Varkala is a coastal town situated in the Thiruvananthapuram district of the southern state of Kerala on the Arabian Sea. Due to the pandemic a lot of travellers across India started exploring alternate beach destinations which were not Goa & Varkala has finally got its share of attention from domestic tourists. Do you know a lot of foreigners used to visit and stay in Varkala for months-long before you & we even heard about it? It has been a backpacker's heaven like Rishikesh, Kasol and even Goa.
We think Varkala has a great potential of becoming one of the safest destinations in India for solo travelling females. Why? read on and let us know your thoughts.
How to reach Varkala:
The fastest & the most convenient way to reach Varkala is via Trivandrum airport, we recommend taking a self-drive car from the airport for your trip duration.
(TRV) Trivandrum International Airport: 42 K.M. (Cabs are available starting INR 1500 per way).
(COK) Cochin International Airport: 198 K.M. (Cabs are available starting INR 5500 per way).
Nearest Railway Station:
(VAK) Varkala Sivagiri railway station: 1.6 K.M.
The station is well-connected to major Indian cities like Kochi, Bengaluru & many others.
Kollam (35 K.M.)
Best Time to visit Varkala:
November to March remains the best time to visit Varkala as this the coolest time of the year. However even Monsoon is a good time to visit too as whole of Varkala will be lush green with relatively cool weather.
Summer months of April & May are not recommended as the temperature raises to 40 Degree Celsius plus.
Things to do in Varkala
If you are one of the demanding tourists who want to cover 10 - 15 sightseeing points every day then Varkala is not the destination for you, Varkala is a place to enjoy the leisurely slow pace of life. Wake up with the Sunrise on Papanasam beach and enjoy sunsets at the main Varkala beach.
1) Papanasam Beach
Known for religious values and spirituality, Papanasam beach is part of the Arabian Sea in Kerala. Nestled at a distance of 39 km north of Trivandrum, Papanasam is the second best beach of Kerala, after Kovalam. The quiet and clean beach is your perfect getaway location to rest your feet away from your daily routines. Its increasingly becoming a surfer's destination thanks to the soft sand and gentle waves.
2) Kappil Beach
Surrounded by vast greenery on one side while the other one glazed with golden sand and rock boulders, Kappil beach is located just a length of 7 km away from Varkala. However, unlike other places, Kappil beach is beyond just another tourist destination in Kerala! The aesthetic natural vibes in and around the shore are always ready to mesmerize your soul. Walk along the beach or lie down to soak in the sun, you can't miss the tranquil tune of the waves crashing down the exquisite beach.
3) Janardanswamy temple
A tinge of mythology and history combined to enrich the religious epitome of Varkala can be found in Janardanswamy Temple. Built during the Vedic period, one can absorb the architectural splendor, which is devoted to the preserver, Lord Vishnu. He appears standing with four elements that hold mythological importance. These elements are the Gada, Chakra, Shanghu and Kumbham. Besides Lord Vishnu, the walls are well-crafted with the sculptures of Lord Hanuman, Shiva and Garuda as well.
You can visit for a holy pilgrimage to calm your soul with a serene aura prevailing around this 2000 years old temple. Surprisingly, Janardhan Swamy Temple is also known as the Benaras of South or Dakshin Kashi because people flock here to perform the rites and rituals of the deceased. There is also a sacred tree on which there is a ritual of married women / newly married girls tying dolls who are unable to conceive.
4) Anjengo Lighthouse
The more you stretch your eyes, the more blue it will capture. Varkala welcomes you to get an entire 360-degree view of the place from the top of the Anjengo lighthouse. What's special here? It was built back in the historic era of 1684, by the Britishers, the Anjengo lighthouse was initially used to navigate ships transported by the British people. Devoid of the past, it is now one of the important landmarks of Varkala with a huge tourist attraction. This 130-feet lighthouse is pretty popular for the best bird's eye view of the blue coastline of Varkala is one of the most beautiful photogenic destinations you will find around.
5) Jatayu Earth Centre
Kerala is already known for being one of the safest states for women in India. Just to add a tribute to women safety and honor, Varkala presents you Jatayu Earth Centre. It is the world's largest eagle sculpture located on Jatayu rock hill where history and mythology are intricately woven in its aura. The 200 feet sculpture with a width of 150 feet and a height of 70 feet has a utility space of around 15,000 square kilometers. There is a temple for Lord Ram which is located along with some mythical markings that are fenced under this location. You can even trek to the top or take a ropeway ride which costs roughly INR 500 per person. Once Covid-19 ends once can even enjoy activities like zip lining here. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Ram within the complex.
The legend has it that Jatayu the bird fell on this rock while trying to save mother Sita when Raavan was forcefully taking her to Lanka after abducting her on his Pushpak Viman. Goddess Sita then prayed that Jatayu lives until Lord Rama or Hanuman finds him so he can share the whereabouts of Raavan.
6) Anthujengo Fort
To the closest proximity of the Anjengo Lighthouse, is located the Anchuthengo Fort. Formerly it had the name Anjengo Fort which literally means five palm trees that emerged with a huge historical significance. This was the place that had been rented by the Britishers during the reign of Queen of Attingal. The East India Company had utilized this place for trading purpose but had left us a wonderful escape to sneak into the long-lost history once again. So grab your camera ASAP because you can't miss posing around the ruins and leftovers of the Anjengo Fort!
P.S. You can still find a bunch of palm trees around. Its a very small fort but we would say give it a visit if you are in Varkala.
7) Edava beach
You just can't stop your mind from thinking about beaches all around, because after you have left one, another one evolves in your way. But the best part of this beach is that not many tourists know about this place. An absolute gem is hidden around the cliff of massive rock structure, named after the then king of Travancore, Udayamarthandapuram. It is just 4.7 km away from Varkala, which is absolutely a sweet tour to add.
8) Black Sand beach
Coming down to one of the secret black beaches of India, it seems like a stand-out attraction of this uncommon and offbeat destination of Kerala. With two lighthouses around, this beach is (not so) famous for the jet black beach and basaltic rocky boulders. Although it is far different from the glowing golden beach with sunshine over the top, it will still bring you aesthetic-worth photos.
9) Odayam beach
Spend a breathtaking sunset on the small oasis, residing at a stretch of 2 km from Varkala in Odayam beach. With bright sun and vibrant beach, add a few colors to your journey to one of the best beaches in India. Just not that, you can even shop around the coconut grove, little shacks around for snacking and the vast ribbon of white foamy waves.
10) Surf school
Varkala is a great surfing destination thanks to mostly calm and the surf-friendly terrain of Papanasam (Varkala beach). While there are many surfing instructors available locally, you can pre-book your surf lessons with Point Break Varkala
While swimming is more of a life skill it is not mandatory to learn surfing. We recommend at least a 3-day beginner's surfing course to everyone.
11) Kerala Ayurvedic Massage
Relax your mind and soul with the exquisite facility to avail of ayurvedic massage and spa. With numerous herbs and oils extracted from the natural ingredients, the treatment would feel no less than heaven. A combination of nature and science prevailing since the early Vedic period is known to make a positive impact on your mind and body.
12) Yoga Teacher training programme
A lot of foreign tourists come to Varkala to learn about Yoga and they actually stay here for weeks & months learning Yoga to practice in their respective countries. While the world has taken a note and given yoga its due importance, we Indians are yet to take up yoga seriously. We would say try and explore the benefits of Yog asanas when you are in Varkala.
13) Yoga sessions by the beach
Needless to say that yoga lessons / classes by the beach are nothing less than a therapy itself. Trust us it is no less magical than a yoga session on the banks of holy river Ganga in Rishikesh. If you ask us, we prefer yoga sessions by the amazingly clear beaches of Varkala.
14) Golden Island & Ponnumthuruth Siva Temple
After the preserver, let us devote ourselves to the temple of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati on Golden Island. The Golden Island is surprisingly a wonderful location nestling just in the middle of the backwater lake. You can even avail yourself a short cruise across the island or just lose yourself among the spiritual aura beholding the bright hues of the Shiva-Parvati temple.
15) Varkala Helipad
A huge area is covered by the beautiful helipad located in Varkala just a few stretches away from the beach. It can be clearly noted the amount of greenery present around the helipad is pretty evident of how the beauty has been properly held in this place. It is because this place is not much trodden by the tourists. The helipad is also one of the best places to watch the sunset in Varkala and it is just a stone throw away from the cliff market.
P.S You can park your vehicles free of cost at the Helipad, it is used only for VIP movements which are thankfully not that frequent in this part of the world.
16) Kappil backwaters
With long coconut and palm trees growing on the golden beach, the backwater, on the other side just steals the attraction with one glance. You can witness the change in he's from blue to the tinge of green with the reflecting sunlight on the rippling water surface of the backwater lake.
17) Kayaking & Canoeing in backwaters of Kerala
An absolute boon for water sports lovers, Varkala present you with the facility for Kayaking and canoeing in the backwater of Kerala. Grab your pair of slippers and the camera, because the stunning photographs with the bright blues, is something you would remind for the rest of your life!
Also, don't miss the green horizon the blues of the sky from the backwater blues!
18) Water sports like Paragliding, Banana boat ride & others
Can Fly adventures are one of the trustworthy operators for Paragliding in Varkala, they hail originally from Millau in France. We would recommend you contact them beforehand as Paragliding is more of a seasonal thing here as Varkala is still not very popular and sees relatively lesser footfall especially between April - September.
19) Tibetan Market
Now we have reached one of the most essential parts of any trip, SHOPPING! Of course, you are not going to be disappointed with the wide variety of things available at just your pocket pinch. Shop for yourself or people back at your home, you just can't rest your eyes on just one thing. From dresses, jewelry, cosmetics, totes, slippers and a list of countless things to leave you flabbergasted!
20) The famous Varkala Cliff
Welcome to the famous geo-heritage site of Kerala, the Varkala Cliff. Spend your day soaking in the sun and your evening at the cafes, on the edges of the cliff, sipping on to your favourite coffee and enjoying the vibe around. Even for your late-night plans, you can dine in here with local delicacies and calling it a day with a lot of Instagrammable photos!
21) Munroe Island- Backwaters
Want a tour to the budget-friendly hidden Venice in India? Munroe Island is at your service! Roam around the place with a small canoe or a kayak with the natural and all-green backdrop of palm and other herbs and shrubs. Witness the diverse wildlife, birds along with the enrich flora and fauna reserved and untouched from the busy tourist engagements.
21) Café Hopping
If you are in Kerala, you can't miss the authentic taste of the coffee from homegrown and cultivated beans. A lot of local and small cafes are available apart from the franchise chains. With a pleasant ambience and decent and comforting warm meals, you will surely enjoy your moment with a perfect cup of freshly brewed coffee!
Varkala is not a very huge place but in fact, a very small town which is mainly divided into three parts namely North Cliff, Middle cliff & South Cliff. There is a narrow pathway accessible only by foot stretching from Helipad to the black beach which is the heart of Varkala and also the most happening place with some amazing cafés, souvenir & cloth shops along with Kerala style massage centres.
How to get around:
On foot or walking remains my preferred way of exploring Varkala to experience the little unexplored gems which you tend to miss otherwise however Varkala is best explored on a rented scooty/motorbike which can be rented from various shops/hostels / local vendors ranging between INR 300 - INR 500 per day.
(On foot option is feasible only if you are staying in accommodation near the helipad or the cliff area otherwise a personal vehicle is recommended).
Other options are Tuk-Tuk/autos & taxis too.
If you have rented a car from Kochi / Thiruvananthapuram (Capital of Kerala) / Varkala you can park it for free on the helipad free of cost or your accommodation (if they provide a parking space).
Where to stay in Varkala
While Varkala is not a place with fancy hotels & resorts like Oberoi, Marriott's & Hilton's of the world but there are few luxury resorts which you can consider for a laid-back luxurious vacation:
1) Gateway Selection - IHCL Varkala (Taj Group): The only globally renowned brand presence in Varkala as now.
2) Trip is life: The most sought after accommodation which can host only 4 adults at a time and comes along with an open air bathroom. You will have to book this at least 10 - 15 days prior to your travelling dates. Highly recommended for a small girls group of 4 or less travellers. Did someone say bachelorette & honeymoon?
3) B'canti Beach Resort: Situated on the Odayam beach road, recently former actress and blogger Shehnaz stayed here.
This is probably the most popular category of stay which suits almost everybody because you get some good hotels with amazing views by compromising a little on some services. Confused? Find out yourself:
1) Inda Hotel
2) Miracle by the bay
4) Maathadil Villa & Cottages
5) Clafouti Beach Resort
6) Deshadan Beach Resort
This category is rather suitable for backpackers, students and even tourist travelling on a shoestring budget. Varkala has fairly good options for budget travellers & most of the foreigners who come to Varkala prefer to stay like nomads in these budget accommodations because unlike us Indians they come to Varkala, fall in love with the slow life and decide to halt here for months.
1) Zostel Varkala
2) Jicky's Nest
3) Mad About Coco
4) Piggy hostel Varkala (Short Giraffe Hostel - Old name)
5) Lost Hostel Varkala
Where to eat in Varkala
So we explored Varkala and ate at almost all the famous cages and restaurants, along with some lesser known ones. Here are recommendations for all you solo travellers from Team Wander Womaniya:
1) True Thomas (South Indian & North Indian food)
2) Darjeeling Cafe (Cocktails & North Indian Food) P.S. do try their secret punch and let us know if they disclose the ingredients to you.
3) Juicy shack (South Indian & healthy juices)
4) God's own country Kitchen (Seafood)
5) Inda Cafe (All day breakfast & Pasta)
Let us know in comments what you think about this blog, if you want us to write a blog about any particular destination or have any suggestions on how we can make this better. Feel free to comment or reach out to us.
We at Wander Womaniya will keep organizing regular women only travel groups to Varkala and will keep on exploring more of Incredible India & the World for you!!