If you’re in Kerala craving a bit of sun sea and sand then Varkala is the perfect town. It’s super popular with backpackers who flock there to enrol in yoga courses and find themselves on the beach.
How to get to Varkala?
The closest airport to Varkala is Trivandrum. It’s located 50 kilometres north-west of Trivandrum. Accessible by both bus and train which are the cheaper options. The bus station and train station are close together in Varkala. You can also get a prepaid taxi from Trivandrum airport for around 1,300/- which takes around 1 and a half hours.
Annoyingly the only ATMs are in the town. You can either get a tuk tuk or be really stingy and stubborn like us and walk! I would only recommend this if you have good shoes on. It’s a couple of kilometres and my feet were in pain!
Places to stay
There aren’t actually loads of hostels in Varkala, but there is something to suit everyone. Including accommodation in Bamboo huts on the cliff overlooking the beach! Unfortunately this location was sold out for us so we stayed in a guest house. The most important thing to consider when booking is the proximity to the beach. After a tiring beach day when you’re covered in sand and sticky with sea salt you don’t really want to have to walk for ages to get back to your accommodation.
Where to eat?
If like me you have a true love for an awesome cafe you HAVE to go to coffee temple. I think we actually went 6 times in 4 days! It’s not the cheapest but the coffee they serve is amazing, especially the tsunami frappé, and they do a good fresh coconut which can do wonders to revive you after an afternoon in the baking sun. They also have free wifi that is pretty reliable for Indian standards.
Varkala is also a great place to get really fresh fish. We treated ourselves one night and had a whole fresh Grouper grilled with garlic lemon and butter to share. It was gorgeous and so fresh but on the pricey side at 1,600 rupees for 2.
There are so many yoga classes advertised round Varkala. There is yoga on the beach, in studios, gardens wherever. You can find a yoga class to suit you, or even a course that runs for a few days.
On days when the conditions are good you can actually paraglide off the cliff over the beach below! I cannot vouch for the safety of this but we didn’t see any crashes! Varkala is quite windy so conditions are usually good but they don’t run this activity every day. So if you’re counting on doing it ‘tomorrow’ you might not get the chance as it is subject to the weather.
We had a great day renting bodyboards to surf the waves. Rental was advertised as 300/- but when we asked they told us that was just for an hour and it was 500/- per day. I feel like we were probably ripped off a little but we didn’t argue. I imagine you could easily negotiate the price down if you have the patience.
There are absolutely loads of craft shops lining the cliff and the beaches of Varkala. If you so much as glance in the direction of a shop you will be invited in. They do have some lovely things, I bought a really nice beachy dress but they are up for the hard sell. It’s totally okay to negotiate and go elsewhere, we saw the same things in most of the shops.
Things to watch out for
As I mentioned before Varkala is very hot but can also be very windy. This means that you might not notice how much you’re burning. Both myself and Ben had to endure painful sunburn after a long day on the beach, trust me it is not good when you have to haul heavy backpacks back on your shoulders and get a bus to your next destination.
There are so many adorable strays in Varkala including loads of puppies. I saw that lots of people were leaving water and food out for dogs, particularly puppies but be careful approaching them. Mother dogs can be very protective and you don’t know what diseases some of these dogs might have, particularly if you get a nasty bite. Keep your distance and be careful if you see a mummy dog about!
Have you been to Varkala or anywhere else in Kerala? Let me know your experience!
Read more about my trip to South India: