Varkala. Hmm…I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon this place, maybe heard about it through a friend? But boy oh boy! After visiting the magical place that it is, I ended up staying there for a whole two and a half months! Varkala was like this treasure I’d found. It was a secret I didn’t want to share with anyone; it was ‘my’ place.
But to not tell you about a place so beautiful would be almost criminal! So here goes everything you’d possibly want to and need to know about Varkala. If I had to put my experience of all these months into one sentence it’d be: Varkala is magic.
And you’ll find out why just about now…
Sandy cliffs & surfing tides.
Varkala beach is the only beach in Kerala that has huge red cliffs adjacent to the sea. There are only about 5-6 of such beaches in the entire country! Which is what makes this beach stand out from the rest of the beaches in Kerala, and India. In fact, Discovery Channel has ranked Varkala beach as one of the best beaches in Kerala and top 10 beaches in the world! Counts for something right?
Varkala in Kerala is extremely popular among foreigners, but not so much with us Indians. There are quite a lot of things to do in Varkala and places to visit in Varkala but the most important thing to remember is; Varkala is a place you feel, not see.
It has a very slow relaxed pace accompanied with the perfect hippie vibe. There is no rush to tick off items from your things to do in Varkala list or to be some place..wherever you are is right where you’re supposed to be. And only if you can adjust to its pace is when you’ll really enjoy. Or else it’s just like any other beachtown really! The ‘Varkala Vibe’ is what makes it special.
Things to do in Varkala
Chill at a cliff-side cafe
If you ask me what I did most in Varkala, my answer would probably be this.
Varkala cliff is a famous beachfront that is the result of a gigantic accumulation of rock formations through the years.
Where else would you get such a magnificent view of the Arabian Sea while sipping a drink or relishing on some food? It’s amongst the most chilled yet fun things to do in Varkala! The entire cliff is filled with cute cafes from Tibetian delicacies, Continental to Kerala cuisines.
Top recommendation: Cafe Del Mar, Jairam Cafe, Cafe Italiano and Darjeeling Cafe
Surf Surf Surf!
Yessss! There’s surfing too.
Varkala in Kerala has just the right waves for beginners to learn. The water isn’t too deep, the seabed is flat and instructors are amazing!
Akhi from Moonwaves Surf School is the first name that comes to mind when you think of Varkala surfing. He’s a surfer with over 16 years of experience who does a fabulous job at teaching you how to catch waves while making sure you’re comfortable and are having fun. A must try amongst things to do in Varkala.
Run on the beach
Varkala beach has an absolutely flat seabed which makes it very easy to run.
On your left would be the huge cliffs of Varkala, on the right would be the Arabian ocean and in the middle is you running..taking everything in..observing the colours of the sky change while the waves gently kiss your legs. So calming.
Attend a yoga class
Rishikesh sure is the yoga capital of the country but right next to it stands Varkala in Kerala. Every street has an ashram or yoga studio where the yoga teacher training courses take place, however there are regular drop-in classes too. What I loved most about them was that a lot of Ashrams overlooked the Varkala beach. It’s one of the things to do in Varkala to experience a whole other level of serenity.
Swim in the ocean & Visit the beaches of Varkala
You have beaches and beaches to choose from! It’s a whole coastline full of beaches, each unique in it’s own way. There is a Black sand beach too! Pretty amazing right?
The currents can be a little rough (Varkala beach has the mildest compared to the rest of the beaches) but it’s really fun to jump with the waves and swim in the ocean nonetheless. You feel places to visit in Varkala like you almost own the ocean. Though the strong currents can put you back in your place haha.
Cycle it out!
This was by far my most favourite activity to do in Varkala! The town has paved a way on the cliff that starts from the north cliff (Varkala beach) and goes beyond Edava beach (the extreme north). This 5km stretch is perfect for a leisure evening ride where you’ll be cycling right on the edge of the cliff (not in the scary way tho) overlooking the never ending ocean.
Sunsets from this stretch are spectacular as well.
Bring home some fish boy!
Now this is super duper fun! Why, you ask? Because you not only get to watch something you probably won’t get to see anywhere else, but you also get to participate! It’s got to be on your things to do in Varkala list.
Everyday early in the morning these fishermen get together and spread their huuuuuge fishing net into the ocean..after which all of them collectively pull it out (which btw is A LOT of effort).
They invite you to join them as well and everyone together pulls the ropes!
Regardless if you’re a girl or boy, or how old you are..they always need more hands.
So hop on and feel like you’ve contributed something haha! 😀
Play some frisbee on the beach
Varkala surprisingly had a lot of frisbee enthusiasts! Every evening there would be a huge group of people throwing the disk in the air and having the time of their lives. It looked so enticing that we too bought a frisbee and that almost became our everyday evening ritual.
There were people playing football and volleyball too! Some practiced yoga on the beach. This was the lifestyle of the people who stayed for a longer period in Varkala. And one of the many fun things to do in Varkala.
Watch the best sunsets
Oh the sunsets! Undoubtedly the most beautiful part of the day. I have so many memories of these sunsets. The sunsets of Varkala in Kerala were by far the most beautiful ones I’ve seen! I don’t know how to explain..there is some kind of a spell in the air.
Watching it alone by the beach or with a group of friends after a long day or with that special someone. Each sunset hits you different, and each sunset is just as special.
Places to visit in Varkala
Janardhana Swamy Temple
Janardhana Swamy Temple is an ancient 2000-year-old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple reflects the aesthetics of traditional South-Indian architecture followed in olden times and is very significant in Varkala’s history; especially the religious side of it.
It’s one of the few places to visit in Varkala that would give you a glimpse of the town’s rich mythological history. Also called Varanasi of South or ‘Dakshina Kasi’, it is a holy & important place for ‘Pithru Tharpanam’ ritual -an offering to the departed loved ones.
Golden Island, Varkala
Half an hour away from the main buzz, quietly sits Golden Island; a must amongst places to visit in Varkala.
It’s a small and really pretty island full of trees, like most of Kerala is. You can kayak and do boating here as well!
Pro tip: It’s much better than Kayaking in the backwaters of Kappil lake.
Places to visit near Varkala
How to reach Varkala
Varkala does not have an airport, hence to reach Varkala you could fly into Trivandrum International Airport, which is 50kms away. Cabs and buses are easily available. Alternatively a train could be taken from Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station to Varkala Sivagiri railway station.
You could also fly into Cochin International Airport which is 200kms from Varkala. A train can be taken from Kochi to reach Varkala- it is the fastest and most convenient bet.
Varkala Sivagiri railway station is just 5kms from the North Cliff (most happening part of town) and is well connected to other locations within and outside the state as well.
Varkala is also easily accessible via road. There are plenty of bus options, cabs and autos available.
To conclude this post about my favourite place…from about three months that I spent there, the one thing I can say is- the people of Varkala is what makes the place so special. I’ve interacted and spent time with the loveliest people, some of whom are now my closest friends. Everyone you meet over there is somehow on the same wavelength as you, and you connect with people the old school way.
Conversations happen over coffee with strangers. You eat breakfast at a local joint as one happy community. It’s as if time takes you back to how things should be before we all became obsessed with our phones. You watch sunsets instead of your Instagram feed. It’s truly magical.
So apart from places to visit in Varkala and things to do in Varkala, plan your trip in a way that allows you enough time to interact with its people. There isn’t any guide to Varkala, you just go with the flow.
I’d say Varkala in Kerala at least requires a week to be experienced but the town is sure to leave you in awe no matter the number of days you spend there. Varkala will always have a huge place in my heart.
Always & forever. <3
Frequently asked questions
What is varkala famous for?
Beaches, free-spirited vibe, yoga, surfing
Which is better Varkala or Kovalam?
Having been to both the places, I’d personally prefer Varkala.
Where to stay in Varkala?
What should I wear in Varkala?
Anything you’re comfortable in! It’s a very safe place where you won’t be judged on your clothes. Weather wise Varkala can be pretty hot and humid, so pack accordingly.
Can you swim in Varkala?
Absolutely, but carefully too. The currents can be pretty strong.
Is Varkala worth visiting?