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Sometimes referred to as ‘The Varanasi of the South’ Varkala is home to the 2,000-year-old Janardana Swami Temple, an important Vaishnavaite shrine. The temple is located close to the Papanasam Beach, whose waters Hindus believe to be holy. It is common to see pilgrim’s bathing in its waves. Another common sight are surfers bobbing in the waves: Varkala is one of India’s top surf spots. Popular with backpackers it is also a yogic and Ayruvedic mecca meaning you will find yoga schools and wellness spas aplenty. With gorgeous long beaches overlooked by dramatic rocky outcrops it provides something for every kind of traveller. Our pick of the best places to stay in Varkala are perfectly located for enjoying the best that beach life has to offer.
It is worth noting that owing to its religious background Varkala is a dry town. However with the emphasis here being on the pura vida, one does not really notice its absence.
Surfing is what many travellers come here for. Boards can be rented along the beach and lessons are widely available for the novice.
Those not as keen on hanging ten might like to have a go at paddle boarding, a much less exertive, yet no less enjoyable water-based activity. Daily fishing trips are also available as well as dolphin spotting.
There are many yoga schools throughout Varkala, offering everything from Hatha to Ashtanga disciplines. Whether you are wanting an immersive month-long course or just a drop in, there is something for all abilities.
Kerala is the home of Ayurveda, so it's no surprise that dotted along the beach are plenty of Ayurvedic spas, if your hotel does not have one that is. You can even have a massage as you lie on the beach – total bliss.
Our pick of the best places to stay in Varkala all provide relaxing and beachside accommodation.
What Not To Miss
- Head along Varkala Beach at sunset or walk up to Varkala Cliff and enjoy the stunning views out to sea.
- Visit the Janardhana Swami Temple at night when it's lit up by candles - a beautiful spot.
- Spend an afternoon on a boat trip around Kappil Lake.
- Alternatively, head out to see Ponnumthuruthu Island.
The best places to stay in Kerala
For beach life
- Located right on the aptly named Golden Beach, Soul and Surf stands head and shoulders above the other beach shack offerings. Rooms are beautifully decorated, light and airy. Plus there are daily yoga classes. Guests can book surf lessons also.
- The whitewashed Villa Jacaranda offers four simple but comfortable bedrooms just a stone's throw away from the beach. Relax on your private terrace and enjoy the views, whilst you can also order delicious typically-Keralan dishes.
- You're best off visiting Varkala in the winter, from September to March, when the weather isn't overly humid and it's not monsoon season.
- The nearest airport is Trivandrum, 50km away. From the airport, take a taxi on to Varkala.
- Alternatively, you can always drive over. Consider hiring a car from Rentalcars.
Still not sure which to book?
Best Hotels in Varkala
Villa Jacaranda 4 rooms from £40Varkala
A white washed, back to basics four bedroom home stay that offers the minimum but in a modern, clean and personal way. Private terraces, Keralan dishes to order and notably tranquil. A stones throw of the South Varkala beach, on the rooftop you can absorb all around. Beautiful and charismatic place.Sights nearby - Janardhana Temple being the main temple attraction.SpaRecommended by - I Escape
Soul and Surf 14 rooms from £54Varkala (South Cliff)
Soul and Surf is a family run haven overlooking the ocean on the southern cliffs of Varkala. Rooms are light, airy and comfortable - A real community for those yoga, massage and surfing lovers. A beginner or an old-timer: surfing is the shared passion. Relax by the ocean, become part of the family.Beach nearbySights nearby - The famous red cliffs of Varkala and the original temple town.Cooking classes - Soul Food. Cooking classes readily avaliable in Kerala.Great walks - Along the sea front.Recommended by - CN Traveller