The seven mountains encircling the hill district of Wayanad, 70km inland from Kozhikode, enfold some of the most dramatic scenery in all of South India. With landscapes varying from semi-tropical savanna to misty tea and coffee plantations, and steep slopes that rise through dense forest to distinctive, angular summits of exposed grassland, the region ranges over altitudes of between 750m and 2100m. Even at the base of the plateau, scattered with typically ramshackle Indian hill bazaars, it’s noticeably cooler than down on the plains.
The main Mysore–Kozhikode highway, NH-17, slices through Wayanad. Since the late 1990s, it has been the source of new income in the form of over-stressed dot-com executives and their families from Bangalore and Delhi, with numerous high-end resorts, eco-hideaways and plantation stays springing up to service the screen-weary. Even if you can’t afford to stay in one of these bijou retreats, however, there are plenty of reasons to venture up here. Abutting the Tamil Nadu and Karnatakan borders, the twin reserves of Muthanga in the southeast, and Tholpetty in the north, collectively comprise the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary – part of the world-famous Nilgiri Biosphere and one of the best places in India to spot wild elephant.
Most of the affordable accommodation is concentrated around Kalpetta, the district headquarters on the highway. The town is a convenient, if uncharismatic, springboard from which to explore the south of the region, but if you want to head into the remote northern jungles, consider basing yourself in Tholpetty, 52km north on the Karnatakan border.Read More