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A Complete Guide to Varkala, India

Updated On 8th March, 2024

Nestled along the Arabian Sea, in the south Indian state of Kerala, Varkala is a stunning cliff top, beachfront location becoming increasingly popular with the wellbeing community. After being recommended it by a friend during my time in Rishikesh, I was so excited to finally arrive here.

Unlike the more commercialized tourist spots scattered across India, Varkala offers a serene getaway with its spectacular cliffside views, pristine beaches, and a vibe that’s both relaxed and deeply invigorating. This complete guide to Varkala is your all-access pass to exploring Varkala, a destination that should be on every traveller’s bucket list, especially when visiting the South of India.

In this blog post, I will share the best things to do in Varkala, should you be planning your trip!

A travel guide to Varkala India

Why Visit Varkala?

Varkala is not your typical tourist beach destination; it’s a place where the cliffs meet the sea in a dramatic confluence of nature’s artistry. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere where the main ‘strip’ is lined up along the cliff edge. Your walk to morning coffee and your walk to dinner are activities in themselves with this view. STUNNING.

The town of Varkala offers something for everyone – whether you’re a yoga enthusiast looking for authentic yoga classes, a surfer ready to catch some waves (though small), or a culture lover eager to dive into Kerala’s rich heritage, culinary immersions and cliff-top restaurants.

Varkala is well known for its food too. There is a delightful exploration of flavours, with seafood taking centre stage and being served up in many of these cliff-top restaurants. Most of the restaurants have an amazing view across the ocean too!

To ensure the best possible experience, particularly if you’ve never been to India before, we highly recommend reading about the realities of travelling to India before you visit Varkala.

India Google Map Legend

Get lifetime access to my endless hours of research and time spent on the ground finding the best places to eat, drink, relax and explore in the area. You simply open the Google Map on your device and all my pins are at the touch of your fingertips.

Best Time to Visit Varkala

Varkala enjoys a tropical climate, with the best time to visit being from October to March when the weather is cooler and pleasant. I say cooler, it was still 35 degrees when I visited in January and I found I was retiring to the ocean or to the AC in my room from midday – 3pm. Still, these are the cooler months.

This time is also the peak tourist season, so be sure to plan your trip in advance. We didn’t have too much choice when It came to accommodation because we left it til last minute. To experience the best things to do in Varkala, you’ll want to secure accommodation near the cliffs!

best things to do in Varkala

Getting To Varkala

The nearest airport to Varkala is Trivandrum International Airport, about 50 km away from Varkala. Varkala is well-connected by rail and road, with the Varkala Sivagiri Railway Station being just a short drive from the main beach area connecting you to Kochi and Alleppey.

How to Find Accommodation in Varkala, India:

Guesthouses, Homestays, and Cottages in Varkala:

Check Airbnb for guesthouses, homestays, and cottages in Varkala. For solo travellers visiting India, it’s important to do your research and plan well. In this complete guide to solo travel, Seren shares useful tips for solo travel in India that can also be applied to Varkala. From understanding the culture and local customs to being attentive to safety measures, thorough research is key to a successful solo trip in India.

We stayed at Gypsy Walker in Varkala (North Cliffs) for £30 per night with AC. It was a couple of minute walk to the cliff top and was pleasant. There are lots of lovely places to stay in Varkala but we left it til last minute so our choice was definitely the best of the bunch kinda job!

Hotels, Resorts, and Beachside Accommodation in Varkala:

For a wide selection of hotels, resorts, and beachside accommodations in Varkala, visit booking.com. Browse through the options and choose the one that best fits your preferences.

Hostels and Budget Accommodation in Varkala:

If you’re travelling on a budget, there are hostels available in Varkala. These offer affordable accommodation options and are a great choice for budget-conscious travellers. Look for budget accommodation in Varkala here.

Ayurvedic Retreat Centers and Yoga Resorts in Varkala:

Varkala and this region in general are known for Ayurvedic treatments and yoga retreats. If you’re looking for a holistic wellness experience, consider staying at an Ayurvedic retreat centre or a yoga resort.

Here are a few other places to check out!

  1. Palm Tree Heritage
  2. The Gateway Hotel Varkala
  3. Clafouti Beach Resort
  4. Hindustan Beach Retreat
  5. Vedanta Wake Up!
  6. Deshadan Cliff & Beach Resort
  7. Akhil Beach Resort
  8. Varkala Marine Palace
  9. Bluewater Beach Resort
  10. Prashanthi Cliff Resort

Remember to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your preferred choice in Varkala.

The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India

1. Varkala Beach (Papanasam Beach)

The crown jewel of Varkala, Papanasam Beach (main beach), is famed for its therapeutic and spiritual properties. The beach is a perfect spot for a relaxing day under the sun with many local businesses offering deckchairs and umbrellas for a small cost. In the midday heat you’ll want to be under the umbrella or cooling off in the ocean!

This beach has the bonus of a stunning sunset view that paints the sky in hues of orange and pink. Don’t forget to take a dip in the holy waters believed to wash away all sins.

The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India

2. Admire Varkala Cliffs

A geological marvel, the Varkala Cliff, is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea.

The gorgeous red rocks cannot be missed and are best admired from the beach itself. Lined with quaint cafes, vibrant shops, and Ayurvedic massage centres, the cliff offers a panoramic view of the sprawling sea below. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely stroll or sit back and watch the world go by.

The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India

3. Janardanaswamy Temple

This 2000-year-old temple is a significant spiritual site dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It’s located close to the Papanasam main beach. the temple’s architectural beauty and serene atmosphere make it a must-visit for those seeking peace and spiritual insight, one of the best things to do in Varkala if you’re on a Spiritual Quest!

4. Go to an Authentic Yoga Class

This was what brought me to Varkala. My friend from Rishikesh had actually recommended Varakala as the Spiritual hub of the south, somewhere great to practice with authentic yoga teachers.

My friends recommendation was Mathatitu Yoga Training & TTC Center where they have drop-in classes Mon-Sat at 8:30AM. All these locations and tips are included in my India Google Map Legend.

The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India
The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India

5. Anjengo Fort

Delve into history at the Anjengo Fort, a 17th-century fort established by the British East India Company. The fort offers a glimpse into the colonial past of India and provides picturesque views of the sea and the backwaters.

6. Surfing and Water Sports

For the adrenaline junkies, one of the best things to do in Varkala is to jump in the water. And there’s surf here… sometimes!

Varkala’s beaches offer excellent surf breaks that are perfect for both beginners and seasoned surfers. There are several surf schools along the beach where you can rent equipment or take lessons.

The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India

7. Ayurvedic Treatments

No trip to Kerala is complete without experiencing its ancient wellness tradition – Ayurveda. Varkala is home to numerous authentic Ayurvedic centers where you can indulge in rejuvenating treatments and massages that promise to heal the body and mind. You’ll be spoilt for choice when you arrive, simply go for a wander!

8. Culinary Delights

The culinary scene in Varkala is a delightful mix of traditional Kerala cuisine and international flavors. Seafood is a local specialty, and there are plenty of beachfront cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy freshly caught fish, prawns, and crabs, cooked to perfection. Clafouti Restaurant were serving up some spectacular seafood! Abba Restaurants seafood sizzler was also amazing!

The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India

Unique Experiences in Varkala

While Varkala is known for its stunning beaches and cliffside views, there are a few unique experiences that you shouldn’t miss during your visit:

Take a boat ride in the backwaters – Varkala is situated close to the scenic backwaters of Kerala. Hop onto a traditional houseboat or a canoe and explore the serene waterways, surrounded by lush greenery and coconut palms.

Witness a Kathakali performance – Immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Kerala’s traditional dance form, Kathakali. Attend a performance where skilled artists clad in colorful costumes and elaborate makeup portray mythological stories through dance and music.

Try a cooking class – Kerala is renowned for its delicious cuisine, and Varkala offers the perfect opportunity to learn to cook traditional dishes. Take a cooking class where you can discover the secrets behind popular Kerala recipes and savor your own creations.

Attend a yoga and meditation retreat – With its tranquil atmosphere and natural beauty, Varkala is a haven for yoga and meditation enthusiasts. Join a retreat or a workshop where you can deepen your practice, rejuvenate your mind, and find inner peace amidst the scenic surroundings.

Visit a local fishing village – Take a trip to a nearby fishing village and witness the vibrant lives of the local fishermen. Experience their daily routines, learn about traditional fishing techniques, and enjoy a taste of freshly caught seafood straight from the fishing nets.

These unique experiences will add an extra layer of richness to your trip to Varkala, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture and create lasting memories.

Places to eat and drink in Varkala, India

After a day of exploring and soaking up the sun in Varkala, taking a walk along the cliff and choosing a restaurant to stare out at the ocean from is complete bliss.

From local specialties to international delights, Varkala offers a diverse range of dining options that cater to every palate. The town’s restaurants and cafes not only serve delicious food but also provide a unique ambiance, whether it’s dining with a view of the sparkling Arabian Sea or enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of a beachside café.

  1. Sujata Restaurant – £5-8 per person Offers delicious Indian dishes at budget-friendly prices.
  2. Abba Restaurant – Super popular but great diverse menu which we ate twice at and were happy!
  3. Jasmine Bay – £7-12 per person Provides a mix of Indian and international cuisines with a beachside ambiance.
  4. Clafouti Beach Resort – £8-15 per person Enjoy tasty meals and stunning ocean views right by the beach.
  5. Juice Shack – £3-6 per person Ideal for quick bites and refreshing drinks at budget-friendly prices.
  6. Darjeeling Café – £10-14 per person Fusion flavors of Indian and continental dishes in a cozy setting.
  7. Chill Out Lounge – £12-18 per person A hub for a variety of cuisines including Indian, Chinese, and more.
  8. Curry Leaf Restaurant – £12-16 per person Known for offering authentic Kerala cuisine and flavorful dishes.
  9. Mother’s Kitchen – £12-15 per person A top choice for vegetarian and vegan options in a health-conscious menu.
The Best Things To Do In Varkala, India

Varkala is a hidden gem in Kerala that offers a serene escape from your jam-packed inland India itinerary.

Its laid-back vibe, combined with the natural beauty and cultural richness, makes it a destination that you’ll want to return to time and again. So pack your bags, and get ready to experience the magic of Varkala.

To elevate your Varkala experience and save time finding the best spots to visit in Varkala, our India Google Map Legend will be your best travel guide!

Have you been to Varkala?

What are the best things to do in Varkala? Anything you’d add to this Varkala bucket list?

Love as always and happy adventuring… 

Mollie Bylett

India Google Map Legend

Get lifetime access to my endless hours of research and time spent on the ground finding the best places to eat, drink, relax and explore in the area. You simply open the Google Map on your device and all my pins are at the touch of your fingertips.

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IT’S LOVELY TO MEET YOU

I’M MOLLIE AND I STARTED THIS BLOG BACK IN 2013 WHEN I HEADED OUT ON MY FIRST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE. 

I’D LOVE TO SHARE THE JOURNEY WITH YOU, WE’VE GROWN A LOT SINCE THEN!

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