Varkala is a coastal town and municipality in Thiruvananthapuram district situated in the Indian state of Kerala. It is the suburban town of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum city). It is located 50 kilometres (approx. 32 miles) north-west of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and 37 km south-west of Kollam city.
Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea. These tertiary sedimentary formation cliffs are a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Kerala coast, and is known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological Survey of India. There are numerous water spouts and spas on the sides of these cliffs.
Varkala is also famous for the 2,000-year old Janardana Swami Temple which is an important Vaishnavaite shrine in India and is often referred to as Dakshin Kashi (Benares of the South). The temple is located close to the Papanasam beach, which is considered to have holy waters which wash away sins, and is also an important Ayurveda treatment centre. The temple has an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck, donated by the captain of the Dutch vessel which sank near Varkala without causing any casualties.
Another major landmark in Varkala is the Sivagiri Mutt, established by the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. The hill-top mausoleum of Sree Narayana Guru is one of the most famous monuments in Kerala.
The beach at Varkala has no shops or restaurants. Most of the hotels and eateries are spread across the two cliffs north and south ofthe spacious cove that forms the famous Papanasam Beach. The wide plateau atop the steep laterite cliffs also offers a wonderful view of the sea. A dip in these waters is believed to wash away sins (papam). Priests at the Janardhana Temple, 2,000 years old, offer help with ritual pooja. The remains of Sree Narayana Guru, the well known social reformer and saint, are interred at Sivagiri Mutt at the eastern edge of town. European backpackers and tourists with a lower budget, who find the low tariffs and cost of food a big bonus, form the bulk of the tourist population to Varkala.
Located 3 km away on the eastern edge of town, is the ashram that was the final resting place of Kerala's famous saint and social reformer, Sree arayana Guru. This mutt, with its distinctive multi-tiered white turret, is believed to be sacred. Lower down, is Sree Narayana Guru's old residence, which now displays some of his personal belongings. Nearby is the Sharda Temple, dedicated to Saraswati, whose idol was installed by the guru himself.
Believed to be nearly 2000 years old and, devoted to Lord Vishnu. This shrine stands at the entrance to the beach road. A flight of broad steps lead to the temple grounds past a high entrance arch Clusters of brightly painted idols of Shiva. Hanuman and others are arranged around the sanctorum. Lighted wicks burn from oil trays cut into tall granite posts. While heavy brass bells strung from ceilings and poles gleam in the sunlight. The main temple bell presented by the Dutch captain of a sailing ship is believed to date back to the middle of the 17th century.
This is a delightful island located 20 km away surrounded by the Anjengo backwaters. Approachable by boat from the makeshift jetty at the nearby edunganda village the island is uninhabited save for a 100-year-old Shiva-Parvati temple exposed to the vagaries of nature and time. it was in a state of disrepair until most of it was rebuilt about 10 years ago. The entire island is temple property.
Built in 169S by the Portuguese this fort stands on a strip ofland called 'Anjengo, sandwiched between the sea and the backwaters. Used originally as a depot to store merchandise. The British under Captain Keeling converted it into a fort. It does not have the formidable look of other forts in Kerala though being more of an enclosed bastion with a bulwark of high laterite walls and lookout points. There are many tombstones at Anjengo. The earliest one dating back to 1704, with inscriptions offering a glimpse into the past.
The lighthouse here is 130 ft tall. The ruins of one of the earliest factories set up by the British East India Company. built in 1684. can also be found at Anjengo. The IS-km route from Varkala winds past charming coastal villages and the beautiful Chilakoor Beach. which offers glorious views of the sunset.
Kappil Beach and Backwaters
A confluence of the sea and the Kappil River the tongues of backwaters, the extensive estuary and the magical interplay of land and water all add up to make this an idyllic spot. The small palm-covered islets within the estuary further enhance its charms. The coastal road passing through this area practically holds the sea and the estuary apart for a long stretch offering delightful views of the waters on either side. There are no tourist's vendors or shops and absolutely no traffic whatsoever lacking all tourist amenities except for boating, Kappil in fact, seems to be a closely guarded secret.