If you have had the patience to go through my incessant rambling about the weekend spent in Varkala, in the two posts – The Lazy -Pazy Weekend at Varkala and The Lazy -Pazy Weekend at Varkala Continues…, I salute you. You really do have some insane patience or you are jobless! Jokes apart, a big big thank you to you! If you are pressed for time, here is a Varkala Cheat Sheet with some information that might help you plan your trip to the gorgeous place. The plan is to entice you with the beauty of the little town with the two previous posts and this is more of a practical guide on the how to’s and what to’s when you get there.
Varkala is a small coastal town in Kerala, about 50kms north of their capital city, Trivandrum.
How to Get There
By Air: Trivandrum Intl Airport is the closest airport. You can hire a cab from there to take you to Varkala town which should cost you around Rs. 1600 one way. The drive is about an hour and a half long.
By Train: Varkala town has a railway station which is well connected to most major cities in India.
By Road: Varkala is well connected to major cities by interstate busses. You can also take a bus from your city to Trivandrum and take a local bus from there to Varkala town.
No surprises there. Varkala is hot hot hot and humid humid humid! The best time to travel to Varkala is, of course, in the winter months i.e. December – February. However, we went in mid-Feb and I was dying in the heat and humidity. It rains in Varkala during the monsoon months of June, July and August, which needless to say, are the off-season months.
Where to Stay
Although we stayed in a wonderful place, far away from the main tourist-y place of Varkala, I would suggest staying at one of the many many hotels that line the North Cliff promenade. The walk to the North Cliff was nice, but it was difficult to do at night. If you do like being out at night, then staying at North Cliff is the wisest thing to do.
My friends from All Things Trippy strongly recommended Thanal Beach Resort and I would recommend Maadathil Cottages if you want to stay away from the hustle-bustle of the North Cliff and enjoy some quiet.
What to Do
Beaches: Coastal town = Beaches.. duh! You must visit the main Varkala beach for its huge waves and super fine sand. Post the customary visit, do make it to the Black Beach as it is away from the main beach and will give you the sense of being on a private beach. I assure you, it will be worth the walk. I hear Kappil Beach is also very good although I didn’t go there this time. It is on my agenda for my next trip.
North Cliff: The life of Varkala is in the North Cliff. The shops, the restaurants, everything! You can keep walking up and down numerous times a day, till all the restaurants and people walking with you become familiar, but it still will not be enough.
Shopping: The North Cliff is lined with shops that would confuse you of where you are. It is pretty much the same stuff that you see in Goa, or even in the touristy places in Himachal. The shops are targeted to the foreigners that come to India and want to take a bit of the country with them. You can find a few nice things if you have the patience, but don’t be fooled for a second thinking this is cheap shopping. It is only cheap if you’re good at bargaining (which I am not!).
Sight-Seeing: Although I didn’t do much sight-seeing in Varkala, there are a few places that should be on your list. Varkala Lighthouse and Anjengo Fort are a must (prioritize the lighthouse). You can read about my visit to the fort and lighthouse here. Janardhana Swami Temple is over 2000 years old and is one of the main attractions in Varkala.
Adventure Sports: The large curly waves in the sea is the reason why surfing is quite popular in Varkala. There are a few places where you can sign up and learn surfing. Soul & Surf is the most popular among them. The cliff also enables paragliding, although I didn’t see anyone para-glide when I was visiting. Swimming in the sea, of course, is quite risky because of the strong underwater currents. You can swim only in the areas that are demarcated as safe zones.
Yoga: Varkala is a haven for all those who practice Yoga. There are classes for beginners, intermediate, advanced and everyone in between. There are sunrise Yoga classes, sunset Yoga classes, basically you will find anything that fits your fancy.
Ayurvedic Massages: You are in Kerala. How can you not get a massage? I mean.. seriously!
Where to Eat
The North Cliff is lined with restaurants that offer a varied variety of food. From Traditional Kerala sea food feast to German Bakeries to Tibetian food, you can have anything your heart desires. For me, I loved Cafe del Mar (you can read about it in the post here). Extremely good food and great service. The other places we went to was Rock n Roll Cafe, Trattorias, and The Big Apple Cafe (good place for the hippy vibe). What we missed out on but looked promising were Darjeeling Cafe, Bohemian Art Cafe, and Coffee Temple (supposed to have some great coffee), which will be on the list the next time we go.
If you’re into sea food, you will fall in love with this place. I say that confidently because I do not eat sea food on a regular basis, but I really did enjoy what I had. The fresh catch is displayed outside the restaurant every evening and you can have what you like. We saw all kinds of fish being served from red snapper to Tuna, swordfish and shark too!
Tips for the Trip
Night Life: There isn’t really a night life in Varkala if you’re looking for it. Saturday night at Rock n Roll cafe seemed pretty happening, but that was it. Sunday night was pretty slow and all the shops seemed to be shutting down much earlier than usual.
Alcohol: Although alcohol is not supposed to be served in restaurants, it is served in almost all the places. Remember to carry your own brand of alcohol if you’re particular about that stuff, pre game in your hotel room and head out. The only thing Hubby and I could drink in the restaurants was beer and for some reason none of the places have premium, they all have strong beer.
Getting Around: We got around on foot pretty much the entire time. The one time we had to use an auto, it set us back Rs. 200. Pretty steep right? But that is how it is. There are bikes for hire if you’re planning to stay longer than just a weekend, but beware, the roads are quite confusing and it could get very easy to get lost in the narrow winding roads of Varkala.
So this is my expert advise if you would like to visit Varkala. I would love it if you have any tips and tricks that I could add to this list and I do plan to update this list if and when I visit Varkala again. If you have been to this charming town, do share your experiences with me.
Till then… Happy Travelling!