Table of Contents
- About Varkala
- Things to Do in Varkala
- How to Plan a trip to Varkala
- Hotels and Resorts in Varkala
Tucked in the southern part of Kerala, away from the busy touristy destinations of the state, Varkala is a quaint beach town on the Arabian Sea. Owing to several ancient religious sites and temples, it is also regarded as the ‘Temple Town’ of Kerala. It is recognized as one of the best beaches in India and ‘one of the top 10 seasonal beaches in the world’ and is a hub of water sports like swimming, parasailing, snorkelling, and particularly surfing. The golden sandy shores, lined with the palm-covered red cliff, the endless expanse of the Arabian Sea, and the laid-back vibes make this town a perfect getaway. It is also famous for traditional Kerala Ayurvedic therapies. From the local culture to the exquisite scenery, this coastal town is an ideal destination for every kind of explorer.
With our travel guide, you can plan an all-rounded trip to this exquisite place and explore the attractions.
[Also Read: 30 Places to Visit Before You Turn 30]
Varkala is located in the Trivandrum district of Kerala, 42KM from Trivandrum city, 53KM from Kovalam, 24KM from Kollam, 107KM from Alleppey, and 117KM from Kottayam.
Varkala experiences a typical tropical monsoon climate with classic coastal weather patterns. Summers are extremely hot and humid, followed by heavy monsoon rains, and warm but pleasant winters.
Varkala is often called the Udaya Marathandapuram to commemorate the then Travancore king Udaya Marthanda Varma. The town’s history goes back to the times of the Sangha dynasty and was an active trading port for foreign merchants from other parts of Asia and Europe. It was known as Balita, as mentioned in the ancient Greek scripture – The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.[Also Read: Varkala – A lesser known gem of Kerala]
Varkala is geologically significant for millions of years old sedimentary rocks found here. The town is distinguished by red limestone and sand, laterite cliffs, dense groves of coconut palms and casuarina plants along with the coast and paddy fields in the hilly areas. There are also some natural springs on some cliffs which are believed to be mineral-rich and carry medicinal properties.
Interesting Facts about Varkala
Varkala is the only place in Kerala where cliffs are found right adjacent to the Arabian sea.
Things to do in Varkala
Include these fun and exciting activities to do in this beach town along with your sightseeing –
Offbeat things to do in Varkala
Things to do in Varkala in the day:
- Varkala is one of the best-surfing destinations in India. The roaring, frothy waves of the Arabian Sea in autumn makes for the best surf. Post surfing, you can enjoy sunbathing on the silvery sands.
- Try out an Ayurvedic spa treatment or a holistic Ayurvedic consultation from one of the prominent centres in the town.
- Stay at one of the yoga retreats offering wellness packages, natural therapies, and meditation sessions for a relaxing vacation.
- Try snorkelling at Thiruvambadi Beach or Papanasham beach and explore the underwater.
Things to do in Varkala at night
- Take a walk along the Varkala Cliff and hang out by any of the art cafes in the area.
- Head to the North Cliff area for late-night cafes and lounges with good vibes and live music.
Religious things to do in Varkala:
Visit the Papanasam Beach and bathe in the holy springs or sit for prayers at the Janardana Swami Temple.
Things to do in Varkala for couples:
- Take a boat ride to the Ponnumthuruthu island, 12KM off the main coast, sitting on the Anjengo Lake. The island houses a 100-year-old Hindu temple.
- Spend a romantic day at the serene estuary of Kappil Lake. You can do a kayak ride along the coconut groves and mangroves on the backwaters or enjoy a boat ride on the lake.
Places to visit in Varkala
With the best pristine beaches, hills, lakes, forts, lighthouses, natural fisheries and springs there’s no shortage of things to do and places to see here. Check out these famous places on your trip –
- Janardana Swami Temple: The 2000-year-old temple enshrines an ancient deity of Vishnu and is an important pilgrimage site for Vaishnavites. The temple also houses a historical bell brought in by the sea from a wrecked Dutch vessel.
- Entry Fee– Free
- Sivagiri Mutt: Dedicated to Shri Narayana Guru, this ashram spreads over 200 acres and houses a religious centre with a prayer hall, ornate temples and accommodation for travellers, surrounded by greenery.
- Entry Fee– Free for the tour, accommodation costs are separate.
- Papanasam Beach: This is the main Varkala beach and is known for its natural beauty as well as spiritual significance. There’s a natural freshwater spring which is considered sacred and wash away sins. The shores are perfect for an afternoon stroll or catching the stunning sunset views.
- Entry Fee– NA
- Anjengo Fort: This fort is a significant symbol of Kerala’s historical and cultural legacy. It houses an 18th century English fort, which is now a National Heritage Monument.
- Entry Fee- Free
- Varkala Tunnel: Established in 1867, this 924 FT long tunnel runs through the periphery of the town. Built by the Dewan of Travancore, for the East India Company, this canal served as an internal waterway as well as an irrigation source.
- Entry Fee– Free
- Varkala Lighthouse: This 17th-century lighthouse is 130 feet on the Varkala Beach and offers panoramic views of the endless sea on one side and backwaters on the others, and is perfect for sunset views, photography, or day picnics.
Places to visit near Varkala
Besides the regular tourist places in Varkala you can also explore other scenic locales nearby –
- Kilimanoor Palace: The 300-something years old palace spreads across 15 acres of land and consists of smaller mansions, ponds, wells, and sacred groves. The site is revered as the birthplace of Raja Ravi Verma and regarded as a hub of the art history of Kerala.
- Entry Fee– Free for a tour.
- Kollam Beach: Often called the “First Beach Destination in India”, this is a perfect place to spend a day outside Varkala, with sunbathing, water sports, and boating.
- Entry Fee– NA
- Trivandrum: A hub of art, architecture, history, and religion, Trivandrum is the cultural capital of Kerala. Visit the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple, Sri Chitra Art Gallery, Napier Museum, Puthe Maliga Palace Museum, and the Natural History Museum.
- Entry Fee– NA
- Kovalam: One of the most exotic beaches on the Malabar Coast, this small coastal town is known for surfing and adventurous beach vacation. Visit the Light House Beach, Vizhinjam Mosque, Samudra Beach, and Eve’s Beach, for sunbathing, swimming, catamaran cruising, or herbal spa treatments.
- Entry Fee– NA
Places to Eat in Varkala
Explore these best-rated eateries to sample the local flavours –
- Café Del Mar
- ABBA Restaurant & Everest German Bakery Varkala
- Darjeeling Café Varkala
- God’s Own Country Kitchen
- Chimney Family Restaurant
- Sunset Multicuisine Restaurant
How to Plan a Trip to Varkala
You can also plan a personalized trip by selecting the mode of transport, the route, and more.
How to reach Varkala
Varkala Sivagiri Railway Station is well-connected to the rest of the state and other major cities and towns in neighbouring states, like Kochi, Bangalore, Calicut, Kanyakumari, Mangalore, etc.
Varkala is well-connected to the rest of Kerala and neighbouring cities and towns via NH66 and Panvel-Kochi-Kanyakumari Highway to Maharashtra, Goa, and north Karnataka. There are regular state-run and private buses from Calicut, Trivandrum, Kochi, Alleppey, Kanyakumari, Mangalore, Mysore, Bangalore, etc. to Varkala. You can book a cab from any of these cities and travel comfortably.
There is no airport here. The nearest airport is in Trivandrum, at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 42KM away. From there, you can book an airport taxi or the local bus, or rent a car to drive to Varkala.
Best time to visit Varkala
Being a coastal town, Varkala weather is the best during winters. So, the best time to travel and explore Varkala is between November and March. You can also visit after the rainy season, between September and November if you want to surf.
Hotels and Resorts in Varkala
Check out these popular places to stay in and around Varkala –
- Indraprastha Beach Resorts
- The Lost Hostel
- PointBreak Surf & Stay
- Elixir Cliff Beach Resort and Spa
- Clafouti Beach Resort
- Sea View Resort
- Cliff & Coral
- InDa Hotel