A guide to vacationing at Varkala – Goa of south India
Last month, I was looking for a vacation place. I wanted to go to a place where there were serene beaches, picturesque landscapes and of course, good food. The first choice that popped into my head was none other than Goa. But I was not sure. I wanted to go somewhere quiet, away from the crowds. An alternative to Goa was what I wanted. That’s when I came across Varkala. Varkala is a sleepy little fishing village in the south of Kerala within the district of Thiruvananthapuram. It is of religious significance to Hindus due to the presence of the 2000-year-old Janardana Swami temple and the Sivagiri ashram established by Sree Narayana Guru. In recent years it has also emerged as a coastal attraction due to its beautiful beaches such as Papanasam beach, black beach, and Kappil beach. Varkala also has a huge selection of ayurvedic spas and massage centers. Read on to know more about this beautiful beach destination of Kerala.
How to reach Varkala
- Varkala is well-connected by railways. Several trains from major Indian cities such as Bangalore, Chennai etc stop at Varkala Sivagiri station.
- You can also take a train to Kollam railway station and catch a taxi or bus from there.
- The nearest airport is situated at Thiruvananthapuram. You can catch a bus or taxi from there depending on your budget.
- You can also take a flight to Kochi airport in the north and drive down to Varkala while covering other famous destinations in Kerala such as Fort Kochi and Alleppey.
Where to stay at Varkala
- The most convenient location to stay is near Papanasam beach. I stayed at the Bla Bla hostel which is at a walking distance of just 5 minutes from Papanasam beach. We booked the private deluxe room. It was neat and clean and worth every penny.
- You can also stay at The Lost Hostel which is situated right next to Bla Bla hostel.
- There are also several beach resorts such as Zion villa beach view resort, Thanal beach resort etc where you can stay.
- Resorts have package deals which include Ayurvedic massage and spa treatments.
- Varkala also has many homestays run by locals. For people who want to stay for several months, this is a good option as you get your own place and can have a taste of local lifestyle.
- Olive Garden homestay, La exotica homestay etc are some of the options I came across.
Things to do at Varkala
Varkala beach and Varkala cliff
- Take long walks down Papanasam beach (Varkala beach is locally known as Papanasam beach).
- There is a cliff right next to the beach. Several cafes and restaurants are present on this cliff. Stroll down the entire stretch of the cliff.
- Then take your pick from eateries and lay back with a hot cup of coffee and snacks and enjoy the view. You can see far into the horizon of the Arabian sea from here.
Ayurvedic massageGet a rejuvenating Ayurvedic massage at one of the several Ayurvedic massage centers present on the cliff.
Anjengo fort and lighthouse
- Rent a motorbike or bicycle and ride down to Anjengo fort which is around 12 Km from Papanasam beach. Anjengo fort was built by the British in the 16th century.
- After looking around the fort, go to the Anjengo lighthouse which is located right next to the fort. It is a government lighthouse and is open to visitors from 3 pm to 5 pm. Buy a ticket and climb to the top of the lighthouse and enjoy the 360-degree breathtaking view.
Kappil beach and Kappil lake
- Visit Kappil beach and Kappil lake situated around 8 Km from Papanasam beach. Here, when you stand on the beach, on one side you will see the ocean and on the other side, you will see Kappil lake which is basically a backwater surrounded by coconut palms and mangroves.
- This is not a very crowded beach and is ideal for couples who want to spend a romantic evening watching the sunset.
- If you come here in the early morning, during sunrise, you can see fishermen pulling in the fishing nets that they laid the previous evening. You can buy fresh fish at a reasonable price if you have a kitchen at your accommodation where you can cook it.
Good food at Velliyazhchakaavu toddy bar
- If you want a taste of authentic Kerala cuisine, ride down to Velliyazhchakaavu toddy bar which is around 8 km from Papanasam beach. This is a family restaurant where you can have authentic coconut toddy made from the sap of coconut flowers.
- Order some appam and spicy chicken or duck curry to accompany it. You can choose between non-alcoholic and alcoholic coconut toddy so that teetotalers need not worry.
- Varkala beach is a huge attraction for surfers. The waves here are considered good for surfing beginners.
- You can take surfing lessons from various surfing schools found here. Enquire about the nearest school at the place where you are staying.
Varkala AquariumVisit the Varkala Aquarium which houses several varieties of fishes and other sea animals. The aquarium is open from morning 10 am to 6 pm.
Best places to eat at Varkala
BreakfastBreakfast can be had at Coffee temple or Trattorias on the cliff.
LunchYou can have lunch at Darjeeling cafe. They have a good selection of continental cuisine.
DinnerDinner can be had at Theeram restaurant. Choose a table with a sea view and enjoy the twinkling lights of fishing boats on the ocean while digging into your seafood.
Things to remember while holidaying at Varkala
- Do keep in mind that Varkala is a religious destination so be sensitive to local culture.
- Alcohol is banned here, especially near Papanasam beach. Therefore, local shops and restaurants do not serve alcohol.
- Please do not litter on the beach. Keep our beaches neat and clean. Always carry a plastic bag with you to put any waste that you might generate.