When it comes to beaches in India, Goa is most people’s destination of choice. With its hippie vibes, psytrance music and hedonistic atmosphere, it’s a place that people struggle to pull themselves away from. However, when I visited, I failed to fall in love with it. I was starting to think that maybe I should stop trying to find the perfect beach destination in India… and then I found Varkala Beach!
With heaps of cool places to eat, yoga studios, and boutique shops, I thought that Varkala Beach was the perfect place to chill out on a trip to India. It was actually much more in line with what I hoped Goa would be like! Plus, the beaches are far nicer and there are much fewer tourists, too.
I’ve spent 6 weeks here in total: a month doing my yoga teacher training plus more time before and afterwards, too. I actually loved it so much that I cancelled my trip to Pondicherry to spend even more time there. As you can imagine, it’s the kind of place you’ll struggle to leave!
I’ve put together this list of some of my favourite things to do in this little hidden Keralan paradise! Hopefully, it will encourage some of you to add it your India Itinerary and also help you make the most of your trip to Varkala Beach!
What to Do at Varkala Beach
Take a Tour of the Backwaters
If you missed the backwaters in Alleppey, you can see them again while you’re in Varkala. Kappil backwaters are much quieter than those in Allepey and, in my opinion, much more picturesque. Varkala Beach is full of tour operators who’ll help you book a tour on any budget.
Visit the Black Beach
Varkala Beach’s cliffside coastline is dotted with lots of different beaches to suit all tastes. My favourite, however, was the black beach. This beach is a lot quieter, cleaner and the water is slightly calmer. Before you go to Varkala, you should know that the water tends to be choppy so it’s not great for swimming. Surfers are well catered to, though, with lots of opportunities to catch waves!
Like most of India, Varkala Beach has a lot of awesome places to buy souvenirs. The Tibetan market is worth a visit for the chance to buy some prayer flags, singing bowls, silver jewellery and crystals. For bags and accessories, you can find stores making custom made bags from camel’s leather.
Plus, since Kerala is the birthplace of Ayurveda you can pick up cheap Ayurvedic products. For the best rates, buy directly from the pharmacies rather than from the tourist shops on the cliffs.
Walk along Varkala’s North Cliff and you’ll find lots of little yoga studios offering classes both morning and night. I joined an ashram where I could get 2 classes a day and my own room for just 600 rupees which was a ridiculous bargain. I also did my yoga teacher training course at Suddha Anand Yogshala which was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life! I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a place to do their YTT in India!
Being a little hippy haven, there are plenty of places along Varkala Beach to get reiki, crystal healing and self-transformation treatments. You can even do a 2-day long Reiki course and become a qualified specialist at Sonia Indigo Academy!
Swimming at the Hotel
Sometimes, you need a break from the beach and have a day chilling at the pool. Akhil Beach Resort has a lovely, clean pool area which non-guests can use for just 300 rupees a day. The food here is great, too, so it’s the perfect place to spend a lazy day sunbathing, swimming, reading and eating!
Although I hated my Ayurvedic massage, many people travel from across India for Kerala’s famous treatments every day. A lot of people love it and maybe you’ll be one of them. So before you listen to me bitch about how much I hated mine, try it out for yourself and make your own mind up! You don’t need to look far to find a masseuse. Ask around for recommendations!
Watch a Sunset
The sunsets in Varkala Beach are ridiculously gorgeous every night without fail. Find a vantage point, grab a chai and enjoy it!
Where to Eat and Drink at Varkala Beach
Darjeeling Café is one of the most lively places to go at night on Varkala Beach. They often have DJs playing and serve a huge range of beers and cocktails, too. Kerala has strict alcohol laws but most places still serve it on the DL. At Darjeeling Café you can get some V-juice, G-juice and R-Juice in fruit cocktails! The food is also great with a huge range of both Indian and international dishes. I thought that the Thai curry was a nice change from the usual Indian favourites.
Coffee temple was my favourite restaurant on the strip for their delicious omelettes and strong cardamom coffee. They also serve a huge range of juices, salads and some Indian treats. I became a bit of a local in here. It’s safe to say that it was my breakfast and caffiene stop of choice!
Tibetan Kitchen & Little Tibet
Varkala has a huge Tibetan population and there are a few Tibetan restaurants on the strip. I LOVED The Tibetan Kitchen and Little Tibet. They’re two very different restaurants with different specialities and I would suggest visiting both. Little Tibet had amazing paneer butter masala and garlic nans. Tibetan Kitchen served great Tibetan food that was a nice change when I didn’t feel like eating curry!
Soul & Surf
Soul & Surf is a bit out of the way of the main tourist strip, perched on the edge of South Cliff. During my yoga teacher training, we went here every day without fail! Sometimes for sneaky brownies and sometimes just to lounge around and do homework with a (healthy) juice and a view. There’s a huge chill out area that looks out to the ocean- one of the best places to go to escape the crowds!
Where to Stay at Varkala Beach
Soul & Surf
If you’re looking for an active holiday, Soul & Surf would be the perfect place to stay. As the name would suggest, they run surfing lessons every day and there are also yoga and meditation classes, too. If I wanted to chill out and be healthy for a couple of weeks, I’d check into this hotel!
One of the most stylish and ambient options on the lake, Inda Hotel comes well recommended! Everyone I spoke to who stayed there raved about the awesome breakfast and if that isn’t reason enough to choose a hotel…..
Mathatitu Yoga Ashram
This little ashram on North Cliff has to be one of the cheapest places to do yoga in the world. I stayed here for a week after finishing my teacher training and had 2 classes AND accommodation for 600 rupees a day!! If you’re on a budget but want to do a lot of yoga, this is an amazing deal.
The Lost Hostel
When I visited Varkala Beach, there were no good hostels to write home about. For budget travellers, the best option was to find a friend and split a twin room. However, I recently discovered a place called The Lost Hostel which looks like a great addition to the Varkala backpackers scene. They have daily yoga classes, barbeque night, bright decor and a friendly environment. Pretty much everything a backpacker needs!
If you’re visiting India and want to add some beach time onto your itinerary, I can’t recommend Varkala Beach enough! For me, it’s so much more chilled out than Goa and the perfect place to relax at the end of your trip. Plus, it’s a stone’s throw away from Trivandrum Airport where you can find cheap flights to India and beyond.
Don’t Miss my Other Articles about Travelling in India!
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- A Backpacker’s Guide to Palolem Beach
- 2 Weeks in Rajasthan: My Itinerary
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