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Moonlit Cycling, Poetry and Other Meaningful Things to do in Fort Kochi.

There are plenty of generic lists of things to do in Fort Kochi out there. But you could look beyond popular places to visit in Fort Kochi and instead, connect with locals over music, poetry and cleaning up Fort Kochi beach, spot humpback dolphins, try yoga, discover traditional food and unique cafes in Fort Kochi, and more!

This post is part of my series to discover India and the world more mindfully in the new “normal”. Please see my detailed safety tips while travelling and recommendations for socially distanced hideouts.

It wasn’t love at first sight when I first visited Fort Kochi some 8 years ago. Merely passing through the city, perhaps the riot of sights, sounds and smells overwhelmed my senses.

But on a trip at the beginning of last year, I took it slow, discovered many unusual things to do in Fort Kochi and overcame the initial sensory overload. Indulging my taste buds in the fusion of hipster cafes and traditional thalis, cycling along the quaint by-lanes and aroma-filled streets of Mattancherry, and connecting with locals over music, poetry and art, I felt my every sense indulged.

Also read: What India and the World Can Learn from Sustainable Tourism in Kerala

things to do in fort kochi, pepper house fort kochi
Things to do in Fort Kochi: Discover old houses and lost stories.

⁣⁣I must admit though, that the more I went beyond the regular places to see in Fort Kochi checklists, the more I felt an ache about the city’s lost potential. If some streets were turned into walking-only streets, the old houses of Jew town better preserved and all Fort Kochi hotels compelled to build in the heritage architectural style, we could have a most unique living heritage destination!

Nonetheless, nostalgic tales from the days of the city’s ancient trading past continue to live on here, and we must wade through many layers to find them.

Meaningful things to do in Fort Kochi

Behold, some of my favorite discoveries, unique places to eat in Fort Kochi and Fort Kochi attractions beyond the beaten path:

Try plant-based food and yoga at Loving Earth Cafe – one of the best cafes in Fort Kochi

loving earth cafe fort kochi, vegan food fort kochi
Couldn’t get enough to the Yum Hum toasts at Loving Earth.

There are plenty of Fort Kochi cafes to choose from, but after nearly a month of living in a stunning little village in Tamil Nadu, I wanted creative, clean, healthy food to pamper my taste buds. Just an hour after arriving, even before I began to explore Fort Kochi, I found my way to Loving Earth Cafe – a gorgeous space with a tropical decor, warm vibe and innovative plant-based menu that immediately lured me in.

The refreshing “Mint my day” smoothie, yum-hum (hummus and home-baked focaccia) toasts and the fudgy chocolate chunk brownies were just the comfort food I needed.

At a time when ethical, environmental and health concerns are making many people reconsider their dietary choices, indulging in a meal at Loving Earth is testimony to the fact that food without animal products doesn’t have to be boring! Infact, I found the food so much more creative than other cafes in the vicinity (especially the popular Kashi Art Cafe Fort Kochi), that I went back multiple times.

Our search for yoga classes in Fort Kochi even led us to their cozy little upstairs studio for an afternoon of intense yet rejuvenating hatha yoga.

Also read: Offbeat Kerala: 11 Travel Experiences to Inspire the Artist in You

Cruise on a boat made in the original Brunton boatyard – and if you’re lucky, you might spot Indian Humpback Dolphins in Fort Kochi!

Spotting humpback dolphins in the Arabian Sea!

Back when Fort Kochi was a bustling trading settlement, it was home to a heritage boat building site called Brunton Boatyard. CGH Earth – which now runs one of the most unique hotels at Fort Kochi on this site – managed to get back a boat built there nearly 81 years ago, retired from service in the Lakshadweep islands, and refurbished it for a sunset cruise!

On board this historic vessel, we set sail on the Arabian Sea, where a school of wild Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins swam just metres away from our boat, as the golden light of the setting sun danced on the waves. Threatened by overfishing and habitat changes, the numbers of these gentle giants have dwindled over the years, so spotting them in the waters off Fort Kochi gave us a glimpse of what we stand to lose.

As we drifted along small coastal villages, Brahmini Kites spread their massive wings above and swerved in the breeze. The iconic (and now symbolic) fishing nets of Fort Kochi made me feel like I was in a time warp.

Also read: What I Learnt Volunteering at a Remote Island in Cuba

Help clean up Fort Kochi beach every Saturday

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Sunset at Fort Kochi beach.

Some four years ago, local residents, including Fort Kochi hotel and homestay owners, came together to clean up their beach. They gradually established the Clean Fort Kochi Foundation, and clean-ups happen every Saturday now.

Joining a beach cleanup drive might not feature on a regular traveller’s agenda during a stay in Fort Kochi, but given that we’re definitely going to relish a sunset or three on the beach, it definitely should be. It’s a great way to learn about the city’s ecosystem, connect with locals and question our own consumption.

Also read: Responsible Travel Tips for Authentic, Meaningful Experiences on the Road

Indulge in a true blue organic Kerala thali at The Village – one of the best restaurants in Fort Kochi

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The sumptuous vegan thali at The Village.

I might never have stumbled upon The Village, given the wide (and confusing) variety of places to eat in Fort Kochi, had it not been recommended by a newfound friend, Krithika – who moved to Fort Kochi a while ago and runs a boutique travel company called The Wander Bug.

Run by two friendly Malayali brothers, this rustic eatery serves up the most delicious, wholesome, organic Kerala thalis, whipped up with locally sourced ingredients and traditional family recipes. Many delights on offer can be customized without animal products, and there’s usually even a daily special vegan dessert on offer. What better way to support a local business while delighting your taste buds?

Also read: How to Travel as a Vegan and Find Delicious Food Anywhere in the World

Go cycling in Fort Kochi under the moonlit sky

Explore Fort Kochi under the moonlit sky – one of the few cycling friendly cities in India.

I can still sniff the humid sea air and see the moon peeping out from behind the clouds in the vast skies above. On quiet nights, instead of wondering what to do in Fort Kochi, we borrowed bicycles from our hotel, zoomed into a map of Fort Kochi and cycled under the spectacular umbrella-like canopies of ancient rain trees.

Past colorful little cafes and boutique shops we rode, along the coast we rode, to the empty beaches with the moonlight crashing into the waves. What a feeling!

Also read: Get Off the Beaten Path With My Gujarat Travel Guide

Keep an evening for open mic poetry, music, art and clay oven pizzas at David Hall Fort Kochi

david hall pizza
The vegan pizza at David Hall; yum!

There are plenty of art galleries and old structures all around, but at David Hall, the history of Fort Kochi seems to come alive. Tucked away amid the rain trees, this 17th century Dutch bungalow has been restored into an art gallery that showcases the work of both local artists and international art inspired by Kerala. We were lucky to catch a block painting art exhibition, beautifully depicting local life in the city and the pace at which it’s changing.

David Hall is one of the few places in Fort Kochi where every evening, local and visiting musicians and poets gather together for an open mic – a cosy venue for some creative inspiration and intimate culture swap, worth ditching other bars in Fort Kochi for! And while you’re at it, give their clay oven-baked cashew cheese vegan pizza a try – DELICIOUS.

Also read: Things to do in Kasaragod to Refresh Your Connection with Nature

Stay in a time warp at Brunton Boatyard – possibly the best hotel in Fort Kochi

The heritage-style facade of Brunton Boatyard.

When I first arrived at Brunton Boatyard, I was convinced it was atleast a 100 years old. The intricate wooden ceilings with Dutch and Portuguese influences. The “pankhas” – once manually worked by a “pankhawala” to keep it cool. The tea lounge reminiscent of the British era. The arched walls and windows. The old school switchboards. It felt stuck in time…

Much to my surprise, it turned out that it was built only about twenty years ago, by a Swiss architect who specializes in the old architecture of Fort Kochi. It is located on the site of the original Brunton boatyard though! ⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣Besides being an ode to the local architecture, Brunton Boatyard practices rainwater harvesting and is a single use plastic-free zone. They have their own bottling plant to serve up drinking water in glass bottles and offer natural toiletries in ceramic bottles. The eco-friendly practices clubbed with a laidback luxurious experience makes it one of the best places to stay in Fort Kochi. Now open with limited inventory in the new “normal”, they seem to be exercising every safety caution to host travellers.

Also read: 10 Incredible Eco Lodges Around the World: Indulge Yourself and Spare the Planet

For Fort Kochi attractions beyond the beaten path, explore little-known villages and backwaters with a local

Kerala backwaters
The magical morning light on the backwaters. Photo: Simply CVR

I sorely wish I had planned to spend atleast one more day in Fort Kochi, for the idea of cycling beyond the beaten path caught my fancy. As part of the Art of Bicycle Trips, a Kerala local offers a half day trip exploring the coastal villages, rice paddies, organic farms and pristine backwaters just beyond.

Having explored the outskirts of Bangalore on one of their cycling trips, I imagine this one too would’ve taken me to a palm-fringed, traffic-free, tourist-free side of Kochi. Atleast I have an excuse to return.

Also read: God’s Own Island by the Kasaragod Backwaters

Your questions about Fort Kochi

Best time to visit Fort Kochi

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The timeless Fort Kochi sunsets.

I visited Fort Kochi in the second half of February, and even though the afternoons were hot and sultry, the early mornings and evenings were wonderfully cool. The winter months from November to February are ideal for exploring this tropical nook of Kerala. 

Avoid the busy Kochi-Muziris Biennale (an international art festival) dates – which attract big crowds and a hike in accommodation prices – unless of course you’re an art aficionado. 

Also read: Sustainable Living Ideas to Embrace in the New “Normal”

Best place to stay in Fort Kochi

The heritage style architecture of Brunton Boatyard; notice the “pankhas” on the side!

When deciding where to stay in Fort Kochi, think about the experience you’re after – and your budget of course. On my first trip, I was strapped for cash and stayed at a low budget homestay. On a work assignment this time, I was lucky to be hosted by CGH Earth. I hope to discover and share more eco-conscious hideouts on future trips.

Also read: Can We Stay Safe Yet Reduce Single Use Plastic During the Pandemic?

Best restaurant in Fort Kochi

breath cafe
A Japanese bowl at Breath Cafe.

There’s no dearth of good restaurants in Fort Kochi, but some of my favourites are:

  • The Village for their Kerala thali.
  • Loving Earth Cafe for smoothies, smoothie bowls, Buddha bowls and vegan desserts.
  • David Hall for wood-fired pizza.
  • Breath Cafe for smoothies and Japanese food.

I hope to try the food at Veda Wellness and Aruvi Nature Life on my next trip!

Also read: 11 Tips to Ease Your Transition Into a Vegan Lifestyle

Shopping in Fort Kochi

kalpa organic store
Shopping in Fort Kochi for organic goodies and superfoods. Photo: Kalpa.

As someone who aspires to minimalism, I rarely shop on my travels, but I was delighted to stumble upon Kalpa – an organic health store that stocks local grains, artisan chocolates, all kinds of superfoods, handmade soaps and more. It’s located right next to The Village restaurant. 

Jew Street also has a treasure trove of stores with unique antiques from the times gone by.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Fashion in India

Things to do in Fort Kochi at night

kathakali
A mesmerizing Kathakali performance in Kerala.
  • Cycle along the quiet lanes of Fort Kochi. Follow the coastal road from Brunton Boatyard via St Francis Church and Fort Kochi beach to the Salafi Masjid, and pedal back through the quaint by-lanes.
  • Attend open mic for music, poetry and wood-fired pizzas at David Hall at 6 pm every evening.
  • Catch Kathakali at the Kerala Kathakali Centre.
  • Keep a lookout for local music and art festivals at the promenade. We serendipitously arrived in Fort Kochi on the evening of a traditional dance festival and caught a stunning Theyyam act.

Also read: How to Indulge Your Wanderlust at Home During the Pandemic

Other unique places to visit in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry

mattancherry
Street art in Fort Kochi.

I need to plan a third trip to leisurely explore the wonders of Jew Town. If the Fort Kochi synagogue is anything to go by, four centuries of history linger beyond the off-putting traffic and sellers that now line its streets. I’ve heard of some restoration initiatives in the area, and sure hope some of Kerala’s unique heritage can be salvaged before it’s too late.

Also read: Awe-Inspiring Uttarakhand Homestays: Tune Out of Life and Tune Into the Mountains

Getting to and around Fort Kochi

cycling fort kochi
Morning cycling in Fort Kochi.

Bike rental in Fort Kochi

Most hotels and accommodations offer a bike rent in Fort Kochi – and even if they don’t have their own bikes, they can definitely arrange one for you. Ask ahead of time.

You can also get in touch with BLive to do one of their e-bike trips.

Fort Kochi ferry

For the price of a few rupees, you can hop on to the Fort Kochi ferry to Ernakulam, Vyleen or Willingdon Island – a great budget way to experience the water and the local life around.

Airport to Fort Kochi / Ernakulam to Fort Kochi

Last I heard, multiple air-conditioned buses now ply from Kochi Airport to Fort Kochi. It’s best to arrive during the day and ask at the information desk. It’s also possible to take the ferry part of the way to cut down the travel time.

Cherai Beach to Fort Kochi

On my first trip to Fort Kochi, we did the long drive on a scooter to Cherai Beach, to be somewhat disappointed by our destination. I hear it’s a lot more popular now, and don’t particularly recommend it.

things to do in fort kochi
PIN this post for a future trip!

What are some interesting things to do in Fort Kochi you’ve discovered on your trip? What are you most looking forward to?

*Note: I travelled to Fort Kochi on assignment for CGH Earth. As you know, opinions on this blog are always my own.

3 Comments

  1. To visit India I really consider to be something very special. Fort Kochi seems to be a marvellous place and I thank you very much for your tempting information!! As I am inteerested in history I am curious to know how the indigenous people live in that region.
    All the best:)

  2. Beautiful pics of Kochi!!! Kerala is a treasure in many ways and to see Kochi elegantly personified in your words and pics is just wonderful…. It’s been so long having closely followed your travel stories for some time. Will start that again..😊

  3. oh perfect! My uncle is travelling to Kerala next month. I will have to show this to him.

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