What to Do in Varkala Kerala
Like Goa, Kerala is actually really big and there are loads of different areas you could stay in. I’m going to therefore mostly focus on what to do in Varkala Kerala, near the north cliff as that’s where I stayed but no post on Kerala would really be right without talking about the backwaters at least.
Kerala Backwaters – Boat Tours
If you take the train to Kerala you’ll actually get a great view of the backwaters that everyone goes to see on the way there. It’s like your own little pre-tour of Kerala.
The boat tours along the Kerala backwaters are the most popular thing to do in the area and most people usually go for a couple of days. I didn’t do this but I know people who have and a lot of them found it kind of boring. They enjoyed the view from the boat but by the first evening they felt like they were done and yet still had another two evenings to go on the boat. If you’re going to do it, make sure you go with people, take entertainment with you such as cards for nighttime, and maybe some drinks too!
What To Do in Varkala, Kerala
In Varkala around the north cliff, the three main activities are sitting on the beach, shopping in the little stalls that line the cliff and surfing.
The friend I was there with isn’t travelling, she just had a long weekend off work, so our aim was just to chill out for the weekend. Varkala therefore suited us perfectly. The beach is nice, but it’s also really cheap to stay in any of the hotels nearby that have pools.
Along the cliff top there are loads of little shops selling dresses, sarongs, skirts, leather bags etc. The waves there are perfect for beginner surfers to learn on.
There is even surf camp there that takes groups out every morning at 6am (more details on this below in where to stay).
Restaurants in Varkala, Kerala
Make sure at least one night you go down along the beach to the fish restaurants. I’m not usually a fan of the whole, “chose your own fish that’s sat on these blocks of ice and we’ll cook it for you” thing, but the fish in Kerala is amazing. It’s so fresh and you can have it however you want. You pick the fish, then they’ll ask you about a range of cooking options and what sauces you want it to come with. It was so good.
The view from along Varkala Cliff at the bars there is also beautiful (exhibit A below ?).
Night Life in Kerala
Most places close down early in Kerala and technically alcohol is illegal, but everywhere sells it. Since it’s illegal though, the fact that alcohol is being sold is somewhat covered up. In all of the restaurants you’re only likely to be able to get cocktails, as they can pretend they’re just juices. Because of this the ingredients will be listed on the menu as things like “V Juice” or “G Juice” which denotes which spirit will be used in your “non-alcoholic cocktail”!
You would be really hard pushed to buy alcohol in a shop there however. We only heard of one whilst we were there that some friends knew about through their accommodation.
Where to stay in Varkala Kerala
We stayed a the Akhil Beach Resort because, as I said, we just wanted to chill out and relax for the weekend. The hotel was great, beautiful grounds, a pool and nice rooms. One or two nights. As long as you have one full day to look round the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort you have allowed plenty of time there.
I had one extra night in Varkala on my own though and the hotel was a luxury for me so I moved to a hostel for my last night. I stayed at Vedanta Wake Up-Helipad North Cliff. Definitely not the nicest of hostels I’ve ever stayed at. It was a bit grotty but it was fine for a night and the staff were lovely
Surf Camp – Some other friends of ours were in Kerala at the same time as us and staying at the Soul & Surf. It looks like a really cool place to stay and it’s got a lovely outdoor area. They do surf lessons every morning for beginners down on the main beach and take more advanced surfers to other locations. Since the camp is a little bit further out of town they take everyone down to the beach in a bus and back up again. It is walkable to get to the surf camp though, just probably not with a surf board! The camp is expensive for India but if you can afford it, definitely stay there. You can pay just one off to join a lesson even if you’re not staying at the camp however they can only take so many people in a lesson and those staying at the camp get priority, obviously. If you’re not staying you’ll have to get their early in the morning and hope there’s still a spot free. There will be no guarantee.
ATMS in Kerala
Ummm there aren’t any. At all. The closest one is a 20-30 minute auto ride away. Make sure you take enough money to cover the whole of the time you’ll be there so you don’t have to pay to get to an ATM like we did!
How Long to Stay in Varkala, Kerala
A couple of days is enough time in Varkala, Kerala if you’re just enjoying the beach and shops but you’ll need longer if you want to do a boat trip on the backwaters too.
Getting from Varkala, Kerala to Bangalore or other countries
If Kerala is your last stop on your trip round India you probably don’t want to spend a couple of days of your life on trains to get back up to Mumbai or Delhi so your best bet is probably to go to Bangalore as they have good connections for international flights. That’s what I did as I was leaving to go to Sri Lanka next. It’s a 16-hour train ride to Bangalore, or you can even take a short flight there. The train is really comfortable though and the station is just a short auto ride from Varkala cliff.