Gokarna is a small coastal town in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Famous among Hindu pilgrims for the Mahabaleshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Gokarna, is luring many tourists from around the world for its pristine beaches as well. It is now one of the hottest destinations in Karnataka for weekend getaways and short trips. Combining the best of Hindu legend and serene beaches, Gokarna is the city that should be on your list as the next travel destination.
I have crafted this ultimate guide for you after my short trip to Gokarna. I hope the information presented in this post is useful.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Gokarna is from October to March. Try avoiding during summer (Apr – May) and monsoon (Jun – Sep).
The best way to get to Gokarna from Bengaluru or other cities in Karnataka is by bus or by train. These two are the most convenient options. If you are driving, be aware that the journey takes anywhere between 10 – 12 hours. If you’re flying from outside of Karnataka, then the nearest Airport is the Dabolim Airport in Goa. You can then take a bus to Karwar, and from there to Gokarna.
The best way of getting around in Gokarna is by walk or by auto-rickshaws. The auto-rickshaws have fixed prices and the drivers charge you based on the distance between two locations; they don’t turn on the meters. So be prepared to shell out anywhere between 150-200 INR for each trip.
I would recommend you to take a rickshaw only when you’re traveling from downhill to uphill and vice-versa, and walk/trek for the remaining time. The Mahabaleshwar Temple and the Gokarna Beach are at the bottom of the hill (or downhill), next comes the Kudle Beach which is somewhat at the center, and then the Om Beach and the surrounding beaches like Half-Moon Beach and Paradise Beach which are on top (or uphill). You can visit the places at the bottom of the hill first and then take a rickshaw to Om Beach. From Om Beach, you can trek to the other three beaches as mentioned in my post here.
Where to Stay
I shall not recommend staying at any other place other than at Shantidham Cafe near Om Beach. This guest house offers breathtaking views of the Arabian Sea, and has an excellent hospitable staff that caters to all your needs. Every morning, we woke up to the sound of the gushing waves, thanks to the perfect location of this place. It is located just 3 minutes away from Om Beach and is clear from the noisy crowds at Om Beach. There is another guest house called Namaste Cafe which is right in front of Om Beach. However, I recommend you to stay at Shantidham Cafe instead, because it is much more offbeat and rejuvenating, thanks to its splendid location (If you’re new to Airbnb, use my referral code for a discount of ₹2,200 off a home booking of ₹5,000 or more!).
What to See
Om Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Gokarna. It derives its name from the sacred, Hindu symbol ‘Om’ which signifies the essence of the ultimate reality, consciousness or Atman.
The place is quite crowded but you can find lesser crowd as you walk further. Om Beach is also the ideal starting point to trek to Half-Moon Beach and Paradise Beach on one side, and Kudle Beach on the other. Lastly, it is here that you can witness one of the most gorgeous sunsets of your life.
I loved Kudle Beach! It is beautiful, has fewer crowds and plenty of shacks on the side. You can find many people camping here with bonfires in front of their tents. My friend and I built sand castles and jumped waves together. Later, we chilled in one of the shacks and witnessed the sun setting smoothly, paving way for the night.
Also Read: 6 Ways to Romance the City of Gokarna!
Looking for solitude and privacy? Then Half-Moon Beach it is. Formed in the shape of a crescent moon, the Half-Moon Beach is a small beach which is mostly solitary. There are only two shacks here, the second one serving lip-smacking food (don’t remember the name though). You can trek to Half-Moon Beach from Om Beach over a mountain, and make sure you eat well if you plan to trek to Paradise Beach as well, after that.
Staying true to its name, Paradise Beach is every camper’s little paradise. It takes climbing steep paths and crossing slippery rocks to reach this beach from Half-Moon Beach, but the views offered here are worth it. Whether you want to jump strong waves, listen to good music, read a good book, or bite into succulent pineapple slices, this is the place to go.
You can trek to Kudle Beach, Half-Moon Beach and Paradise Beach from Om Beach itself, and catch the spectacular sunset on your way back. To know more about how to plan this trek on your own, along with some important travel advice, check out my detailed post here.
Giving Gokarna the significance that it upholds today, the Mahabaleshwar Temple is the reason behind this little town deriving its name ‘Gokarna’, from a Sanskrit word which means ‘cow’s ear’. One of the Hindu epics states that the ‘Atmalinga‘ of Lord Shiva is in the shape of a cow’s ear, in the Mahabaleshwar temple, and thus the town gained its name as Gokarna.
When you visit this temple, you will get a chance to touch the ‘Atmalinga‘, deep inside a small enclosure. You can’t see it but you can only feel it. There is a very interesting story behind the ‘Atmalinga‘ and its placement in Gokarna. You can ask the temple priests or read it here.
If you’re running short of time, you can avoid the queue by heading to the ticket counter and buying an express ticket for 100 INR. This will get you direct entry into the Garbhagriha (the innermost sanctum where the ‘Atmalinga’ is present).
Located opposite to the Mahabaleshwar Temple, the Gokarna Beach is a very long beach, popular among the Hindu pilgrims. You will see many children playing here and can take a nice, long walk on its shore. If you walk further down, you will find plenty of shacks.
I hope you liked this post and found the information useful. Do share your experiences below and let me know what your trip to Gokarna was like!