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India's southernmost state, Kerala, has wowed international travelers for decades, bringing visitors back to a time when cars were not the main form of transportation and the bartering system was used more often than currency. Today, much remains the same in the region, making it an ideal stop for travelers seeking an alternative vacation experience along a tour of India.
If you're not sure where to get started while in Kerala, here are some essential things you have to do while you're in the area:
Stock up on spices in Kochi
India is the spice capital of the world, which is most notable in Kerala, where visitors will find nearly every variety available by the bucketload. From common food enhancers like pepper and allspice to more obscure varieties like cardamom, mace and aniseed, the Mattancherry markets will have your senses overloaded with the sights, smells and even sounds of one of the busiest spice regions in the country.
Visit the Periyar Tiger Reserve
Located in the city of Thekkady, the Periyar Tiger Reserve contains about 50 Royal Bengal tigers, one of the rarest felines in the world. As one of 27 tiger reserves in the country, Periyar gives travelers the opportunity to get up and close with India's most majestic and stunning creatures in their natural habitat. The reserve covers an area of 925 square miles, making it home to not just tigers, but Indian elephants, monkeys, leopards and bison as well.
During a walk around the reserve, you'll be taken to areas known to house large herds of beasts, so you should keep your camera ready to take National Geographic-worthy photographs.
Eating authentic Indian fare
As with all regional cuisine, there's no better place to eat Indian food than in its country of origin. While you might be used to having rich curries and samosas, the local fare is nothing short of a culinary adventure in the state of Kerala, where you can try just about every variety of Indian dish you can imagine. Feast on some aviyal (veggies served in a coconut gravy) or payasam (semolina with caramelized milk) before topping off your meal with an ice-cold glass of coconut palm wine.
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