Calicut as we know today evolved as a geographical entity during the 12th Century. The tradition regarding the founding of the Zamorin dynasty speaks of the last of the Perumals gifting to the Eranad Utayavar his sword and the patch of marshy land on the coast of what is today Calicut. If this tradition is to be believed, Calicut port did not exist prior to the founding of the Zamorin dynasty in the 12th -13th Centuries. Malabar as a maritime destination was, however, well-known for its spice trade. The chief ports of Malabar were Chaliyam, Panthalayini Kollam and Ezhimala, as testified by the noted Kurdish geographer Abu al Fida (1329) who makes no mention of Calicut. However, Ibn Battuta who reached Calicut in 1342 describes Calicut as the most important port in Malabar.

Calicut is situated on the south western coast of India, some 500 kilometers north of the southern tip of the Indian peninsula (Cape Comorin or Kanyakumari) at approximately 11.25°N 75.77°E. Its elevation varies between 1 metre at the sea coast to 15 metres towards the east. The climate is moderate with the temperature ranging between 37°C and 19°C. The severity of the South West monsoon is felt between the months of June and August. The tides range between 83 centimetres and 160 centimetres. The height of the waves recorded is between 50 cms and 300 cms. The district is endowed with a coast line of 71 kms., stretching from Chaliyar to Azhiyoor.

The present revenue district of Calicut (officially called Kozhikode) covers an area of 2206 sq.kms. It is bounded on the north by Kannur district, on the south by Malappuram district, on the east by Wynad district and on the west by the Arabian Sea. The most prominent feature of Calicut as seen from the sea is the majestic hills of the Western Ghat rising some 60 kilometers to the east of the coast. ‘The mountains distinctly visible from the sea off Calicut, in clear weather, are Koondah range of the Neilgherries, or Blue Hills’. (Richard Burton, 1848)

Several rivers originating in the Western Ghats or its foothills flow through the district draining into the sea. Principal rivers are the Moorad river (known also as the Kuttiyadi river or the Kottakkal river) 48 kilometers north of Calicut city; Agalapuzha river which joins with Poonoor river to form Korapuzha; Kallayi river which originates from Cherukulathur and was once famous for the timber trade on its banks; Chaliyar river which originates in the Ilambari hills of Gudalur (Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu) and drains into the Arabian Sea at Beypore (which was probably the site of the medieval Calicut port of Chaliyam); and the Kadalundi river which originates from the western slopes of the Nilgiri mountains, is formed by the confluence of its two main tributes, the Olipuzha and the Veliyar. The Olipuzha takes its origin from the Cherakkombanmala and the Veliyar from the forests of Erattakombanmala. The total length of this river is 130 kms, with a drainage area of 1,099 sq.kms. The river flows towards the Chaliyar and joins the Arabian Sea at about 5 kms. south of the Chaliyar river mouth.