Varkala, a quaint village, is home to many tourist places in the vicinity such as a wide variety of beaches, and has been a Hindu pilgrimage site since the 12th-century. Wondering what to do in Varkala? Why not take a dip in the holy waters here to purge the body of the impurities and the soul of all its sins. The city enjoys a favorable climate throughout the year and due to its religious importance, is often referred to as the ‘Kashi of the South’. It also has some of the best-rated budget hotels for those looking to save some money.
Varkala’s beaches are less crowded and cleaner than the bustling ones at Kovalam, and hence we have come up with the best things to do in Varkala, India for you to relax in their serene environment.
1. Spend the day at Varkala Beach/Papanasham Beach
Varkala Beach is a beach along the Arabian Sea in Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala is also known as Papanasham Beach. The word ‘papanasham’ means destroyer of sins. Hence many Hindu people come to this beach to take a dip in the waters to wash away their sins. Moreover, a segment of the beach is used by the Hindus to scatter the ashes of their dead relatives as is the belief that the water of the beach will cleanse the soul of the dead.
Varkala Beach is one of the best Varkala sightseeing places and is the only beach in southern Kerala to have tertiary sedimentary formation cliffs called the Varkala Formation next to the Arabian Sea, which is a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Kerala coast. There are frequent water jets and spas on the sides of these cliffs and hence is a preferred location for people wanting to sunbathe and swim. The evening vistas of the sunset are worth lingering over.
There are numerous small restaurants and shops near and around Varkala Beach on the cliff, attracting maximum visitors both visiting for leisure and religious motives. A small car parking facility is available atop the cliff, however visitors can’t bring their cars near the beach.
Address: Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Website: Varkala Beach
2. Visit Bekal Beach
Kappil Beach also called Bekal Beach is a fabulous beach for strolling, especially at sunrise and sunset. This Bekal destination is just as popular as many Varkala tourist places. The beach is clean, uncrowded and beautiful, fringed by coconut palms, which mimics a tropical paradise. The Kappil Beach is not advised for swimming, even for experienced swimmers, as the sand is uneven and drops abruptly into the ocean floor. You can gauge the unevenness of the ocean floor by watching the waves drop and rise abruptly. Moreover, there are no lifeguards at this beach so play it safe when entering the seawater.
The sand at Kappil Beach is clean and the kids can have fun building sandcastles while you can take a break and enjoy the beautiful views of the Arabian Sea. You can also take a lazy stroll along the coast during the evenings or early in the morning when the weather is pleasant.
Address: Bekal Fort Rd, Kasaragod District, Bekal, Kerala 671316, India
Phone: +91 04672310700
Hours: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (All days)
Website: Bekal Beach
3. Check out Anjengo Lighthouse
The Anjengo Lighthouse was built by the British about a century ago. It is one of the important landmarks that throws light into the places that encountered with the European colonial powers in Anchuthengu. The lighthouse is 40 m (130 feet) in height with around 11 floors and has around 200 steps to reach the top. The Anjengo Lighthouse is located 13 kms (8 miles) from Varkala Beach, but is worth the effort to pay a visit to this edifice. It’s a long climb to the top, but rewards you with some amazing views of the sea, the nearby fort, the lake and palm trees. The lighthouse stands tall in an attractive little park with trees and flowers. The view from the top of the lighthouse is awe inspiring.
You need to purchase a ticket to get inside the lighthouse. There isn’t much in terms of education or history of the place, and they do charge a small fee for cameras. But it is worth it; if you are a photography enthusiast, you will get an amazing view from the top with one side showing you the beautiful Arabian Sea in all its glory and on the other side there is this beautiful landscape of backwaters and coconut trees aligned in a row, creating a picturesque landscape.
Address: Chilakkoor Vallakkadavu Rd, Anchuthengu, Kerala 695309, India
Hours: 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
Website: Anjengo Lighthouse
4. Explore Varkala Cliff
Balanced almost terrifyingly along the edge of a 15 m-high red laterite cliff, the North Cliff part of Varkala has an unsurprisingly attractive setting that has gradually grown into Kerala’s most popular tourist hang-out. A small strand of beach nuzzles into Varkala’s cliff edge, where restaurants play mild world music and stalls peddle kitschy memorabilia and jewelry. It’s touristy and the sales pitches can be tiring, but Varkala Cliff is still a great place to watch the days slowly turn into weeks, and it’s not hard to escape the crowds further north or south where the beaches are cleaner and quieter.
Address: Varkala Helipad Rd, Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
5. Head to Kappil Pozhi
About 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of Varkala town is the tranquil and picturesque Kappil Pozhi Lake. Surrounded with coconut groves and trees this peaceful inlet wanders elegantly and joins the Arabian Sea. Get on the bridge that is constructed across the lake and you will get the most captivating view of the lake striding toward the blue horizon. The more exploratory can go boating to relish the exquisiteness of this lake.
One can avail the boat hire arranged by the department of tourism, where one can rent pedal boats, which is another way to cruise along this relaxing waterway. The peaceful environment here, without the racket of the city, will certainly cool your anxieties.
Address: Kappil Thekkumbhagam Paravur Rd, Kappil, Kerala 695311, India
6. Pay a visit to Janardhanaswamy Temple
Janardanaswamy Temple is a 2000-year-old temple located on the summit of a table-land adjoining the sea at Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, known also as the Varkala Temple. Janardanaswamy is a manifestation of Lord Vishnu and the temple dedicated to him is atop one of the hills, reached by a long and wearisome flight of steps.
The temple of Janardana is a fine example of Kerala art and architecture. The circular ‘Sanctum sanctorum’ prevailed by a conical dome of copper sheets, the square ‘mandapa’ with beautiful wooden carvings of ‘Navagrahas’ (nine planets) on the ceiling and copper-plated roof over it, the quadrangular enclosures around them, and a hall containing a ‘bali peetha’ (food offering pedestal) in front of the inner temple, are the characteristic features of Kerala style architecture.
Annually, in the months of March–April, a ten-day Arattu (holy bath) festival is commemorated at the Janardhanaswamy Temple. The festival commences with a flag hoisting ceremony, and concludes with a procession of five decorated elephants through the streets of Varkala. During the fourth and fifth days of the festival, the revelries include all night long entertainment in the form of traditional Kathakali dancing.
Address: Temple Rd, Padinjarae Nada, Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Website: Janardhanaswamy Temple
7. Ride aboard a jetty to visit Ponnumthuruthu Island
Ponnumthuruthu is an island situated about 12 km (7.4 mi) south of Varkala. To reach the island you can board a makeshift jetty where the walkway to the ferry is made up of coconut husks, mud and the waste from coconut coir from Nedunganda and cruise through the backwaters. The name Ponnumthuruthu plainly means Golden Island. Legends say that the queens of the Travancore Royal Family used to hide their reserve of gold and ornaments on the island for safe keeping, and hence it earns its name. This lush island is a perfect retreat for those who need a break from the hustle and bustle of the urban life.
This island is also recognised for the Shiva Parvathi Temple, natively known as `Thuruthu kshethram.’ The temple is located amongst dense coconut groves, grown over the entire stretch. The temple is more than 100 years old and the entire island belongs to the temple committee. The island harbors different types of flora and fauna and is a bird watcher’s pleasure to visit, thanks to the cormorants, egrets, herons, eagles and gulls seen in this area along with numerous water birds.
Address: Panayil Kadavu Road, Vakkom, Kerala 695312, India
Phone: +91 09886816417
Hours: 6:00 am to 6:00 pm (All days)
8. Spend a quiet day Varkala's Black Beach
Although Varkala is surrounded by multiple beaches, Black Beach stands out for its rather serene area where the water and the surroundings are much quieter than other beaches in Varkala. If you’re not really into swimming, Black Beach is the place to be as the waters are rather choppy and is usually just best for just sunbathing on the shore. However, it’s also a spot many local surfers go to catch waves at and also a place to go shopping at their local shops for authentic souvenirs. Spend a couple of hours at this quiet part of Varkala and enjoy the sun, sand, waves, and shopping at this hidden gem for travelers.
Address: hiruvambadi Rd, Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Opening hours: 24 hours, Sundays to Mondays
9. Try cardamom coffee at the Coffee Temple
When in Varkala, India, it’s always interesting to try different food from various parts of the country, since the way they use spices differs in various cities and provinces. When in Varkala, having a cup of coffee at the Coffee Temple is a must as it is one of the best places to get breakfast and try fusion style Indian Mexican cuisine. Their best selling cardamom coffee is beloved by tourists and locals alike as it uses cardamom, a type of ginger that lessens acidity in coffee. Make a pit stop at Coffee Temple and enjoy a cup of joe at some of Varkala’s best cafes.
Address: Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Website: Coffee Temple
Opening hours: 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Sundays to Mondays
Contact: +91 81290 50685
10. Take surfing lessons at Soul & Surf
If you’re traveling to Varkala alone, do something spontaneous and learn how to surf at Soul & Surf, open seven days a week for surf lessons. They offer surf lessons from beginners to advance and are just a week-long before you are set to go off on the waves alone. Surf instructors are professionally trained and also work with qualified lifeguards that make learning a new water sport all the safer and also nothing short of exciting. Training starts at 6:30 am and typically ends at 11:00 am for surfing lessons and is followed by sunset yoga, chill-out sessions at the Arabian Sea, and having a couple of drinks at bars by Varkala Cliff. Make the most out of your solo-travel, learn a new skill, meet cool new people at Soul & Surf.
Surfing Lessons at Soul & Surf
Address: Golden Beach, South Cliff, Janardhanapuram, Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Website: Soul & Surf
Opening hours: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, Sundays to Mondays
11. Join yoga classes in the yoga capital of India
Get a little zen and learn how to do “the crow” during some yoga lessons at the yoga hub of India, Kerala. Varkala town specifically is scattered with yoga studios, ashrams, and beach retreats that welcome locals and travelers alike to join. Yoga is widely practiced 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. These classes more often than not also teach basics to meditation and help in the mentorship of those who are traveling 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. Indeed, if you wish to do something a little more different in your travels, yoga classes are definitely one to check off your bucket list.
Address: Varkala town, Kerala, India
Experience Varkala, India, through memorable photos that you’ll get to treasure for a lifetime. With this photoshoot, you’re sure to capture some of the most beautiful sceneries in Varkala while being a part of them. This experience is handled by Deepak, and he welcomes guests who are as young as two years old - making this photoshoot perfect for families with kids. Deepak is also known to work with your schedule, so this experience is very flexible depending on your requests. Make sure to give it a go when in Varkala.
Photoshoot by lifestyle photographer
Duration: 2.5 hours
13. Have a meal at Gods Own Country Kitchen
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
This popular dining spot is a definite must-visit when in Varkala. A favorite of both locals and tourists, this humble shop serves some of the best seafood in the area. If you’re looking for something authentic and fresh, make sure to drop by Gods Own Country Kitchen. Order their signature dishes, cooked Kerala-style and you’re sure to find satisfaction. With superb dishes, hospitable staff, and great location, you should definitely have a meal or two here and discover the hype for yourself.
Gods Own Country Kitchen
Address: Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Website: Gods Own Country Kitchen
Opening hours: 8am - 10:30pm (daily)
14. Unwind with Absolute Ayurveda
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
For a health experience like no other, you have to try Absolute Ayurveda. With a range of traditional and alternative Indian medicinal practices, from yoga to natural facials, body cleanses, and detoxes, you are bound to come away from this location feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxing and the staff is professional and experienced. Their deep-tissue massage is especially popular with visitors and is guaranteed to leave you satisfied. Whether you have an injury or just want to indulge yourself, check out Absolute Ayurveda for a great time.
Address: Temple Road (padinjarae nada), Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Website: Absolute Ayurveda
Opening hours: 8am - 8pm (daily)
15. Pick up a surfboard and learn with Moon Waves Surf School
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
While in Varkala, India, why not stop by Moon Waves Surf School for some epic fun. If you are a beginner looking to learn surfing, this is the place to go when in Varkala. Gorgeous surroundings and a sandy beach is your backdrop, while the experienced surfing instructors show you the ropes. Board rental is simple and painless. If you want something more slow-paced, snorkeling is also offered here. Enjoy exploring the vibrant seafloor alongside your guides, or go on a fishing expedition. At the end of the day, you can even arrange for a beach BBQ - can it get any better?
Moon Waves Surf School
Address: Marine Palace, Papanasam Beach, Varkala, Kerala 695141, India
Website: Moon Waves Surf School
A captivating beach town with a devotional ambience
Varkala is indeed a charming beach hamlet located about one and half hour’s drive from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. Varkala is an optimal mix of beach exquisiteness and devotional ambiance. This is perhaps the only location in Southern India where the steep cliff and flat land adjoins the Arabian Sea. There are just so many places to visit in Varkala. The golden island with its virgin landscape and the enthralling Kappil Pozhi with its linear landscape transports you to an ethereal world of peace and relaxation.
Frequently asked questions about the best things to do in Varkala, India
1. What are the best attractions to visit in Varkala?
Varkala Beach, Varkala Cliff, and Janardhanaswamy Temple are some of the best attractions to visit in Varkala. Be sure not to miss them while you’re here.
2. What are the best outdoor activities in Varkala?
Varkala is popular for its gorgeous beaches, so some of the best outdoor activities here include swimming, surfing, and doing water sports. Visitors also enjoy strolling along the sands of Varkala Beach or Black Beach. You can also visit several other attractions like Varkala Cliff or Janardhanaswamy Temple and take great photos.
3. What are the most popular things to do in Varkala with kids and family?
Have a memorable day in Varkala with the whole family. Enjoy the great beaches of Varkala like Varkala Beach and Black Beach, have a one-of-a-kind photo shoot with the kids, or visit beautiful attractions like Varkala Cliff or Janardhanaswamy Temple.
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