Many Keralites rate the northern elevated Wayanad region, which rises to between 700m and 2100m northeast from Calicut, as the most beautiful part of their state. Encompassing part of the Western Ghats' Nilgiri Biopshere Reserve, which spills into Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Wayanad’s landscape combines mountain scenery, rice paddies of ludicrous green, skinny betel nut trees, bamboo, red earth, spiky ginger fields, slender eucalyptuses, and rubber, cardamom and coffee plantations. It's an excellent place to spot wild elephants. Foreign travellers stop here between Mysuru (Mysore), Bengaluru (Bangalore) or Ooty (Udhagamandalam) and Kerala, and Wayanad is a popular escape for city-based Indians – yet it remains fantastically unspoilt and satisfyingly secluded.
The 345-sq-km sanctuary has two pockets: Muthanga (east) bordering Tamil Nadu, Tholpetty (north) bordering Karnataka. The district's three main towns make good transport hubs – Kalpetta (south), Sultanbatheri (Sultan Battery; east) and Mananthavadi (northwest) – but the best accommodation is scattered across Wayanad.