Welcome to Varkala! India’s well kept secret, an absolute paradise!
Originally a 60’s hippy destination, this beach haven has slowly transformed into a prime yoga, ayurveda and healing destination for backpackers, holiday makers and families alike.
It must be said that the soothing blue sea, fine sand and burning red cliffs make for a picture perfect postcard landscape. Varkala beach is one of nature’s most beautiful creations and the Discovery Channel has gone ahead and named this place as one of the ‘Top Ten Seasonal Beaches in India‘
Varkala is a coastal city and municipality in Thiruvananthapuram district situated in the Indian state of Kerala, 40 km North of Trivandrum International airport. Easily accessible by train, car, tuk-tuk or taxi, this coastal town is a must stop for all beach lovers, yoga connaisseurs and curious travellers.
Declared as a Geo-Heritage site in 2015, Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea and is a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Keralan coast.
Stunningly picturesque Varkala beach provides a relatively peaceful alternative to the known hecticness of India itself. The setting of this beach town is mesmerizing enough to take your breath away, with a long winding stretch of cliff and views that extend over the Arabian Sea. A paved footpath runs along the length of the cliff, bordered by coconut palms, quaint shops, beach shacks, hotels, and guest houses. All you need for a simply perfect getaway.
Kerala, God’s own country, a tropical symphony!
Kerala, at the southwestern tip of the sub-continent, plays a singular note in the Indian concert. Firstly by its geography, with its unique backwaters, a unique aquatic network that crisscrosses the region, but also with its pleasing beaches of fine sand and mountains covered in certain places with graceful tea plantations. Not bad for a small state of 38 000 km2! No wonder it is named in the ‘50 places of a lifetime’ as well as ‘50 of the world’s top destinations’ by National Geographic.
Having hosted many cultures of the Indian Ocean, Kerala has always been tolerant, open minded and relatively progressive. It holds the highest human development index and literacy rate in India. Kerala is overall cleaner, poverty is less visible, people are better off, more welcoming and quite friendly, sollicitation and heavy looks are much less frequent than in other parts of India. This is appreciable for tourists and makes a safe place for solo travelers and families, contributes to a certain sweetness of life when we are there.
In a tense global context, it is interesting to notice the rather harmonious cohabitation of different religions. It isn’t rare to find a Hindu temple, mosque, church and synagogue side by side, all believers living in mutual tolerance and acceptance. There is a certain sweetness to Kerala no other state has to offer.
Kerala is also an original culture, through Kalarippayat and Kathakali, respectively the states martial art and dance cultures, but also through delicious south-Indian gastronomy and world renown Ayurvedic treatments, which attract more more well-being inquisitive tourists. Kerala is the pioneering state in sustainable tourism development, which drastically improves the living conditions of local populations and minimizes potential ecological and social damage.
It is often said that Kerala is a good gateway to gently immerge in the Indian ways, in this country of extremes. Nature itself is soothing for the traveler who discovers this lush green region of southwestern India, bordered by long sandy beaches.
In this idyllic setting, it’s no wonder that Kerala cultivates the art of well-being!
Varkala is a lovely place to relax, revive and rejuvenate. It has the most breathtaking sunsets, grab a beach towel and simply watch the sun melt into the sea!
Varkala’s main beach is called Papanasam Beach, which means destroyer of sins. It is known to wash ones sins away. It’s divided into two parts — North Cliff and South Cliff.
South Cliff is the less touristic, more authentic and definitely less crowded side of Varkala. The beach at the end of the road leading from Varkala beach temple is considered divine and cherished by Hindus, a place where many gather to perform the last rites following the death of relatives or loved ones. A truly authentic experience.
North Cliff is the most touristy part of the beach, located past the mineral spring. The pathway that runs along this stretch offers dazzling views on the beach. A wide variety of shops, restaurants, and accommodations are located all along the cliffside.
Further to the north, where the cliff ends past Papanasam Beach, is another small beach with black sand, called black beach. This quiet beach stretch is unique and will most certainly catch your attention.
Just further north of Black Beach, quaint and tranquil Odayam Beach is just starting to be discovered and developed, it is still possible to enjoy an entire beach to yourself in this magnificent hidden corner of paradise.
Even further North, approximately 7km away from Varkalas main beach is Kappil, a definite must-see, where turquoise blue arabian sea, colossal rocky barrier and sandy breeze meet the quaint greenness of Edava Narayana lake, separated by a road 1 km long. This is a truly unique spectacle, a path one must travel down!
All the wonderful beaches of Varkala are linked by a coastal pathway, which provides km after km of superb views, friendly fishermen and idyllic views.
Temples and landmarks
Varkala is essentially a temple town, and the main Papanasham Beach is a holy place where, as mentioned above, Hindus come to make offerings for passed loved ones, assisted by priests who set up shop beneath the Hindustan Hotel. The suttle water passage that runs through the town is known for its healing properties and it is also said to bring forgiveness into ones heart, washing away all past sins. There are many sacred and holy places to visit in the surroundings, the main ones are listed below.
Janardana Swami Temple
Janardhana Temple is the main event in Varkala. The cliff town is famous for this 2,000-year-old Temple which is an important Vaishnavaite shrine in India. It’s closed to non-Hindus, but you may be invited into the temple grounds where there is a huge banyan tree and shrines to Ayyappan, Hanuman and other Hindu deities. A truly magical place, where serenity meets the pandemonium of the local Sunday morning crowds.
Ponnumthuruthu (Golden) Island
The Shiva-Parvati Hindu temple, also known as the Golden Temple, is located in the middle of a palm grove, a place of absolute tranquility, about 10km from Varkala beach. The serenity found on the journey to this landmark is a rarity in this country of a billion men! The temple is also an ayurvedic treatment center. Absolute bliss!
Siva giri Mutt
The hill-top mausoleum of Sree Narayana Guru is one of the most famous monuments in Kerala state. Around 3 km from the town of Varkala, spread in around 200 acres of holy land, Sivagiri Mutt is the final resting place of the most distinguished leader, saint and social reformer of Kerala, Sree Narayana Guru. Sivagiri is a picturesque pilgrimage centre where it is known the leader and guru found enlightened and reached salvation. The Samadhi, final resting place, of the Guru here attracts thousands of devotees every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days. It is a graceful and holy environment, where one will find calmness and peace of mind. A must-see!
Anjengo Fort is a historical foundation lying on the astonishing seacoast. Named Anjengo or Anjuthengu, it means five coconut trees. A place of historic importance as well as beautiful natural setting, Anjengo is an ideal day trip escape for those who enjoy walking around and exploring.
Yoga, Varkala’s cardinal charm!
Many travelers travel to Varkala for a yogic retreat, combining yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, but almost all travellers end experiencing it in the end.Whether you sign up for the entire package or not, Varkala has many options for all types of travellers and yogis. Most hotels and resorts offer a wide variety of yoga classes suitable for all levels. From Yin, to traditional hatha, ashtanga and vinyasa, one will not be disappointed with all the options out there! Some venues like Hilltop ayurvedic beach resort offer multiple classes a day and various styles of yoga, catering to your specific wants and needs. You will most definitely find your inner peace and suttle blissfulness in this yogic beach wonderland!
South Indian cuisine and restaurants
Kerala, coastal land of spices, offers a very particular cuisine. Like everywhere else in India, a typical meal consists of a dish of rice accompanied by a dhal, a curry or various vegetable preparations.
But here the curries are often made up of freshly caught fish or seafood, with freshly grated spices and delicious coconut milk. In general, travelers enjoy this blend that is both sweet, spicy and unctuous. Coconut is a main ingredient and comes in abundance, very popular in the form of oil with its numerous health benefits.
Enjoy a typical Indian breakfast at one of the many family owned restaurants called dosa, a fine pancake made of lentil and rice flour. Order a plain dosa, served with delightful coconut chutney and savoury veg curry or try the typical masala dosa, stuffed with a mash of seasoned potatoes. A classic Indian breakfast or a perfect snack you will fall in love with!
For lunch and dinner, try pappadam, yellow in color, spicy, fried lentil flour pancake, thin and crisp. It goes very well with the thali or a biryani. The custom is to crumble pappadam on the rice dish. Delicious! They look almost like crisps!
Fruit side, bananas, pineapple and coconut can be found all year round. On the other hand, there are seasons for mango, papaya and jackfruit. Enjoy a yummy fresh fruit or vegetable juice at almost every restaurant on the cliff, all the while indulging in a magical ocean view and letting all your worries fade away with the setting sun!
Come and visit and see for yourself!
Located on the edge of a breathtaking cliff, Varkala, former coastal village, has become a real seaside resort. All the ingredients for a perfect holiday are there; the sea, the fine sand, the cliffs at sunset, the small waterfalls in the region , the numerous yoga retreats, the ayurvedic centers, the wide range of accommodations suitable for all tastes and budgets … you definitely can’t go wrong!
Varkala is the ideal place for your next yogic break!
For further information about the history and culture of Varkala please visit the Kerala Tourism website