In the beginning there was the sea,
Then there was a coconut tree,
And then a glass was placed in front of it,
And I thought it was good.
So, in the Part 1 of my travelogue, I told you how I made the trip from the east coast of India to the west to visit a charming little sea-side town called Varkala. Relatively unknown by the general populace, it makes for a fantastic getaway nevertheless. Be it for just a weekend, or months together. Varkala is one place where you can find time slipping by without notice as you lazily amble through the day. And like I said, it is one place I wouldn’t mind moving to for good if I could.
It is also obvious why the average see-all-the-things tourist might give this place a miss, because “technically” speaking, Varkala just has a beach (with a cliff, though), a temple and a handful of restaurants that serve good food. Just as well, because Varkala is not a place you come to to see things. It’s where you come to relax and rejuvenate yourself. Basking in the glorious sunsets everyday on an ever changing beach, letting the whiff of fresh air from the sea sweep over you, and taking in the splendid beauty of the coconut trees lined up pretty much everywhere – it’s an assault to the senses in the most pristine form.
And that is what you do best in Varkala. Nothing.
And yet, since this is the first trip I did had to visit a couple of places that TripAdvisor seemed to suggest. So, this is how it went. On the second day of my travel – me and and my dorm-mates (five of us in all) decided to rent scooters as it’s the best way to get around apparently. Rs. 350 per day didn’t seem to be a bad deal anyhow. So, below the list of things that one can see and do around Varkala.
What to See
1. Laze around the North Cliff, Varkala beach, Papanasam beach
The above three are the only points of interest in the actual town of Varkala. But they’re all you need to be honest. The North Cliff must be the most happening cliff in the whole world (Ok, I don’t really know that 😛 ). There’s a lively selection of restaurants, shops, resorts, ayurvedic therapy centers where you can get a blissful rub-down. All of it perched precariously on the edge of the cliff with just a little walkway separating it. And most of it is not even fenced so definitely not somewhere you go with your kids. Little kids I mean. Big kids are okay!
Varkala beach is the one that’s right underneath the cliff and which you reach via narrow cut steps on the cliff face. Since I’d gone in the monsoon, the sea has come further in devouring the sandy beach but usually it’s much wider and attracts good crowds. But Papanasam beach, which is just further down the road is always available as it is more wider and this is where I went to capture the sunset photos!
2. Kappil Beach
Now this is not a traditional beach in the sense that there is no sand. If you’ve seen the main beach in Pondicherry, it’s pretty much the same albeit a bit more vast and over-encompassing. But what makes this spot better is the presence of a lake on the opposite side of the road. And it is wonderful to drive on this strip of the road for this very same reason – there’s sea to your left and a lake to your right. Drives don’t get any cooler than this.
3. Ponnumthuruthu Island
Yea, I know. That’s quite a mouthful to say. And we’ve struggled to find the spot for the very same reason. It’s also called ‘Golden Island’ apparently, but nobody seems to know it by that name. So don’t even try asking. Anyway, if you indeed do manage to reach this place, you’ll instantly fall in love with the idyllic backwaters (with what looked a million coconut trees on the banks). Basically, this is a huge backwater opening that has a little island at the center which houses a charming temple. There’s a boatman who will take you to the island for a temple visit and will bring you back to the shore. If you go at the right time (early mornings or evenings are the best), the boat ride can be such a beautiful and calming experience.
4. Anjengo Fort
Ok don’t let the fort in the title throw you off. This had been built in the 17th century by the British for God knows what reason but as it stands today, it is nothing more than a little wall around a garden. But it’s well kept and has lots of shade to relax on a sunny day. There is also a lighthouse nearby that you can climb but which, unfortunately, was closed when we went. A total bummer there. Still, a good place for history buffs and you can spend considerable time here looking at old Portuguese style churches in the adjoining village.
Where to Eat
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to food in Varkala. Since the town attracts such a wide variety of folks from around the globe, the restaurant owners too have adapted to the different cuisines and serve a melange of stuff ranging from Italian, American, Classic English and down to Israeli and Swedish!
Fancy a bruschetta? Game!
Yearning for a bacon breakfast? You are covered!
Or just looking for some comforting Dosa or a Butter Naan with Paneer Masala? Yay.
Almost every restaurant is good and is unique in their own way but the following are a couple that I personally liked.
Seriously, this place is a real temple of food. Run by an Englishman, they pretty much got you covered when it comes to Continental as well as Indian breakfast. They have an open courtyard with a lovely view of the sea, they play wonderful music, and waiters are just too friendly. What more could you ask for! I had their crispy bacon, eggs, beans and toast and it was amazingg! And of course, the Afogato (which is bitter coffee poured over TWO scoops of vanilla ice-cream!). Heaven in a ceramic cup. (I forgot to take a photo of this, which is sad)
Visit it for their woody decor, the book exchange library and yep, the best lasagna I’ve had ever. Unfortunately, I never tried their pizzas so have to remedy that next time!
The most crowded restaurant at any time of day! And the proof is in the pudding too. Simply great food and they have a wonderful array of condiments and sauces and dressings to go with it that you simply don’t find anywhere else.
God’s Own Country Kitchen
They named it after Kerala’s tag line. And they don’t disappoint. I had a Red Snapper cooked in Kerala style served with Coconut rice and it was just beautiful food! The fish was cooked perfectly. The succulent flesh just falling off the bone as I dug into it and the chef even heeded my request and made it extra spicy!
Oh and these are the two important facts –
- Most of the restaurants will serve beer, even if they don’t have it on the menu. So you just gotta ask for it.
- All of them have FREE Wi-Fi. (borne more out of competition, than benevolence) So don’t feel shy and just ask for the password 🙂
So, there you go. This is the end of my travelogue. But I’m not done with Varkala yet. I feel like I’ve only barely scratched the surface and I will be back for more. And probably, sooner than you’d expect.