Varkala is a beautiful coastal town 51 kilometers away from Thiruvananthapuram, on its northern side. Well known for the Varkala Beach and naturally abundant, Varkala Tourism has the charm and potential to attract tourists from all over the world and Varkala with its high cliffs with mineral springs is ranked by Discovery Channel as one of the best beaches in Kerala and top 10 beaches in the world. The beach is quite popular among foreigners as its tourism offers many exciting pursuits such as sun bath, boat riding and Ayurvedic rejuvenation.
Varkala also has a shade of culture to it and is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre with the memorial of Sree Narayana Guru, at Sivagiri which is frequented by Hindu pilgrims from South India. Varkala also offers the picturesque papanasham beach surrounded by cliff and sea, together with destinations- Sivagiri, Anchengo Fort & Light House, Janardhana Swami Temple.
Here is a list of best things to do in Varkala and major attractions in and around Varkala
Varkala Beach & Cliff
Varkala beach is famous for its rock cliffs, pristine sands, blue waters and mineral springs. The cliff accommodating stretches of shops, restaurants, resorts and beach houses provide everything a tourist is looking for. The view of sunrise and sunset from the Varkala beach is an exotic treat to watch. The beach is popularly known as Papanasam beach since it was used by Hindus to scatter cremated ashes of their relatives has now emerged as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kerala .
ALSO SEE Should I visit Kovalam or Varkala?
Varkala is a quiet and isolated sandy expanse where you can have a relaxing beach holiday without the crowds and bustle of some of the busier beaches in Kerala like Kovalam. The mineral springs near Varkala Beach are considered to have medicinal properties, and many people come here to drink, and bath in the spring. The landscape in Varkala is unique, with a high rocky cliff ending abruptly and a stretch of clear sand extending down to the sea. The contrast between the cliffs, sand and sea makes Varkala Beach a striking and memorable sight.
Janardhana Swami Temple
Janardhana Swami temple is a 2000 year old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is so popular as it is the only shrine dedicated to Vishnu in the name of Janardhana in this part of the country, with the temples usually being dedicated to Krishna. The temple aptly follows and echoes the aesthetics of traditional South-Indian architecture.
Though non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple’s inner sanctum, there is no restriction in walking around outside and get a view of the huge banyan tree. Of the many festivals and rituals performed here, ‘Vavubali’ performed on the new moon day of Karkkidakam month in the Malayalam calendar is quite popular. The part of the Papanasam (meaning ‘Redemption of Sins’) beach facing the temple is used by the devotees to take a dip, as the sacred water washes way their sins according to their beliefs.
The main idol has a remarkable appearance with four arms having all the attributes of Vishnu. In the south-western corner and on the north-eastern side of the outer enclosure are the shrines of Sasta and Shiva with Nandi. The Arattu festival at this temple is celebrated every year in Meenam (March-April) commencing with Kodiyattem (Flag hoisting) of Krithika day ending with Arattu on Uthram day. A colourful procession led by adorned elephants is one of the prominent features of the festival. This place is also called ‘Dakshina Kasi’ or the Varanasi of South, and is important for ‘Pithrutharpanam’-an offering in honour of their relatives who have departed from this world.The temple was maintained by the Pandya Kings.
Sivagiri Mutt, the head office of Sree Narayana Dharma Sangam is situated at a distance of 6 miles from Varkala, and is also the resting place to the very popular community reformer and thinker, Sree Narayana Guru. The Sivagiri Mutt, is designed on 1904, on top of the Sivagiri mountain by Sree Narayana Guru who is famous for the slogan ” One caste, One Religious beliefs, One God”. The Mutt is situated above the Sivagiri mountains near Varkala. Guru’s last relaxing position or ‘Samadhi’ is also situated here. A large number of pilgrims come to Sivagiri annually during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage. The Guru Deva jayanthi, the marriage of the Expert and the Samathi day are recognized in Aug and Sept respectively. Vibrant processions, community conferences, community reveals, team feasts, team marriage and traditions indicate the festivities. Historic images of Guru and his valuables are kept in Sivagiri Mutt . Individuals that belong to all castes and faiths are permitted to check out Sivagiri Mutt(Madom). A trip to the mutt guarantees calm and the much-wanted ‘peace of mind’.
The Kappil Lake is popular for its serene atmosphere and the coconut plantations. The lake is situated 4 kilometers away from the Varkala town. The backwater and its view from the bridge above the lake is indeed a treat to the eyes. Kappil Lake is an excellent getaway from the daily hassle.
Anjengo(Anchengo) Fort & Light House
Anjengo or Anjuthengo originally means a bunch of five coconut trees in Malayalam. The fort here is served to the one time bastions for British East India Company, second to Bombay. Anjengo was raised as a signal station (Light House) in 1695, for ships and cruises from England. The fort,then was one of the major depots for coir and pepper trade for British East India company. Anjengo Fort is situated very close to Varkala town (10-12km away), and can be easily accesible by an auto ride. Anjengo Fort is a National Heritage monument tagged with foreign connection-Dutch and Portugese; the fort shelters quite an old cemetary and burials inside. A walk around the fort is the best way to experience the place and have a look at the pillars and high rise ceilings that have a history inscribed on them. A walk through the backwater stretch brings more memories to your mind of the historic battle field between the colonial powers like the Dutch, French and the British in Travancore.
Varkala Tunnel is a popular tourist highlight for its magnificent construction which was done by digging varkala hill in 1880. It was a 924 ft(277 meters) long tunnel built in 1867 by the then dewan of Travancore(Attingal Palace) T.Mahadeva Rao , and took around 15 years to complete at an expense of 1.7 million Indian rupees
This tunnel opens to varkala’s TS canal which runs on the side of Sivagiri mutt, and is a standing symbol of Kerala’s forgotten trade route to ferry people and goods between Trivandrum & Quilon(Kollam) and commercial past. Some unorganised trips to the canal brings a strange feeling among the travelers. Etched out under a cliff, this century-old tunnel is about 41 kilometers (25.6 miles) from Trivandrum. A huge vent on the roof opens up this dark underground structure to fresh air and sunshine.
Sightseeing in Varkala is about a wonderful beach location looking over high cliffs with a fascinating combination of spiritual and modern values covered into one small town endowed with temples and covered with shacks in seashore.