After three weeks in Sri Lanka, we continued on to the next leg of our journey to Southern India, starting in the beach town of Varkala. We ended up spending eight days there, which incidentally, is also the longest we had spent anywhere in eight weeks!
We also decided to go to Varkala over Kovalam Beach because Steve had already been to the latter and as it turned out, he preferred Varkala after our stay because it had a nicer beach and wasn’t as touristy.
If you’re looking for an Indian beach town that has amazing food, fantastic yoga as well as just somewhere to stop and relax, then look no further.
Read on to read my guide to Varkala Beach Southern India, including the following:
- How to get there
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Things to do
How to get to Varkala Beach from Trivandrum
We had a mission of a time just to get to Trivandrum. If you’re heading over from Colombo, don’t bother getting the cheaper flight which goes via Chennai because it’s a total mission. You have to literally check your luggage back into Chennai airport. Might sound easy but it was far from it for us. I recommend getting a direct flight to Trivandrum instead.
So once we got to Trivandrum, we just jumped into a cab at the airport and paid 1800R (AU$36) to drive us over an hour to Varkala Beach (from the prepaid taxi service). We thought we’d save on the extra night in Trivandrum and just headed straight there instead. You can get a bus but we had been travelling since 4am and were over it by the time we arrived at the airport.
First impressions of Varkala Beach
The beautiful Varkala Beach
We loved the vibe at Varkala Beach, the locals were incredibly friendly and we were glad we had made the effort to go there.The vibe at Coffee Temple on the cliff at Varkala Beach
It was hot though, like super hot there and I wondered how I would cope. But it got easier as time went on and I was grateful to have the ocean to cool me down. Wifi and mobile coverage wasn’t amazing here either as an FYI. Varkala Cliff lined with restaurants and tourist shops.
Along the cliff was where all the action took place. It was lined full of restaurants as well as a huge amount of tourist shops selling clothes, beautiful bags and jewellery. I could have easily gone to town on it if I actually had space in my bag and if I wasn’t hassled every single second I walked down the strip. I got used to the “Shopping, Shopping”, “Just looking”, ” Take a look” comments that were naturally said to all of us tourists non stop, but it made me appreciate that at least Sri Lankan’s didn’t hassle me in the slightest.
Where to stay in Varkala
Drone shot of Varkala Beach
We ended up staying in Varkala for eight days because we were not only exhausted from Sri Lanka but because we genuinely really liked it there. We had to move around a bit because it was during high season but here’s where we stayed:
Day 1 – 2: Jicky’s Nest (1000R a night)Jicky’s Nest is a popular place to stay thanks to a good write up on Lonely Planet.
We found this popular spot in Lonely Planet which is set back on the beach near the Helipad. Because we hadn’t booked, we luckily got a room but it was beyond basic and by far not the nicest we had stayed in. It was also 1000R (AU$20) and we later realised we could get better for our money. They did however have lots of different tiers of accom at Jicky’s and we wanted to stay in one of their nicer rooms but they were full as it was just coming to the end of the season. They also had a beautiful pug called Anna which we just loved.
Day 2-5: Mad About Coco (1000R a night)One of the communal areas at Mad About Coco.
I found this one on airbnb and loads of people absolutely raved about this place being one of the best airbnb’s they had ever stayed in. It was the same price as Jicky’s so we were wondering how good it was actually going to be. Turns out, it was fantastic. Located just off the main street on the cliff, the location really couldn’t get much better. It was quiet and most of all, a beautiful haven away from the main street. They even had a cafe there serving up the best smoothie bowls in the town. The room was clean and although basic, it was well worth the AU$20 a night. We would have stayed longer but they were booked out.
Day 5 – 9: Cliff House Homestay (800R a night)We found this place just next door to Mad About Coco and managed to book ourselves in for four nights. The room was basic but clean and although it wasn’t as nice as Mad About Coco, we still got a bargain for just AU$16 a night.
Where to eat in Varkala
Buffet lunch and dinner at Puccini Lala.
From what we could see, pretty much every single restaurant on Varkala Cliff had the same menu, serving up the same food. The food itself was a hundred times better than the staple Sri Lankan rice & curry and it was so nice to not only have more variety but better food which was much cheaper than what we had been having for the few weeks previously in the neighbouring country.
I was firstly surprised how many healthy options there were but also how many healthy vegan options too. Here’s some of our stand out favourites that we found on Varkala Cliff:
The Juice ShackA staple fruit, muesli, curd and honey breakfast at The Juice Shack.
We went here everyday for breakfast and had the fruit, muesli, curd and honey with one of their juices after our yoga class next door. We tried quite a lot of this dish at other places but they did the best one.
Puccini LalaBuffet dinner at Puccini Lala.
Puccini Lala was without a doubt the best food on Varkala Cliff. The restaurant is part of an eco resort and although it looks quite pricey, the lunch buffet was just 200R per person and the dinner 300R per person. All of the food was vegan and organic and you could certainly tell because it tasted so fresh and clean and ultimately stood out amongst the rest.
Coffee TempleLots of Western food at the Coffee Temple.
The most popular restaurant in Varkala from what we saw was Coffee Temple. Apparently the coffee was great there (can you believe I’ve never drank coffee in my life?!) and the food was pretty good although a bit more pricier than you’d expect.
Things to do in Varkala Beach
The beach itself was the main highlight and a steepish walk down the cliff steps. It was a beautiful stretch of beach and somewhere I did literally go wow when I saw it. But it was blatantly the weirdest thing walking down those steps all filled with rubbish because I still don’t know why Indian people litter, but it’s apparent, and onto the beach. The beach itself was clean and it was odd looking over to the cliff when in the water with rubbish down falling down it. If you swim where all of the sun loungers are, it’s the weirdest thing swimming around so much rubbish in the water.Renting two sun loungers and an umbrella costs 600R a day (AU$12).
BUT…we found a beautiful part of the beach right down the end of Varkala that was clean and beautiful to swim in.
Just head past the rocks on the left hand side (as though you are looking out to the ocean) and you’ll come to a big stretch of sand. It’s there that we found the beautiful beach that was quiet and made a gorgeous sunset walk back to the cliff (see above for map). The amazing stretch of beach we loved swimming in which was clean and clear.
The sunsets in Varkala were also stunning and just as an FYI, the beach is absolutely packed full of locals on the weekends.
You can swim in a bikini in Varkala, just cover up when not in the sea as locals will be visiting the beach especially on weekends. Varkala Beach is packed on weekends with both Westerners and Indian tourists and locals.
Walk to the Lily Pond
We ventured off and walked all along the coast on the far right (looking out to sea) of Varkala cliff until we randomly came to an absolutely beautiful huge lily pond, about 30-40 minutes walk. Photos don’t even do it justice but it was absolutely stunning. We went back before we left Varkala and took the drone to capture it but it’s just one of those places you have to see in person.The lily pond from above.
The beautiful beach walk to the lily pond.
YogaIf there’s one thing that’s popular to do in Varkala it’s yoga. There are so many places offering up morning and afternoon classes that we went with one which cost 300R for a Hatha Yoga session from 8:00am-9:30am (I stupidly didn’t take a note of the name of the place but it was next to the Tibetan Restaurant on the cliff). It was amazing doing yoga whilst looking out to the ocean. You can even stay there where I think yoga is included in the accom price which we would have done if we had known before but we loved getting up for this everyday.
You can also do your teacher training in Varkala which I’d strongly recommend because it’s a beautiful spot to spend a few months. On a future note, we did a yoga course in Mysore (more on this soon) and if I had to choose where to spend at least a month, I’d definitely would have preferred the location of Varkala.
The Juice Shack also offer a sunset meditation class on the beach. We often saw the class but because it was a bit hot at that time of day, we didn’t do it although it looked beautiful.
Go into the townThe small town of Varkala.
On the way into the town is a big holy bathing pool which is where a lot of the locals wash which is pretty cool. There’s not much going on in town but it’s nice to visit to have a break from the tourist area of Varkala Cliff and food is much, much cheaper than paying the average 250R per meal.
Have you been to Varkala Beach? I’d love to know what you thought of it.
Thanks for reading!
Have you been following my travels so far? Check out the following guides: