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With two days in Kochi, you’ll get the best of both worlds: a day to immerse yourself in local history and culture and a day to cruise the famed nearby Kerala backwaters. Here’s how to maximize your time.
Day 1: Historic Fort Cochin
Morning: Spend your first morning getting an overview of Kochi on a half-day guided walking tour. Explore historic Mattancherry Palace, a 16th-century Portuguese structure originally constructed as a gift to the Kochi dynasty king. Inside, learn more about local history as you examine murals and royal artifacts. From here, it’s just a short walk to the historic Paradesi Synagogue, which dates to 1567 and is among the oldest synagogues in India.
Afternoon: In the afternoon, head west to visit Fort Cochin’s two most important churches. The prettiest is the Gothic Santa Cruz Basilica, with frescoed interiors, while the most historically significant is the St. Francis Church, the oldest church in India. Next to the church is the Dutch Cemetery, likely India’s oldest graveyard.
Night: After a day of sightseeing, head to the beach just before sunset to see the famous Chinese fishing nets, oft-photographed permanent structures that allow the raising and lowering of nets through a series of pulleys. Afterwards, top off your evening with a performance of Kathakali, a traditional dance that developed in the region, or opt for a package that also includes a dinner of Spice Coast cuisine.
Day 2: Cruising the Backwaters
Morning: On your second day, head south to the town of Alleppey, where the bulk of Kerala's famous backwater cruises depart. Choose among private half-day, full-day, and multi-day kettuvallam (traditional houseboat) cruises, which sail past villages, jungles, and rice paddies.
Afternoon: Most backwater cruises serve lunch onboard and include South Indian favorites, from fried bananas to locally sourced fish and produce. Spend the afternoon observing life in the backwater, perhaps stopping to visit villages along the canals.
Night: Depending on how early you depart, you’ll likely return to Kochi in time for dinner. For your final night in town, head to the Fort Kochi area, where some of the city’s best restaurants are housed in charming old Dutch buildings. End your evening with a meal of Keralan cuisine, perhaps seafood and dishes such as erissery (pumpkin-and-lentil stew) or ishtu (coconut milk–based stew) with appam (crepe-like pancakes).