Known for its beautiful beaches and ruby red cliffs, Varkala is a coastal town situated in the South Indian state of Kerala.
Varkala is located 50 kilometres (approx. 32 miles) north-west of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and 37 km south-west of Kollam. This beautiful little beach town is better known among locals as a major pilgrimage centre. According to legend, the sage Narada flung a cloth made from the bark of a tree into the air, and it landed at the spot where the small town of Varkala now stands. Narada then directed his disciples to pray for salvation at the newly created beach, which came to be known as Papanasam Beach or the “Beach of Redemption”. Since then, this beach has been associated with ancestor worship, as Hindus immerse the ashes of their dead here.
Perched almost perilously along the edge of dizzying cliffs, Varkala has a naturally beautiful setting and is a low-key resort that’s geared to a backpacker demographic. The town is famous for its natural springs with therapeutic qualities, and is also a centre for Ayurvedic treatment and yoga.
A strand of golden beach nuzzles Varkala’s cliff edge, where restaurants play innocuous trance music and stalls sell the types of things every traveller might need: ethnic T-shirts, baggy trousers and silver jewellery. Even though this kind of tie-dye commercialism can grate on the nerves, Varkala is still a great place to watch the days slowly turn into weeks. You can while away days watching the mix of fishermen, Hindu rituals, volleyball-playing visitors, locals gazing at the sea and strolling backpackers that make up the traffic on the beach.
Click on one of the sections on the right for more information about Varkala.