Varkala- sun, sea, spirituality and more….
Varkala, the "new Goa" is a well known beach destination in Kollam. Apart from being a favored destination of beach enthusiasts, Varkala is also a famous religious destination where Hindus perform obsequies for the departed souls. Varkala beach caught up the fancy of foreign tourists around 6 years back as an isolated and uncrowded beach that was free from mass tourism footfalls unlike the many other popular beaches like kovalam. Today, even though Varkala beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations, it has gracefully remained charming and unspoilt . The ideal time to visit Varkala Beach is from November to March.
Varkala Beach stands out for its unique hot mineral springs and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes in the form of tall rocky cliffs and strange land formations that majestically preside over the vast stretches of clean white sand. These cliffs that are curiously named as Varkala Formation are graded as geological monuments by the Geological Survey of India.
Among the many beautiful beaches of Varkala, the most popular one is the Papanasanam Beach. Varkala tourism has developed tremendously over the years and has succeeded in offering the requisite infrastructure to the tourists who touch town in scores to experience the exceptional charm and tranquility that not many other destinations can offer! There are several big and small restaurants in and around Papasnanam beach apart from a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. From home stays to budget lodges and resorts, there is something for every pick in Varkala.
The bucolic settings of Varkala are equally alluring as its sea coast. The vast expanses of soft green paddy fields and sleepy villages make it a truly enchanting mosaic of natural beauty.
Varkala sight seeing options do offer something special for everyone. One of the most important places to visit in Varkala would be the Sree Janardana Swami Temple, or Dakshin Kashi, which dates back to over 2000 years. Sivagiri Mutt founded by Sree Narayana Guru, is another popular destination in Varkala. Sivagiri Pilgrimage is held every year between 30th December and 1st January
Anjengo Fort, which is listed as a national heritage monument is another must see spot in Varkala sight seeing. Anjengo Fort was built in the 17th century by the Dutch to safeguard the coastline from foreign invasions. The strategic importance of this fort made it a vulnerable target for foreign powers for several centuries. Boat cruise along the estuary between Edava and Kappil is another popular tourist activity in Varkala.
The boom in tourism industry has brought in an impetus in the traditional ayurvedic treatments as well. Varkala has many authentic Ayurveda and yoga centres, some of them near the beach, that offer holistic wellness solutions to the tourists. No matter whether you are here for culture or spirituality or the pure indulgence of a beach holiday, Varkala beach would never let you down. Set out on a well planned Varkala holidays and the irresistible charm of this beautiful beach destination would bring you back soon!
Janardhana Swamy Temple
This ancient temple, believed to be 2000 years old, is built in the traditional Kerala architectural style. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is an important shrine of pilgrimage for the Vaishnavites. This temple is the very reason why Varkala is nicknamed ‘Dakshin Kashi’ or ‘Benares of the South’. Exquisite painted carvings adorn the roof-top of the temple. There is a huge banyan tree in the vicinity of the temple with carved idols of the serpent gods scattered around. Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter the inner walls of the temple, but can stroll around the premises.
The Mutt houses the ‘Samadhi’ or burial vault of the famous scholar, saint and visionary of Kerala – Sri Narayana Guru. The Guru, who fought against the religious intolerance spread across the state, promulgated the ideology of ‘one caste, one religion and one god for men’. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the Mutt for the ‘Jayanthi’ or the guru’s birth celebrations in August, and his ‘Samadhi’ or death anniversary in September each year. On these two days religious intercourses, rallies, seminars, public meetings, community feasts and unique rituals are held. Apart from this, the annual Sivagiri pilgrimage season popularly known as ‘Sivagiri Theerthadanam’ is held during the last week of December drawing hordes of pilgrims.
Blessed abundantly by nature, Varkala beach is counted amongst one of the top beach destinations of the country. The beauty of this beach is further accentuated by the surrounding cliffs covered with palm groves. These cliffs, named ‘Varkala Formations’ by Geologists, are unique to the region. The beach is also frequented by Hindu devotees as it is believed that the sea has the power to absolve sins. Special prayers and offerings are done on the beach for the departed souls by devout Hindus, during the Malayalam month of ‘Karkkidakam’. The beach is also famous for its mineral water sprouts that are believed to have healing properties.
The Varkala Tunnel, a 924 ft long tunnel, was built more than a century ago to aid the seafaring trade between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. The tunnel built in engineering perfection provides ample natural light and air circulation.
Kappil Lake is a less-explored, quiet and scenic spot, ideal for a relaxing cruise enjoying the captivating beauty of the landscape. The surrounding area is draped in lush greenery including numerous coconut grooves. As a stepping stone towards tapping into the vast tourism potential of the area, a boat club has been recently built here.
Anjengo Fort was a stronghold bastion of the British in the coastal belt of Kerala. Built in the 17th century, the remnants of the old English fort and its cemetery are now protected national heritage monuments. The earliest sepulcher in the cemetery dates back to 1704 AD.
Kaduvayil Thangal Dargah
Located at a distance from Varkala near Kallambalam, this Dargah houses the tomb of a local Muslim saint. People from all walks of life, irrespective of their faiths, flock to this shrine to receive the saint’s blessings.
Sun bath: One of the best ways to spend time in the beach and to get a tan.
Water sports: Opportunities galore to indulge in a variety of water sports here. Enjoy a number of thrilling activities including a ride on the speed boat or a water scooter.
Sunset: Watch one of the most memorable sunsets at the Varkala beach. Feast your eyes as the magic unfolds as the water, palm trees and the cliffs gets drenched in a beautiful crimson hue with the sun going down the horizon.
Janardhana Swami Temple – Arattu Festival
Colorful processions with gold caparisoned elephants, pulsating temple music and decorated silk umbrellas, render an atmosphere of vibrancy and glitz to the ten day long annual Arattu festival. This festival, a huge crowd puller attracting tens of thousands of people, falls during the period of March-April.
There is an array of shopping options available here. Try some of the beachside shacks that sell clothes, colorful shells of different sort, beaded chains and accessories, carved wooden stuff, handcrafted items made of coconut etc.
Auto rickshaws are the best bet to commute in Varkala. If there are more people in your group, it is advisable to rent a cab to travel comfortably. Frequent buses connect all important places of interest in Varkala, the flip side being they tend to be crammed most of the time.
Being a tourist hot spot, Varkala has all sorts of restaurants and hotels dotting the town. Try some of the lip smacking seafood delights, cooked in the local style with exotic spices and herbs.
• There is an interesting story connecting Varkala beach to the Hindu mythology. A group of mendicants, repenting of their sins, approached ‘Narada’ – a saint of the Hindu mythology, to tell them of a place to cleanse their souls. Narada threw his ‘Valkkalam’ – a sort of cloth made of tree barks, into the air which landed on Varkala beach. The place henceforth was known as Varkala and devotees still flock to the ‘Papanasam’ beach to cleanse their sinful souls.
• The bell of Janardhana Swamy temple was donated by a Dutch captain as a token of gratitude for not suffering any casualty after a devastating ship-wreck near Varkala.
The nearest airport is the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport at a distance of 46 km far from Varkala.
Varkala is well connected by road to all places in Kerala. The place is well linked to the cities like Thiruvananthapuram (54 km) and Kollam (37 km) by road.
Varkala has a railway station located at a short distance of about 3 km from the beach.