Note: These activities can be enjoyed while based in Cochin or, depending on your itinerary, they could be included before or after you visit Cochin.
Food and Cooking
Mundackal Plantation visit
A 1.5 hour drive from Cochin is Mundackal Plantation. A peaceful rubber plantation and the home of Jose and Daisy Mundackal, you’ll be welcomes into their home and served lunch. Syrian Christians, one of the oldest sects in India, form a large community in Kerala and have a distinctive cuisine; they have few food taboos and main meals can include beef, chicken, mutton or fish. After lunch, Jose will take you on a tour of the plantation, explaining how the spices, fruits and vegetables (much of them used in Daisy’s cooking) are grown; if you’re interested he will also take you through the rubber plantation and give you an informative explanation on the process for producing rubber. Easy day trip from Cochin
Cooking class with Nimmy Paul
Visit the home of highly regarded cook and author, Nimmy Paul. Nimmy will host you at her home – a lovely bungalow in a leafy back street of Cochin – with a cooking demonstration in her outdoor kitchen, which is set in a large garden. She will explain the traditions and history behind a range of dishes, which you will then eat for lunch! This lunch will be a traditional sadhya, which comprises several dishes served on a banana leaf. ‘Sadhya’ is the word for banquet in Malayalam, and is typically prepared for marriages and festivals. Takes the best part of a day when staying in Cochin
Cycling and Kayaking
Paddling the Backwaters
Enjoy a day of kayaking through the Alleppey backwaters. Observe the life of the Keralan backwaters as you paddle through narrow canals, waterways, rivers and lakes, passing by peaceful villages, smiling children and farmers at work. Kayaking through the backwaters instead of (or in addition to) taking a houseboat presents the waterways in a completely different light. Full day excursion from Cochin or Alleppey
Cycling the Midlands
Transfer 2 hours south east of Cochin into the midlands of the Western Ghat mountain range, a landscape dominated by rubber plantations, for a day of bike riding. Cycle along quiet, shady roads, through rubber plantations and dense tropical forest, with stops at small villages and towns along the way. This is a wonderful way in which to explore one of the most beautiful regions of south India. Full day excursion from Cochin or Alleppey
Day cruise on a Houseboat
2 hours south of Cochin is Alleppey, the heart of the Kerala Backwaters. At Alleppey jetty you will board a kettuvallum – a rice barge converted into a houseboat, traditionally constructed without nails, using only coir (coconut) rope. Lunch – prepared in traditional Kerala style from local ingredients – will be served shortly after you board. You’ll then spend the afternoon cruising through small canals and lagoons, relaxing on cane deck chairs and observing life in this unique environment. Day excursion from Cochin.
Backwaters by Foot, Bike and Canoe
The Kerala backwaters have been used for centuries by locals for transportation, fishing and agriculture. Travelling by bicycle, canoe and foot, this full day activity takes you off the regular tourist tracks, through narrow channels that are not usually accessible by commercial house boats, allowing you to observe village and farm life and explore the unique ecosystem which sustains it. End the day with a delicious traditional meal made with ingredients from local markets. Day excursion from Cochin
Backwaters by Local Ferry
Small ferries are the primary means of transport in the backwaters. Spend the day with a guide taking ferries through the backwaters, just as local residents do. You can explore some of the small towns between ferry rides, visit some of the many temples and churches that dot the area, have lunch at a local restaurant, and see cottage industries in operation (such as coir making, toddy tapping and beedi cigarette making). This is a flexible activity suited to travellers who like to see where their nose leads them (though having the local guide means you won’t get lost!).
Day with a Temple Elephant
While travelling in south India it is hard to miss the religious significance given to elephants. For instance, in Kerala, nearly half of the state’s 650 captive elephants participate in temple processions. This full day activity gives you the chance to enjoy a relaxed and intimate encounter with a temple elephant, helping their mahouts (caretakers) feed and bathe the elephants. Day excursion from Cochin
This morning excursion takes you to an elephant training camp, where you can witness elephants being fed and washed by their mahouts (caretakers). There are often baby or young elephants present (who are orphaned or have been born in captivity); the cutest little/big animal you are likely to see! This is a great activity for your children. Half day from Cochin
History and Heritage
Muziris Heritage Project
The settlement of Muziris was an active port in the 1st century BC. There is strong evidence that the merchants of Muziris traded with Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, and, perhaps as a consequence, it is where the first Jews first arrived in India, as well as St Thomas (who brought Christianity to India). However, due to a flood or earthquake in 1341, the Periyar River underwent a major transformation, silting up the port and thus causing the abandonment of the settlement. Recently the Kerala government has undertaken a wide-scale recovery and restoration project to discover the extent of the settlement, and have made it possible to visit the site. This full day excursion takes you to Muziris, and with the help of a local guide, you’ll gain an understanding of the history of the settlement and research being undertaken. Half day excursion from Cochin
Alleppey Heritage Walk
This short walking tour of Alleppey town is run by the Alleppey Conservation Society. A member of the society leads the walk through the quiet back streets of Alleppey, describing the traditional activities of the local economy, as well as highlighting architecture of the many historic homes and the preservation and restoration activities being undertaken to preserve the heritage of Alleppey.
Candle-lit dinner on a houseboat
It’s hard to top a night on a kettuvallam or houseboat for romance. Go one step further with a special seafood dinner, complete with candles and champagne.
Enjoy a private dinner or party on Marari beach, with candles, lamps and your choice of cultural performances such as Kathakhali (traditional Keralan dance) or Kalari Payattu (traditional Keralan martial arts). Or really throw a surprise with the appearance of an elephant on the beach!