Gokarna Travel Guide– Do you want to go on a beach holiday that will give you some solitude and peace beside offering vast vistas of the changing moods of the sea? Then Gokarna is the place for you!
Tranquil and less commercialized than Goa, the upcoming beach travel hotspot, Gokarna is an idyllic holiday destination for individuals wanting a break from the routine and fast-paced life that has become synonymous with modern times.
A temple town located along the West coast of India in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district, Gokarna is one of the most beautiful and untouched beach holiday destinations in the country. The name, Gokarna means “cow’s ear’ in its literal sense and a very interesting legend lies behind its name.
Gokarna town is situated at the confluence of Aghanashini and Gangavali rivers and this has the shape of a cow’s ear. As far as the legend goes, Lord Shiva was banished by Brahma to Patalaloka to undergo harsh penance. He eventually rose up from the ear of a cow by name Prithvi or Mother Earth. Since he emerged from this spot of the river waters confluence, the place is also known as Adi-Gokarna.
UPCOMING TRAVEL HOTSPOT IN THE COUNTRY
The popularity of this erstwhile sleepy town as a much sought after travel destination has risen considerably in recent times. Besides being a pilgrimage site for Hindus, the pristine rocky beaches and hills of Gokarna have been one of the major draws for tourists within and from outside the country.
With Goa getting over-crowded and over-commercialized, Gokarna offers a refreshingly different beach holiday. Rejuvenating and endowed with quieter and peace. However, with the influx of foreign tourists being on the rise, this place is getting a vibrant and happening nightlife.
HOW TO REACH GOKARNA
Gokarna lies at a distance of around 483 km from Bangalore, 60 km from Karwar and about 280 km from Mangalore. It can be reached from Bangalore by using the National Highway 4 and the Bangalore –Honavar road. The road route takes around eight hours or so.
GOKARNA FROM BANGALORE
You can drive down the distance, hire private taxis and cabs or use the KRSTC buses. KSRTC buses ply from all major cities of Karnataka. Gokarna is also well connected by bus from Goa. A lot of private buses ply from several spots in Goa to Gokarna.
I suggest that you travel in your own vehicle which gives you the flexibility of enjoying the drive. Also, you will have the option to stop at view-points and enjoy nature. I can assure you the drive is as amazing as the destination!
REACH GOKARNA ON TRAIN
You can reach Gokarna via the rail route through several train options. Trains operating from Bangalore include the likes of the Matsyagandha Express, Maru Sagar Express, Bangalore Karwar Express or the Poorna Express. The disembarking station is called the ‘Gokarna road’ station which lies about 6 km from the main town.
The nearest airport to the place is the Dabolim airport in Goa. The distance between Goa and Gokarna is about 140 km or so and this can be traversed by road through any of the above-mentioned options. The second closest airport is the Mangalore Bajpe airport.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The ideal period to visit Gokarna is from October to March. The climate is pleasant around that time when the rains do not act as spoilsport to your holiday or are you bothered by the extreme heat experienced at other times.
PLACES TO STAY
There are several hotel accommodations available in Gokarna but the best places to stay are any one of the varied homestays that abound the place. Some of the names in this list include the Hari Priya Residency, Vedic Village, which gives fantastic sea views. Another budget option is Nimmu House which has its accommodation facilities housed in two wings.
You can also stay in the beach huts that dot the shoreline of some of its beaches. However, the good ones will not come cheap and moreover, the prices shoot upwards during the start of the peak season from December to February. In any case, the accommodation facilities are definitely cheaper than its commercial counterpart, Goa!
RECOMMENDED GOKARNA HOTELS
Though Kudle and Om beaches have permanent accommodations, places like ‘Kudle Oceanfront Resort’ and ‘Paradise Holiday Cottages’ are easy on the pocket besides offering fantastic views of the sea, sun and sand. Those with an adventurous spirit can avail the tree house facility offered by Namaste Yoga Farm situated in the hills beyond Kudle beach.
For those who want to indulge in a luxurious stay, then the ‘Kudle Beach View Resort & Spa’ or the ‘Om Beach Resort’ or the ‘SwaSwara’ are some of the suitable options. They can get spa facilities; undergo yoga and meditation besides feasting on the hotel’s gastronomical delights.
However, the backpackers can also be suitably accommodated in the varied hostel facilities that are available here, one of them being the ‘Zostel hostel’ which was established in 2016 or so. It’s a nice place offering a beautiful beach view perched atop a hill midway between the Kudle beach and Gokarna town. Other equally good options lie at HosteLaVie and Trippr both of which are close to and right on the beach respectively.
THINGS TO DO IN GOKARNA
Visiting beaches and temples is the main attraction here; however, there are many other things to see and do in Gokarna such as:
One distinguishing feature of the beaches here is that you literally have to trek to get to them all. With the beaches located on the other side of the town beyond the small hills, you can experience the fun and thrill of climbing up and down the hilly rocks as you hop, skip and jump from one beach to the other. All in all, Gokarna is endowed with five main beaches, the Kudle beach, Gokarna beach, Half Moon beach, Om beach, and Paradise beach.
Amongst the above, Gokarna beach which is situated in the central part of the town is a favorite haunt of pilgrims and locals. The celebrations of ‘Shivratri’ festival take place on this beach. The preferred choice of tourists is, however, the Kudle beach which is interspersed with a lot of small inns and shacks along its sands.
There are plenty of rocks too and it is really fun to climb up and down their sides and feel the cool splash of the lashing waves on your toes. Better still, you can rest on some of the rocks and stare out into the blue waters of the sea. Believe me, there is nothing to beat the immense sense of calm that courses through you at that point in time.
GOKARNA OM BEACH
From the Kudle beach, it is a short climb over a hill before you arrive on to the most frequently haunted beach of Gokarna which is the Om beach. A favorite among tourists and locals alike this beach has a few restaurant options.
As you move to the far side of the Om beach you reach the Half Moon beach which is a little secluded than the rest. The last of the beaches which is the Paradise beach follows next on this trail. This is the most untouched of the beaches and the farthest from the town.
The trek can, however, get quite tiring and if you are not an avid trekker then you can opt for the boat rides. These operate from Om beach and Kudle beach and through these, you can do a round of all the sandy shores.
In addition to trekking, you can stroll on the beach with the cool sands acting as soothing soles to your feet and a soft breeze gently twirling the hair on your forehead. Or best still, you can just laze on the sands and count the innumerable stars of the clear night sky. These are just a few of the small things that add to the allure of the place.
SEEK SERENITY WITHIN THE TEMPLES
Gokarna was and still is a must visit spot for pilgrims who throng the area to visit temples dating back to ancient times. One of the main ones is the Mahableshwara temple which is located in the main area of the town. The temple houses the ‘Shiva-linga’ which has given the town its name. As you move within the temple you experience a serene feeling and the sense of calm that pervades you is difficult to be achieved even through meditation, at least for me.
Besides this temple, there are a few more temples for the religious minded such as the Ganapati temple, Gokarneshwara temple, Kotiteertha, etc. which are in close proximity to one another.
REJUVENATE YOUR INNERSELF
There is nothing to beat a relaxing massage or join a yoga course on the sandy floors of the beach to rejuvenate your inner self. Most of the hotels offer massage services through their Kerala Ayurvedic treatments. You can go for an entire body massage or specific parts one, either way, it is a very soothing experience more so with the neighboring waves adding to the lull of the place.
There are several yoga camps along the beach and you can choose any one of them. You can find short-courses if you are not planning a long vacation.
SAVOR THE LOCAL DELICACIES
The many shacks that prevail on the beaches and local restaurants offer a wide variety of food fare ranging from Italian pasta to Israeli bread to our own amazing Indian thalis. Local delicacies and seafood prepared the South Indian way are sure to send a tingle to your taste buds.
The ‘Prema’ restaurant in the main part of the town is one such example of a must-visit spot for partaking mouthwatering food. Appearances are deceptive and this restaurant stands testimony to this fact. The home-made ice-creams are also a must try.
RECOMMENDED PLACES TO EAT
Another foodie joint that attracts tourist throngs by its amazing ambiance and super tasty food is the ‘Namaste Café on the Om beach. The Surya café known for its Mackerel fish curry/fry and the Dolphin Bay café are two other names known for their delicious hospitality.
EXPLORE THE SURROUNDING AREAS
There are many places in close proximity to Gokarna that are worth paying a visit to. Yana, Dandeli, Karwar, Murudeshwar, are just to name a few of them. The places are within a distance of around 50 to 100 km from Gokarna. But the best of all is Murudeshwar which is famous for its gigantic statue of Lord Shiva.
The sheer magnificence of the statue which rises against the backdrop of the blue waters of the Arabian Sea will definitely become a treasured part of your holiday memories.
Gokarna beaches are one of a kind with their rocky outcrops and hillocks. Capture the waves lashing at the rocks and various other scenic glimpses of nature on your camera to make a lovely addition to your photographic collection. For the adventurous, there are many water sports activities like snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking etc available on the Om beach. Om beach also offers a boat ride into the sea to watch the dolphins at play.
GET A FEEL OF THE GOKARNA TOWN
Gokarna is a small town which can be explored in a matter of a few hours. Get a feel of the town and browse through the small clothes and trinket shops that line the way to the varied beaches and temples. You will find a variety of decorative souvenirs made of brass and seashells. Do not forget to buy, ‘Kallusakkare’ a type of sugar candy which the place is known for.
DOS AND DONT’S
Here are a few points to be kept in mind while visiting Gokarna:
- Do not cause public nuisance through any of your activities while on the beaches of Gokarna as the police can come down heavily upon you.
- Do not swim in areas which are marked as dangerous for swimming as the strong currents can prove fatal.
- Be careful of the stray dogs that abound on the beaches of the town.
- Do not walk alone on the beaches at night.
- Though the locals are very hospitable and warm it is better not to get into any tiffs with them.
ON A CONCLUDING NOTE
There are a series of things to do and visit in Gokarna. The fresh and pure air, the changing faces of the sea, the pristine beaches and amidst all the beautiful sunset and sunrise views offered by the beach town are truly unforgettable. Gokarna is magical and you come back vowing to revisit it again and again.
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