Varkala is a coastal suburban town of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), located in the state of Kerala. The city boasts of a rare geographical feature with a high cliff running parallel to the Arabian Sea, which is responsible for stunning vistas of the ocean and the horizon. Sandy beaches separate the water from the cliffs and are punctuated with water spouts and natural spas.
Varkala is a serene and quiet town that goes to sleep as night falls and doesn’t offer a rambunctious nightlife. Because of Varkala’s unique geographical features and serene environment, it is a popular tourist destination especially for backpackers and families to enjoy a fun experience together. The Benares of the South, will not disappoint travellers looking to meditate, ruminate, and relax in this quiet, peaceful little town of India.
- There are several myths by people all around on the birth of Varkala. A legend said that, when a group of pilgrims approached Saint Narada and told him that they had sinned, Narada threw his valkalam and it landed at this scenic village and hence, the place came to be known as ‘Varkala’.
- Narada directed his devotees to offer prayers at the beach where the valkalam landed. This place then came to be known as ‘Papanasam’ meaning redemption from sins and that’s why the water of this place is said to have purifying properties.
- Varkala also holds a place in ancient trade history, especially during the Sangha Dynasty. This place was known by the name of Balita in the ancient Greek manuscript called The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. It was an ancient port for foreign traders as per the historical documents.
Varkala is located in the district of Trivandrum or the Thiruvananthapuram district, in the state of Kerala known for its beaches and absolute serenity.
How to reach Varkala?
Varkala is accessible by air as well as road.
The nearest airport to Varkala is the Thiruvananthapuram airport located around 45 km away from the town. Flights connect Thiruvananthapuram to many major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Varkala lies on the rail lines connecting from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam and Kollam. But not all trains stop at the station.
Varkala Is easily accessible by road, government buses and private taxis can available along with tour guides.
When to visit Varkala?
October to February is the best time to visit Varkala as the temperature is relaxed and the sun is gentle compared to the summers. A decent level of humidity can be expected throughout the year but during winters there are colder air and pleasant ambience that add to the fun of exploring the charming village. However, the Summer season is a complete no for tourists as the heat levels touch at 40°C every year.
The official language of Kerala is Malayalam. However a small minority of people also speak languages like Tulu, Konkani, Marathi and Kannada.
Winter Season in Varkala
Winters approaches Varkala by December and lasts till February. The climate is pleasant and cool and the temperature ranges from 12°C to 31°C. Winters are the most apt season for sightseeing in Varkala.
Monsoon Season in Varkala
June marks the beginning of the monsoon season in Varkala and lasts mostly till September. The rains bring a newness and rejuvenating greenery to the place.
Summer Season in Varkala
Summers of Varkala are extremely hot and humid, and therefore the least preferred place to visit in Varkala and the temperature ranges from 22°C to 40°C in the months of March to May.
Fairs & Festivals in Varkala
One of the most important festivals of the town, Ekadasi Festival is celebrated on the 11th day of every lunar fortnight. The Vrishchika Ekadasi has very special importance to the people of the town. A highlight of this festival is marked by a commemorative plaque for Gajarajan Kesavan.
Utsavam or Annual Festival
The festival of Utsavam is celebrated on the day of Pushya in the month of February-March and is meant for the purification and revitalizing the powers of the deity.
Saraswati Pooja is held on the last three days of the Navaratri festival as these days are specially meant for Goddess Saraswathi. The preparations of Krishnanattam, Kathakali, and Kalaripayattu etc. usually begins this day onwards.
Thrikarthika is one of the most famous festivals in Kerala which is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Subramanya. It is very popular as the festival of lights are celebrated in the month of November.
Transportation/Stay to prefer
Government buses are available locally throughout Varkala. They are the most preferred way of travelling within the town and throughout Kerala.
Taxis and cabs are easily accessible in Varkala. They are always on the service to give tours and transport from one place to another. Even auto rickshaws might be spotted in some parts of the town.
Places to visit in Varkala
Anjengo Fort & Light House
Anjengo Fort and Light House are located distant from each other, but visiting them at Anchuthengu is one of the most interesting things to do in Varkala. The fort is remembered as important historical sites as it was among the first British settlement in India.
The architectural design is admirable in itself and the perfect settings make it an ideal spot for a picnic. The lighthouse is known to have guided British ships to the shores and from the vantage point, it offers an awe-inspiring view of the sea.
Varkala’s aquarium offers the perfect place to spend a day with your loved ones, far away from the tourist-thronged destinations in the town. With large tanks of water with exotic species of aquatic life displayed in them and the spiraling walk along the premises of the aquarium offers spectacular views of various fish, like scorpionfish, angelfish, koi, the local karimeen, in their natural habitat. The aquarium is truly a delight for animal lovers.
The Kilimanoor palace hosts paintings and artwork created by one of the most famous artists that took birth in Kerala, Raja Ravi Varma. Spread over 15 hectares, the palace displays the studio where Raja Ravi Varma spent time creating his magnificent art pieces.
This palace is surely a hub for art history enthusiasts and cultural buffs, because of its connection to a very famous painter. Along with the paintings, it is Constructed in a traditional residential style of Kerala’s many buildings and is made of small and large buildings, ponds, wells and sacred groves that are fun to explore with your family and friends.
Janardhana Swami Temple
Visiting Janardhana Swami Temple is one of the most religious experiences and most important things to do in Varkala for cultural enthusiasts and devotees of the Hindu religion. The high arched entrance and tile roof make for an opulent and grandiose styled building attracts many historians and architectures to pay it a sure visit. By visiting the temple in months of March or April gives us time to enjoy the main festival Arattu where people pay homage to their ancestors.
One of the most obvious and fun activities in Varkala is to visit the beach which is just 10 kms from the quaint hamlet and offers spectacular views of the pristine, azure waters of the sea. The beach is especially known for its natural spring that is considered to have medicinal properties. Many locals also believe that taking a dip in the holy waters of the beach can cure a body of its ailments and the soul of its sins.
Kappil Pozhi is a tranquil lake about 6 kilometres from Varkala and one of the places near Varkala definitely worthy of a visit. The best way to explore the lake is to rent a boat as it is surrounded by palm trees and it meets the Arabic Sea.
This is the only place in Kerala where cliffs meet the Arabian Sea and makes it one of the most iconic places to see in Varkala. It is different from any other beach as the Red sandstone cliff formations overlooking Varkala beach gives Varkala a unique touch in itself. There are Benches distributed along the top of the cliff to enjoy the mesmerizing views.
Cuisines to taste in Varkala
Being a place of tradition and heritage, Varkala serves the traditional Keralite cuisine that consists of Puttu, Dosa, Idli, Rice, seafood etc. many small shops near the beaches also gives evening snacks like Vada and raw mango along with some fresh coconut water. However, cuisine such as Chinese, Mughlai and continental can be easily available in any restaurant.
Things to do in Varkala
Attend Yoga Classes
Varkala is scattered with yoga studios, ashrams, and beach retreats that welcome locals and travellers alike to join. Kerala, which is also the yoga hub of India, is widely practised in this part of India and offers beginners to advanced level classes that are meant to improve and deepen your skills in an open and non-polluted environment.
The classes in Varkala more often teach the basics of meditation and help in the mentorship of those who are travelling for soul searching purposes with the help of some of the masters of such skills. Expert meditators, yogis, and mindfulness coaches are all over Varkala and are usually teaching classes in the area.
Get an Ayurvedic massage
Kerala is typically the home of Ayurveda and probably one of the most special things to do in Varkala. The Ayurvedic massages use special techniques with chosen herbs and oils to heal the mind and body. If you are feeling stressed or imbalanced in any way, there is surely an Ayurvedic treatment you can try.
Souvenirs to buy in Varkala
Artefacts made of coconut shells are one of the popular things to buy. Tibetan expatriates also sell artefacts from Tibet.
At Shalimar Weaves, you can get anything from Pashmina shawls and scarves to unique and decorative handicrafts made by artisans from all over the town.