The Varkala has a naturally beautiful setting and the cliff-top stretch has steadily grown into Kerala’s most popular backpacker hangout. 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. Janardhana Swamy Temple is believed to be 2000 years old, and is built in the traditional Kerala architectural style. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is an important shrine of pilgrimage for the Vaishnavites. Sivagiri Mutt houses the ‘Samadhi’ or burial vault of the famous scholar, saint and visionary of Kerala – Sri Narayana Guru. The Guru, who fought against the religious intolerance spread across the state, promulgated the ideology of ‘one caste, one religion and one god for men’. Varkala Beach is blessed abundantly by nature and is counted amongst one of the top beach destinations of the country. The beauty of this beach is further accentuated by the surrounding cliffs covered with palm groves. These cliffs, named ‘Varkala Formations’ by Geologists, are unique to the region. Special prayers and offerings are done on the beach for the departed souls by devout Hindus, during the Malayalam month of ‘Karkkidakam’. The beach is also famous for its mineral water sprouts that are believed to have healing properties. Varkala Tunnel, a 924 ft long tunnel, was built more than a century ago to aid the seafaring trade between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam. The tunnel built in engineering perfection provides ample natural light and air circulation. Anjengo Fort was a stronghold bastion of the British in the coastal belt of Kerala. Built in the 17th century, the remnants of the old English fort and its cemetery are now protected national heritage monuments. Try some of the beachside shacks that sell clothes, colourful shells of different sort, beaded chains and accessories, carved wooden stuff, handcrafted items made of coconut etc. Being a tourist hot spot, Varkala has all sorts of restaurants and hotels dotting the town. Try some of the lip smacking seafood delights, cooked in the local style with exotic spices and herbs.