Perched almost perilously along the edge of dizzying cliffs, the resort of Varkala has a naturally beautiful setting and the cliff-top stretch has steadily grown into Kerala's most popular backpacker hang-out. A strand of golden beach nuzzles Varkala’s cliff edge, where restaurants play innocuous trance music and stalls sell T-shirts, baggy trousers and silver jewellery. While this kind of tie-dye commercialism can grate on the nerves – the daily wander along the cliff path is made a little less relaxing by the constant chants of 'come see my shop' – Varkala is still a great place to watch the days slowly turn into weeks, and it's not hard to escape the crowds further north or south.
Despite its backpacker vibe, Varkala is essentially a temple town, and the main Papanasham beach is a holy place where Hindus come to make offerings for passed loved ones, assisted by priests who set up shop beneath the Hindustan Hotel. You can while away days watching the mix of fishermen, Hindu rituals, volleyball-playing visitors, locals gazing at the sea and strolling backpackers that make up the traffic on the beach.