When I think of India, I don’t think of lying on beaches and that’s not our normal style of holiday anyway. However, unusually for us, we’ve had the odd day here and there relaxing on some fabulous beaches in South India.
Out of the 3 we’ve stopped at, our favourite was in Gokarna where we stayed on the 1km long golden sandy Kudle beach. The beach was clean and not that busy although there were a number of hopeful hawkers around. The water was really warm and without the rip tide/big waves of Varkala and Mamallapuram (at the latter you couldn’t go in the water at all). In Gokarna, we felt we were truly in Backpackerstan – most of the other clientele were either young backpackers, older hippies and/or Israelis, a lot of whom seemed to be parked up here for several weeks just chilling out and growing dreadlocks. The accommodation was fairly simple and there were no sun loungers/parasols: you just lie on the beach on a sarong and that’s it. The many beach restaurants all served exactly the same fare, all with the message “if you don’t like it, tell us; if you do like it, tell your friends”.
Varkala is further south in the state of Kerala. This clean beach (again not too crowded and also hawker-free) has a spectacular setting in front of high red cliffs where there are a huge array of restaurants, hotels and guest houses. The clientele here was more of a mixture including some older couples and families on say a 2 week holiday rather than long term backpackers and accordingly, there was a wide range of accommodation available. The waves and undercurrent made the water a bit of a scary prospect and so we played safe just paddling on the edge of the beach.
In Tamil Nadu, we stayed in Mamallapuram for 3 nights: this is a little sleepy stone carving town, now somewhat taken over by western travellers but retains a relaxed vibe. There’s heaps of temples and stone monuments to see here (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site) and that’s the main reason to visit, but we also spent some time on the northern part of the beach. It’s a working beach: lots of fishermen go in and out all day and you can’t swim but, for a few hours, it was pleasant enough as there was hardly anyone else on it and hardly any hawkers. The southern end of the beach (round the bay from the Shore Temple) is much busier with local tourists and also much dirtier but the north beach was great.
Just in case you might be in danger of forgetting you are in India while sunning yourself on these beaches, the odd cow wanders past just to remind you where you are and who is the most important!