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Varkala: Kerala’s Hidden Backpacking Beach Destination

Varkala

Varkala is the land that’s painted blue by the endless waters and clear skies. The little town of Varkala is definitely worth all your time. Located in the Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala, Varkala’s North cliff is perched right next to the Arabian sea coast giving it the most beautiful natural setting from dusk to dawn. Away from the hectic city life, Varkala is easily one of the most picturesque and peaceful getaways that a traveler should  experience at least once in his/her lifetime. You visit Varkala once and you would want to come here again.

Varkala: An Overview

Location South India
State Kerala
Best time to Visit November to early February
Budget for 3 days & 2 nights ₹4000 per head

 

Varkala

Varkala is Kerela’s own hotspot for backpackers. Photography by Radhika Vinod Kumar

Reaching Varkala

The town of Varkala is easily accessible by road, air and rail.

Thiruvananthapuram International is the nearest airport (55kms).

Varkala-Sivagiri railway station is well connected to other parts of India.

Regular buses ply from the neighbouring states to Kollam (37kms).

Personally, I’d suggest you take the bus if you are coming from in or around Kerala. It’s an overnight journey to Kollam from where you can take the train to Varkala and you’ll be there just in time for breakfast with a view. There are bikes and cycles available for hire on the cliff at very nominal rates making it easy to get around the town. For those of you who are traveling from other parts of India or the world, taxis can get you from the airport to Varkala in no time.

 

Varkala

Varkala Railway Station. Photography by Shaiju

Where to Stay in Varkala ?

Varkala has stays that suit all kinds of travelers. From budget rooms to luxury cottages, you can pick the place that suits your budget. There are a couple of hostels too for all you backpackers. Without a doubt, Varkala is easily on of the safest places I have ever come across. The people here are very chirpy and don’t bother you unless you need any help which is another reason why it is preferred by solo female travelers across the world because you never feel unwelcome and it’s always pleasant.

If you are looking to stay on the cliff, from Bamboo Village and Kerala Bamboo House to Clafouti and Black Beach resort, there are just so many options you can choose from and, if you are looking for some exquisite luxury there’s always the Taj Gateway Hotel Janardhanapuram or B’Canti Boutique Beach Resort. You can even check for the resorts that are south cliff or in Odayam beach for a beautiful, secluded getaway.

 

Varkala

Bamboo Village. Photography by Jerome Verghase

 

Varkala

Clafouti Ayurvedic Resort. Photography by Akin Kuriakose

What all to do in Varkala

Ideally speaking, just do nothing! And you’ll know why I’m saying this the minute you get there. Just sit around on the beach, soak up some sun, go for a swim or grab your favourite drink sitting on the cliff and just admire the beauty that is Varkala. The Varkala beach is located right off the cliff and there are a flight of stairs which you can take to get to the beach. The cliff is lined by restaurants and shops that sell silvery jewelry and clothing, making souvenir shopping both easy and fun.

If you’re wishing to escape the crowds a little more, head south to the Black Beach which gets its name from the glistening black soil that decorates its shore and this one’s much quieter and less crowded, perfect for relaxing.

North of Varkala Beach is Papanasam beach which is famous as it is believed that a dip in these holy waters will wash away all your sins. A lot of Hindu’s come down here to perform annual rights for departed souls making this place religiously important as well.

Odayam beach is another quiet beach located south of the cliff which is enroute Kappil where you’ll find many colourful boats lining the shore adding to the vibrance of the coast.

There are many places that provide surfing and cooking lessons in case you are in the mood to learn something new. If the weather permits you can go parasailing, jumping straight off the cliff too! There’s a lot in-store for all you adrenaline junkies out there.

Varkala

Papanasam Beach. Photography by Harikrishnan Premprakash

 

Varkala

Odayam Beach. Photography by Valentin Bespalov

Local Sightseeing in Varkala

If you’re up for some sightseeing, head to the Anjengo Fort and lighthouse which is around 12 kms from the cliff. Built by the East India Company, the fort was England’s entry point into the country from the Malabar coast. Now undertaken by the Archaeological department, the fort is well maintained with lush green lawns and a view of the Anjengo beach at the backdrop. You can also visit the lighthouse for a perfect aerial view of the area and its endless waters. Don’t turn back just yet. Take the fort road and just keep riding ahead because that’s what we did and it was one great choice. We ended up on a road that was just a few feet away from the ocean, water hitting us like a drizzle thanks to the winds. What a magical view! You can stop by and climb onto the rocks and just watch as the waves lash the rocks, appreciate the true beauty that nature is. There is a boat jetty in the backwaters on the opposite side if you want to take a ride through the waters.

Ride down to the beautiful Edava-Kappil road. What’s so special? As you reach the bridge, you’ll be right in between the backwaters and the beach, Kappil is beautiful! If you’re up for some adventure, there is a government run centre where you can pick motor sports of your choice like kayaking and jet skiing or if you want to do it authentic Kerala style, there’s always a romantic boat ride in the backwaters. Visit the 2000 year old Janardhanaswamy temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The ancient temple architecture and just the premises will in still a great sense of calmness and inner peace. You can also visit the Shivagiri Mutt and Ponnumthuruthu Island temple if time permits.

 

Varkala

Anjengo Fort. Photography by Nidal Shaheed

 

Varkala

On the way to ponnumthuruthu Island. Photography by Vishakh Amujendran

Where to Feed Yourself in Varkala ?                                                                                                                

The Varkala Cliff is lined by beautiful cafes and restaurants that overlook the Arabian waters. Honestly speaking just try every place you can while you’re there because each one is unique. Some places I’d probably recommend would be Rock n Roll café, The Juice Shack and Tibetan Kitchen. If you’re looking for some authentic Kerala meals, Jayram’s Café has some yum veg meals and if you’re looking for a fancy dinner date, the upper deck of Café Italiano is just the place. In the evening, many cafes on the cliff have candlelight dinners as well. Every evening the catch of the day is displayed across the cliff, so you can just pick your favourite sea food from the fresh catch and they’ll cook it for you.

From authentic Kerala cuisine to continental, Asian or Italian there’s an entire spread that you can pick from. There everything from English breakfasts and pancakes to Indian rotis or naans and lasagna for you to feast on. Some nights, there is live music or parties that happen in some of the cafes where you can just sit back, grab a beer and sing your night away.The food isn’t particularly expensive and depends entirely on what you choose to eat.

 

Varkala

Rock and Roll Cafe. Photography by Gurbani Chopra

 

Varkala

Delicious Kerela Meals served on a fresh banana leaf. Photography by Nanthani Narula

Why I love Varkala and what I took from it

Varkala is an absolutely magical town. Just walk up to the helipad for sunset and sit on one of the benches that overlook the beach. That moment right there be it alone or with a loved one is something you will cherish. The colours of the sky and its reflection in the waters is one of those pictures straight out of a postcard! This town can give any foreign destination competition for its unmatched views or like a fellow traveler I met said “man this looks everything like Santa Monica Pier or even better.” Something that I will never forget and what made me respect this place was its people. They make women feel absolutely safe. No judgement made on your outfits no creepy eyes or comments, Only warmth!

Don’t take my word for this, just come down and experience the magic that is Varkala and I’m certain you will want to come back. The beaches, authentic food and traditional massage but most importantly the vibe, is sure to find a very special place in your heart. After all she is God’s own Country.

 

Varkala

A gorgeous painting of a Kathakali dancer on a coconut tree. Photography by Jin Rijas

What Should First Time Travelers Expect ?

Don’t think just do! That’s right, make this your mantra because this is the ideal place to take that impromptu trip. Be it for a romantic couple’s only get away, your first solo trip, family time or a bunch of friends catching up, Varkala is perfect for it all. I’d suggest you pick a stay right on the cliff, whichever suits your budget. Some of my personal favourites are Bamboo Village, Sun View, Clafouti, Krishnatheeram, Oceano and Soul & Surf.

Sip on a cocktail overlooking the waves, experience the sunset, beach walks, stroll the cliff up to the helipad, get a massage but, most importantly, relax! Because that is the essence of Varkala. Unlike its noisier and crowded counterpart Goa, this place is ideal to rejuvenate yourself and catch up with loved ones. Depending on your budget you can get a stay anywhere between ₹ 500-15,000 and a meal would cost anything between  400-1000 again based on your choices. The people around here are warm and helpful, safety is no concern at all. Winters are the best to visit Varkala as the summers get very hot and sweaty while monsoons are harsh as well with incessant downpours. Just remember to bargain during your purchases and auto ride because like any other tourist place this could be unnecessary expenditure if not looked into.

 If you’re thinking of heading somewhere this New year’s, Varkala is just the place to bring in 2018! It isn’t just a destination but an experience.

Happy wayfaring 🙂

Varkala in Pictures

Varkala

Easily accessible via rail, road and flights, Varkala is Kerela’s top notch backpacker destination. Photography by Hari Krishnan

 

Varkala

Stroll through the heavenly roads of Varkala. Photography by Radhika Vinod Kumar

 

Varkala

Varkala is a town painted blue by nature. Photography by Pradeep Kumar

 

Serenity personified. Photography by Radhika Vinod Kumar

 

Varkala

Sea, sunside and you. Photography by Radhika Vinod Kumar

About the Author

Varkala

Radhika Vinod Kumar

Radhika Vinod Kumar is based out of Bangalore. A crazy someone who is an impulsive writer, photo hoarder and of course a dromomaniac. She prefers a new destination over a party in the city any day because exploring is her spirit animal. She believes that every sunset has a story and the mountains have messages that speak to her soul. With each trip, there’s a message one will cherish and every destination has a deep rooted story to unearth and this drives her to travel and tell the world why they should too. “If it doesn’t feed your soul, get rid of it.”  This is what she lives by.

Varkala  Varkala

 

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