After landing in Trivandrum (new name is Thiruvananthapuram…) in South India without my backpack — avoid Tiger Airlines! — and sleeping in a not-recommended hotel, I took the train to Varkala as quickly as possible. It’s worth upgrading from the cheap seats, unless you’re really excited about that all-space-is-shared-space India experience. (Second class is actually great therapy for those of us with over-sized Western space bubbles…)
Varkala, short version: Good, plentiful, cheap yoga. Papanasam beach at North Cliff is great, warm and generally safe to swim. Very good restaurants, lots of cheap places to stay, especially just outside the peak season. Vendors in the shops on the cliff are tenacious but interesting if you can get them to tell their stories. All of these listings refer to the North Cliff area in March 2013, apparently many places shut down in the off season when it gets even more ridiculously hot and humid.
Yoga: see the Yoga page for more details. Classes were all about 300 rupees (~$5 USD) in March 2013. There are many yoga studios in Varkala, ask around or just wander.
Hatha Yoga with Vasudev at the Bohemian Masala Resort was very good, daily from 8-10am. There’s a beginner class at 10am. http://www.yogavarkala.com/
Dr. Kamaraj teaches a vigorous Dynamic Yoga class daily from 5-6:30pm as well as other classes at Namasthe Ayurvedic Mission. Went to this one several times, good vinyasa flow, he changes it up for each class.
Haridas teaches two Sivananda-style classes a day at Hotel Green Palace, mornings 8-9:30am and evenings 4:30-6pm.
Stay: many places on the cliff, many others just one street over or a short walk away. Hotels, hostels, B&Bs — most will negotiate, especially if you miss the high season.
Casa Eva Luna saved me. Katrina and Esther are from Spain, fantastic hosts. Katrina helped me find and retrieve my backpack after six days. (Seriously, avoid Tiger Airlines.) Quiet and comfortable B&B about a 10-minute walk from the cliff. Esther makes delicious Spanish, Indian and Italian dishes. Very good value, highly recommended.
Dream Shore Beach Resort, toward the north end of the cliff next to Trattorias restaurant. Good view of the water from the balcony hammock, reasonably comfortable and clean. They will definitely negotiate in the off season.
Eat: if you like seafood and fruit juices, Varkala won’t disappoint. Watch the fisherman just off shore in the morning, and enjoy the fresh catch by afternoon.
Trattorias serves great seafood and some of the best coffee on the cliff. The balcony has sunset views over the Indian Ocean.
Little Tibet serves very good, authentic Tibetan food. It also has an ocean view balcony. Very friendly staff.
Click to see amazing Varkala: