It is a tripper’s paradise, if you know where to go! *Points towards North Cliff* As a solo woman backpacker, I’m always concerned about reaching a new place late in the evening. However, as I got down from the late evening train at Varkala station, I realised that the locals here don’t discriminate between men and women travellers, nor much between the desi and firangi either. As the tuk-tuk driver helped me lug my haversack, I asked him to take me to a safe part of town that is tourist-friendly, since I didn’t have prior bookings. He recommended North Cliff and it’s one of the best advise I might have ever gotten. Inexpensive hotels, breezy cafes, travellers from around the world and a front-seat view of the sea.
The North Cliff remains, to my mind, the most serene and laid-back place in Varkala to be at. Situated next to the Helipad, the cliff is a 10-minutes-ride away from the Papanasam Beach (though you can spot the cliff as well as the shops and restaurants from the beach) and descends into the Black Beach or Thiruvambady. The really fascinating thing about this beach is that during the monsoon, the beach vanishes completely, only to be revealed during late autumn. During this time, a thin row of rocks is left behind that people – at their own peril – can climb down to and lush on. The cliff is also the place where you go for your daily dose of delish food, under-the-table beers (alcohol is not allowed in the town but that doesn’t deter the local, enterprising restaurant folks to serve you nonetheless) and colourful clothes and accessories, besides the ayurvedic treatments, reiki healing and yoga. Try the Scientific School of Yoga, Naturopathy and Ayurveda Hospital, besides SunMoon Project and East West Connection for reiki healing. There is a mineral spring at the end of the cliff that you can trek down to – its quite scenic, however, years of no-cleaning up has left it a little dirty. Don’t try a dip.
Kappil Beach is a closely-guarded secret in Varkala that not many will tell you about. Primarily because the place is little off the main town of Varkala and also doesn’t have many properties around it. Without the clamour of North Cliff shops and the crowd from the temple beach, this is the place where you can sunbathe or just relax in peace – ask your hotel to pack you a picnic hamper. They do it gladly and also arrange for local transport, such as autorickshaws (you can also hire a bike), to take you there.
The beach is located strategically at a point where the backwaters meet the sea. The Priyadarshini Boat Club near the beach has boatride facilities which will take you sailing on the waters fringing the sea.
Charges are Rs 600 for 8 people. Call Priyadarshini Boat Club on +91470-2662323.
A lovely bike trip will take you to Anjengo Fort, a British East India bastion in the 1700s. It’s a picnic spot that’s not frequented by many. You can relax here, looking out towards the sea, and checking out the ancient tombstones.