Thiruvananthapuram to Varkala distance is about 50km. You can travel by both bus and train from Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) to Varkala. If you are planing to drive, take the NH47. Of course hiring a taxi is another feasible option to reach varkala from Trivandrum, esp if you are arriving at the Trivandrum airport and wants to go directly and quickly to Varkala.
Trivandrum to Varkala by Train:
You should be able to find an express train heading north of Trivandrum Central (Railway Station Code : TVC) in every 1 hours or so. The travel time is just about 30minutes. This is the fastest means of travel between Varkala (Railway Station Code : VAK) and Trivandrum. By the way the Varkala railway station is called Varkala Sivagiri Station.
Prefer the train option (over bus), if you have a choice. There are a few reasons why train is better than bus.
First of all trains are the quickest between the two places as mentioned above. You can buy ticket directly at the railway station ticket counter. Most of the trains are express trains with reserved coaches.
But you should be ok to buy an unreserved ticket, since it is only a 30minutes journey. In any case you can do advance reservation of train tickets also, if you prefer to travel in one of those reserved coaches.
Talking about the types of trains, there are many types, from the supper fast to the ordinary passenger (called shuttle) trains operate between Varkala and Trivandrum.
Many of the long distance express trains like the Kerala Express (Train No:12625), Mumbai Express(Train No:16332), Chennai Mail (Train No:12624) etc, Varkala is the fist stop after Trivandrum.
For a few other express trains, there are a couple of more stops before Varkala.
If you opt for the passenger train, Varkala is the 11th stop from Trivandrum. The slowest train takes an hour+ to travel between Varkala and Trivandrum, still it seems faster than the bus option!
Sleeper Class (SL) reservation should cost about Rs140 (2USD), AC Chair Car (CC) Rs255 (4USD) and Second Class (2S) Rs45 (1USD).For advance reservation log on to irctc.co.in or simply buy tickets directly at the railway station.
Varkala railway station is located right at the town center. Places like Sivagiri Hills, Papanasham Beach, Varkala Temple etc are 15 minutes taxi/ auto-rickshaw drive from the railway station.
Trivandrum to Varkala by Bus:
The state owned KSRTC operates a few daily direct services between Thiruvananthapuram and Varkala. It's about a 1 hour 30minutes journey.
Buses operate from the KSRTC Bus Station at Thampanoor, across the road from the Trivandrun Central Railway station.
The biggest plus for the bus option is , the direct buses to Varkala go all the way to the Varkala Temple located at the beachside. So if your final destination is the Janardhana Temple, Varkala Cliff or Papanasham Beach, you are just at a few minutes walk from the final stop where the bus will ends its journey at Varkala.
The bus destination is called Varkala Temple.
In short the direct buses to Varkala are few and far in between. However if you are willing for a break journey, there are any number of bus options (in every 5-10 minutes) from Trivandrum.
Take any of the northbound buses (to Quilon, Alleppy, Ernakulam etc). Get dropped at a place called Kallambalam Junction on the highway (NH47) located about 40km (1hour) from Trivandrum.
Varkala is about 10km off from Kallambalam Junction. You can get frequent town buses to Varkala from Kallambalam Junction (daytime). Also you will easily get taxis or auto-rickshaws at the Kallambalam junction, barring the odd hours of the night.
Trivandrum to Varkala by Road (Driving Directions):
Take NH47 out of Trivandrum City. If you are driving from Airport or Kovalam, you can take the NH47 bypass road. This will skip all the curvy roads of the city and bring you to Kazhakootam, where the bypass joins the highway.
The highway in general is a bit curvy and traffic is relatively high on highway closer to Trivandrum side.
You'll cross many smaller towns like Attingal in the highway. At Kallambalam Junction, leave NH47 and take the right diversion to Varkala town.This road will take you to the town. At Varkala town square roundabout take the direction to the final destination.
It should be a 1 hour to 1 hours 30 minutes drive from Trivandrum to Varkala.
From a tourism perspective, the beaches of Varkala stand first.
Here in an interesting mythology about how Varkala got its name.