An island-like peninsula between Lake Vembanad and the Arabian Sea, Fort Cochin was once the centre of Kerala’s international spice trade. Arabic and Oriental traders rubbed shoulders with Jewish merchants; Dutch, Portuguese and British colonists added to the mix; and all made their mark here. On a wide boulevard nudging the ocean, among white-washed churches and back-street synagogues, the Tea Bungalow is part of that old-world legacy.
Ayana Fort Kochi is a premium heritage hotel offering picturesque views of the harbour recommended for Inbound and holiday travelers looking for a charming luxury stay with heritage character.
The new 16-room boutique hotel is housed in a 200-year-old building that served as a courthouse during the Portuguese reign. Ayana, which means ‘resting place’ in Sanskrit, features Athangudi tile work and Art Deco elements that seamlessly bridge the gap between classic and modern. The monochrome flooring provides an elegant contrast to the pops of colour that are found across the property, adding vibrancy to traditional architectural elements like the sloping wooden roof of the lobby.
• Climb aboard a tuk-tuk for a whirlwind tour of Cochin’s Heritage Zone, taking in the Bishop’s Palace and adjacent Indo-Portuguese museum (founded by the Gulbenkian Foundation), St Francis’s Church (the oldest in India) and Fort Cochin’s dhobi (where all the local laundry gets washed and ironed).
• Other sites worth a visit are Mattancherry’s Jewtown district (once the heart of the spice trade, it’s now a bazaar of touristy shops, mostly selling antiques and textiles), the Jewish Cemetery and the decorative Paradesi Synagogue (founded in 1568, it’s the oldest in the Commonwealth).
• The famous cantilevered Chinese fishing nets are worth a snoop, too (they’re within walking distance of the hotel).
• Sunset Cruise the waterways: Cochin is the northern gateway to Kerala’s famous backwaters and a starting point for some of the cruises, which travel south down Vembanad Lake to Kottayam and Alleppey.