Varkala has got almost everything that you expect from a quaint beach town–laid-back restaurants, plenty of fresh seafood; and, yes, a long, narrow stretch of sands sandwiched between a vertical cliff and the azure Arabian Sea. It stands out among all beautiful beaches of India: firstly, because of its striking natural beauty; secondly, it’s surprisingly secluded and quiet; and thirdly, there’re mix of people—foreign tourists to local residents who often come here to wet their feet after offering obeisance in a nearby temple; but they’re few.
Forget your daily worries and rejuvenate yourself in a pleasing and picturesque surrounding. Settle into one of the shacks with a drink and rejoice the sun sinking down the horizon. The long stretch of sparkling beach is nestled at the bottom of the cliff, and can be reached by steps leading down the cliff top.
Pananasam Beach – the name translates to ‘redemption of sins’ – is divided into two parts: Northern Cliff and Southern Cliff. In southern part of the beach, above the cliff lies the 2,000 years old Janardhana Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Hindus come in the southern beach to perform their last rites. The tourist part of the beach is located towards north, past the mineral spring, at the bottom of the cliff. The beach is well guarded by life guards who keep a check on people who try to wade out farther in sea. It’s always advised to check with the life guard before venturing into the sea.
Varkala is also a good place for yoga, Ayurvedic massage, and nature therapies. The best recommended centers are the Scientific School of Yoga, Naturopathy and Ayurveda Hospital as well as Sun Moon Project & East West Connection for reiki and energy healing. The Janardhana Swamy Temple festival is held every March.
How to Reach
Varkala is located between Alleppey and Kollam in Kerala, and around 54 kms drive from Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). State Transport Buses are available from Trivandrum. Bus services are available from Varkala to several parts of South Kerala and Kanyakumari.
Almost 20 Indian Railways trains stop at the station.
Trivandrum (54 kms) and Kochi (4 hours drive) are the nearest airports. Trivandrum is an international airport and connected to all major cities of India.
Varkala cliff and beach are located a 10 minute drive away from Varkala town and railway station. You can either hire a rickshaw or even walk down one of innumerable paths to enjoy the place.
Where to Stay
Varkala has several accommodations to suit all budgets, from resorts to simple rooms in family homes. Located on quieter Odayam beach, Palm Tree Heritage (www.palmtreeheritage.com), is around 10 minutes walk from the cliff, and has top quality rooms, but a little pricy. Located at the south end of the cliff, Varkala Marine Palace (www.varkalamarine.com) has rooms, cottages and apartments and is quite reasonable. The Green Palace is a popular and centrally located on the north end of the cliff next to Cafe Del Mar. Keratheeram Beach Resort is a highly rated budget option on the cliff. Set back from the cliff, the very attractive Kaiya House is a boutique hotel run by a lovely foreigner-Indian husband and wife team. The boutique Villa Jacaranda is ideal for a romantic retreat. It’s located on a hill near the end of Papanasam Beach.
To avoid crowds go to the southern end of Papanasam Beach. However the cliff isn’t easily accessible from this area. If you want to go up to the cliff from there, it’s necessary to take an auto rickshaw.
When to Visit
Varkala is hot and humid. Late December to March are the best months to visit, when the weather is dry and sunny every day, and the temperature hovers around 30 degrees Celcius. The summer months of April and May become very humid and hot.