Varkala is in the very South of India on the West Coast and although it’s part of the state of Kerala, when I think of Kerala I think of the backwaters of Kerala and lush green landscape, not rugged waves and wild beaches, but that’s exactly what Varkala is which is why it is such a popular place to visit in South India and it makes Kerala even more diverse!
As a backpacker, Varkala must be on your list to visit in South India! It’s a chilled beachside town, and although I loved the beachside town of Palolem in Goa, Varkala has much more of an edge than Goa (from the places I saw in Goa anyway), I really liked this and that’s exactly why I think you should visit Varkala too and when you do, here’s a travel guide to Varkala for you!
Why Varkala is Perfect for Backpackers to India!
I would say this is the main reason I recommend you head to Varkala, it’s just so chilled! South India is known to be more chilled than North India but at the same time many places in South India are still very busy and bustling and taking a break on the coast of Varkala is the perfect way to relax from your travels around Southern India.
Goa of course is another place you can relax in South India but like I said above, Varkala just has more of a cool edge I think.
It’s also popular with holiday makers, Westerner’s and Indian’s but how many people do you know that go to Goa on a 2 week holiday compared to how many people go to Varkala on a 2 week holiday.. it’s a different kind of place and vibe and therefore attract people of a more chilled vibe.
There are also plenty of places to stay, plenty of places to eat and it’s not crazy expensive either so good for backpackers to India on a budget.
How to Get to Varakala in Kerala.
Varkala is actually really easy to get to because it has a train station in the town which is a main line station in a line running down the west coast of India.
A train from Kochi is only 3 hours and my ticket from Varkala to Kochi cost me just 80Rs/ 80p in second seating.. bargain!
If you’re flying into South India, the best way to reach Varkala is to fly into Trivandrum Airport. Trivandrum is actually quite a big city right in the South of India and from there you can get a 2 hour taxi or a train from Trivandrum Station to Varkala Station.
Kiwi.com is a great site to compare prices and routes to get the best deal!
If you want to arrange a private pickup in advance from Trivandrum Airport to Varkala, have a look at this option on Viator.
I didn’t have any experience with local buses to Varkala and with the train station being a main line station with regular trains, buses are not really needed however Varkala is well connected by bus to nearby places in South India too!
If you don’t have much time to stay in Varakala but you want to visit, it is possible to do a day trip from Varkala from Trivandrum City. This tour will make sure you see the best of Varkala in one day!
Note – Be sure to take out cash before you get to Varkala Cliffside as the nearest ATM is in the town which is a 45 minute walk away!
Where to Stay in Varkala.
There are so so many places to stay in Varkala and the accommodation is all guesthouses, hotels and hostels. Although you may find some huts and bungalows, these will not be on the beach, instead it will be in a garden in a resort.
Varakala’s beach is below a huge cliff so accommodation is all along the cliffside.
When looking for the best accommodation in Varkala, be sure to stay along the cliffside or just in, do not stay in the town centre as it is a fairly busy Indian Town and as a backpacker and holiday maker in Varkala you’ll want to be on the cliff and by the beach!
For a hostel in Varkala be sure to check out The Lungi Vibe Hostel! It’s in a great location just 2 minutes from the walkway along the cliff and a 10 minute walk from the main beach. They serve good value food in their cafe making it really convenient and a cheaper way to visit Varkala on a budget, plus their private rooms and dorm rooms are really well priced.
If you want a guest house in Varkala so you can get a private room at a good price, there are so so many and from what I saw so many of them are good quality. They’re in 2 story buildings, often with a balcony/porch with a table and chairs and hammock (I feel like a hammock is a must here).
If you want to splash out a bit more in Varkala there are plenty of Resorts and Hotels and a few of them further down the cliffside have pools. None of them looked overly fancy but if you want more space they are a good option. Green View Beach Resort is a popular Resort in Varkala in a really good location.
Kerala is the home of Ayurveda and I actually saw most Ayurveda and Wellness Hotels in Varkala out of anywhere else I went. For a wellness stay in Varkala I’d recommend Puccini Lala Eco Wellness Resort, they have their own restaurant which you can visit even if you don’t stay (more on that below), they have accommodation of huts in a nice private area as well as their own big yoga shala! Plus an Ayurvedic Doctor onsite with treatment rooms! If you need a bit of a retreat whilst in Varkala, this is the place to go!
In all honesty, if you are backpacking in India and visiting Varkala one of the guesthouses just off of the cliffside will be fine or a hostel like The Lungi Vibe!
For accommodation options in Varkala, have a look on Booking.com.I use Booking.com for all of my accommodation in India as I love the flexible booking options!
Alternatively if you’re the type of backpacker that is happy to arrive with no accommodation booked, you’ll be happy to hear that you can do this in Varkala! A few times I got asked if I needed accommodation and I did especially when I was walking to my hostel with my bag which just shows that the old school way of travelling does work here still too and this will probably benefit from getting a slightly better price in accommodation.
What to do in Varkala.
I won’t lie, there’s not a huge amount to do in Varkala but that’s kind of why it’s is so nice!
The main beach is a great place to sunbathe which is nice as other beaches in Kerala such as Alleppey are huge beaches but very local and not sunbathing beaches. Unlike the beaches in Goa you will not find beach bar’s a long the beach in Varkala. There are a few sun loungers which you can hire but generally everyone sunbathes on the beach.
The ocean is great for swimming in too. The waves are big but not too big and it feels really fresh! Which is good because it gets hot down here!
Be sure to head for a morning walk on the beach, not only is it a nice time to walk before it gets too hot but in the middle of the main beach you’ll see locals and Indian visitors doing a ceremony which I believe is for members of their family that have recently died… a bit morbid but interesting to witness the local culture.
On that note, Varkala’s beach has quite a distinct line of between the local and traditional Indian side, and the foreign side but also Indian holiday maker side. You can visit the local side but as a women especially, perhaps put your dress back on rather than being in a bikini, although there’s no rule to say you can’t.
Thanks to Varkala being fully west facing, there is a great sunset each night from the beach and cliffside!
The cliffside is home to many many shops so if shopping in Kerala is something you want to do you can shop in Varkala well!
I heard that Varkala is becoming the new Yoga spot in India and I’d have to say that I agree! The only place I have seen more Yoga being offered is Rishikesh which is the home of Yoga in India right now, but Rishikesh is all the way up North so it’s great to see so much Yoga in Varkala Kerala! There are lots of drop in sessions for 300Rs for 90 minutes, Hatha seemed the most popular style of Yoga, but I did see Vinyasa offered a lot too. There are also lots of places offering Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Retreats are popular in Varkala too!
Although if you’re looking for a Yoga Retreat, I’d recommend Earth Yoga Village in Palolem Goa!
Kerala is the home of Ayurveda so lots of massages can be found in Varkala. I’d say that a lot of them are not ‘real’ Ayurvedic places where you can see an Ayurvedic Doctor who is fully interested in you but if you want a good massage at a good price, this is the place to do it! I heard 1 hour full body massages being offered for 500Rs.
Surfing is a popular activity in Varkala thanks to it’s awesome waves.
I didn’t see any boat tours being offered by locals to see Dolphins however you can see Dolphins from the beach and especially from up on the cliff so make sure you get a seat in a cafe by the water one day and keep your eyes open for Dolphins!
Be sure to keep a look out for local events too, I saw a yoga festival being advertised, a yoga and wellness day, healing courses, live music and so much more by looking at all of the flyers and stickers that line the cliffside!
Be sure to take out cash before you get to Varkala Cliffside as the nearest ATM is in the town which is a 45 minute walk away!
Where to Eat in Varkala.
Varkala is a really nice place for food because there are plenty of options and they all line the cliffside. Most of the options are tourist places but they offer Indian and International Food and there are a few gems that offer more fancy and healthy dishes like Smoothie Bowls and Avo on toast, heaven if you’ve been in India a while and want some International Food!
Here are some of the best places to eat in Varkala:
The White Rabbit– Right on the cliffside, it’s Vegetarian with a cool menu. They offer Indian Dishes like Dosa and Curries but they also offer Smoothies, Smoothie Bowls, Avo on Toast, Burgers and many different types of Buddha Bowls! I sat in here a few times to do work too as the wifi is good! Although still don’t expect the exact dishes of the International dishes you get at home, they do vary a bit!
Coffee Temple– This is a really popular place and not just because of their good coffee. They have a full range of juices and a big food menu, mainly western dishes but things a bit different like Taco’s. They also have a full and separate Vegan menu which is really great if you are a Vegan in India! Be warned that this place does get busy though, especially around 11:00-12:00. The wifi is good here too making it a popular place for people to work from!
Darjeeling– This is a really cool spot and mainly because of its decoration and it’s spot overlooking the ocean. Their menu is more like a bible (it’s so heavy), they serve good Indian food but also plenty of western food with lots of western breakfast dishes too! It’s good during the day but also in the evening when all the lights turn on and sometimes they have live music.
The Juice Shack– As you can imagine these guys serve juice and for a really good price! They have a huge range of juices all from just 80Rs. They do serve food too but I was quite disappointed by my food there whenever I ate there so I would recommend just going for the juice!
Tibet Kitchen– Varkala is a long way from Tibet but luckily there is a Tibetan Restaurant and they serve the best Momo’s! Seriously, they’re so good! They also serve lots of other food – Indian and International, but please go here for the momo’s and the friendly staff!
Sky Lounge– I ate here with my friends on our last night together, we got a table on the rooftop and watched the sunset, the food was nice and the menu was the standard menu of offering everything but for sure the main reason I’d recommend eating here is because of the panoramic view across the beach and cliff.
Puccini Lala Eco– For good, healthy, Vegan food head here! It’s actually Puccini Lala Eco Wellness Resort but it has a restaurant open to the public and offers Vegan Buffets for Lunch and Dinner as well as a full menu of food and drink. The lunch buffet is 200Rs and the dinner buffet is 300Rs. The wifi is also very good and it’s in a quieter place down the cliffside.
Now you know what to do in Varkala in Kerala do you need to know about going on the backwaters of Kerala?
You may need to get some local buses in Kerala, here are some tips on how to take local buses in India.
Need to book accommodation in India? We recommend using Booking.com as we love the huge range of accommodation and flexible booking options.
Need to check out Flights to India? Kiwi.com is a great site to compare prices and routes to get the best deal!
Remember that you’ll need travel insurance when you travel to India. There are a lot of companies out there we know, but World Nomad’s is a travel insurance provider designed by travellers, for travellers and includes lots of unique benefits like not needing a return flight home booked, which many providers need proof of if you claim. Whilst you’re thinking about it, get a quote for them here!
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