Kochi is the largest city in Kerala with a population of 5.5 lakhs. An all weather harbour, Kochi is an important centre for commerce and industry. It has a maritime history that began in the remote past. The Portuguese, the Dutch and the English had established themselves here at one time or the other. In fact Kochi fort was built by the Portuguese with the permission of the local ruler.
Kochi consists of mainland Ernakulam, Willington island, Fort Kochi - Mattancherry peninsula, Bolgatty and Gundu and Vypeen island.
Famed for its natural harbour, one of the finest in the world, Kochi has earned the sobriquet "Queen of the Arabian Sea". Kochi is one of India’s most interesting cities. Here you can see the oldest church in India. The ancient temples, churches and synagogues in this district are of special interest to the archaeologists and historians. From time immemorial, Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British and Portuguese sea fares followed the sea route to Kochi and left their impression on the town. A Jewish community with roots going back to 1000 AD, a 16th century synagogue, and a palace built by the Portuguese and given to the Raja of Kochi which was later renovated by the Dutch are part of Kochi.
Kochi port is one of the largest in India. All the islands that make up Kochi are well connected by Ferry. Bridges and roads connect Ernakulam with Willingdon Island and the Fort Kochi/ Mattancherry. The Portuguese Fort is situated on the northern end of Vypeen Island at Pallipuram. The Chinese fishing nets, a method of fishing established in Kochi during the times of Kubla Khan can be seen at Fort Kochi. Kochi International Airport is situated at a distance of 35 kms from town. Kochi can be reached either by plane, by road or by train (All trains from Trivandrum to Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Bangalore and Mangalore pass through Ernakulam). Kochi is 67 kms from Kottayam and 63 kms along the coast from Alleppey.
St.Francis Church-This Protestant church was built by the Portuguese circa 1510 A.D. and is also the oldest church built by the Europeans in India. Vasco-da-Gama's gravestone is located here though his mortal remains were taken back to Portugal several years later. Originally the church was built of wood. Later it was demolished and rebuilt in stone, probably after 150 years. The Dutch and the English were also masters of the church during their occupation of Cochin. It is now a part of the church of South India.
Kochi Fort-This fort was built by the Portuguese in 1503 A.D. and is at the entrance to the port. The spiderly Chinese nets at the entrance to the harbour, forming a silhoutte against the sky creates an ethereal picture.
Santa Cruz Church-This cathedral was also built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Strangely enough it was blown up by the English in 1795 A.D. in their anxiety to prevent the Dutch from occupying it. It was renovated subsequently.
Bolgatty island- Bolgatty Island is a beautiful island lying close to Ernakulam. This picturesque island has a palace built by the Dutch in 1744 A.D. which is now run as a hotel by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation. The palace was formerly the residence of the British Resident of Kochi. This island is connected by frequent ferry services with the mainland Ernakulam. Boats to this island start from the High Court jetty. Country boats (Machuvas) can also be hired near the jetty.