Please don't think of the Wyanad Hills as a day trip. If you head out that way, be sure to book a place to stay; chances are you won't want to leave.
Kozhikode may not be packed with options, but it does have one of the finest little guesthouses in the state -- the handsome Harivihar (see our review). As far as hotels go, your best bet is The Gateway Hotel Beach Road Calicut (tel. 0495/661-3000; www.tajhotels.com; doubles from Rs 4,500), the only five-star hotel in town, aimed at the luxury business-oriented traveler. In terms of facilities (with two restaurants and a decent pool), it's the best place in town, with smart, clean, neat and forgettable guest rooms. There's also a good Ayurvedic rejuvenation program that's been greatly enhanced over the years; you can be assured of professional service, and all treatments are made in consultation with the resident doctor. It's also just minutes from the spice market. This is a good hotel for an overnight stop, but in no way a place you should choose to tarry; for that you'd be better off at Harivihar. But, if you're sold on the anonymity of hotels, and looking for a cheaper alternative to The Gateway, take a look at the Fortune Hotel Calicut (tel. 0495/276-8888; www.fortunehotels.in). It's not great, but it's functional, and bedrooms are a perfectly acceptable mix of modern convenience and floral decor; standard doubles go for just Rs 2,900, including breakfast and taxes.
In the Wyanad
It takes about 2 hours to drive the 90km (56 miles) from the coastal city of Kozhikode to Vythiri, the nearest village to many of Wyanad's resorts, the best of which is Tranquil. Note that the owners of Green Magic Nature Resort -- once considered "the best tree-house experience in Asia," but which received some bad press in recent years -- have recently launched a sequel to their first project. Green Magic Nature Resort 2 offers an altogether more rustic treetop stay than you'll get at Tranquil, but if you choose to investigate further, start at www.tourindiakerala.com. Besides Tranquil, which is a marvelous place to discover plantation life while chilling out (and eating well) in a veritable rainforest, you may want to check out the 36-unit Vythiri Resort (tel. 04936/25-5366 or -5367; www.vythiriresort.com), not least for its excellent Serena spa with Ayurvedic facilities. If it's not too crowded, the atmosphere can be enchanting (if totally resortlike), with monkeys playing in the trees, and a rope bridge over the fast-moving stream leading to the restaurant and pool. Doubles cost around Rs 6,500 but for an extra Rs 1,000 you can stay in a suite; all meals are included, as is morning yoga and meditation. There's also a chance to stay in one of their ingenious treehouses, smartly decorated and taking full advantage of their setting right in the midst of the forest; Rs 12,500 gets you a memorable night high above the forest floor, with matchless morning views into the thick, slowly clearing mist. One drawback: This resort is extremely popular with large family and tour groups, especially in the summer, so if you're looking for a little more peace and quiet, head instead to Edakkal Hermitage, which really puts you far off the beaten track and in the lap of mesmerizing scenery just 12km (7 1/2 miles) from the town of Sultan's Battery. Another good choice that's wonderfully intimate is Fringe Ford (Cherrakarra P.O., Talapoya Post, Mananthavadi; tel. 98-4544-2224), a colonial bungalow situated on a 400-hectare (1,000-acre) estate that's fabulously cut off from the world, but doesn't hold back on home comforts and excellent scenery. Built by a British settler almost a century ago, Fringe Ford was initially cultivated for pepper, cardamom, and coffee but the current owner has let the jungle reclaim most of that -- now, once again, elephants, leopards, and giant Malabar squirrels call the rain-soaked hills home. Doubles run Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,700, including all meals, tea, and snack, and a pickup from Thalapoya, the nearest village; the rate also includes the services of a guide for treks within the estate.
By a long stretch, the best place to overnight in the northernmost part of Kerala is Neeleshwar Hermitage, nestled on the edge of a spectacularly pristine stretch of seemingly endless beachfront near the lively town of Kanhangad (which is where you'll alight if you're arriving by train). Neeleshwar is not only within easy striking distance of Bekal Fort (some 19km/11 3/4 miles north), but is also convenient for all the other attractions of this part of Kerala, not least of which is a designated Olive Ridley hatching area (the turtles usually lay their eggs in July and August, but this can be delayed till as late as October). There is also a more old-fashioned homestay-style option, a family run guesthouse in Thalassery, just south of Kannur, called Ayisha Manzil.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.