Things to do in Varkala
Ola amigos! In this Varkala blog I’ll share with you some of my top places to visit in Varkala. Also, based on my recent Varkala trip I will suggest you top places to visit near varkala and best places to stay in Varakala. Good thing is that accommodation is not a problem is this beautiful small Kerala town as there are plenty of budget hotels, alternatively if you are feeling pampered you can also stay in one of those cheap Varkala beach resort.
This travel guide also includes my recommendations on best restaurants in Varkala with their Tripadvisor links. Buckle on and let’s explore!
Table of content:
Essentially, this is a small town in Kerala popular for its crescent shaped beaches and a laid-back culture together with its reputation in international backpacking circuit. Inevitably, it has somewhat shunned its off the beaten track tag and has become a top getaway destination for the young crowd from Bangalore.
The clean beaches provide a perfect opportunity to unwind yourself, and the two giant cliffs in north and south Varkala, which overlook the beach, adds to the charm. The town is located quite close (~55 kilometers) to Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, and can be easily reached by both train and bus.
Due to its proximity this small town also adds to the tourist places in Trivandrum. If you are short of time, you can simply take a day trip from Trivandrum to Varkala.
Places to visit in Varkala
There are a mix of activities and sightseeing that you can do here. Below are some of my recommendations.
The beautiful sandy beach is right up among the top places to visit in Varkala. My top three beaches are – Papanasam beach, Black beach and Kappil beach. Other town attractions include Janardhan Swamy temple and the Varkala lighthouse.
My favorite thing to do was of-course the walk on the beaches. I loved the black beach, time well spent soothing my jittery nerves and listening to the sound of crashing waves.
In the list I have included, what to do in Varkala beyond the usual sightseeing and also nearby tourist places. Note that Varkala tourist places are usually ideal to visit early in the morning or late in the evening. This is due to fact that Varkala weather is hot and humid throughout the year.
I will suggest you to slow down from the fast pace of city life, enjoy the slow travel and soak yourself in the beauty of the rural Kerala!
With shoes in your hand, enjoy the tranquil evening walking on the cool sand. The Varkala beach is super clean and the water is crystal clear. The list of top beaches in Varkala include Papanasam, Odayam, and Kappil beach.
Papanasam beach isn’t your typical tourist place as it is used primarily for cremation and last rite activities. Papanasam tourist places include the beach, the Varkala temple and the several street food vendors nearby.
Varkala cliff beach is usually where people go to relax and soak up the Sun. Kappil beach is another beautiful beach in Varkala but located bit outside the small town.
There are also countless restaurants (all targeted to the tourists) on the Varkala cliff (overlooking the beach) and a few near the Papnasham beach.
Best time to visit Varkala beach: Varkala weather in December is sunny but pleasant making it the best time to visit. Weather in June, July and August is hot but monsoon showers do bring the much needed relief.
How to reach Varkala beach?
To get there from Varkala railway station take an auto (around 100 INR) to Varkala helipad which is located on the north cliff. The helipad is an open area right on the north cliff which overlooks the small sandy area and the majestic sea. From the Varkala cliff you can take the stairs down to the beach; if you go left you will reach Papanasam beach and if you keep walking right you will arrive at Black beach.
Best time to visit the Varkala beach is evening; you can enjoy the sunset from the north cliff of Varkala and then watch the sky turn dark as you walk on the cool sand.
Here are some FAQ that might help you plan your trip.
Q. What are the water sports activities available in Varkala?
A: Your options for water sport activities are bit limited. You can do surfing, you can borrow a surf board from shop on the north cliff as well as Varkala south cliff.
Q. What about paragliding in Varkala?
A. You can opt for few tour companies like Canfly adventures which provides paragliding. But unlike Goa, Varkala Beach isn’t popular for adventure sports. And the reason for that are turbulent and dangerous waves.
Janardhana Swami temple or simply Varkala temple is a old Vishnu temple and is considered among the top places to visit near Varkala. The temple offers perfect opportunity to find your inner peace.
Janardhana temple is a calm, serene ancient temple located on the south cliff of Varkala. Lord Vishnu is the presiding deity of the Janardhana Swami temple which is built in an old Kerala architectural style.
It is situated near the Papanasam beach and can be easily reached by a tuk-tuk from the Varkala railway station. From the base a series of about 200 steps will take you to the top where this beautiful Varkala temple is built. Temple timings vary depending on the season, in general the temple is usually open in the early morning and in the evening.
A visit is warranted specially during the time of Aarti. Foreign nationals can enter the temple but are not allowed inside the inner sanctum. To enter inside one needs to be dressed traditionally in a dhoti and no shirt (for men). Note, photography is not allowed inside the temple, so please respect the rule.
You can also light lamps placed on the wall. There is an ancient tree in the compound which adds to the aura. The temple is actively used by devotees and it’s wonderful to watch people performing various worship ceremonies.
Regardless of whether you are spiritual or not, you should pay a visit to the temple to experience the amazing spiritual energy from the environment.
Again, one of the favorite tourist places to visit around Varkala. If you have been to Tthangassery light house in Kollam you will surely like this one too!
The Varkala lighthouse is located bit outside the town at a distance of 10 kilometers.The distance can make it a good half-day trip on a hired scooter (300 INR for 24 hours). On the way you will get to see not only the landscape dotted with palm trees and crisscrossed with Kerala backwater, but also experience the quaint village life with people going about their daily live. Climb up the lighthouse tower for the excellent views of palm trees, lake, sea and the nearby beach.
The Kovalam lighthouse is very similar in design as well. Do note that the Varkala lighthouse timing is between 3 to 5 pm only.
Note: I loved the Allepey lighthouse with it’s little garden and a small museum. Varkala lighthouse is nothing like it but still a worthwhile visit. There are very few point of tourist attractions in Varkala, so why miss it!
Anchuthengu and Anjengo Fort
Anjengo fort is among the top places to visit near Varkala. High up in the list of places to see in Varkala are the remains of the old Anjengo Fort. This is an old British fort which was constructed by East India Company, the harbinger of India’s colonial tryst.
Though popular with the tourists, there is not much to do or see in Anjengo fort since what remains is only a wall of the fort overlooking the sea. Good thing is that the fort is located opposite to the Varkala lighthouse and the two sights can be easily combined. So, make it a small stopover and get going.
Note that if you have time and the weather is favorable, from Varkala you can also walk along the beach to reach Anjengo. It is surely a worthwhile addition to the Varkala things to do.
Yoga in Varkala
Ashtanga yoga is very popular in Varkala and you can take yoga classes in one of the top yoga schools in Varkala. Listed here are some of the best yoga schools:
Kasi yoga gurukulam, sivananda ashram, yoga with haridas varkala and shiva rishi yoga at varkala cliff. Even some yoga teachers have arrived from Mysore to Varkala.
You can also take yoga teacher training in Varkala. These Yoga Teacher Training Program are usually month long and during the duration of the training you can stay either in the Yoga ashram or in a specific Yoga retreat.
Some of the Yoga retreat also include Ayurveda sessions – including the Holistic Ayurvedic treatment and the famous Kerala Ayurvedic massage. There are few specialty Ayurvedic clinic in Varkala as well.
Fun fact: During my Varkala trip I saw a bunch of people doing beach yoga at the black beach. Great for those who like to photograph people, of-course take their permission first!
Shopping in Varkala
From tailored fit wears to hippie style clothes, you can run out of options when it comes to shopping clothes. And there are also innumerable souvenirs, silver jewelry and tonnes of other things you (window) shop. There are several good tailors in Varkala to get your custom fit clothes.
Varkala Beach Nightlife
Well, people usually come here to hang their shoes and relax, so there isn’t much of a night life in Varkala. Plus the fact that alcohol is quite restricted in Kerala doesn’t help the beach nightlife in Varkala. Sure, there are a few resort-cum-restaurants which serve alcohol (limited time) and play thumping music, but that’s how far it goes.
Best Restaurants in Varkala
Varkala is packed with several beach restaurants. Out of hundreds (yeah quite literally!) of restaurants here are some top picks that I personally tried and liked. I ate in several places but these below ones had best budget/ food/ taste combo. Try it out yourself when you are in Varakala and let me know how you liked these Varkala Restaurants.
Best Restaurants in Varkala for budget as well as the value of money:
- Shibu Kerala Restaurant Among the best restaurants in Varkala. Located right on the cliff, sells yum masala dosa in budget prices (INR 80/-). The views are fabulous from its first floor location. The owner is a local Keralite (unlike many other restaurants on the cliff run by Nepalese) and a very nice person. Add chai tea to your food, refreshing taste at just INR 15/-
- Cafe Hbr: Located near the Papnasham beach and 10 minute easy walk from the Varkala helipad. Very authentic Kerala parota with sabzi sold at only 60/- INR. Other meal options as well as fresh juices at reasonable price available.
- Juice Shack: Always crowded and a great place to grab a quick smoothie and enjoy the sea view with the sea breeze blowing in your hair.
- Abba restaurant Varkala:One of the most busiest and restaurants. The food is little expensive for the taste.
- Clafouti restaurant Varkala: Clafouti restaurant comes as bit expensive as it is part of the resort. The service and the beachfront experience is the big plus though.
- Oottupura restaurant: Oottupura restaurant serves good vegetarian food within budget. It is located close to the taxi stand.
Places to stay in Varkala
There are several hotels in Varkala. On top of that, there are many guesthouses as well as hostels in Varkala. But in my opinion, the best place to stay in Varkala is near the Varkala Cliff and near the Varkala Helipad area. It is best you find an accommodation near Varkala tourist spots which is also a good starting base to visit places near Varkala.
There are several guesthouse, hotels, and hostels available suited for different budget and traveler needs.
Located very close to the Varkala Cliff (5 min. walk) and to the Helipad (8 min. walk Pooja House is just as it is advertised, a big house turned into a guest house. Guests have rated it 9.5 from 38+ reviews. US $8 for a bed in 4 bed mixed dorm. Private room for one person starts at INR 600/-. I personally stayed both in dorm and private room and can vouch for them.
The owners, Babu, a local Keralite and Katie, a French Canadian woman are travelers themselves, so expect them to understand your every need. Very relaxed and friendly vibes with great opportunity to meet other travelers. The guesthouse also does the meal which costs 150/- INR.
Located very close to the Varkala Cliff (5 min. walk) and to the Helipad (5 min. walk) Pagan Hostel Varkala has good a/c room and the dorms are squeaky cleans as well. It costs US $8 in 6 bed mixed dorm.
Located right next to the Varkala Helipad. Budget Double Room – $12
Very boutique decor with a great location near to the Varkala Cliff. Budget Double or Twin Room – US$14
Located 2 min. from the Varkala Helipad. Single Room – $7 and Standard Double or Twin Room – US$12
How to reach Varkala
One can easily reach Varakala by train and bus. Here are the details:
Varkala by Train
The city of Varkala boasts an excellent train connection to locations both in Kerala as well as outside. The city of Varkala lies on the main line between Kochi and Trivandrum. Varkala has a direct train connection to Bangalore as well. The trains coming from Bangalore to Trivandrum also make a stop in Varkala. Though, I’d advise take the train only if you have plenty of time in hand, and not to mention the fact that train in this part often run late as well.
Trivandrum to Varkala by Train: Yes
Kochi to Varkala by Train: Yes
Bangalore to Varkala by Train: Yes, but not direct connection.
Varkala by Bus
It is a good idea to visit tourist places in trivandrum first and then get to Varkala from Trivandrum by bus; simply jump right in into one of the local buses or any bus going towards Kochi
Unfortunately, from Bangalore there are only a few direct buses available to reach Varkala. The bus takes around 12 hours for the whole Bangalore Varkala bus trip.
The best way to get to Varkala from Bangalore is by taking a evening bus from Bangalore which will drop you Trivandrum in the morning. It takes about 12 hours to reach Trivandrum. And from Trivandrum you need to hop on to one of the several trains going north. Express train (ticket price 30/- INR) takes about 40 minutes to reach Varkala while the Passenger train (stops at my many small stations in between) takes over an hour.
Trivandrum to Varkala by Bus: Yes
Kochi to Varkala by Bus: Yes
Bangalore to Varkala by Bus: Yes, but not direct connection.
Travel in Varkala
The ways to navigate the little town of Varkala is by a gear-less scooter (aka Activa and alike). You can hire a gear-less scooter for one day for 300/- INR. Check out the Coco Travel Agency near the cliff (It’s not on Google Map as of now but it’s pretty close to the Mango House).
Thanks for reading the Varkala Travel Blog, if you have any questions or suggestions please use the comment section below.
Top places to visit in Kerala
- Allepey Travel Guide – For best Kerala Backwaters
- Wayanad Travel Guide – For Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala
- Kochi Travel Guide – Colonial Heritage Kerala
Also read: India Travel Guides