Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where one can find cliffs adjacent to the Arabian sea. These tertiary sedimentary formation cliffs are a unique geological feature in the otherwise flat Kerala coast, and is known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological survey of India. There are numerous water spouts and spas on the sides of these cliffs.
A famous beach resort, Varkala is also famous for its 3,500 year old Janardanaswamy temple, which is an important Vaishnavaite shrine in India and is referred to as Dakshin Kashi (Benares of the south). The temple is located close to the Papanasam beach, which is considered to have holy waters which wash away sins, and is also an important Ayurveda treatment centre. The temple has an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck, donated by the captain of the Dutch vessel which sank near Varkala without causing any casualties.
The landmark hill-top mausoleum of Narayana Guru
Another major landmark in Varkala is the Sivagiri Mutt, established by the great social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. The hill-top mausoleum of Sree Narayana Guru is one of the most famous monuments in Kerala. The adjacent hills house the East-West University of Brahmavidya and Sree Narayana Gurukulam.
Another important feature of Varkala is the now dilapidated Varkala Tunnel, part of the TS Canal, which was an important waterway during pre-independence times.
Varkala is a well-known Tourist destination. The town has excellent telecommunication facilities, an average-rated water supply system, fire station, several post offices and police station. The town boasts a government-run hospital in addition to nearly 10 private hospitals and some dental clinics. A government-run nature cure hospital is also functioning near the Papanasam cliff.
The District Ayurvedic Hospital is also located in Varkala.
Varkala is the second most important railhead in the district of Thiruvananthapuram, after the Thiruvananthapuram Central Station. Varkala is an important hub for neighbouring places like Attingal, Kadakkavur, Edava, Kallambalam , Kappil, Parippally, and Kilimanoor.
Varkala now has a high literacy rate af above 90%.