One of the finest beach destinations in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Varkala is strung along bright red cliffs and presents a gorgeous sight. Laid-back and friendly, it also has an intriguing historical side, and always makes visitors feel welcome.
Varkala's beaches are a wonderful place to be. Play some beach volleyball, sunbathe, or rent a board and try windsurfing in an idyllic coastal location.
Varkala isn't just a beach resort. Temple sites like Janardhana and the Golden Temple on Ponnumthuruthu Island present stunning vistas to visitors (even if you may not be allowed to go inside).
For backpackers, Varkala is all about relaxation and zoning out. What better place to get away from the stress of home than places like the Savasana Yoga Center or a massage at Thanal Ayurveda Home?
The people of Varkala continue to make a living from the sea. And they also make some superb dishes. You'll adore the tandoori shrimp and fish whipped up as you wait at the resort's clifftop stalls.
The city of Kollam is another Keralan gem, with its elegant bridges, Portuguese ruins at Thangassery, and the chance to take restful cruises on Ashtamudi Lake.
Varkala Beach has a special meaning in the lives of locals: it is believed that a dip in its waters cleanses away the sins of one's life. That may or may not be true, but one thing is for sure: relaxing on the blanket of its sands and strolling along the edge of its shoreline is sure to calm the nerves and reconnect one back to a simpler way of existence. Varkala Beach is situated along the edge of the Arabian Sea, which feeds into the larger Indian Ocean. Its position as a coast in Southern Kerala makes it a prime location for overhanging cliffs where evening sunset views, sun-bathing, and warm breezes rule the day.
Also known as the Varkala Temple, the Janardanaswamy Temple is an important place of worship as well as a touted healing center. The nearby waters of Varkala are said to have healing properties due to the growth and cultivation of medicinal plants. Besides being the center of festivals and religious ceremonies, the Janardanaswamy Temple is also a place for Ayurvedic practice and sacred pilgrimage. Because of its floral abundance, seaside location and religious significance, the temple is known as "Gaia of the South" or the "Southern Benares."
Its fight for independence called on the bravery and initiative of many leaders and one of them was the social reformer Narayana Guru. This beloved figure fought for social equality and caste abolishment within the country and his fight for spiritual freedom was consecrated by the tomb built all around his remains. This final resting place has not only become a major point of homage for pilgrims but, interestingly, a significant venue for celebrations: festivals, cultural shows, group weddings, and annual processions. In this way, the spirit of Narayana Guru lives on at Sivagiri Mutt.
Believe it or not, the monsoon season that drums down on all of India makes this beautiful lake, with its far expanse of water, lush green forestry, and beautiful beach even more romantic. During festival season, from March to April, the beach draws many visitors and locals alike, hoping to find a quiet spot to relax after a day's celebrations and noise. It also has a boat club and plenty of water sport activities that travelers can experience, including parasailing and boating.
Take a trip through this 974 feet long tunnel and see Varakla from a completely different vantage point. The tunnel took 14 years to complete but the journey through should only take you about 30 to 45 minutes. You'll feel like you're in the original "Love Boat" ride. The tunnel's architecture is itself something to take in, with distinct colonial style construction. Though it was used as a form of transportation and established for the trade of goods, it's now a major tourist attraction.
The best time to go is definitely between September and April, when you can avoid the wet season and the humidity and intense heat of summer.
Trivandrum International Airport (TRV) is around 30 miles away. Indian Railways provides a direct connection every three hours or so, which costs ₹500. Taxis should be around ₹700.
Indian Railways has a stop at Varkala, connecting the resort to Trivandrum and Kollam, as well as major Indian cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.
From Mumbai, take Highway 66 southwards along the Indian coast, while route 744 runs from Madurai.
Buses from Trivandrum cost ₹90 and take just over an hour. You can also connect with the publicly run national bus service.
Varkala has some excellent hotels, including the Hindustan Beach Retreat and the Krishnatheeram Ayur Holy Beach Resort, where yoga comes as part of the package.
Varkala Beach - famous for its black sands, Varkala beach is the social center of the resort. Locals gather there in the evenings and travelers all day long to swim, play, and socialize.
Papanasam Beach - south of Varkala, Papanasam is just as scenic and offers some great dining spots like the Theeram Beach Restaurant.
Sivagiri Road - slightly inland, Sivagiri Road is home to a famous pilgrimage center, but it's also the location of Varkala's train station.
Public transportation in the town itself is very limited, although auto-rickshaws may be rented if required.
Taxis are a good way to get around, and not to expensive at ₹25 for the meter drop, then ₹25 more per mile.
Car rental outlets include Unnikannan, where you should find vehicles for around ₹400 per day.
If you want to shop for tourist souvenirs, Varkala's clifftop is the place to head, but there are also more notable art dealers like the Art of India and boutiques like Shalimar Weaves.
Supermarkets in the town center include Merlyn and Margin Free, where 12 eggs will come to around ₹75.
Beachfront options worth checking out include Wait n Watch (which has great sea views), Cafe del Mar, and Trattorias, where you'll find dishes from around the world. Hotel Dwaraka is a great city center option too. Meals should come to less than ₹400 per head.