Varkala Beach is situated 54 km to the north of Thiruvananthapuram. It was made famous by Vavu Beli, a Hindu custom performed on the beach since the end of 1st century. This beach is a prime spiritual location for Hindu devotees as it houses Janardana Swamy Temple, a the 2000 year old temple.
There are a number of attractions that await a traveller on this beach. The Nature Centre is another major tourist destination of the beach. Besides, there is a spring with medicinal powers which is regarded as sacred by many people who visit here to bathe in spring.
You can play volleyball, go for swimming, surfing or simply hire a parasol and laze around on the beach admiring its beauty. The mesmerizing sunset with the swaying palm trees and the soft sand touching your feet rejuvenates you.
If you love to shop, drop in at the native shopping here. The Varkala Beach is divided into North Cliff and South Cliff. The North Cliff is decked up with cafes that serve Israeli, Chinese, Continental and Italian food. November to March is the best time to visit the beach.
The Janardhana Swamy Temple is a famous Vaishnavite shrine of India. It is called the Benares of the South and is 2000 years old. The temple stands in proximity to the Papanasam Beach. An ancient bell which is believed to be contributed to the temple by the captain of a Dutch ship kindles the interests of a number of tourists.
Lord Vishnu is the presiding deity of Janardhana Swamy Temple. It is popular for Arattu festival, observed every year. This festival is celebrated for ten days in the Hindu month Meenam. Thousands of devotees come to the temple during the Arattu festival.
The temple is restricted to the Hindus. Though non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the main shrine, they can walk around the sanctum. Hindus enter here to pay homage to their ancestors. People believe that the water in the pond of the temple is holy, and a dip in it will wash away one’s sins. The temple is built in South Indian architectural style, and it is located 3 km from Varkala railway station.
Kappil Lake is about 4 km north of the town of Varkala that lies on the way to Kollam. It is another wonderful tourist highlight. The confluence of the quiet and dazzling view of the backwaters and the vast Arabian Sea enthralls the viewer, especially when seen from the dense coconut groves.
Stand on the bridge and watch the scenic beauty of the Kappil Lake. You can hire a boat and sail in the confluence of backwaters and the Arabian Sea. Unwind your soul and be a part of nature. For all those whose hobby is photography, this is a place to be visited.
Ponnumthurutu Island is situated 12 km away from Varkala. It is a beautiful tourist point of interest and can be reached by cruise boat. Ponnunthuruthu Island is also known as the Golden Island. The century-old Shiva-Parvathy Temple also called 'Thuruthu Kshethram' (‘temple on island’) is one of the major attractions.
The entire island is the property of the temple. There is a prevailing myth behind the name of the island. The myth goes like this: the queens of Travancore family visited the temple often. Before visiting the temple, they used to remove their gold ornaments and hide them in the island. Hence, the place got its name as Ponnumthuruthu which in local tongue refers to 'island made of gold'.
The natural beauty amidst the coconut groves takes one to the realm of sanctity. This majestic place is a very wonderful place for outings.
Sivagiri Mutt of Varkala is one of the most famous memorials in Kerala. It is the final resting place or the Samadhi of the renowned social reformer and philosopher, Sree Narayana Guru. This great man preached the message of ‘One Caste, One Religion and One God’.
Built in 1904, it continues to attract the devotees in thousands, especially from December 30th to 1st January, the period known as the Sivagiri Pilgrimage. Various religious functions and social ceremonies take place during this season.
Every year, the Guru Jayanti and the Samadhi day are observed in August and September, respectively. During these months of the year, the Mutt also organizes cultural shows, seminars, community feasts, public meetings and special rituals. The Mutt is open from 5.30 am to 12 am and 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm. Sivagiri Mutt is located 3 km from the town. It is located on a 200 acres land.
The Varkala Tunnel is a 924 ft long tunnel. This tunnel was constructed in 1867 by the then Deewan of Travancore, T. Mahadeva Rao. The construction of the tunnel took 14 years for completion. It is a popular tourist stop. It was constructed for the Attingal Palace.
The intention of making the Varkala Tunnel was to have an inland waterway. The structure of the tunnel attracts tourists as it is the symbol of ancient engineering excellence. Have a look at it when you visit Varkala and marvel at the genius of the past generation. The Varkala Tunnel lies in the vicinity of the Varkala Light House.
The Anjengo Fort is a monument which was constructed by the Portuguese in 1695. It is located at Anjengo, a land placed between the roaring seas and the backwaters. It lies 15 km south of Varkala.
The fort occupies historical importance. It was originally made to store goods. Afterwards, the British captured this place and utilised it for Military purposes. Hence, this fort does not have an intimidating look like other forts in Kerala.
The most important feature of this fort is the masonry canal. The canal still exists but in a worn out condition. The fort also nests a few tombstones. The oldest of these belong to 1704 AD. It is said that the tombstones are of early inhabitants who lived in this fort.
You can see the fort between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm. The fort is open every day except Sundays and public holidays. The fort also offers panoramic views of the surrounding areas. Muthalipuzha Lake which flows around the fort makes it an apt place for contemplation.
Varkala Light House is one of the famous tourist hotspots in the vicinity of Varkala. It is reminiscent of the British styles of architecture of the 17th century. The Varkala Light House stands tall at 130 ft. It was built by the East Indian Company in 1684. You can ascend the light house to get a clear and panoramic view of the surroundings from there.
The surrounding areas include the Arabian Sea, the backwaters and the town of Varkala. Tourists visit here often and enjoy the beauty and serenity of nature. This is a favourite picnic and outing spot for the locals too.
Sarkara Devi Temple is a major pilgrim destination in Kerala. The presiding deity worshipped here is Goddess Bhadrakali. The idol is positioned towards the north. The roof of the temple is covered with bronze, and the interior is in rectangular shape.
Countless sculptures of Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Durga, Lord Ganapathy, Lord Vishnu, Narasimhamoorthi and several other important deities ornate the second storey. The popular festivals of Sarkara Devi Temple are Kaliyoot and Meenabharani.
There is a legend associated with the Sarkara Devi Temple: Long ago, the place where this temple stands was thinly populated. A group of merchants who traded jaggery were passing by this place. They saw a roadside shelter and decided to halt for some time.
When they resumed their journey they found that one of their jaggery pots cannot be moved. As they tried to lift it, the pot cracked. The jaggery flowed out and miraculously there was an idol.
Later, an old woman who saw the idol and intimated the villagers about the miracle. The villagers built a shrine and installed the idol inside the shrine. Since the deity was made from jaggery, Malyalam word Sarkara, the deity became popular as Sarkara Devi. The popular festivals of Sarkara Devi Temple are Kaliyoot and Meenabharani.
Kaduvayil Juma Masjid is dedicated to a Muslim saint, Kaduvayil Thangal. This Sunni shrine is the point of attraction for local Muslims and people of other faiths. It is also known as Kaduvayil Thangal Juma Masjid or Kaduvayil Thangal Juma Dargah.
The Masjid or the Dargah attracts many devotees. There is a popular belief that the saint can solve all your problems. It is said that Kaduvayil Thangal possessed miraculous powers. The sanctity and austerity of the premise will really make you forget all your problems, and you will be pervaded by a feeling of self-surrender.
Kaduvayil Juma Masjid is situated on NH-47, and the adjacent places are Kallampalam and Attingal. This Masjid is an excellent example of religious harmony as devotees and tourists of all religions and ethnicity come here together to find inner peace.
The Papasnanam Beach lies 45 km away from Thiruvananthapuram. It is believed that bathing in the fresh water spring here brings relief from the sins as the name reveals, papasnanam meaning ‘sin destroyer’.
Devotees come here to submerse the ashes of their dead relatives. The act of draining the ashes of the dead and taking a dip in the papanasam water is considered sacred.
The Mythology goes like: One day Sage Narada came near a group of devotees. These devotees confessed to him of having sinned. To redeem them, Narada tossed his ‘Valkkalam’ in the air, and the Valkkalam fell at a place which came to be known as Varkala.
He asked the devotees to go to the beach and pray to destroy their sins. Thus, the beach got its name Papasnanam. It is a pleasure to gaze at the horizon watching the sunset from the Papasnanam Beach that is surrounded by coconut palms.