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KERALA FOREVER

Having spent most of my youth back in the Middle East, an opportunity to explore my homeland's landmarks and hidden treasures never really came my way. But when I moved back to Kerala after wandering the city streets and harsh deserts of the Middle Eastern landscape, my longing for travel began to mold a little wanderlust within myself which opened up a new windowof opportunities; something I had never dreamt of, a few years back. Now to start of this article from a specific subject when it comes to Kerala can be a huge dilemma indeed. From the flowing green backwaters and canals to the hills and mountains brimming with excitement, Kerala is a traveler’s paradise right here at the tip of the nation. One could wander all across the Indian subcontinent and still take Kerala to be a completely different country with regard to culture, natural aesthetic and climate alike. However, like most visitors who make their way from lands afar, we shall also proceed with the capital of the state; Thiruvananthapuram.

Zorhan Mokoele | TDO local expert from South Africa

Hailing from the southern tropical paradise of Kerala, India, all of my life's memories lay with the barren deserts of the middle eastern landscape. I would say that's where my soulful lust for travel began to take shape, regardless of the limitations that surrounded me as a teenager. Now, after returning to my homeland, I'm glad to have been able to explore the various treasures that lay hidden all across the Indian subcontinent. From an adolescent wayfarer to an accomplished freelance journalist, I couldn't be more content in sharing my travel diaries and accounts on such online portals.

- Leo Livingston, a Kerala based traveler
Travel Writer & India Travel Designer for TDO

Start off at Varkala, a beautiful coastal town nestled next to the lovely Indian Ocean. From great water sport activities and alluring local cuisines, the place often sets a festive ambience all year round for tourists and locals alike. Don't forget to pay a visit to the old lighthouse that was constructed by the British towards the late 1600s, to soak in a breathtaking view of the coastal landscape.

Now, there's no returning without paying the old 'Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple' a visit. Even though this is certainly a must, on any tourist's list of places to explore, the temple offers a genuine insight on Travancore's (Thiruvananthapuram) rich history. From the great Hindu kings to the legacy of some of the greatest freedom fighters and rulers of the land, the capital city has a lot more to offer.

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Move up a block and you'll land at Kollam, the land of cashew and coir. Although the district fans out when it comes to an untold number of places to visit and explore, Kollam stands close to the traditional facets which are still treasured by the locals.

The Jatayu Earth's Center will blow your expectations away with an astounding bird sculpture which happens to be the largest in the world. If you have some time set apart from all the beaches and calmness that Kollam has to offer, check out Kumbhavurutty waterfalls which stays a local favorite when it comes to a refreshing spring of excitement.

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Alappuzha keeps calling me back even after all the wonderful time I've spent there along with some amazing people back from university. The backwater paradise of the nation and the gem of Kerala's stunning beauty among all other neighboring districts.

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I recall the tempting flavors of the pearl spot fish which undoubtedly holds its place among some of Kerala's famous spicy cuisines. And your travel diary wouldn't be complete without spending a night on Alleppey's homely houseboats.

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Move up a notch and we arrive at Ernakulam, the Mollywood hotspot and the growing hub of Kerala's modern face. Kochi, being the prime target for foreigners and tourists, offers a lot more than one can take on a short visit. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the Chinese fishing nets which function throughout the week and watching them bob up and down is some fun indeed. Kochi is known for its cuisines and seafood tops the chart without question.

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I personally like to visit the old Jew Synagogue and Jew Town whenever I have time on my hands and a walk through marine drive is sure to ease all tension. If you're looking for a posh stay while you're there, head over to Grand Hyatt for a top-notch experience like no other in the city. The IndoPortuguese Museum and The Malayattoor Hill are destinations which require a little bit of intrigue in order to gulp in the whole experience.

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One step ahead lies Thrissur, the land of elephants. With countless festivals and celebrations around every corner, elephants are a common sight at temple gatherings and special occasions. I've had the opportunity to spend some of my best travel days all around Thrissur and I prefer hiking up to Vilangan Hills when in need of some beautiful sunset views. And not to mention the infamous Athirappilly Waterfalls which attract countless visitors from all around the state regardless of the season.

It would be impossible to list everything you could do around the district, but setting aside all the must-visit places you'll find on the internet, Thrissur holds countless less known getaways which will have you returning for more in no time. The Kerala Kalamandalam is the prime center for ethnic performing arts which still attracts learners from all over the globe.

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Palakkad is the largest district in the state with picturesque landscapes and paddy fields where ever you turn your gaze to. With tradition clinging onto even the smallest aspect of everyday life, Palakkad will open up to some raw cultural ethnicity, awaiting your arrival.

I spend most of my weekend evenings at the Tippu Sultan’s Fort. The historic landmark is Palakkad's most
iconic symbol which provides an insight into the pre-independent times. The Varikkassery Mana stands proud even today, in the shimmering glory of culture and tradition.

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Let’s head over to Kozhikode, the food capital of the state. Even though you’d be advised to spend some time on the lovely beach watching over the brightly painted sunset, you’d probably be too busy eating away to your heart's content.

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The amazing green peas masala available on the beach, Calicut's Ice Orathi, Bhaskar's Sharbat Shop, Paragon, the infamous Rahmath and so on goes the list of flavors and cuisines that you shouldn’t miss if you arrive at Kozhikode. My Instagram feed speaks aloud about the love I have for the place and some of the best views can be found at Vayalada.

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Each of the fourteen districts that make up Kerala has their own unique tales and adventures to offer to any travel enthusiast who wishes to find a place of unparalleled love, tradition, custom and a state of well being in general. For the many readers who’d want to seek the true colors of this tropical paradise, welcome to ‘God's own country'; this is one place you’d want to have among the top tens on your bucket list.

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