Varkala Beach, Hotels, Resorts
Religious Hindus have, for hundreds of years, travelled to Varkala, 54 km north up the coast from Trivandrum, to immerse ashes of recently deceased relatives in the surf. Against a backdrop of superb burnt-clay coloured cliffs the ancient rituals are still performed daily on Papanasam beach, despite the presence of just stone's throw away of a fully fledged tourist resort, focused around the northern end of the bay.
The place where they prayed for redemption came to be known as Papanasham, which means salvation from sins. The sacred temples and blessed waters lend a sublime air to Varkala where red cliffs are fringed by lush green coconut palms and golden beaches.
The dramatic location, coupled with comparatively low-key development, makes Varkala a much more appealing place to spend a beach holiday than Kovalam. Tightly crammed along the rim of crumbling North Cliff, its row of restaurants and small hotels stares out across a vast sweep of ocean view that can seem almost transcendental after sunset, when a myriad tiny fishing boats light up their lanterns.
Although dominated by long-staying young backpackers, the demographic here is fairly mixed with plenty of young families and 50-something sharing the sands. And if the numbers start to feel overwhelming, you can always retreat further north, to Odayam and Edava, where a series of smaller and quieter beaches offer a more chilled scene. In the opposite direction, the famous Anathavalam elephant farm at Puthenkulam is a must see for elephant lovers.
Ayurveda: Treat Yourself to a 5000 year Old Therapy
Balmy coastal air is said to be best suited for Ayurveda's curative and restorative programmes as it makes the body more receptive to herbal oils. Varkala has a number of Ayurvedic centres certified by the Government that offer accommodation by the beach. You can choose from a wide range of therapeutic and rejuvenating Ayurvedic packages that will strengthen your immune system and infuse you with renewed energy.
Dakshina Kashi: Visit a 2000 Year Old Temple
Trace the origins of the two-millenia-old temple and seek blessings from Janardhana Swamy or Lord Vishnu, the Preserver in the Hindu Gods of Trinity. Believed to have been built 2000 years ago, this temple is located at the entrance of the beach road. Called the Dakahina Kasi or the varanasi of the South, this temple is renowned for pithrutharpanam or rites for the departed souls.
Papa Nasham Beach: Bathe in Healing Waters
Take a splash in the hot springs at varkala, famed for its medicinal properties and heal yourself. Natural mineral water gushes out perennially through the base of the laterite buff that towers neatly 100 ft above the beach. You can also take a cleansing dip at the nearby Papanasham Beach.
Enjoy an Evening of Kathakali
Witness an art form that evolved 500 years ago. The spectacular classical dance drama of Kerala integrates dance, music, poetry and histrionics. Elaborate costumes, ornaments and facial make-up give the artsts a superhuman appearance that leaves you spellbound. The Verkala Kathakali Centre near the North Cliff organises Kathakali performances that start off with the make-up process and are accompanied by an English commentary. Mohiniyattom is also performed here.
Fest on Fresh Catch
Stop by at the numerous eateries vantagely positioned atop the North Cliff. Besides charming you with a spectacular view, they will also win you over with their delicious fare. Fresh catches cooked to your taste is the main specialty here. Other than seafood and Kerala cuisine, you can also sample Italian, Chinese and Continental fare. Most of the restaurants also hire out bikes for tourists.
Watch the Sunset from a Cliff
Scramble onto the wide plateau atop these laterite cliffs beside the Papanasham Beach and bask in the glorious sunset. The cliff top also offers a scenic view of the Arabian Sea and the magnificent beach.
Sivagiri: Meditate in a Mutt
Walk the hallowed grounds of the 200-acre Sivagiri Mutt and feel yourself enveloped by a peaceful calmness. This is the final resting place of the eminent leader, saint and social reformer of Kerala, Sree Narayana Guru. The Mahasamadhi of the revered guru is located on top of a hillock. SNDP (Sree Narayana Dharmria Paripalana Yogam), the organisation he founded for the up liftment of the backward classes, is headquartered here; as also the guru's residence where his humble belongings are kept on display.
Explore a Century Old Tunnel
An engineering marvel, the 924 ft tunnel that took nearly 14 years to be completed was built in the 19th century. It was once used to ferry boats between Thruvananthapuram and Kollam. Popularly known as the Varkala Thuruthu, this tunnel with a big opening at the roof that lets in plenty of light and air, a prominent tourist attraction of Kerala.
Kappil Beach: Meet the Majestic Trio
Witness the spectacular confluence of the Arabian Sea, the Kappil River and the backwaters near the Kappil Beach. A secluded and picturesque spot marked by an extensive estuary, Kappil is a closely guarded secret. Tiny palm-covered islets within the estuary enhance the magical charm of this land intermingled with water. The coastal road passing through this area practically holds the sea and the estuary apart for a long stretch, offering a delightful view of the waters on either side.
Anjengo Fort: Find your Way to a Fort
Learn all about the fascinating history surrounding the Anjengo fort built by the Portuguese in 1695, originally used as a depot to store merchandise. It was later converted into a fort by the British. The many tombstones here offer a peek into its historical days. This strip of land is sandwiched between the sea and the backwaters. A 130-feet-tall lighthouse, the ruins of an ancient factory and a dilapidated masonry canal extending all the way north to Alappuzha and Kollam, still exist here.
Thiruvambady Beach: Chill out at the Black Sand Beach
Also known as Thiruvambady Beach, the secluded Black Sand Beach can be reached by climbing down the North Cliff of Varkala Beach or driving down a kilometre along the Thiruvambady Road. A serene stretch for those preferring peace and solitude, the beech offers easy access to all the amenities sans the crowds, hawkers and restaurants.
Pnnamthuruthu: Picnic on a golden Isle
Hire a boat and enjoy an enchanting ride to the uninhabited isle of Ponnumthuruthu, which shelters a century-old temple dedicated to Shiva and Parvathy. Legend has it that the queens of the Travaricore Royal family visiting the temple used to hide their precious jewellery on the island for safe keeping and hence the name Ponnumthuruthu meaning golden island. Surrounded by the Anjengo backwaters, this Island set amidst thick coconut grove is accessible by boat from the makeshift jetty at the Nedunganda village, 20 km from Varkala.
Air: Nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, 55 km away.
Rail: The town has its own railway station. You can board a train from Trivandrum to Kollam or Kochi (Ernakulam) and get down here. However you need to check if the particular train has a stop at Vakala.
Road: It is on the NH 47 to Kallambalam Junction via Pallipuram and Attingal as well as on the State Road to Varkala. It takes 1 hr from Kollam, 2 hrs from Trivandrum and 4 hrs from Ernakulam.
Tourist information office: Govt. Guest House Tel: 2802227
Telephone Access Code: +91 470
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