My Favorite Boutique Hotels in Fort Kochi, Kerala
September 19, 2014 • Photography & Travel
The reason I love of Fort Kochi is that it is one of the few places in India that is actually quiet and quaint. You can walk the streets under giant rain trees, explore old architecture, and enjoy the city’s rich history and excellent cuisine. Located on the southwestern coast, in the state of Kerala, Fort Kochi has been welcoming traders and explorers to its shores for over 600 years.
Initially controlled by the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and British, the city is a blend of medieval European architecture nestled on the tropical Malabar Coast. Fort Immanuel, said to have been a symbol of strategic alliance between India and Portugal, St. Francis, the oldest European church in India, and the Vasco House, believed to have been home to Vasco de Gama are all examples of this—and are worth a visit.
Easily accessible by plane (Cochin International Airport), train (Ernakulum Station), automobile (rental or car service), and even cruise ship, Fort Kochi sits between the Western Ghats to the east and the Arabian Sea to the west. You can stroll down Fort Kochi beach to check out the famous Chinese Fishing Nets and then enjoy the stalls of delicious seafood in Vasco de Gama Square. Speaking of food, it’s also a great place to explore the spice world, as there are some huge spice distributors located there in the port.
Most of the hotels in Fort Kochi area are former colonial mansions now converted to boutique bungalow hotels. The prices range from mid-range to high-end. Here’s a list of hotels that I’ve visited and/or stayed at, and recommend:
The Malabar House ($$$)
This luxury hotel dates back to 1755, when Jan Herman Clausing, a Dutch trader, bought the property from Mathew Henrich Beyls. Subsequently owned by spice traders, tea traders and bankers, in 1996 it became Fort Cochin’s first boutique heritage hotel. It hosts live music in the evenings, an excellent wine selection, wonderful food, and fabulous massages.
Koder House ($$)
This three-story building boasts two large suites on each floor, with over 20,000 square feet of spectacular teak floors, ceilings and stairways. Until recently, it belonged to the most illustrious Cochin Jewish family, the Koders. There are five 800 square feet (Deluxe) and one 600 square feet (Junior) sheer luxury suites, and each is grand with a huge bedroom, sitting room and bathroom with Jacuzzi. The multi-cuisine restaurant overlooks a plunge pool and is the only restaurant in the country serving Cochin-Jewish food. The location is ideal for seeing the Chinese fishing nets that are unique to the region. I give it two thumbs up!
Tea Bungalow ($$)
This large, elegant, colonial bungalow is set in a lovely garden with a swimming pool shimmering in its midst. Almost a hundred years old, Tea Bungalow has been lovingly restored to its classical colonial elegance. It offers luxury accommodations in ten spacious and beautiful rooms.
Brunton Boatyard ($$$)
This is a very beautiful hotel (don’t be fooled by the shockingly revolting website). Perhaps slightly over priced, this hotel has an old world charm and very nice rooms. It is located right on the water and is the perfect setting for a romantic evening stroll.
Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel ($$)
This is heritage boutique hotel, situated right off the beach, is one of my long-time favorites in Fort Kochi. The original lighthouse mast dates back to 1929 and still stands amidst century old mango, coconut, and Gulmohar trees, which in full bloom display the most radiant orange flowers. If I don’t stay here, I always go for a drink at sunset. Go early and get a seat overlooking the Arabian Sea; watch the sun setting and children playing on the beach. It’s definitely worth a visit.
This is the only hotel I haven’t actually stayed in but I love the look and feel of the décor and design. The building itself was constructed in 1506, at the same time as the St. Francis Church, its eminent and historic neighbor. It was the Portuguese Governors’ private residence and is the oldest hotel in Fort Kochi. Filled with art and treasures from the colonial past, this hotel’s inner patio and garden pool distinguish it from the other luxury hotels. Le Colonial is definitely on my list of places to stay next time I’m in Fort Kochi.
Old Harbour Hotel
Located next to the Koder House it is one of my most liked boutique hotels in Fort Kochi. In the evening you can sit under a giant rain tree in the garden next to the pool and enjoy a delicious meal. The rooms are beautiful and the hotel is located across from the Chinese fishing nets. This 300 year-old building was built in the Dutch style of architecture with hints of Portuguese influences and it was the first hotel of old Cochin. In the later years of its existence it was a residential home to employees of English tea-broking firms then left unused for a while before being reopened as a boutique hotel.
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