So you’re headed to Varkala in south Kerala!
Varkala can be a perfect part of a one week Kerala itinerary.
No really. Go look.
You will almost be at the southern tip of India when you’re in Varkala!
The tip of India would be Kanyakumari aka Cape Comorin.
You’ll be so close so of course you have to go from Kerala to Kanyakumari.
The southern tip of India is in the state of Tamil Nadu and it’s known as the spot where the 3 seas meet:
- Bay of Bengal
- Indian Ocean
- Arabian Sea
It’s also been said that some of Gandhi’s ashes were scattered in the sea here.
Hopefully if you’re going to be in Kerala, you’ll be headed to the famous Kerala backwaters too! So also have a look at the best things to do in Alleppey on a budget, like canoe, kayaking, cycling, and taking the ferry to get to Varkala.
How to get from Kerala to Kanyakumari
I did this as an overnight trip from Varkala.
This meant not dragging my luggage around.
The place I was staying in Varkala was 400 rupees a night (US$5) so I just left my stuff in my room and paid for that night.
You can consider it a form of luggage storage.
But if you want to move on from Kerala, you might consider going from Varkala (or Kovalam) to Kanyakumari to Madurai as a part of your South India backpacking itinerary. (You can also use this route to go from Kerala to Sri Lanka, as you’ll likely find a cheaper flight to Sri Lanka from Madurai compared to Kerala airports!)
For my trip, on the way back to Varkala from Kanyakumari, I also stopped by a couple of spots that have historical significance in Kerala’s history:
- Padmanabhapuram Palace
- Eraniel Palace ruins
These 2 palaces are actually located in Tamil Nadu.
The Kingdom of Travancore is a big part of Kerala’s history, and this kingdom used to cover a part of what is now Tamil Nadu.
So the palace that’s said to have the greatest representation of Kerala architecture (Padmanabhapuram Palace) is not even in Kerala – it’s in Tamil Nadu!
What about Kovalam to Kanyakumari?
Kovalam Beach is further south than Varkala.
This means that Kovalam is closer to Kanyakumari.
The closest main train station to Kovalam is in Trivandrum, and you can get from Trivandrum to Kovalam by bus.
From Trivandrum, you can take a train to Kanyakumari. (A train from Varkala will pass through Trivandrum.)
Okay, so now…
Overnight trip to the southern tip of India
My 2-day itinerary went something like this.
1. Varkala to Kanyakumari train
There are a few trains that go to Kanyakumari from Varkala, and it’ll take 4-5 hours depending on which one you take. (The local passenger train might end up being over 5 hours.)
The trains from Varkala are the same ones you can get from Trivandrum, although there is an extra train option if you’ll be starting from Kovalam or Trivandrum.
From Trivandrum, the train will take around 3-4 hours.
The cost of my train fare from Varkala to Kanyakumari for a general class ticket was 120 rupees (US$2).
You don’t need to make any train ticket reservations in advance for these trains if you are okay with being in general class.
Since the train ride is during the day and it’s just a few hours long (as opposed to an overnight train), general class can work out here.
You can just show up to the train station and buy your ticket on the day you want to go to Kanyakumari.
You will reach the Kanyakumari train station!
aka the southernmost train station in India!
Search for trains:
2. Sunset at the southern tip of India
So once you reach the Kanyakumari train station, there are rickshaws outside the station to get you to your hotel.
Or you can walk.
The train station isn’t too far away from the main part of Kanyakumari.
And then once you’ve dropped off your belongings at your hotel, you can then head to the southern tip of India!
This area can turn into somewhat of a festival-like atmosphere.
There are tons of people around, and there are a number of places that you can sit around and watch the ocean to pass time.
You’ll probably see lots of people in the water too.
You’ll also find a lot of snacks around so you won’t go hungry.
3. Overnight in Kanyakumari
Just as catching the sunset at the point where the 3 seas meet is a thing, it’s a thing to catch the sunrise where the 3 seas meet too.
So, you may consider waking up early so you can see the sunrise.
4. Kanyakumari to Padmanabhapuram Palace by bus
Next up, on my way back to Varkala, I wanted to check out the palace that’s said to be the grandest example of Kerala architecture.
This meant a bus ride from Kanyakumari to Thuckalay.
The Kanyakumari bus station is located pretty close to the main area of Kanyakumari, so you can walk to the bus station too.
Once I reached Thuckalay, I walked to the palace.
5. Eraniel Palace ruins
Next up was a rickshaw ride from one palace to the next!
Padmanabhapuram Palace to Eraniel Palace!
In front of the Padmanabhapuram Palace, you can find a rickshaw, or ask someone to find one for you.
Then off you go.
Unless you’re a history buff, or you just want an excuse to go somewhere for an adventure in India, you probably won’t find these palace ruins to be all that fascinating.
Well, it’s not even really much of an “adventure” but more like just another place to visit, or another thing to do to pass time.
If you want to go somewhere “offbeat,” you can go here. Pretty much no one has heard of this place.
Although there is historical significance to this palace in ruins, you really can’t even see anything because it’s gated off.
I found this place as I was looking at google maps for a train station near the Padmanabhapuram Palace and thought “palace ruins” sounded interesting.
When I googled it, the palace seemed to be important in the past so I thought I’d check it out!
6. Train back to Varkala!
I took a local passenger train from Eraniel to Varkala.
The train was delayed by an hour or two, so it was a long wait at the train station.
Home sweet home!
HAPPY VARKALA TO KANYAKUMARI TRAIN RIDE!
Be sure to take a look the Kerala Travel Guide for one week in Kerala so you can plan the PERFECT trip to Kerala!
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.
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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!