Varkala Beach
Trivandrum Varkala, Varkala Tourism

Along with Kovalam, Varkala beach is one of Kerala's most famous beach resorts. Tours to Varkala and Kovalam are often paired. Varkala beach, with its thatched roofs and rough greenery, has a markedly different vibe from its more commercial cousin, Kovalam.

Varkala is more relaxed and less in-your-face, this chilled-out beach town attracts the alternative and backpacker crowds. It is best for the type of person who deplores too much 'development' and for whom authenticity is the buzzword. In high season you won't be able to walk far in Varkala without hearing the voice of Bob Marley emanating from nearby beach shack.

What the two resorts do share are their aesthetic charms. At Varkala, the pretty picture increased by the dramatic cliffs, which are a great place to go to watch the sunset.

Varkala cliffs are all the more remarkable for being the only high point in the otherwise flat Kerala coast. It is this feature that is responsible for a lot of the resort's singularity. The light blue waters of the Arabian Sea and army of palms lining the coast complete the idyllic scene.

Beaches and Other Tourist Attractions in Varkala

For now, Varkala's beaches are still less crowded than their Kovalam equivalents. You reach the town's chief stretch of shoreline by taking the aptly named Beach Road. If you're fearless, you can choose the steep stairs hewn out of the north cliff face.

The coastline between the north and south cliffs is known as Papanasam Beach, and it is this part that is the busiest. Its waters are believed to have holy properties, washing away a person's sins. In Malayalam Papanasam means "sin destroyer". For this reason the area host to vavu beli, a Hindu custom where believers enter water bearing a concoction of grass, herbs, rice in banana leaf and leave it there to assist the souls of their departed relatives in the afterlife.

It is very popular ascending the cliffs at Varkala shortly before 6:00 pm and sitting there watching the sun go down. It will provide you with a romantic holiday memory to excite and some impressive photographs.

A big ayurveda industry has also sprung up here. Today, tourists share the beach with local people. For a touch more seclusion, try Black Beach, to the north. As in Kovalam, mineral composition makes the sand dark in some places.

Things to Care About at Varkala, Trivandrum

People of Varkala are by now used to Western tourists and their more-free thinking ways and bikinis are not a rarity. Still the town is part of conservative Kerala and women in swimsuits may attract the unwanted attention of local men.

If you are planning a dip, be warned that the waters can sometimes get rough and strong currents can swell up, endangering even competent swimmers. You will normally find lifeguards and flags indicating the safe perimeter for swimming, but it's unwise to head out too far. The same advice applies if you rent one of the boogie boards on hire from numerous beach outlets.

Beaches North of Varkala: Odayam and Edava

North of Varkala beach the shoreline is a less populated with many large houses dotted around its hinterland of leafy lanes and palm groves.

You can comfortably walk the 2 km from the north end of Varkala beach to Odayam. It is a mixed Hindu and Muslim village where a cluster of modest guesthouse has sprung up to service the small black-sand beach.

Beyond, a paved walkway winds for another three or four kilometres over low cliffs to the next settlement, Edaya. It is a busier place cut through by the main train line, whose fringes hold a couple of idyllic, empty coves and more low-key accommodation. Towards north from there, one vast unbroken white-sand beach arcs almost to the horizon, backed by a lagoon that is totally empty, save for the odd fishing boats.

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