1. Janardhana Swami Temple
Janardhana Swami Temple is a 2000-year-old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is so popular as it is the only shrine dedicated to Vishnu in the name of Janardhana in this part of the country, with the temples usually being dedicated to Krishna. It is one of the best places to visit in Varkala. The temple aptly follows and echoes the aesthetics of traditional South-Indian architecture.
The main idol has a remarkable appearance with four arms having all the attributes of Vishnu. In the southwestern corner and on the north-eastern side of the outer enclosure are the shrines of Sasta and Shiva with Nandi. The Arattu festival at this temple is celebrated every year in Meenam (March-April) commencing with Kodiyattem (Flag hoisting) of Krithika day ending with Arattu on Uthram day. A colorful procession led by adorned elephants is one of the prominent features of the festival. This place is also called ‘Dakshina Kasi’ or the Varanasi of South and is important for ‘Pithrutharpanam’-an offering in honor of their relatives who have departed from this world. The temple was maintained by the Pandya Kings.
2. Varkala Beach & Cliff
Varkala beach is famous for its rocky cliffs, pristine sands, blue waters, and mineral springs. One of the ideal things to do in Varkala is definitely enjoying the serenity of the beaches here. The cliff accommodating stretches of shops, restaurants, resorts, and beach houses provide everything a tourist is looking for. The view of sunrise and sunset from the Varkala beach is an exotic treat to watch. The beach is popularly known as Papanasam beach since it was used by Hindus to scatter cremated ashes of their relatives has now emerged as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kerala.
Varkala is a quiet and isolated sandy expanse where you can have a relaxing beach holiday without the crowds and bustle of some of the busier beaches in Kerala like Kovalam. The mineral springs near Varkala Beach are considered to have medicinal properties, and many people come here to drink, and bathe in the spring. The landscape in Varkala is unique, with a high rocky cliff ending abruptly and a stretch of clear sand extending down to the sea. The contrast between the cliffs, sand, and sea makes Varkala Beach striking and it is one of the best places to visit in Varkala. Water sports are the best things to do in Varkala near the beach.
3. Sivagiri Mutt
Sivagiri Mutt, the head office of Sree Narayana Dharma Sangam is situated at a distance of 6 miles from Varkala and is also the resting place to the very popular community reformer and thinker, Sree Narayana Guru. The Sivagiri Mutt is designed in 1904, on top of the Sivagiri mountain by Sree Narayana Guru who is famous for the slogan ” One caste, One Religious belief, One God”. The Mutt is situated above the Sivagiri mountains near Varkala. Guru’s last relaxing position or ‘Samadhi’ is also situated here. A large number of pilgrims come to Sivagiri annually during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage.
The Guru Deva jayanthi, the marriage of the Expert, and the Samathi day are recognized in Aug and Sept respectively. Vibrant processions, community conferences, the community reveals, team feasts, team marriage, and traditions indicate the festivities. Historic images of Guru and his valuables are kept in Sivagiri Mutt. Individuals that belong to all castes and faiths are permitted to check out Sivagiri Mutt(Madom). A trip to the mutt guarantees calm and the much-wanted ‘peace of mind’ which makes it one of the best places to visit in Varkala.
4. Kappil Lake
Kappil Lake is popular for its serene atmosphere and the coconut plantations. The lake is situated 4 kilometers away from Varkala town. The backwater and its view from the bridge above the lake is indeed a treat to the eyes. Kappil Lake is an excellent getaway from the daily hassle.
5. Anjengo(Anchengo) Fort & Light House
Anjengo or Anjuthengo originally means a bunch of five coconut trees in Malayalam. The fort here is served to the one-time bastions for British East India Company, second to Bombay. Anjengo was raised as a signal station (Light House) in 1695, for ships and cruises from England. The fort then was one of the major depots for coir and pepper trade for British East India company. Anjengo Fort is situated very close to Varkala town (10-12km away), and can be easily accessible by an auto ride. Anjengo Fort is a National Heritage monument tagged with foreign connection-Dutch and Portuguese; the fort shelters quite an old cemetary and burials inside.
Visiting the lighthouse is one of the most fun and exciting things to do in Varkala. A walk around the fort is the best way to experience the place and have a look at the pillars and high-rise ceilings that have a history inscribed on them. A walk through the backwater stretch brings more memories to your mind of the historic battlefield between the colonial powers like the Dutch, French, and the British in Travancore.The bird’s eye view of the surrounding vistas, Arabian Sea, and the coastline is breathtaking and makes it among the most ideal things to do in Varkala.
6. Varkala Tunnel
Varkala Tunnel is a popular tourist highlight for its magnificent construction which was done by digging Varkala hill in 1880. It was a 924 ft(277 meters) long tunnel built in 1867 by the then dewan of Travancore(Attingal Palace) T.Mahadeva Rao and took around 15 years to complete at an expense of 1.7 million Indian rupees.
This tunnel opens to Varkala’s TS canal which runs on the side of Sivagiri mutt and is a standing symbol of Kerala’s forgotten trade route to ferry people and goods between Trivandrum & Quilon(Kollam) and commercial past. Some unorganized trips to the canal bring a strange feeling among the travelers. Etched out under a cliff, this century-old tunnel is about 41 kilometers (25.6 miles) from Trivandrum. A huge vent on the roof opens up this dark underground structure to fresh air and sunshine. One of the adventurous things to do in Varkala would be to explore these places.