A serene coastal town fringing the Arabian Sea, Varkala is a municipality in Trivandrum about 51 kilometers (null miles) to its north-west. The soaring cliffs lining the azure sea and jutting into it in places make the Varkala landscape exceptional and striking.
On either side the cliffs are speckled with mineral water sprouts and spas. Legend has it that sage Narada was once accosted by a few friars who conceded to having sinned. On hearing this he hurled his âvalkkalamâ (nullthe bark of tree worn by mythical sages) into the air.
And the place where it landed later came to be known as Varkala. Narada then asked the friars to pray for their redemption at this newly created site by the seashore; the place is Papanasam beach to be more precise.
Varkala is not really about shopping, but if you still wish to pick up a few memorable souvenirs head to the cliff face. There you will come across an endless row of makeshift shanties selling pretty silver trinkets to local coconut shell handicraft. The beach resort is, however, known for the many places specializing in yoga and Ayurvedic therapies. Some beach areas are flecked with humble souvenir shops and eating joints. Stroll the beach bazaar in the evening when it gets livelier and looks quaint against the sunset sky. Merry tourists and casual locals take up the space before these colorful little souvenir kiosks, old bookstalls and handloom shops.
Shop for armloads of traditional Kerala handicraft and utilities made of coir. Most tourists love to take back coconut shell artifacts as souvenir. Pan some more and you will find rare horn-carved showpieces. The exquisite carving and the level of detailing on these horn artifacts leaves you impressed. Not to mention, you will also find typical beach jewelry made of shells and craft made of oysters.
You will also come across some very beautiful, one-off conch shell handicraft. Pretty trinkets and bric-a-brac come in a great assortment at this beach bazaar, and make a thoughtful souvenir for your friends back home. Round up your shopping expedition with a few pouches of exotic and aromatic spices, vanilla, tea and coffee, for which Kerala is known. If your bags are not full yet, try the Tibetan shops, buy a traditional attire or some pieces of local jewelry. Besides, there are shops selling semi-precious stone jewelry from Rajasthan and Kashmir. At all times, it is imperative to put up a good bargain as the prices quoted by the local shopkeepers to tourists especially foreigners are high. And it is important to remember that Varkala is not a place to look for brands!
Restaurant - There are ample dining options both humble and kind of fancy lining the cliff top, especially on North Cliff. Very few good ones can be found on South Cliff. But most places to eat here spring up during peak tourist season beginning late November. Sample seafood at these cliff-top restaurants; the fish recipes served here are fresh and succulent. Freshly caught fish by local fishermen are displayed in front of the restaurants, beckoning you to make a pick and have it cooked in the tandoor to your taste. And take in a stunning sunset while you dine. Most of the restaurants on the cliff serve beer to go with your meal. An all time favorite of the locals and even tourists visiting Varkala is marlin, freshly caught shark cooked in coconut curry, fresh fish platter,
butterfish delicacy and pasta blended with some interesting fish sauces.
Regular live musical shows and soothing ambience make âThe Funky Art Caféâ a popular haunt of tourists in Varkala. The staff is often seen distributing pamphlets for parties and other live events at the café. Do try the âbhang lassiâ here! The restaurant otherwise does a smattering of Continental and multi-cuisine specialties. You can sample local dishes at the in-site vegetarian restaurant of Hotel Suprabhatam. âOootapuraâ is another decent vegetarian restaurant you arrive at from the helipad. For delectable Mexican and Italian cuisine âCafé del Marâ on the cliff top is a good option. Watch the horizon darken with the setting sun as you tuck into a hearty meal. The service at this restaurant is particularly good. Opposite the Varkala railway station there is Reena Bakers offering sumptuous pastries, cakes and an array of desserts. Visit âTrattoriaâsâ on the northern end of the cliff offering a second storey view of the sea, multi-cuisine specialties and fast service.
JA Tourist Hotel offers atmospheric rooftop dining and specializes in Indian, Chinese and Italian cuisine. Try out spaghetti pasta with Alfredo sauce and garlic bread at Café Italiano, and round this gourmet meal up with a steaming cup of cappuccino. You can also sample local Kerala specialties and Italian cuisine at âSea Rock Caféâ. Kerala Coffee House is another great place to unwind with an evening cup of coffee. You could also try out their deep sea delights. The in-site restaurant of âSeaview Beach Resortâ too does a good job of Chinese, Italian and local delicacies. Anandan Tourist Home across the railway terminal and Shri Padman adjacent to the temple tank are economical places for delicious South Indian cuisine. At âJuice Shackâ you get all kinds of fresh fruit juice.
And if you are looking for an exclusive dining experience, head only to âCape Comorinâ, the onsite restaurant of Taj Garden Retreat. Nestled on a cliff, it affords brilliant sea views and scrumptious local cuisine in a lively ambience. The place also has a bar, a sunken cocktail bar - again with great views - and sunset lounge for snacks and drinks by the sea.
Most café restaurants fringing the beach stay up till midnight.
Surface - The beach resort of Varkala is connected by state and national highways to all major cities in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. You can hail a State Transport Bus from East Fort in Trivandrum to Varkala.
Train - Varkala has a well-connected rail network. It is better to take the train if you are coming in from Trivandrum or Cochin. Most passing trains halt at Varkala. And on arrival at Varkala railway station you can hire a taxi or auto-rickshaw to the Papanasam beach, the hub, about 5 kilometers (.12 miles) from here. Most resorts are around this area.
Air - The nearest international airport is in Trivandrum.
Varkala is characterized by red sedimentary cliffs lining the Arabian Sea, the topography of this beachside town points to the fact that it is an old geographical region. Geologists have coined the term âVarkala formationâ for these massive cliffs that are a unique geological feature in the otherwise flat Kerala coast. So much so the Geological Survey of India has declared it a geological monument.
The climate here is tropical and humid as it receives rain from both the southwest and northeast monsoon which produces intensely heavy rain showers. June to August and late October to December are the peak monsoon months. It is ideal to plan a trip to Varkala between late December and March. At this time of the year the weather is dry and most days are sunny with the temperature hovering around 30 degree Celsius and dipping to a minimum of 15 degree Celsius after sundown. Avoid the dry and arid summer season from April to May when the temperature soars up to 35 degree Celsius. Whatever season you choose to visit carry plenty of light cotton clothes.