One of the finest beach destinations in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Varkala is strung along bright red cliffs and presents a gorgeous sight. Laid-back and friendly, it also has an intriguing historical side, and always makes visitors feel welcome.
Varkala's beaches are a wonderful place to be. Play some beach volleyball, sunbathe, or rent a board and try windsurfing in an idyllic coastal location.
Varkala isn't just a beach resort. Temple sites like Janardhana and the Golden Temple on Ponnumthuruthu Island present stunning vistas to visitors (even if you may not be allowed to go inside).
For backpackers, Varkala is all about relaxation and zoning out. What better place to get away from the stress of home than places like the Savasana Yoga Center or a massage at Thanal Ayurveda Home?
The people of Varkala continue to make a living from the sea. And they also make some superb dishes. You'll adore the tandoori shrimp and fish whipped up as you wait at the resort's clifftop stalls.
The city of Kollam is another Keralan gem, with its elegant bridges, Portuguese ruins at Thangassery, and the chance to take restful cruises on Ashtamudi Lake.
The best time to go is definitely between September and April, when you can avoid the wet season and the humidity and intense heat of summer.
Trivandrum International Airport (TRV) is around 30 miles away. Indian Railways provides a direct connection every three hours or so, which costs ₹500. Taxis should be around ₹700.
Indian Railways has a stop at Varkala, connecting the resort to Trivandrum and Kollam, as well as major Indian cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.
From Mumbai, take Highway 66 southwards along the Indian coast, while route 744 runs from Madurai.
Buses from Trivandrum cost ₹90 and take just over an hour. You can also connect with the publicly run national bus service.
Varkala has some excellent hotels, including the Hindustan Beach Retreat and the Krishnatheeram Ayur Holy Beach Resort, where yoga comes as part of the package.
Varkala Beach - famous for its black sands, Varkala beach is the social center of the resort. Locals gather there in the evenings and travelers all day long to swim, play, and socialize.
Papanasam Beach - south of Varkala, Papanasam is just as scenic and offers some great dining spots like the Theeram Beach Restaurant.
Sivagiri Road - slightly inland, Sivagiri Road is home to a famous pilgrimage center, but it's also the location of Varkala's train station.
Public transportation in the town itself is very limited, although auto-rickshaws may be rented if required.
Taxis are a good way to get around, and not to expensive at ₹25 for the meter drop, then ₹25 more per mile.
Car rental outlets include Unnikannan, where you should find vehicles for around ₹400 per day.
If you want to shop for tourist souvenirs, Varkala's clifftop is the place to head, but there are also more notable art dealers like the Art of India and boutiques like Shalimar Weaves.
Supermarkets in the town center include Merlyn and Margin Free, where 12 eggs will come to around ₹75.
Beachfront options worth checking out include Wait n Watch (which has great sea views), Cafe del Mar, and Trattorias, where you'll find dishes from around the world. Hotel Dwaraka is a great city center option too. Meals should come to less than ₹400 per head.