varkala cliff

The southern state of Kerala has a 580km long meandering coastline with numerous scenic beaches along the way. Blessed with a bounty of natural beauty that includes the famed backwaters, lakes, hills, waterfalls and beaches, Kerala is truly ‘God’s own Country’.

Amongst all these beaches, the Varkala beach stands out the most as it is the only beach in Kerala with a majestic cliff overlooking it. This 80 feet high red laterite cliff is unique as it is a veritable blueprint of geological changes from during the mio-pliocene age (1.3 to 25 million years ago). Its sedimentary geo-morphological structure bears evidence of unique geological features such as changes in the sea and soil structures and even has small fossils embedded in them.

It is known as a ‘Warkallai formation’ and has been declared as a potential Geopark by UNESCO. Geoparks are areas with unique geological formations that are still intact and have low-impact human, recreational and scientific activities. There are 90 geoparks around the world, but the Varkala cliff is the first in India. Plans are afoot to declare it as a National Geological Monument by the Geological Survey of India and ideas have been put forward for its conservation including building a seawall along the length of the cliff. All mining and quarrying activities in this region are also to be stopped and the area to be made a litter-free zone.

Aside from being a geo-heritage site, Varkala Papanasam beach is a popular recreational destination too with over two lakh international and domestic tourists visiting this beach every year. Varkala’s low-lying sparkling beach appears to stretch out into infinity on both sides and offers amazing views. The sea is very calm here and water sports like surfing and sailing are popular activities.

The beach also has religious significance as over 4 lakh Hindu believers gather here to perform prayers for their dearly departed souls on Vavu Bali day; this is an annual day affair worth witnessing when the seafront becomes covered with floating colorful flowers.

Varkala town is ideally placed between two important cities, i.e., Kollam and Trivandrum. Both these cities are well-known for their tourism attractions and if you are planning on visiting them, then you could easily take a day and spend it exploring all that Varkala beach has to offer – including its monumental geo-heritage site. There are excellent highways and railways connecting Varkala to Kollam and Trivandrum cities. The closest airport is also in Trivandrum. You could stay over at the Leela Raviz Kovalam Resort or the Raviz Resort & Spa, Ashtamudi, Kollam.