Varkala is a beach town in Kerala that’s famous for cliff-side restaurants, guesthouses, and shops. With a visit to Varkala, you’ll come to know the cliff and beach quite well!
It’s also a tourist hot spot for all things ayurveda, which is healing and prevention of diseases or health conditions through natural remedies.
This means that you can find a number of ayurveda yoga retreats in Varkala.
You will love the ocean views when you’re eating at one of the restaurants on the Varkala cliff.
Well, it depends on your priorities!
For the best things to do in Alleppey and the Kerala backwaters on a budget, see canoe, kayaking, more ferry rides (with options for Munnar and Thekkady similar to Varkala), and more about travel to Alleppey.
And after Varkala, you should totally consider heading to Kanyakumari aka the southern tip of India where the 3 seas meet!
If your travels will take you to other parts of India too, also see the guide to backpacking 2 weeks in North India.
Let’s first take a look at your different public transportation options to get from Alleppey to Varkala!
How to get to Varkala from Alleppey
- Alleppey to Varkala taxi: 3 hours
- Alleppey to Varkala train: 2-3 hours
- Alleppey to Varkala bus: 4-5 hours
- Alleppey to Varkala via Kollam ferry + bus or train: 10 hours possible
Alleppey to Varkala by taxi
Time: Around 3 hours
If you don’t mind spending a little bit of extra money and you want to go for convenience, it’s also an option to go from Alleppey to Varkala by taxi.
It’s a thing for tourists to hire a car with driver to get from place to place even when the drive is several hours long.
In the case of getting to Varkala from Alleppey, the drive will probably be around 3 hours.
According to this Alleppey Beach guesthouse in 2019, the cost of a taxi from Alleppey to Varkala is probably around 3,500 rupees (US$50).
Alleppey to Varkala by direct train
Time on train: 2-3 hours
According to the trainman website, there are a few timings for trains if you want to go from Alleppey to Varkala by train.
Here are some of the Alleppey to Varkala train timings:
If you are going in the opposite direction from Varkala to Alleppey by train, there are also a few timings for trains.
Here are some of the Varkala to Alleppey train timings:
The train schedule should be used as a guide and not an absolute. Trains are often delayed.
But what you can take away from this train schedule is that there are some trains that run from Alleppey to Varkala, if 2-3 hours of actual time in transit sounds like a better idea to you than the other public transportation options.
If you don’t mind riding in general class, you don’t have to book a train ticket in advance.
There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding to take the train to Varkala:
- You can just show up to the train station and buy a ticket for the general class compartment on the day you want to go to Varkala
- General class can sometimes get crowded
- Train timings may get delayed
Alleppey to Varkala by direct bus
Time on bus: 4-5 hours
According to the aanavandi website, there are a few timings for direct buses you can take from Alleppey to Varkala.
These timings are meant to give you an idea, and shouldn’t be used as an absolute!
These are the listed Alleppey to Varkala bus timings:
If you are going in the opposite direction from Varkala to Alleppey by bus, there are some timings for direct buses too.
These are the listed Varkala to Alleppey bus timings:
Note that these are local government buses so they do make a number of stops, but these buses wouldn’t require a transfer.
Get on the bus at Alleppey, and then get off in Varkala!
Once again, these bus timings should be used as a guide and not an absolute.
It can give you an idea for bus routes that are possible and how frequent they may be.
You may show up to the bus station and find that there’s another bus departing sooner.
On the flip side, buses can also be delayed.
You can also ask the guesthouse you’re staying at in Alleppey to confirm bus timings.
Another important thing to note about these buses is that they do not originate in Alleppey.
This means that by the time the bus reaches Alleppey, it could be full.
This could end up to be a less than pleasant travel experience, especially since you are traveling with luggage.
So if you do take the bus, just manage your expectations and realize that you may be forced to stand for part or all of the way to Varkala.
Now… the BEST way to get to Varkala from Alleppey by public transportation…
Alleppey to Varkala via the Kerala backwaters!
Why would you want to spend 10 hours to get to Varkala when you can get there in under 5 hours?!?!
Because… when in Kerala!
Kerala is most famous for the backwaters, and Alleppey is the most famous hub for the backwaters. So it’s only fitting that you leave Alleppey (or arrive to Alleppey) by way of the backwaters! 😉
How to get to Varkala from Alleppey via ferry
- Alleppey to Kollam by ferry
- Kollam to Varkala by train or bus
- Rickshaw from Varkala station to your Varkala cliff hostel!
1. Take the ferry from Alleppey to Kollam
Here’s a look at what your day might look like on the ferry!
10:30am: Get on the ferry to Kollam at the main Alleppey ferry station
Find a seat that will give you some great views!
Take in the backwaters!
1pm: Eat a Kerala lunch during the food break
Take in some more backwaters!
4pm: Eat some snacks during another food break
6pm: Arrive at the Kollam ferry station!
2. Take the train or bus from Kollam to Varkala
Kollam ferry station to Varkala by train
There are frequent enough direct trains from Kollam to Varkala to make this a pretty reliable option.
The train station is about a 20-30 minute walk from the ferry station.
Or if you don’t mind getting a rickshaw, it will be a short 5 minute or so ride from the ferry station.
With both the ferry station and bus station around, you should easily be able to find a rickshaw to take you to the train station.
Once again, according to the trainman website, there are a number of trains that can take you from Kollam to Varkala.
Although the train timings may be delayed, by looking at the train schedule, you see that there seem to be enough trains running in the evening for the train to be a reliable option to get from Kollam to Varkala.
And also once again, keep in mind what it may be like to ride the train in general class.
Kollam ferry station to Varkala by bus
The Kollam bus station is right across the street from the ferry station.
So on the surface, a bus from Kollam to Varkala seems like it could be the most convenient.
But there may not be a direct bus from Kollam to Varkala at a convenient time to rely on a direct bus being an option when you arrive in Kollam in the evening.
This means that you’ll likely need to get a bus to Kallambalam, and then another bus to Varkala. This is the route I took anyway.
So once you reach the Kollam ferry station, head across the street to the bus station.
Then head straight for the “station master” office.
This is where you will get a reliable answer about how to best get to Varkala from Kollam. (This is how I knew to go to Kallambalam for a transfer.)
Next, wait for the bus that you need to take!
The bus will probably not have an English sign on it, so you’ll need to ask around about which is the right bus.
I found a bus to Kallambalam within 15-20 minutes of arriving at the Kollam bus station, and the ride was a little less than an hour.
Once you reach Kallambalam, ask around again, but you will likely have to cross the street to catch the bus to Varkala.
At the Kallambalam bus stand, I was waiting for around 15 minutes for a bus to Varkala, and the bus ride was around 30 minutes.
3. Get a rickshaw from the Varkala station to your Varkala cliff guesthouse (or walk if you are ambitious)
Once at the Varkala bus station or train station, you will likely be ready to get to your guesthouse after a long day!
There are plenty of rickshaws around to get you from the bus station to near the Varkala cliff, which is the best area to stay in Varkala!
I reached my guesthouse just past 8pm.
Since I left my Alleppey guesthouse around 10am, this made for a solid 10 hour day to get from Alleppey to Varkala by ferry and bus!
4. Be happy that you are in Varkala!
Where to stay in Alleppey and Varkala?!
When I was in Alleppey, I stayed at a guesthouse near Alleppey Beach.
When I was in Varkala, I stayed at a hostel/guesthouse near the Varkala Cliff.
Put in your travel dates below (partner website) and you can see the prices of hotels in Alleppey and hotels in Varkala!
Hotels in Alleppey
Hotels in Varkala
HAPPY ALLEPPEY TO VARKALA TRIP PLANNING!
Be sure to also take a look at how to spend one week in Kerala and how to spend one month in South India!
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! You might wait until India to buy this mosquito repellent that works for many foreigners! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train! Also see the easy way to get an e-visa. And this is the easy way to book train tickets online as a foreigner. I've used it, and it's simple! You can just show the e-ticket on your phone.
There are affiliate links on this page that lead to partner websites.
Hostels in KeralaFor a hostel with international standards in Kerala, try Zostel!
More Zostels in Kerala:
Zostel is a top backpacker chain across India, and I've stayed at many Zostels in India! And outside of Kerala, if you'll be passing through Gokarna as you go from Goa to Kerala (here are options of how to get from Goa to Kerala!), then Zostel Gokarna is in an amazing location too! Here are pictures from the on-site cafe that overlooks the ocean.
Where to stay on the tourist trail in KeralaThese places basically go down the coast from north to south!
- Cochin: Try a homestay in the cute heritage area of Fort Kochi.
- Marari Beach: This is an "off-beat" location as Marari is mostly unknown to backpackers, but it can be a convenient stop to make between Cochin and Alleppey with chill laid back vibes. For an idea of what type of beach can be nearby, see my beach walk from Alleppey to Marari.
- Alleppey Beach:
- Funky Art Beach House again for chill vibes with a location among locals in a residential neighborhood
- And there's Zostel Alleppey too for another beach location to stay several days
- OR if Alleppey is a quick visit, try Dream Nest to be closer to town
- And see how to spend one day in Alleppey (short version: go for the backwaters village canoe tour instead of a houseboat!)
- Alleppey backwaters:
- Munroe Island: This is another generally kind of more off-beat location, and you can see a different part of the Kerala backwaters on a quiet island
- Varkala cliff:
Retreats in KeralaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, also see:
- Yoga retreats in Kerala
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
How to book India train tickets online as a foreignerIf you don't want to go through the complicated process of setting up an IRCTC Indian railways account as a foreigner...
Then the most convenient way to buy train tickets online is through this booking website. I've used it, and it's super simple! You buy the ticket, and then show the electronic version on your phone once you're on the train. Compared to buying directly through an Indian ticket booking website (IRCTC account required) or directly at the train station in India, there is a small convenience fee, as well as a less flexible cancellation policy, though!