About 45 km north of Thiruvananthapuram, Varkala has a laidback, relaxed atmosphere and a rather compact beach that does not take too long to explore. The beach at Varkala has no shops or restaurants. Most of the hotels and eateries are spread across the two cliffs north and south of the spacious cove that forms the famous Papanasam Beach. The wide plateau atop the steep laterite cliffs also offers a wonderful view of the sea. A dip in these waters is believed to wash away sins (papam). Priests at thy Janardhana Temple, 2,000 years old, offer help with ritual pooja. The remains of Sree Narayana Guru, the well known social reformer and saint, are interred at Sivagiri Mutt at the eastern edge of town. European backpackers and tourists with a lower budget who find the low tariffs and cost of food a big bonus, form the bulk of the tourist population to Varkala.
Relieved to be nearly 2,000 years old, and devoted to Lord Vishnu, this shrine stands at the entrance to the beach road. A flight of broad steps lead to the temple grounds past a high entrance arch. Clusters of brightly painted idols of Shiva, Hanuman and others are arranged around the sanctorum. Lighted wicks burn from oil trays cut into tall granite posts, while heavy brass bells strung from ceilings and poles gleam in the sunlight. The main temple bell, presented by the Dutch captain of a sailing ship, is believed to date back to the middle of the 17th century.
This is a delightful island, located 20 km away, surrounded by the Anjengo backwaters. Approachable by boat from the makeshift jetty at the nearby Nedunganda village, the island is uninhabited, save for a 100-year-old Shiva-Parvati temple. Exposed to the vagaries of nature and time, it was in a state of disrepair until most of it was rebuilt about 10 years ago. The entire island is temple property.
Built in 1695 by the Portuguese, this fort stands on a strip of land called `Anjengo’, sandwiched between the sea and the backwaters. Used originally as a depot to store merchandise, the British, under Captain Keeling, converted it into a fort. It does not have the formidable look of other forts in Kerala though, being more of an enclosed bastion with a bulwark of high laterite walls and lookout points. There are many tombstones at Anjengo, the earliest one dating back to 1704, with inscriptions offering a glimpse into the past.
The lighthouse here is 130 ft tall. The ruins of one of the earliest factories set up by the British East India Company, built in 1684, can also be found at Anjengo. The 15-km route from Varkala winds past charming coastal villages and the beautiful Chilakoor Beach, which offers glorious views of the sunset.
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