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A vibrant city with the imposing...
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Lying on the northern outskirts of Kochi, Kodungalloor is noted for its historic forts, opulent temples and serene mosques. This coastal town is also believed to be the place where the Apostle, St Thomas, landed in 52 AD. The main attraction in Kodungalloor is the Cranganore Fort that was built by the Portuguese. The ruins of the fort still reflect the grandeur of the structure that once boasted 18-ft-thick walls. Another attraction is Kodungalloor Bhagavathi Temple, dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali. An ancient temple, it draws devotees from all over the region and sees huge footfalls during festivals and rituals. Tourists can also pay their respects at the Chennamangalam Synagogue that has been constructed in traditional Kerala style. It is among the oldest synagogues of the Malabar Jews. Tourists can also visit the Cheraman Mosque that faces east unlike other mosques in the region that face west. Another attraction nearby is Kottakavu Church that belongs to the Syrian community living in Kerala. It is believed to be one of the seven original churches established by the Apostle St Thomas. In 2006, the Department of Cultural Affairs, Kerala launched the Muziris Heritage Project to scientifically retrieve and preserve the historical heritage of the region, from North Paravur to Kodungalloor. Some of the other historical and religious sites in the area are: Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple, which is one of the oldest Shiva temples in South India (Lord Shiva is said to have lived here with his whole family); Edavilangu Sivakrishnapuram Temple where Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna are the presiding deities; Chirakkal Kovilakam, the palace of the royal family of Kodungalloor.
Located on the outskirts of Kochi, Vaikom is best known for the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple boasts a marvellous Kerala-style architecture. It is popularly called Kashi of the South. Devotees can also visit Ettumanoor Shiva Temple and Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Mahadeva Temple. It is said that worshipping at all the three temples opens doors to a multitude of blessings. Legend has it that demon Kharasura once did severe penance and prayed to Lord Shiva to attain moksha or salvation. Lord Shiva granted him all his wishes and gave him three lingas, asking him to worship them to attain moksha. Kharasura carried one in his right hand, the other in his left hand and the third tied around his neck. After travelling for long he sat down to rest awhile. When he rose to continue his journey he realised that he couldn't lift the lingas. Upon hailing Lord Shiva, he was told that Lord Shiva would remain where he had been put down to give moksha to anyone who came here to worship him. So it is said that the linga in the right hand is Vaikom, the left one Ettumanoor and the one on the neck is Kaduthuruthy.
One of the best places to buy precious and semi-precious jewellery, antiques, coffee, tea, spices, metal utensils and ceramic products as well as gold, Kochi has bustling markets that are a delight to shoppers. One of the best stops is Mahatma Gandhi Road that boasts a slew of stores that offer a fine selection of national and international brands. You can find budgeted buys of Kerala's renowned sarees. A historical hub, Jew Town will enthral you with its diversity and vibrancy. Lined with antique shops and handicraft stores, it offers a wide display of jewellery, artefacts and furniture. After your shopping spree, you can unwind at the various cafes perched upon the stores and sample authentic delicacies. A popular street shopping haunt, Broadway is crammed with small shops that sell a range of articles from kitchen utensils to clothes.
Tourists can have an out-of-the-world experience on a houseboat in Kochi backwaters. All one needs to do is just sit back and enjoy the scenic views as the boat drifts slowly through quaint villages and lush green environs. The backwaters of Kerala run from Kochi to Kollam, with Alappuzha being the entry point. Fringed by lush palm groves and dotted with quaint hamlets, these picturesque backwaters are best explored on a river cruise that happens in modern houseboats that are kettuvallams or large vessels that were earlier used for trading. While the scenic beauty around the waterways is mesmerising, these spacious and well-decorated houseboats add to the charm of the experience.
Lying about 90 km Kochi, Peechi is noted for the Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary. Teeming with a rich diversity of flora and fauna, the sanctuary houses about 50 types of orchids, teak, rosewood and many medicinal plants. Tourists can spot fauna like tiger, leopard, sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, Asian elephant and Indian bison. Several species of birds, snakes and lizards can also be found here. Spread over an area of 125 sq km, the sanctuary was set up in 1985. The best time to visit is from October to March as tourists can avail trekking opportunities in the surrounding areas. Tourists can also visit a dam, about 20 km from Thrissur, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the region. Spread across 3,200 acre, the dam is a popular picnic spot, where you can soak in natural beauty and serenity.
Poised between the Periyar river and the Western Ghats, the quaint town of Malayattoor, located in Ernakulam district, 50 km from Kochi, is a serene tourist stopover. The main attraction is the Catholic Church dedicated to the Apostle St Thomas. Perched on the 609-m-high Malayattoor Hill, the church invites devotees from far and wide. It draws huge footfalls during Malayattoor Perunnal, an annual festival organised during the months of March and April. Believed to be the largest pilgrim centre devotes to St Thomas, the church is a must-visit during the feast of St Thomas that is observed on the Sunday after Easter.
Ringed by the pristine backwaters of the state, Kumbalangi is the first of its kind eco-friendly tourist village. Rife with flora and fauna, this village is a quaint retreat amidst nature. Lined with mangroves that cut the land from water, the village is an ideal site to see the popular Chinese fishing nets. Tourists can indulge in activities like boat cruising and fishing that are an idyllic way to explore the surroundings. Interestingly, plastic is banned in the village and there are no man-made structures here.
The pilgrim centre of Kalady is famous as the birthplace of Indian philosopher, Adi Shankaracharya, who was born in the 8th century. Kalady is home to two shrines, one dedicated to Dakshinamurthy and other to Goddess Sharda. Kalady is lined with several temples, the most important of which are Sri Krishna Temple, Manickamangalam Temple and Sri Adi Sankara Keerthi Mandapam. To soak in the spiritual fervour of the surroundings, devotees can visit the various ghats around the area that are drenched with peace and tranquility. Tourists can also visit the popular Crocodile Ghat, where it is said that a crocodile once caught young Shankaracharya.
Located in the periphery of Kochi, Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is a haven for bird watchers, boasting over 320 species of avifauna. One of the best sanctuaries in the country, it is spread over an area of 25 sq km and lies at the foothills of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Western Ghats. Some of the popular birds you can spot are Malabar gray hornbill, crested eagle, rose-billed roller, peninsular bay owl and ceylon frogmouth, besides a number of migratory birds. The sanctuary is also home to a deer park, a souvenir shop, a library, an open enclosure for spotted deer and sambar as well as an animal rehabilitation centre. It has been named after renowned Indian ornithologist, Dr Salim Ali.
A quaint riverside hamlet, renowned worldwide for the Kathakali Training Center, Cheruthuruthi is the cultural hub of the state. Located around 120 km from Kochi, Cheruthuruthi lies at the western extreme of the popular Palakkad Gap, and thus enjoys a unique topography. The main attraction is Kerala Kalamandalam, sprawled over a 32 acre area amidst picturesque surroundings. This school is a prestigious institution for the training of classical dance forms like Kathak, Koodiyattam, Ottamthullal and Mohiniyattam. Tourists can get the ‘A Day with the Masters’, a cultural tourism package and visit the costume and Kalari gallery to learn more about the arts. Another attraction is the Irunilamkode Temple, lying a stone’s throw away, which is dedicated to Lord Dakshinamurthy. A rock-cut temple, it hosts a rare idol of the deity that can be seen sitting on a pedestal, with one leg mounted over the other. All four of his hands hold traditional symbols and his head is crowned with silver headgear. There are idols of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Devi sculpted in the temple as well. Legend has it that a few villagers stumbled upon the temple by accident about 300 years ago. Now, it is protected by the Archaeological Department of Kerala government.
The quaint village of Chendamangalam is famous for a 175-year-old synagogue that is one of the biggest in Kochi. Boasting a typical Kerala style architecture, it is noted for its majestic altar adorned with intricate artwork. As you look up, you can see the high roof, painted with bright chequered patterns. Moreover, the synagogue has a wooden balcony with finely carved railings and balusters. Another balcony is exclusively dedicated to women and boasts exquisite wooden craftsmanship. A spiral wooden staircase leads you to this balcony.
Tourists can also pay a visit to the Paliam Palace, the erstwhile residence of Paliath Achans, the prime ministers of the rulers of the region around Kochi. You can trace the glorious history through various relics and documents that are on display here. Another attraction is Vypeenkotta Seminary that was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. Touring through the ruins, one almost feels as if he/she has stepped back into the pages of history.
The famed Chottanikkara Temple, located on the outskirts of the city, is dedicated to Goddess Rajarajeswari, an avatar of Goddess Bhagwati. The goddess is believed to heal devotees of mental disorders and illnesses. She is draped with a crimson cloth in the afternoon, when she is revered as Goddess Lakshmi. In the evening, the deity is worshipped as Goddess Durga and draped in blue clothes. Devotees can also pay obeisance to the idols of Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Lord Dharma Sastha and Upa-Devas, kept in the premises. The architecture of the temple is noteworthy as it boasts a three-tiered gopuram or gateway and an elephant shed or Anakottil. An unmissable sight is a gold-plated high flagstaff that shines when the rays of the sun fall on it in the afternoon. The best time to visit the temple is during the Guruthi Pooja that is performed in the evenings. Tourists can also attend the annual Chottanikkara Makam Thozhal, a festival celebrated with great pomp and show.
Located in a virgin forest, Bhoothathankettu Dam is a breathtakingly beautiful reservoir, where tourists can enjoy serene boat rides. The origin of this place has an interesting myth related with it. It is said that the area, comprising forests and hilly terrain, was built overnight by bhootams (spirits/ ghosts). Thus, the name Bhoothathankettu. As the region's topography was suitable for the construction of a dam, it was made here much later. One of the most picturesque spots in the state, this dam is a popular picnic site. Tourists can also enjoy trekking through the forest that boasts some fine trails. You can also rope in a visit to the famous Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Thattekad, which is located nearby.
Best known for the much-revered Sree Krishna Temple, the town of Ambalapuzha invites devotees from all over the country. Boasting a Kerala architecture style, the temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna, is a fine example of the skill of the artisans of that time. Don't miss Pal Payasam, a delicious daily offering of sweet milk porridge. The temple is renowned for Pallipaana (a ritual dance for Goddess Bhadrakali), which is performed every 12 years by velans or sorcerers. While touring the temple, one can come across majestic paintings depicting the avatars of Lord Vishnu. Interestingly, the temple was the site where the first Ottanthullal, a legendary satirical folk art, was performed. The best time to visit the temple is when the Ambalapuzha Temple Festival is held. An annual event, it is organised on Moolam day of Mithunam month of the Malayalam era.
The backwaters of Kerala, running parallel to the Arabian Sea, are one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Alleppey, or Alappuzha, is especially popular for its houseboat cruises. The tranquil backwater cruises in Kerala are a unique experience, be it short ones in small canoes or boats, which meander through narrow canals, or longer stays on luxurious houseboats, which let you float along the emerald waters fringed by palm and coconut trees, as the serene countryside glides by.
The houseboats that ply here are modified kettuvallams or large traditional trading vessels used for transportation of rice and spices to nearby towns. As road transport gained importance, these graceful sailing behemoths faded away, only to re-emerge as floating hotels offering tourists all the luxuries of modern life. While the scenic beauty around the waterways is mesmerising, these spacious and well-decorated houseboats add to the charm of the experience.
Fringed by lush coconut groves, this 15-km-long beach, on the outskirts of the city, is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Its pristine, calm and shallow waters lapping at the golden sand are ideal for enjoying a relaxing swim. Lying to the north end of the Vypeen island, Cherai Beach offers an amalgamation of backwaters and beach experience. Scattered with unique shells and conch, the beach makes for a fun day excursion. If you're lucky, you can also spot dolphins nearby! While sunbathing on the beach, tourists can spot the popular Chinese fishing nets. You can also indulge in water sports like surfing and speedboat rides. The beach is lined with shacks that offer a fine selection of Malabar cuisine.
A spectacular view awaits you as you sail across the calm waters of the Kochi Harbour area and gaze in awe as the burning orb of the sun dips into the water, painting the sky in myriad shades of orange and red. Marine Drive is one of the best spots for mesmerising views of sunsets. You can sit by the lakeside promenade or take a cruise on the Marine Drive and enjoy the cool wind caressing your hair as you watch the sun sinking below the horizon. Chinese fishing nets, Bolgatty Island and Willingdon Island, set against this picturesque backdrop, make the experience more enchanting. Most of the cruises span two hours and cover prime locations like Fort Kochi and Cochin Shipyard.