Think of Kerala and the places that usually come to mind are Alleppey, Munnar and Thekkady. Perhaps that’s what keeps the charm of Varkala intact. It also happens to be the only place in southern India where laterite cliffs hug the shores of the Arabian Sea. But there are more reasons to make a trip in the monsoon — Kerala comes alive in the rains, it is off season — which means that one can snag great deals, and avoid the crowds that throng the state during the rest of the year.
Nature at its best
The biggest tourist attraction at Varkala is the North Cliff. At a height of about 60ft to 300ft, the cliff has several lodging options. From luxurious 4-star hotels to eco-resorts — there’s something for everyone. Some of these places also have Ayurveda treatment centres, where one can experience authentic Kerala massages.
We reached our resort at night, and all we could hear was the roaring sound of the sea. Excited about the view that awaited us, we just couldn’t sleep. In the morning, we were treated to lush-green surroundings, a blue sea and light rain. After breakfast, we set off on a walk. You can either go uphill to the market, where you can buy spices, souvenirs, artefacts or clothes. If you decide to go downhill, you reach the beach, which you are likely to have to yourself in the monsoon.
On the way to the beach is the four-storey Varkala Aquarium, which was inaugurated in March. Established by the Agency for Development of Aquaculture, Government of Kerala, it houses over 700 species of fish, snakes and other marine animals.
For the love of food
While we thought we would only be treated to south Indian cuisine in Kerala, Varkala proved us wrong. Italian, Chinese, continental to authentic north Indian and south Indian delicacies — you get it all. There are several food joints at the North Cliff that serve great food and alcohol. The popular ones include Clafouti, Trattorias and Caffe Italiano, among others.
Where to stay
Krishnatheeram Ayur Holy Beach Resort
The Gateway Hotel
Blue Water Beach Resort
Clafouti Beach Resort
How to reach
There are direct flights from Mumbai to Thiruvananthapuram. Varkala is around 42km from Thiruvananthapuram (over an hour by road)
There are direct trains from Mumbai to Varkala.
After spending two days in Varkala, we thought of exploring one of the state’s more popular destinations — Alleppey (also called Alappuzha). It took approximately three hours to reach Alleppey from Varkala by road, but the journey was anything but tiring. For over an hour, we drove on a road that had the beach on the left and the backwaters on the right. If Varkala is a paradise for sea lovers, Alleppey is the go-to place for backwater aficionados.
Known as the Venice of the East, Alleppey is known for its picturesque canals, beaches, lagoons, toddy shops and houseboats. Here, you can either opt for one of the resorts along the backwaters or stay in a houseboat. We stayed at a property next to the popular Vembanad Lake.
A lot to explore
Alleppey has a number of famous temples such as the Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple, the Mullakkal Rajeshwari Temple, the Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple and the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple. One can also head to churches such as Edathua Church, St Andrews Church, St Sebastian’s Church and Champakulam Church. A must-see place in Alleppey is Pathiramannal — a small strip of island that is home to many rare birds. You can also visit the Marari Beach, Alappuzha Beach or the International Coir Museum. Indulge in a guided kayaking trip through narrow backwater canals or opt for a canoe ride — the experience is mesmerising.
Where to stay
Vasundhara Sarovar Premiere
Kondai Lip Backwater Heritage Resort
Citrus Retreats Alleppey
Deshadan Backwater Resort