The beach here is set dramatically below a red cliff face. Tourists swim and sunbathe at the northern end, while the southern end is left to the Hindu pilgrims. They come here from the Janardhana Swamy Temple with the ashes of their loved ones and float them out to sea.
Varkala Cliffs and Beach: Pilgrims to the left, Tourists to the right
Later on, I visited the temple. To my untrained eye, it seemed unremarkable. With one exception: a tree shrine with hundreds of little plastic dolls hanging from it. Women prayed in front of it and put coins into the devotional box. It was, I have to say, a tad spooky.
Entrance to the temple: why is it ALWAYS at the top of a long flight of steps?
The Hanging Doll tree. Yikes.