My Varkala Travel Guide: The Best Places to Visit, Stay and Eat

Varkala Travel Guide

Why Go: The coastal town of Varkala is perhaps the best backpacker hangout and place to chill for travellers in the tropical South Indian state of Kerala. Varkala is essentially a temple town, the Janardhana Temple, popular with Indian pilgrims, dominates one end of the beach, but not far away the whole scene changes as the sandy strip of beach becomes popular with travellers while the towering red cliffs offer stunning ocean views, restaurants, shops and a real traveller scene.

Pin Me 🙂

Varkala travel guide

Travel Guide To Varkala in Kerala, India

Top Things to do in Varkala

Varkala more a place for chilling than doing although travellers can enjoy both here.

  • The beach below the cliff is most popular with travellers – it’s fine to sunbath, swim and also surf in a bikini here. But be aware, the current here is really strong but there are lifeguards patrolling the beach and in the rainy season the beach almost disappears to a thin slither of sand.
  • Or head over towards the Janardhana Temple where Sadhus to perform the last rights for the relatives of Indian pilgrims as they also get their first taste of the ocean. (wearing a bikini on this part of the beach will probably bring unwanted attention.)
Looking down from the cliff to the Janardhana Temple on the Varkala beach.
Looking down from the cliff to the Janardhana Temple on the Varkala beach.
  • Relax with all sorts of yoga, massages and alternative therapies available. Just walk along the cliff top and take your pick but, as Kerala is the home of Ayurveda (a traditional plant based healing) while in Kerala be sure to try a traditional Ayurveda massage.
  • Hire a scooter and explore. As soon as you get away from Varkala Cliff the area is resolutely Indian and not touristy at all. Head north towards Kappil Beach where the coast meets the backwaters or drive south along authentic fishing villages and miles of undeveloped coastline until you reach Anjengo Fort – one of the oldest in India. Head inland to visit Ponnumthuruthu Island where a temple nestles on a serene island in a palm tree lined backwater lake, (you can also try stand up paddle boarding here)
Fishing village near Varkala
Fishing village near Varkala

You could even use Varkala as an affordable and chilled out base from which to explore the rest of Kerala from as travel agents here can organise trips along the backwaters, a day trip in the capital of Kerala, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) with the golden Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple (non hindus are not allowed to enter but it’s still a spectacular sight from the outside) and nearby the historic wooden Puthe Maliga Palace, and the nearby more main stream tourist beach resort of Kovalam.

Where to Stay in Varkala

The area around the cliff top has plenty of budget accommodation and a couple of decent mid range places.

Save: The Best Hostels and Guesthouses in Varkala

Varkala’s only hostel, Vedanta Wake Up is situated only 5 minutes walk from the cliff top with dorms, private rooms and a sociable scene.

You can also search around further back from the cliffside and find cheap rooms for around 400 Rupees. The Mango House opposite the Vedanta Hostel is a cheap, nice and pretty popular option or check out the Heavenly Breeze Beach Resort which is only 5 mins from the beach and has large, clean and great value rooms situated in a nice garden area. Royal Pine Huts also has bright and cheerful rooms between the cliff and the temple part of Varkala.

Splurge: The Best Hotels in Varkala

Seaview rooms cost a bit more but are worth the money. Most accommodation is of the budget variety and not many have pools although the Krishnatheeram Beach Resort has characterful rooms and a small pool overlooking Black Beach at the far end of the cliff. The Clafouti Beach Resort is probably the best mid range option with it’s views over the ocean, cute Kerala style cottages and landscaped grounds. The Hillview Resort also has comfortable, well located and great value rooms.

Gorgeous sunsets on Varkala Beach
Gorgeous sunsets on Varkala Beach

Where to Eat in Varkala

The cliff top in Varkala is lined with stalls and traveller orientated eateries with stunning views over the ocean. Many places have happy hours with buy one get on free cocktails and mixed menus of all the Indian, Chinese and Western traveller favourites along with fresh seafood. Varkala is also the easiest place in Kerala to find alcohol. Some of the best restaurants in Varkala are:

Coffee Temple – open for breakfast and lunch at the start of the clifftop strip this chilled out place does great hot and cold coffees, tea, smoothies, breakfasts, salads, pizzas, sandwiches and Mexican food.

Abba – great restaurant with a huge menu run by a Swedish/ Indian couple. Abba serves a bit of everything and has good Western food.

Darjeeling Café – has a lovely chilled out vibe and a great spot for sunset. Serves all the Indian and traveller favourites but is especially good for the tasty Thai food.

El Italiano – Italian restaurant with super friendly staff. The downstairs feels cosy with the book lined walls and upstairs is a great deck with good views. Good pizzas and pastas.

Blue Moon – A popular place with lots of outdoor seating, huge menu and great for seafood.

Luna Azul – chilled out place at the far end of the cliff overlooking black beach with good Indian food and regular live music nights.


How to get to Varkala

The nearest airport to Varkala is in Trivandrum. Varkala has a train station and is about 1 hour from Trivandrum’s Central Station and Airport. A prepaid taxi from Trivandrum should cost about 1,200 rupees. You can also reach Kochi in about 3/4 hours by train or public bus.

Where Next:

Explore the rest of Kerala! 

Read More: 

Why Kerala is a perfect introduction to India

See more tips for traveling in India. 

Want more India travel tips and stories?

Sunset over romantic Udaipur in Rajasthan

Sign up to the FREE newsletter and discover Incredible India with me!

Pin Me

Travel Guide To Varkala in Kerala, India


Related posts

How to Teach English in India (and get paid for it!)


Udaipur – Rajasthan’s most romantic and beguiling destination


Living in Goa – How to Rent a House in Goa on a Budget



Irene November 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Don’t forget about Clafouti! My boyfriend and I are major foodies and we went to eat here like 4 times during our stay in Varkala. Every evening you can pick from a big table of fresh fish and crab. AMAZING!

Anna November 16, 2016 at 11:12 am

Oh nice, thanks for the tip – I didn’t actually eat here myself but it did look nice. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Vidyut Rautela February 22, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Thanks Anna for the post. I wanted to let you know that your post helped me a lot during my weekend getaway to Varkala. Inspired by your post, I wrote my post as well 🙂 Hope this will be helpful to your readers. Please do take a look:

kankana saha May 18, 2018 at 8:16 am

are these beaches in Goa safe for nightlife occasion? I’ve heard some of the unplesant accidents there. and varkala beach is a silent and calm place, moreover.

Anna May 20, 2018 at 3:03 pm

I haven’t heard of any problems in Varkala and felt safe there however there is not as much nightlife and parties in Varkala as there are in Goa

Ashruti July 16, 2018 at 2:58 pm

That was really well compiled 💓😍

kori October 31, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Do you recommend Kerala or Goa for female digital nomad?

Anna November 10, 2018 at 10:14 pm

That’s a hard one. Both are great places to travel and are better than other places in India for females. Although to be honest the digital nomad scene in India is not as developed as places like Thailand and getting decent internet can be difficult. Make sure your phone is unlocked and you get a local sim card because budget hotels often don’t have good wifi.

ayushi May 27, 2019 at 12:36 pm

really a very nice blog.
check out this blog too.
Varkala is a very pretty place and a must visit


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

You cannot copy content of this page