A more laid-back alternative to Kovalam, Varkala is fast catching up to its more popular cousin, thanks to its stunning beaches.
Whenever beach comes in our mind we can only think of place is Goa but this time give this place a miss and head to Varkala. And believe me you won't miss the over hyped and crowded Goa.
Geographically located in Thiruvananthapuram, and about 30 kilometres from the city of Kollam, Varkala is Kerala's best kept secret. Home to various temples, shrines and a breathtaking beach, Varkala's highlight is the long laterrite Cliff overlooking the beach, the only one in Kerala.
Far from the madding crowd, most of the places to visit in Varkala see a few travellers. As the lesser famous neighbour of Kovalam, this sliver of a place can woo anyone with its old world charm that blends with a very hippie setup.
In want of spending calm holiday, Varkala, can be an ideal place. Waking up to the sound of the waves, swimming in the beach, a heavy lunch, the afternoon siesta, shopping and dinner with trans music playing in the back. A natural spring, the purest form of water on the side of the cliff, will serve as your pre and post beach shower and quench your thirst.
There are innumerable restaurants offering various cuisines of the world. The rates are on a higher side mainly due to large number of tourists being foreigners. Sometimes view might give doubt that you are in a foreign country (Blame the number of foreigners you spot around.) I had enjoyed each and every moment I spent here where I could sense life. There are many places which offer ayurvedic spas and massages including few yoga classes. One can spot few foreigners doing yoga on the beach in the mornings too.
Shopping in Varkala is a surprising experience for its lanes house rows of outlets. A gold mine for souvenir hunters, the street markets in Varkala sell everything from hippie clothing, Indian wear, bamboo products, Kerala-exclusive perfumes, incense sticks, soaps and oils, funky jewellery and more. Shopaholics would also love some bargain deals at the local Tibetan market, for it is decked with fascinating goods such as Tibetan musical bowls, flutes, dorjees, prayer flags and conches. And do not forget to indulge in a plate full of steaming momos and tingmos if you wish to catch your breath from all the shopping.
The mid-budget hotels in Varkala are more of a pleasant surprise for these is low on tariff yet surprisingly high on luxury. Some of the best options in the mid-budget category are Varkala Marine Palace, Vedanta Wake Up!, Magnolia Guesthouse and a few others. Resort-like places, most of these hotels are right by the beach and promise astounding views of the Arabian Sea-perfect for beach lovers and solitude seekers. Varkala's famous street market is quite close as well.
History buffs will find the 20-minute drive out of town to this fort, located in a fishing village, entirely worth the effort. This 17th century fort was initially used by the Portuguese as a depot for trading goods and arms, and later served as a signalling station and a trading depot for pepper and coir, for the British. Briefly besieged by the locals during a local rebellion in 1721, the fort also served as a British ammunition store during the Anglo-Mysore Wars in the 18th century. Soak in the gorgeous views from the ramparts and don't forget to check out the 130-foot tall lighthouse that once guided ships arriving from Britain. There are some old churches and a cemetery nearby, while the beach remains clean and unspoiled.
The lovers of sand and the Sun are in for a treat at Varkala as the waves are just right for surfers. Its cliff side location by the roaring sea in the southern fringes of India lures all the more with a good number of surfing schools. Anyone eager to learn surfing can opt for beginners or expert level classes at Soul & Surf, one of the first surfing schools here. Though it is open from just October to March, the peak season for tourists, personalised classes can be held on request. Open sea, perfect currents and hippie beaches will add more to your experience. A must do for adventure lovers.
Still flying under the tourist radar, serene and picturesque Kappil is the one of the few beaches in Kerala that hasn't been inundated by shops and eateries. The secluded beach is at the confluence of the Kappil Lake and the Arabian Sea, and is also one of the cleanest in the state. Visitors can take a boat on the backwaters adjunct to the ocean; stroll on the bridge that runs across the lake; or even climb up the Kodi Cliff for a panoramic glimpse of the Arabian Sea. And if isolation is what you seek then this stretch of sand, also known as the Black Sand Beach, fits the bill to a tee. One of the quietest beaches in Varkala, this beach has, as the name suggests, black sand. Accessible by climbing down from the North Cliff, or driving down Thiruvambadi Road. Synonymous with Varkala, this is the town's most popular beach. With waves lapping its sun-kissed white sands at one end and breaking against the imposing red cliffs on the other, Papanasham is quite a sight to behold. While swimming is allowed, visitors need to watch out (as with all the other beaches at Varkala) for strong underwater currents.
From pristine backwaters and sprawling beaches to isolated hill stations and exotic tea plantations, the state excites every visitor with its wide array of delights. Situated along the vast coastline of the Arabian Sea, it boasts of having the finest beaches of India. Owing to this fact, beach tourism in Kerala has seen a huge rise in the past few years, making it one of the favorite beach destinations.
So this time to this secret beach destination of India and make your friends jealous. This is also an apt weather to travel south as the weather is cool and it will treat for life ever.