Situated on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram district is the peaceful little town of Varkala in Kerala. This quiet hamlet has a few attractions like a 2000-year-old shrine called the Janardhanaswamy Temple and the Sivagiri Mutt, an ashram (religious retreat) of a religious reformer, Shree Narayana Guru. And one of the most popular attractions at Varkala is Varkala Beach. Located on the shores of the Arabian Sea, this beach is well-known as a cliff beach thanks to the dramatic cliffs that flank it. Locals also call it the Papanasam Beach because of the ancient Hindu belief that the sins and impurities of an individual who takes a dip in the waters of this beach will be washed away. Varkala Beach is also famous for the natural spring that flows through its cliffs and is said to have healing properties. Visitors to the beach can enjoy a range of water sports, indulge in healing treatments at the numerous Ayurveda centers located here, shop at local stalls and shops, eat at beachside shacks and clifftop restaurants or simply take a stroll on the beach. To know more, take a look at our guide to Varkala Beach.
Things to do / highlights
Engage in thrilling water sports
Besides taking relaxing strolls, swimming and sunbathing, you can also enjoy a range of water sports at Varkala Beach. Several operators offer parasailing, jet skiing, windsurfing, snorkelling and banana boat rides. For thrill-seekers and lovers of adventure sports, Varkala Beach offers the perfect setting with its majestic mashup of rolling sea waves, cool sea breeze and towering rocky cliffs. Surfing is another popular sport here. For experienced surfers, delightful waves of the Arabian Sea beckon and for beginners, surfing lessons are available. You can also rent surfing gear at the beach.
Indulge in a relaxing and healing Ayurveda treatment
Varkala Beach also offers the perfect environs for unwinding and pampering yourself with relaxing treatments from the ancient Indian medicinal practice of Ayurveda. The cliff on the beach is home to a mineral spring that is said to have curative properties and a number of Ayurvedic centres are located here who specialise in healing Ayurvedic treatments and massages. Additionally, plenty of yoga studios are also located here offering yoga sessions, meditation and self-awareness training. Take some time off from the cares of daily life and soothe your body, mind and soul at Varkala Beach.
What to eat
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Café del Mar
Plenty of eateries and shacks line the beach and cliff of Varkala Beach. But Café del Mar is the most popular of these eateries. With a relaxed ambience and fantastic sea views, the cafe is a favourite hangout spot for tourists. Try their various breakfast offerings or their famous seafood dishes prepared in the local style. Their Italian fish steak is very popular with tourists.
Though primarily a seafood restaurant, Darjeeling Cafe is also well-known for its healthy food offerings. Diners at the cafe can enjoy spectacular views of the sea while chowing down on delicious breakfast dishes and well-made South Indian dishes. Smoothies are a must-try item here. The cafe also offers live music in the evenings.
Things to buy
Handicrafts and souvenirs
Like most other tourist places in India, Varkala Beach also has numerous shops by the beach and on the cliff selling a range of goods and items. From the various stalls and shacks, you can buy a range of local handicraft items, handmade jewellery, crystals, accessories, bags, etc. Souvenirs typical of Kerala like miniature versions of ceremonial headgear for elephants, Hindu deity idols, miniature houseboats, etc. are popular items to buy here.
Kerala is often considered to be the birthplace of Ayurveda, an ancient form of Indian medicine. And it is also the place where a number of Ayurvedic treatment centres are located that provide therapies, healing massages and treatments. You can pick up Ayurvedic products for home use from the shops on the beach. Ayurvedic massage oils, herbal supplements, essential oils, face care, skincare, virgin coconut oil, hair care and other products can be bought for affordable rates here.
Safety first during water sports
While indulging in water sports, accurately follow the safety instructions. Refrain from alcohol consumption while engaging in water sport activities. The Arabian Sea can be quite rough at times and it is best to not venture too deep on your own while swimming.
Time your visit
Summers are extremely hot and humid in Kerala and its best to avoid visiting at this time. The monsoon season hits Kerala from June to August, rendering the beach and waters practically inaccessible. The best time to visit Varkala Beach is from late December to early March when the temperature is bearable and the weather is pleasant and dry.
How to get there
Combination of public and private transport
Varkala Railway Station is the closest train station from Varkala Beach, at a distance of about 3 km (1.86 miles). From the station, you can hire an auto-rickshaw to take you to the beach. You can also take public transport buses from Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi cities to Varkala town, from where the beach is only a 10-minute auto-rickshaw ride away.
Hiring an auto-rickshaw is the easiest way to reach the beach. Auto rickshaws can be hailed from anywhere in Varkala town and since it is a popular tourist attraction, any driver will be able to easily take you there.
Varkala town is very well-connected by roadways; it is about 28 km (17.3 miles) south of Kollam and 46 km (28.5 miles) north of Thiruvananthapuram city. Thus, you can easily drive your own car or motorbike or a rental vehicle to reach the beach.
Several paid parking areas are available at various spots near the beach. Most are located on the cliff and provide amazing views of the beach. But most of these parking areas have limited spots that can accommodate a few two-wheelers and cars.
Varkala Beach Information
Address: Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 695141, India
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
Department of tourism: Kerala Tourism
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