Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where one can find cliffs adjacent to the Arabian Sea. The topography of Varkala is probably its greatest attraction. The wide plateau atop the steep cliff offers a grand vista of the sea. There are numerous water spouts and spas on the sides of these cliffs. This place formerly known only as a pilgrimage center has now become an attraction for backpacking tourists who discovered the charms of this quiet beach. The scenic beach backed by laterite cliffs, golden sands and rolling waves continues to draw loyal patrons to Varkala's secluded charm.
Varkala is famous for its 2,000 year old Janardanaswami temple, which is an important Vaishnavite shrine in India and is referred to as DakshinKashi (Banaras of the south). The temple is located close to the Papanasam beach, which is considered to have holy waters which wash away sins, and is also an important Ayurveda treatment centre. The temple has an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck, donated by the captain of the Dutch vessel which sank near Varkala without causing any casualties.
Location: 51 km north of Thiruvananthapuram city and 37 km south of Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram district, south Kerala.
Climate/ Best Time to Visit : The climate is humid with temperature ranging from 30 C to 35 C. The best time to come here is between October and March.
Good to know : The tertiary sedimentary formation cliff is a unique geological feature in the otherwise flat Kerala coast, and is known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological survey of India.
What to see around
The quiet and secluded Varkala Beach is a haven for sun-bathing and swimming. The evening views of the sunset are worth lingering over. There are several small restaurants and snack shops near and around Papasnanam beach, which attracts the maximum visitors both for leisure as well as for religious reasons. Vettekkada beach is another secluded and picturesque beach a short distance away near Kappil
Anjuthengu Fort (Anjengo)
Anjuthengu Fort,also known as Anjengo, is a palace of significance in the history of Kerala which dates back to 1864. An area between five coconut trees, Anju means five and Thengu means coconut tree, the land was given on lease to the English East India Company by the prince of Travancore. The English East India Company, who engaged mainly in spice and cash crops, built a fort between the five coconut trees. The place is inherited by the local fishermen and the trading of the catches happen in the beach from early to mid-morning. Anjengo is about forty-five minutes drive from Varkala.
It is a popular tourist highlight. It was a 924 ft long tunnel built in 1867 by T. Mahadeva Rao the dewan of Travancore, and took 14 years to complete. Varkala Lighthouse which is 130 feet tall is another tourist highlight in the vicinity.
It is a very important Vaishnavite shrine that attracts thousands of pilgrims. Facing the temple is the Papasnanam beach where devotees take a bath in the belief that the sacred waters will wash away their sins. A large bell washed up from the wreck of a Dutch merchant vessel is kept on display at the temple.
Sivagiri Mutt is a famous ashram in Varkala, founded by the philosopher and social reformer Sree Narayana Guru, whose mausoleum is also located on the hill-top. Other spiritual centres in the adjacent hills are the East-West University of Brahmavidya and Sree Narayana Gurukulam, both founded by Nataraja Guru, a disciple of Sree Narayana Guru.
Activities & things to do
It is an important activity in Varkala there are several clinics offering massages and treatments many of them opening only during the peak season.
Kathakali performances which are organized by the Varkala Kathakali Centeris also an attraction for tourists. The programs are organized in the evenings starting with make-up sessions.
Surfing & Yoga by the beach side
Soul & surf offers classes for amateur surfers and the warm shallow waves make for a perfect beginners sport
A unique experience of paragliding from the cliffs to the beaches is possible if the winds are favourable.
How to Reach
By Air : Varkala does not have an airport of its own; the most convenient airport is Trivandrum is nearly an hour's drive from here. Trivandrum, being the capital city of Kerala, has a very good air network and is connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, Kochi and Kolkata.
By Road : Varkala is just 47kms off from the National Highway No: 47. A good network of roads connects the city to Trivandrum. Trivandrum in turn is the linked by road to all the prominent cities in South India. So, one can easily reach Varkala from any part of the country.
By Rail : Varkala has a railway station of its own. Regular trains ply between Trivandrum and Varkala. Trivandrum again has train connection to the major places throughout the country.