A Fort Kochi cycling experience

Cycling in Kerala can be a refreshing experience, and it is one of the best ways to explore Fort Kochi – an idyllic seaside locality in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, India. This post covers my Fort Kochi cycling experience.

Fort Kochi is a small area with a glorious past that melds rich colonial history, culture, art, and food. No trip to Ernakulam (also interchangeably called ‘Kochi’ – earlier ‘Cochin’) is complete without visiting Fort Kochi.

It is one of my favourite places in Ernakulam and a ride to Fort Kochi will definitely feature in the top cycling routes in Kochi and top things to do in Ernakulam. This lovely, colourful, historically significant place gives me a relaxed, ‘Goa feel’ every time I visit.

Here is an earlier post I had written about Fort Kochi. You can see some great images of Fort Kochi there. Read the article on places to visit in Fort Kochi here:

I have done my fair share of cycling in Kerala, but I had never cycled around Fort Kochi. So I decided to do it this time. I have embedded videos of my Fort Kochi cycling experience in this post. A Fort Cochin cycling tour has to be on your itinerary to Kochi.

Before you get there, let us dive into some details about Fort Kochi.

Fort Kochi history

In the pre-colonial era (before the 1500s), the area of Fort Kochi used to be a small fishing village that was part of the Kingdom of Kochi. This area was given to the Portuguese in the early 1500s by the Kochi king (Here’s an interesting article about the history of Portuguese in Kochi: https://www.colonialvoyage.com/portuguese-cochin/).

The king also granted permission to construct a fort (Fort Emmanuel) in the area, and that is how the ‘Fort’ in Fort Kochi came about. Fort Kochi was under the Portuguese for about 160 years. In the late 1600s, the Dutch took over the territory from the Portuguese and destroyed much of the Portuguese institutions. After about 112 years under Dutch possession, Fort Kochi came under British control. With the Indian independence in 1947, Fort Kochi became free of colonial powers.

How did Fort Kochi get its name?

Why is Fort Kochi called Fort Kochi? The first part of the name comes from Fort Emmanuel – the first fort that the Portuguese constructed in this region.

As per online records, the second part–originally Cochin– meant ‘like China’ (co-chin) since the place resembled China when the Chinese first came across this area in the fourteenth century. They installed Chinese nets, which have become symbolic of Fort Kochi. When you cycle through Fort Kochi, you can see these.

Another source mentions that Kochi got its name from ‘kochu azhi‘, meaning ‘small lagoon’ (in the local language Malayalam.)

Cochin is the anglicized name of Kochi.

Where is Fort Kochi located?

Fort Kochi is located in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, about sixteen kilometres away from Kochi city (the mainland). One can reach Fort Kochi through land and water from the mainland.

I took a ferry to Fort Kochi from Vypeen and later returned to the mainland through the road for my Fort Kochi cycling trip.

Fort Kochi is located very near Mattancherry, another area that drips in colonial history.

Places to visit in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry

What are some of the places to see in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry? Here are a few options (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Colonial architecture: Old buildings and homes built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British during colonial times line the streets of Fort Kochi
  • Art: Fort Kochi is a colourful place – art is everywhere. It is quite an experience to see art on abandoned buildings, trees, walls, and everywhere
  • St Francis Church: Built by the Portuguese in the early 1500s, this is a Catholic church where Vasco da Gama, the explorer, was once buried (His mortal remains were removed to Lisbon later
  • Santa Cruz Basilica: Built by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, this is a place where you can see Gothic style architecture. It is one of the oldest churches in India
  • Chinese fishing nets: Take any famous photo of Fort Kochi, and I bet it will feature Chinese fishing nets. These are still operational and line the shores of Fort Kochi. I find them less beautiful now, though, since most of them are now made with steel rods than bamboo
  • Ruins of Fort Emmanuel: The fort that gave Fort Kochi its name can only be experienced as ruins along the beach since the fort was destroyed by the Dutch and later by the British
  • Fort Kochi walkway and beach: The walkway along the shore leads you to Fort Kochi beach. The place can get crowded in the evenings, with visitors and street vendors
  • Pardesi Synagogue: The Paradesi Synagogue (also known as Mattancherry Synagogue) is located in Jew Town in Mattancherry, is within walking distance from Fort Kochi and is a great place to experience Jewish culture
  • Jew Street (Mattancherry): Jew Street is a narrow street between Mattancherry Palace and the Pardesi Synagogue, famous for its antique shops
  • Mattancherry Palace: The Mattancherry Palace (also known as the ‘Dutch Palace’) was gifted by the Portuguese to the king of Cochin in the 1540s
  • Sunset cruise: A cruise is a great way to experience Fort Kochi in the evenings. Brunton Boatyard hotel offers its sunset cruise to its guests
  • Bishop’s House
  • Kochi Carnival: Held during the last two weeks of December every year, the Kochi (Cochin) Carnival is an entertainment event that reflects Fort Kochi’s past. On New Year’s eve, a giant “pappanji” is burned amid fireworks and music to symbolize the passing of a year and the birth of another. For more details, please visit https://cochincarnival.org/
  • Kochi Muziris biennale: The Kochi Muziris Biennale is a contemporary art exhibition held every two years. For more details, visit https://kochimuzirisbiennale.org/
  • Café culture: Quaint cafes, like Kashi Art Café, can be spotted around Fort Kochi.

Best time to visit

While you can visit Fort Kochi all around the year, October through February would probably be the best time to visit, when the weather will be pleasant.

April through June can get hot and humid.

July through September would be the monsoon season with a heavy downpour. Check out the Kerala tourism website for more details: https://www.keralatourism.org/

Cycling in Kerala: Fort Kochi cycling (Video)

It is 6:30 am. I switch on Strava (if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen, right?) and ride out. The plan is to ride through the beautiful Queens walkway, cross the Goshree bridge, take a ferry from Vypeen to Fort Kochi, and cycle around the place.

Watch these two videos I shot of the ride to experience Fort Kochi:

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Leaving you with a FAQ on Fort Kochi:

Fort Kochi FAQ

  • Where can I get bicycles for rent in Fort Kochi?
    • Use Kochi Metro Rail’s MYBYK app to rent bicycles
    • If you are staying in a Zostel, you can find some options there
    • Contact your travel agent, and they could arrange one
    • You will find locals offering cycle rentals in the main square
  • Where can I book cycling tours (bike tours) in Fort Kochi?
  • Is Fort Kochi worth visiting?
    • Yes, of course. Fort Kochi is a great place to visit if you love art, culture and a relaxed ambience. It is easy to get to as well – Kochi is well connected to most parts of the world by air and land.
  • Is Mattancherry and Fort Kochi same?
    • No, but they are located very close to each other. Mattancherry is located within three kilometres from Fort Kochi, and used to be the spice hub in olden times.
  • Is Kochi and Fort Kochi the same?
    • No. Fort Kochi is a part of Kochi. The three (earlier) municipalities – mainland of Kochi, Fort Kochi and Mattancherry – were combined to form the Kochi Corporation.
  • Is Kochi and Cochin same?
    • Yes, Kochi and Cochin are the same. Cochin is the anglicized name for Kochi. Ernakulam is the district that contains Kochi, Fort Kochi and Mattancherry (among other places).
  • What is the Speciality of Fort Kochi?
    • Fort Kochi has a lot of historical significance, and is the first European township in India. It used to be a major port in the 1500s for trade. Merchant ships from the arab world, China and Europe would dock here to trade for spices. Today, it is known for its beautiful coastline featuring Chinese fishing nets, amazing seafood and a buzzing art culture.
  • How can I spend my day in Kochi?
    • Kochi is a beautiful coastal city where past meets the present. There are many places you could visit, based on your interests. A visit to Fort Kochi has to feature on top of your itinerary while in Kochi.
  • What are some of the best photoshoot places in Kochi?
    • Kochi boasts of some beautiful locations that can look stunning in pictures. This is an ideal place for all kinds of photoshoots, be it for pre-wedding photoshoots, street photoshoots or portfolio photoshoots. Some of the places one could check out are the newly built Queens walkway, Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Marine drive, Kumbalangi, and places near Aluva.

Have you visited Fort Kochi during the Biennale? I had an opportunity to do so a few years back. Check out the photos here:

If you are looking for some lip-smacking Kerala food, do check out my earlier post about a unique toddy shop in Kochi – Mullapanthal

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