Dreamy boat rides, history walks, a ride along the coastline, kite-flying, lavish lunches, here are a few destinations in and around Kochi that can spice up your holidays
A day along the coast
At first you don’t see the sea at Kuzhipilly, like at Cherai. Walk 200 metres and it appears as if the sea is parallel to the beach and then suddenly, the beach dips and there it is… glistening water and waves gently lapping against the shore. Parked fishing boats, nets left out to dry…it is a one-of-its-kind seaside experience. If you like your beach clean and less crowded, then Kuzhupilly beach might be the answer. The beach is cleaner because there are no food or snack stalls. So if you are planning to take kids along, do pack a picnic basket. It is the perfect place for a timeout. Watch the sunset or fly a kite at the windy beach or better still, just lie back and enjoy the beach. If you are a beach junkie, and like variety, then besides Cherai, there are the Munambam beach and Puthuvype aka Lighhouse beach on the Vypeen island. If you like angling, then Munambam estuary might fetch you a catch, it is also a good spot for flying kites . Of course, you need to take a kite along, although at Cherai you might get them. The lighthouse at Puthuvype is another place of interest especially for the kids. If you are looking for some fresh catch of pearlspot or prawns, sunset is the time you will get them as fisher folk collect the catch of the day. The drive to these beaches is picture postcard perfect. Roads meander, occasionally narrow and appear to be slicing through the backwaters. The more popular beaches such as Cherai have several eateries along the coastal road, there are hotels and resorts offering a variety of fare in terms of food.
The coastal road from Fort Kochi right up to Alappuzha, a state bus route, is dotted with beauty spots and historically rich places. A gentle ride down the narrow road touches upon a countryside criss-crossed with laidback backwaters and an ardent sea foaming to meet it. Wherever the two meet, as in parts of Kannamally, Andhakaranazhi, Chethy and Marari, it forms a dramatic interlude to a journey that also takes you along spiritual places like the famous Kanamally Church. The church is the focal point of this simple fishing village. The beach at Kanamally is on a bean-shaped lagoon, not large but charming. Drive on the coast hugging road and get a first hand feel of shrimp farming, paddy fields and a close encounter with the fishing community lifestyle. At Andhakaranazhi, inwards towards the land, find one of the largest areas under Pokkali cultivation, an organic variety of paddy. The beach at Andhakarnazhi is pristine. The Tourism Department has built a walkway and refreshment centres. The lighthouse is another tourist delight.
Moving further on, you arrive at the famous Arthunkkal church. Close by is the three-km stretch of Chethy beach which hosts many a film shootings. Catamaran boating is a sport that is being promoted here. The area is culturally rich in Chavuinattakam, an ancient dance drama of the Portuguese legacy.
The Kanichikulangara Devi temple is another spiritual destination that you can visit. Marari is replete with hotels, big and small, suitable for all kinds of budgets. From high-end resorts to inviting beachside outlets, the area is a delight for any visitor. The Mararai Mahadeva temple is another famous pilgrim centre.
The Muziris trail
Hit the Muziris heritage trail and discover buildings, archaeological sites and a landscape that will take you back in time. The ideal way to explore these sites is by taking a boat ride along the Periyar that stops at all the important places on this trail. You can also take the road, perhaps starting off from Kottayil Kovilakom, or the palace inside a fort, the seat of the Kshatriya chieftains of Villarvattom. Here within a radius of hardly 500 metres, visit the ancient temple of a hillock, a Jewish cemetery close by and a mosque. Nearby stands a Jewish Synagogue, the Vypeekotta Seminary built by the Portuguese, which is now a protected monument and the Forane Church. Travel to Kottapuram where you’ll find the ruins of a once magnificent fort before heading to Chennamangalam. The Paliam Palace, a Dutch structure, once used as the residence of the Paliath Achans, the prime ministers to the former Cochin Maharajas, is now a museum. The final phase of work on the museum is on. The famous Paliyam Nalukettu, a typical self-contained structure supposed to have been constructed in 1786, with its huge courtyard, living quarters, common dining hall, kitchen is a must see. If you still have time head to Pattanam, close to North Paravur, a coastal town, where recent archaeological excavations have revealed that it must have been first occupied in 1000 BC and was active till the 10th century AD. The legendary seaport Muziri Pattanam, better known as Muziris, is believed to have been located here. Kodungallur will complete the trail.
A leisurely backwater-boat ride can definitely beat one too many of the vacation blues. An hour’s drive from Kochi will take you to Vaikom, a group of small islands connected by narrow canals and backwater channels, in Kottayam district. The large, shimmering expanse of the Vembanad lake offers a perfect respite from the maddening bustle of city life. Vaikom has plenty of traditional country boats and canoes that will take you into the heart of the lake.
One of the oldest townships of Kerala, Vaikom offers a little bit of everything—entertainment, history, culture and the choicest of seafood. History buffs can visit the Vaikom Satyagraha museum, which tells the story of Kerala’s earliest revolts against untouchability. The Vaikom Shiva temple is located in the heart of the town, a pilgrimage centre which attracts devotees from all over the State and outside.
About 10 km from Vaikom are the famed thaneermukkam bund and ‘backwater-paradise’ Kumarakom. Keen birdwatchers can spot migratory birds at the bird sanctuary in Kumarakom or opt for a quiet cruise along the channels cutting into the interior of the village. A one-day trip to Vaikom is not complete without trying the karimeen in various forms, roast, pollichatu or even the curry. Duck roast, chicken curry and fish moilee, too, would make your trip memorable.
Vaikom is just 35 km from Ernakulam and is well connected by road and rail services.
Time for elephants
Elephant infants, elephant toddlers, young elephants….it is all about elephants at Kodanad. It is one of the State’s primary centres for training elephants. The training centre which is also an elephant nursery of sorts, 40 km from Kochi, is located on the banks of the Periyar. On certain days elephants are taken out in procession, from the nearby temple, which visitors to Kodanad can see and feed them too. You can watch the elephants as they go about their daily business—being fed, washed and trained, too. The entry is ticketed. A trip to the Malayattoor church close by can be combined with the trip to Kodanad.