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary is near the dam. A boat service is available from the dam to Thattekkad.