Thekkady has accommodation to suit all pockets, offering particularly good value in lower price brackets, thanks to the recent proliferation of small homestay guesthouses on the fringes of the village.
At the opposite end of the scale are some truly gorgeous colonial-era hideaway deep in the mountains which you'll need a car and driver to reach, but which provide atmosphere bases for explorations of less visited corners of the High Range.
Luxury Hotels in Thekkady
Deep in the tropical forest lining the state boarder, this remote, Forest Department-run eco-lodges stand on a low hillock overlooking Gavi Lake. Its bungalow accommodation, reached via a bone-jarring 30km jeep ride from Kumily, is simple, bordering on institutional, but perfectly comfortable and well placed for jungle trekking and wildlife spotting trips.
Shalimar Spice Garden
Teak huts in traditional Kerala style, on the edge of an old cardamom and pepper estate, with elephant-grass roofs, whitewashed walls, chic interiors and verandas looking straight onto forest. Facilities include a beautiful ayurveda centre, outdoor pool set amid the trees and an open-sided restaurant where you can fine dine off rough-hewn granite tables.
Part of the green-conscious CGH chain, this campus of mock-tribal huts is the first choice of most luxury tour groups. Its wooden thatched cottages are dotted around substantial landscaped gardens planted with spices and flowering trees. There is also smart restaurant, a pool, and special wildlife resource centre where guests can attend daily lecture on Periyar's flora and fauna.
Mid-range Hotels in Thekkady
Wood and red bricks dominate the architecture of this hotel. It offers three categories of rooms, all excellent value and with lots of Kerala character. Best are the "duplexes", which have beds on mezzanine floors and balconies sporting old-style pillars overlooking woodland. The location is busy during the day, but quiet in the evenings.
Tel: 04869 224571
Part of the Forest Department's Eco-tourism project, this eco-lodge between Kumily bazaar and the park gets offers spacious en-suite huts made of renewable, natural materials, serviced by staff drawn from local adivasi minorities. The location isn't nearly as inspiring as the brochure shot suggest, but rates do include breakfast, jungle treks and boat trips, making this a good all-in deal.
Smart four-storey hotel below the bazaar, run by expats Chrissie (from the UK) and Adel (from Egypt). It is pricier than most homestays in the area, but you get more privacy and better views, and relaxing, homely interiors featuring throws in warm colours, beds carved from local wood and watercolours of Dorset hanging on the walls. There is also a great yoga shala on the rooftop, and popular little cafe-restaurant on the ground floor.
Wildernest's ten quirkily designed rooms are the most appealing option in this bracket, despite their proximity to the main road. With high, slanted ceilings, red oxide floors and white walls, they are more like little houses: wood staircases wind up to terraces overlooking the central courtyard, and French windows open to onto secluded, private gardens.
Woodlands Prime Castle
Large, efficiently managed mid-scale hotel with striking Chinese-pagoda-style roof, close to the bazaar. It holds differently priced options on three storeys, varying in size but all immaculately clean; some have rear balconies as well as front verandas. A dependable option if you prefer the anonymity of a hotel to a homestay.
Budget Hotels in Thekkady
Simple en-suite rooms (with sitouts and balconies) in an impeccably clean modern block, with a larger family "cottage". Rock bottom rates, but good bedding and quiet location. Owner Bobby speaks excellent English.
One of Kumily's most popular homestays, in a newish house just off the Thekkady Road. Offers 17 differently priced rooms, from basic options with bucket hot water to large en-suite ones equipped with solar-heated showers and balconies looking across the valley to Kurisumala mountain. A lovely rear garden attracts lots of wild birds. If it is full, try the identically priced Rose Garden next door. Tel: 04869 223146
On the eastern edge of town
The best-value budget homestay in Kumily, a 10 min plod (or a short autoricksahw ride) from the bus stand-literally on the Tamil Naud- Kerala border. The clean, bright, attached bedrooms all comfortably furnished; those on the upper storey are larger, open ing onto a deep, marble-floored veranda just metres away from jungle. Nocturnal wildlife-spotting walks into the adjacent forest are offered for free by welcoming host, Mr Ramachandran.
Outstanding attractive homestay in a fusion building that blends traditional and modern styles, with gabled roofs, and wooden railings wrapped around the airy first-floor terrace. Its en-suite rooms are well furnished for the price.
One of the oldest guesthouses in Kumily, whose smiling owner, Sujatha, offers a range of rooms and cottages, all with balconies or sitouts littered with relaxing cane furniture. The more expensive are larger and come with more outside space.
Philip and Mariyamma Mundakal's budget travellers' homestay, up a side lane off Bypass Rd, comprises six squeaky-clean rooms in a peaceful spot well away from the bustle of the bazaar, the best of them inside a newish block fitted with comfy wooden beds, quality mattresses and tiled floors.
Sunny south-facing budget rooms or shadier, more snugly furnished "deluxe" one with wooden ceilings, in modern house on the edge of the forest. Comforts include piped hot water and cane swings for lounging.
A mixed but good-value bag of bamboo huts, treehouses and rooms, handily placed for the owner Mrs Lily Joseph. The best are her two rear-side doubles, whose balconies have lovely green views into the sanctuary.
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