16 things to do in Fort Kochi
This summer I spent some time volunteering in the gorgeous little fishing town of Fort Kochi. Even though this was one of my favourite places I visited in India, I'd still say you only need a couple of days to see everything but here's my round up of the best things to see and do for however long you might be there.
1. Shopping - This is the best shopping I did in India purely down to the fact the merchants are so much more chilled out, there's none of the hassle that there is in other parts of India, you are free to browse and only purchase if you want to, not just because you've been guilted into it.
2. Jew town - just a 20 minute walk/ 5 minute rickshaw ride away is the small area of Jew town. This is a historical former Jewish community with beautiful synagogues and a range of antiques and craft stores. Its very sweet and feels like you have stepped back in time. There are also lots of cute artsy cafes so well worth a visit for a few hours.
3. Volunteering - Obviously this isn't feasible for everyone but if this is something you are think of doing I think Fort Kochi is a perfect place to do it. There are plenty of programmes to choose from: Woman's empowerment, teaching, medical, dentistry. I did mine through IVHQ and it's a great way to make a difference on your travels, even if you only have a few days to spare.
4. Visit St Francis' church - One of the oldest European churches in India: a gorgeous building open to the public most days, you can even go to an English speaking service on Monday evenings.
5. Chinese fishing nets - This is the main attraction I found when researching Fort Kochi, and for good reason. It's so interesting to see the way the fishing nets are cast into the water and then brought up full of fish (sometimes) which you can then take straight to the restaurant and eat fresh! This is also the best place to watch the sunset from.
6. Walk on the beach - Although this isn't the type of beach you are going to go for a swim or a sunbathe, It's still a very lovely and peaceful place to walk and to people watch.
7. Visit the Kashi Art Gallery - A fantastic gallery which exhibits pieces across all different genres, both locally and internationally. A nice way to spend an afternoon
8. Eat at Kashi Art cafe - Definitely my favourite place to eat in Fort Kochi, linked with the art gallery, the cafe is a quaint and quirky little place with delicious local and international food - Chocolate avocado milkshake is just amazing! You will need to go more than once to fully appreciate the vast and varied menu!
9. Watch the Kathakali dance show - Right, would I recommend this?... I am still not sure. Each state in India has it's own type of dance and this is the production for Kerala. The dancers and musicians train for a minimum of 6 years before their first show and even the make up artists have to train for 4! It's interesting, it's cultural, it's different. It is also very very long! The entire show is 7 hours long in fact, but each night they show about an hour and a half, and you can also go early to watch them apply their make up. I would definitely say go for the experience, but be prepared to be sitting for a while!
10. Cooking class - Not something I managed to squeeze in but wish I had. Keralan food is different to the curries you might be used to. Coconut is in absolutely everything and the spices are usually milder. Personally I much prefer the food in Northern India but Keralan food is also tasty and I wish I had learnt to cook some!
11. Yoga class at Santhi Yoga- My Mum is a yoga teacher and I have been to a fair few classes of all different types of yoga, but this was absolutely the best class I have ever done! (sorry Mum). I think what I liked most about it is they are not afraid to push you, whereas in the UK and other Western countries, instructors may be too hung up on health and safety to challenge their students. This guy twisted me into all sorts of positions I never knew my body could create. I understand this won't appeal to everyone, but I would describe it as a cross between a fast paced yoga class and Thai massage! Payment for the class is made by donations. 400-500 rupees I would say is a good amount to pay.
12. Take a day trip - One of the most popular options for a day trip is the Backwaters of Kerala. Around 2 hours from Kochi, start the day by boarding a house boat and take in the gorgeous surroundings of the slow moving waters. The boat we had had no engine and hats off to the guys that rowed us about all day in 30 degree heat! I tried it at one point and it was not easy!
Stop for a traditional lunch from a banana leaf and learn to make rope from coconut! (They really can do anything with a coconut!). You can also stay over night on board if you can't get enough! Another trip that is possible but probably better as an overnight, is Munnar. A tea plantation around 4 hours out of Kochi, you can visit a spice farm, chocolate factory or tea museum. All of these things do not sound as fun as they are and the surroundings are beautiful so give it a try if you have the time! We also did an off road jeep safari here which was just as fun as it was life threatening!
13. Stay at Forte Kochi - I visited a few different properties during my stay but this was by far my favourite! The brightly coloured colonial building stands out as soon as you are in the area, the service is fantastic and staff couldn't do enough for you! Food was delicious and the room was perfect with big shutters opening out onto views of the village. I stayed here at the end of the trip and it was the perfect place to relax by the pool and catch up on rest after a busy trip!
14. Be an extra in a Bollywood movie - Ok this is a weird one as I am sure this is not a regular attraction. But many agencies recruit westerners to be paid extras in their movies! Now I didn't have the best experience in the end as we were filming from 6pm to 4am! But I am still glad I had the experience and there was free food and beer, which is rare in this part of the country!
15. Art Mural’s - These are all over the village and make the area so much more colourful and interesting.
16. Eat too many samosas - I pretty much lived on samosas the whole month I was in India but the ones from the market in Fort Kochi are particularly special!
This list started off as '10 things to do in Fort Kochi' but I just could not stop. One of my favourite places in India and well worth a visit!