by Sunu Philip - 5 months, 3 weeks ago
If you’re looking to unwind and unplug after a week’s hectic work schedule then stop wasting your time deciding where to head out, and make a beeline for Varkala, a beautiful coastal town in Trivandrum.
If you’re travelling from Ernakulam by road, it’s going to be a 3.5 hour journey (172 Kms), and a very delightful one. Having packed our bags the previous night we left for our destination by six in the morning, and thankfully the city was not yet awake, so we escaped traffic, which got us to our destination in lesser time.
On reaching Varkala the first thing we did was drive up to the most talked about, serene place there - the beach cliff. The view was sheer magic and bliss combined and we stood there staring out into the vast sea for what seemed like an eternity. This is the only place in Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the great Arabian Sea. Also, the cliff forms a rare structure that makes it a unique geological feature and a must visit place in Kerala. A long line of shops can be found along its stretch, including spas and exquisite restaurants.
After almost an hour of exploring the spot we drove off to the next place on our list - the acclaimed Janardhana Swamy temple. There were many foreigners to be seen here as it is one of the most attractive, must visit places in Kerala. The quaintness and mystical air added to our wonder and we exchanged conversation with two of the locals there who shared with us the glory and ancient legends of the temple. This heritage site has an ancient bell that is said to have been removed from a ship that wrecked near Varkala centuries ago.
Varkala is also famous for its local healers and ayurvedic massage parlours. After the morning’s exploration on foot we decided to go in for a relaxing massage session. The masseuse was really friendly and shared more tips for hassle-free exploration like packing light and adapting to the culture and vibe of a place.
Varkala has become a backpackers’ favorite hangout spot in Kerala for the serenity and warmness the place offers. There are several small shacks and home-stay options for those who will be travelling on a shoestring budget. For the foodies, however, this place could be a slight disappointment as most hotels serve pretty bland food. But the local food stalls and wagons might have some interesting quick bites for everyone.
Another common attraction here is the Kappil lake, which is at a distance of 8Kms from the beach. Those interested in water-sports are guaranteed to have a wild time here, what with all the fun kayaking, zorbing and rafting. The road to kappil lake is not too wide, yet clean, smooth and spectacular. Boating on this lake is not going to feel heavy on your pockets, bonus, a breathtaking view of the beautiful Kerala backwaters!
The Sivagiri Ashram is another place that must go on your must-visit list. It is located atop the Sivagiri hills and attracts thousand of tourists every year. The ashram is claimed to be the place where Sree Narayana Guru was enlightened and gained salvation, and finally rested as well. If you’re a devotee of the Guru the best time to visit here would be during the Pilgrimage days - December 30 - January 1.
Another important landmark here is the lighthouse, standing tall at 130ft. on the anjengo beach, which is said to have guided the ships of yore, arriving on the shores of Varkala. The beach isn’t too crowded and offers visitors much peace and calm. So for those of you looking to escape noises, you know where to be?!
By evening we returned to the cliff to watch the sunset and enjoy the lashing waves on the beach. There is an interesting myth surrounding the Varkala beach, or as it is otherwise known, Papanasham beach - whoever takes a dip in its waters will be freed of all sins of their life. Many ayurvedic spa centres surrounding the beach suggests a dip here at the end of a day’s treatment as it is said to be an invigorating experience.
From being a little hippie retreat decades ago, Varkala has come a long way. This little haven is now equipped with a helipad for emergencies, several Pan-Asian and European cuisines, and luxury hotels.
If you’re travelling by rail, the closest option is to get down at the Varkala Sivagiri station.
The closest airport is the Trivandrum International Airport which is approximately 50Kms away from Papanasham beach.
Varkala is definitely a place of immense beauty, a place that makes self-reflection and introspection ideal to survival. We all need to unplug sometime or the other to meet our primal self that is often choking amongst the cares of everyday life. And Varkala truly gifted us a refreshing experience and memories to cherish a lifetime!
Varkala Cliff: Athul Sudheesh
Janardhana Swamy Temple: Dev
Kappil Lake Beach: Navaneeth Krishnan S
Sivagiri Ashram: Pratheepps
Anjengo Beach: Emmanuel DYAN