Kochi (Cochin) is the great, old Keralan spice city. It consists of mainland Ernakulam, islands of Willingdon, Bolgatty and Gundu in the harbor, Fort Cochin and Mattancheri on the southern peninsula and Vypeen Island north of Cochin. Because of the area’s dense tropical forests, extensive ridges and ravines, it has been sheltered from invaders and the rest of India. This encouraged Keralites to welcome maritime contact, and therefore influence from the outside world. In Cochin there is still a small community of descendants from Jewish settlers who fled Palestine 2,000 years ago. When the Portuguese arrived here some 500 years ago, they were surprised to find Christianity already established along this coast. People from far-off lands have been coming to Kerala since ancient times in search of spices, sandalwood and ivory. Such long contact with people from overseas has resulted in the blending of various cultures and has given Keralites a cosmopolitan outlook.
Also known as Alappuzha, Alleppey is considered a network of waterways. There are over 1000 houseboats, canoes and toddy shops located within the city; because of this many consider Alleppey to be the “Venice of the East”. About 2 miles west of the chaotic city center you will find Alleppey Beach, a beach not known for swimming, but known for the daily picturesque sunset.
Kollam, India, is usually seen by travelers as the starting point for a boat trip down tropical inland waterways to the town of Alappuzha. Located 760 mi/1,220 km south of Mumbai, Kollam is an ancient city with traces of Portuguese, Dutch and British influence. There's a nice government rest house available for overnight stays.
Founded by a Syrian merchant in the 9th century, Kollam was one of the most important trade centers during the 12th century. It was there that Christianity first gained a foothold in India.
Kollam sits in a unique location, with the Lacadive coast of Kerala to its west and a huge network of canals and backwaters to its east. Ashtamudi Lake is the perfect starting point for a day-long backwater cruise where you can see life as it exists on these fragile yet ancient ecosystems.
Another attraction is the Thangassery Lighthouse: Built in 1902, the lighthouse is 144 ft/44 m tall, and can be climbed for a nice view of the area. The beautiful old British Residency is another site worth visiting for its pretty architecture. Close to the lighthouse is the Portuguese cemetery, built in 1519, and the remains of the St Thomas Fort.
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