Exploring Varkala-a detailed guide!
Updated: Aug 29, 2020
The first time I visited Varkala cliff, I was sat at a restaurant facing the ocean, watching the waves crashing slowly onto the beach below, when I fell in love with this cliffside beach. It was a long while later that I realised that we were the only Indians in the restaurant! I hadn’t realised how popular Varkala had become with foreign tourists. I remember saying, “its like being in Europe!”
Varkala has a relaxed, unique, hippie vibe to it, that people used to associate with Goa. It is teeming with restaurants, yoga centres, and even surf schools!
It also has the stunning backwaters that are unique to Kerala!
There is no reason you shouldn’t visit Varkala, and I can give you way too many reasons for you to make that visit, and fall in love with this beach town like I did!
1. Varkala cliff
It is the only place in Kerala where a cliff is found along the Arabian sea. The ‘varkala formation as it is called, is now protected as a national geological monument by the geological survey of India.
The views from the cliff of the waves crashing onto shore, and the many coconut trees along the cliff. It is a stunning sight, which I can not get enough of!
Walk from the helipad at one end of the cliff, along the rugged path whilst being careful- you don’t want to fall off!
The cliff is dotted with shops, restaurants, and hotels. So there is never a dearth of things to do.
Tour agents have offices on the cliff as well-book your trips to explore the rest of the state, from here
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2. The beaches of Varkala
Varkala Beach, Thiruvambadi beach, Edava Beach are the names to the different stretches of beach below the cliff. The waves are usually rough, so it might not be the best place to swim, unless you are a strong swimmer. But, it is the ideal place to surf!
3. Papanasam beach
Papanasam beach has a natural spring which is considered to have curative properties. It is believed that washing yourself in the waters of this beach will rid your body of all impurities and the soul of all sins. You might see people coming to the beach to perform Hindu funeral rites for the same reason.
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4. Surf at Varkala
Surfing is very popular in Varkala, as the waves are perfect to practice your skills. Enquire at a surf school (there are many), and get into the water!
5. Chilakoor Juma Masjid & Chilakoor beach
The masjid overlooks Chilakoor Beach- come here if you have time to spare, and for beautiful pictures. The masjid is on a cliff on the beach, the view from the beach is of the lush green of the trees on the cliff atop which stands the majestic masjid.
6. Anjengo Fort
Anjengo Fort or Anchuthengu fort was built by the British East India Company in 1696. It was a small stretch of land with 5 coconut trees, which gave it the name ‘anchuthengu’ (anchu=5, thengu=coconut tree). The Queen of Attingal gave the land to the British in 1694 for trade purposes. Today, the fort is open for public use, it has the backwaters on its right and the beach on its left.
7. Anjengo Lighthouse
This is one of my favourite places in Varkala. I climbed right to the top of the lighthouse, and the view was beyond amazing! I didn’t feel like going back down! The only reason I felt the need to go back, was because the top of the lighthouse was very narrow with hardly any place to sit or stand, and well, the drop down was scary! :P
But the view was of the backwaters to the right and the ocean to the left- a view I had never seen before. You can also see the Anjengo Fort from here.
Ponnumthuruth translated, Golden island, is an island on Anjengo Lake in Varkala. It is a privately owned island and is known for the century old Siva Parvathy temple. During the festival of Sivarathri, the island is lit in celebration. The island is a haven for migratory birds.
A private tour agency offers water activities on the island- kayaking, boating etc.
A 30 minute boat ride from Nedunganda will get you to the island.
9. Janardhanaswamy temple
A 2018 year old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is known as Janardhana here. It has a large bell gifted to the deity from the captain of a Dutch ship. The bell has the date 1757 inscribed on it, which is believed to be the date of its making. Legend goes, that the Dutch ship was having difficulties crossing the ocean, but when the captain heard a bell from this temple from his ship, he vowed to gift the Lord the bell from his ship, if he can complete his voyage. Soon after, a wind blew and his ship set sail towards his destination. The captain kept his promise, and returned to the temple with the bell.
Non-hindus aren’t allowed in the inner sanctum, but may be allowed in if dressed appropriately- men in ‘mundu’, and women in ‘saree’.
10. Ride a boat along the backwaters
After seeing the backwaters from the lighthouse it is extremely tempting to take a boat ride to explore the backwaters. Ask at your hotel or a local tour agent to arrange it, or cheaper would be to get to the lake, and speak to a local who could arrange the same.
11. Kappil Lake & Beach
It is one place where you can see the lake and ocean come together. The lake is surrounded by coconuts groves. This estuary is not very popular with tourists, so you can explore & relax here in peace. There is a bridge here that offers splendid views!
How to get to Kappil Beach
Take the beachside walkway from Varkala Beach to get to Kappil Beach, though it is 7km away. But you can get an auto or bus to Kappil.
What to do at Kappil Lake
You can hire a row/pedal boat from the boat club to explore Kappil lake.
12. Shop at the cliffside
The cliffside has many shops to buy clothing, bags, and souvenirs. Though the prices are high, you can haggle to get a bargain. Some shops have fixed prices, and don’t allow haggling at all.
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There are many yoga studios where you can take lessons. You could also get a yoga teacher training done here too!
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Sonia Indigo Academy offers classes to get trained in the art of Reiki in a couple of days’ time. Else, you can go in for a healing session! There are many shops offering reiki healing along the cliff, if you miss the boards for the same, ask someone!
15. Go for a massage!
There are many massage parlours along the beach- try any of them for a relaxing treatment.
16. Sunset from the cliff
There is nothing like watching the sunset from Varkala cliff. It is an absolutely stunning sight, and something you will never have enough of. Head to the cliff, grab a chair right at the front at any of the restaurants, to watch the stunning sunset.
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from along the cliff, and a range of cuisines too. Many restaurants have a live seafood counter, where you can choose what you want and ask them to cook it to your liking! I love eating at Varkala, there seems to be something new every time I visit!
18. Sivagiri Mutt
The headquarters of the Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham, which is an organisation of the reformer Sree Narayana Guru’s followers. The 200 acre property hold the Gurus’s samadhi (place of burial), and some of his personal effects.
19. Do nothing
Or you could just ignore everything I said above, and just do nothing! Sit on the beach with a book and spend your days leisurely with the wind in your hair, and sand everywhere!
Leave me a comment below with any questions or thoughts you may have!