Perched almost perilously along the edge of 15m-high red laterite cliffs, the North Cliff part of Varkala has a naturally beautiful setting that has steadily grown into Kerala's most popular backpacker hang-out. A small strand of beach nuzzles Varkala’s cliff edge, where restaurants play innocuous world music and stalls sell T-shirts, baggy trousers and silver jewellery. It's touristy and the sales pitch can be tiring, but 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 where the beaches are cleaner and quieter.
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. About 2km east of here is busy Varkala town.