Gokarna is a small quaint town on the western coast of India in Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka state. The ancient temples of Gokarna have their history rooted in Hindu mythology which makes Gokarna a popular pilgrim destination in South India. The laid back pace of life and the pristine secluded beaches has turned this small town into thriving tourist destination. The name Gokarna is derived from the word Go and Karna which means cow’s ear in the local language, as per the lore, Lord Shiva emerged from a cow’s ear in Gokarna.
After exploring the beach town of Karwar next destination on our road trip along the west coast of India was Gokarna. We reached Gokarna near dusk and headed straight to our resort so that we don’t miss the sunset. Patang beach resort is situated on a secluded Ganga beach. We had a great time watching the sun dip into the horizon and the surreal hues of twilight while Chhavi had fun frolicking in the sand.
We woke up early next morning to the chirping of birds and the sound of waves crashing the shore. We could watch the fishing boats sailing across the sea right from our cottage veranda. We had our breakfast at the resort restaurant and headed for the Gokarna city sightseeing.
Gokarna beach is situated in the heart of the city with parking right across the beach. The Gokarna beach is considered sacred to the pilgrims visiting the Gokarna temples. And owing to its proximity to the temples the beach gets crowded as the day proceeds hence it would be best to visit it early in the morning. The route to the beach winds through narrow alleys lined with shops and temples which would definitely be a challenge when the area gets crowded.
Shopping in Gokarna
The street to the Gokarna beach is lined with small shops selling beach commodities, jewelry, religious items, fresh spices and other souvenirs.
Mahabaleshwar and Mahaganapati temple
The temple of Mahabaleshwar is the main temple which enshrines Lord Mahabaleshwar, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Mahashivratri festival is celebrated with great zeal when the temple deity is taken for the procession in a giant chariot pulled by hundreds of devotees with the beating of drums and chanting of mantras.
Another prominent temple is Mahaganapati temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha. There are numerous other smaller temples spread across Gokarna.
A visit to the temple was followed by lunch at the Pai restaurant which is close to the Gokarna beach. The restaurant is very small with around 10 tables but the food is very delicious. Parking near the restaurant may be a problem during the peak hours.
Other Gokarna Beaches
There are four other beaches connected to Gokarna beach separated by the hillocks. A trek along these rocky cliffs connecting the five Gokarna beaches have several vantage points offering breathtaking vistas of the perpetual blue Arabian Sea.
Drive out of the chaotic city streets to the Om beach which is around 6 km away from Gokarna. The route winds through the pretty landscape of dry grasslands, rocky terrain, and dense forests.
Half the way stop by for a splendid panoramic view of the Kudle beach nestled in the lush green coconut palms.
There is ample parking space on the street near Om beach which tend to be jam packed on weekends and holidays. A Set of stairs run down to the Om beach. At the end of the stairs behold the stunning view of the Om beach in the shape of the sacred symbol Om which gives the beach its name.
The beach is also popular for the water activities like para-sailing, banana boat rides, and boating tours.
There are boats at the beach ready to take the visitors for a 30 minutes ride. The boatman promised us dolphin spotting hence we agreed to give it a try. We had to wait for some 15-20 minutes till there were enough passengers for a ride. As the boat chugged into the sea we could spot tiny fishes swimming in the shallow waters of the beach.
Close to the Half-Moon beach, our boat stopped in the midst of the sea to spot dolphins. We were skeptical but then suddenly one by one the dolphins put up a show for us. We were delighted to watch them frolicking in and out of the water.
Half-Moon beach is so named because of its shape like a crescent moon. The beach is completely secluded and can be reached either by trekking or by boat. This beach is much sought after by trekkers and hikers looking to escape the touristy beaches.
Next to Half-Moon beach separated by a rocky cliff is the Paradise beach which requires much difficult trek. The beach is a paradise for one who seeks respite from the city hustle. This beach has small shacks and hammocks hanging from coconut palms.
An old lighthouse perched on top of a steep Cliff adjoining the Paradise beach.
Taking a swift turn our boatman stopped by to show us the point where the Aghanashini river emptied into the Arabian sea. He also named a few other beaches like God’s Own beach and Nirvana Beach and other distant small fishing villages
Namaste Cafe is a popular cafe right on the Om beach which serves Indian and continental dishes with a wonderful view over the sea. There are a couple of shops where you can buy beach commodities like clothes and sporting items.
Not very far from Om beach is the Kudle beach popular with the tourists for its beach resorts and huts. Reaching the beach needs an easy trek for 5 to 10 minutes.
The last point on our Gokarna tour was a visit to the Mirjan fort around 10 km from Gokarna and then half a kilometer off the National Highway 17. The fort located on the banks of the Aghanashini River spreads over 10 Acres and is believed to be built in 1200.
The double ramparts protect the interior courtyard which looks very impressive with well-preserved towers, deep wells, surrounded by turrets on the bastions. The interior of the fort also has some ruins which are being restored by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Gokarna can easily be explored in a day or you can spend the entire day lazing out on one of the beaches. There are also several places to explore around Gokarna like Karwar, Kumta, and Yana. If you have more days at leisure plan a trip to explore the places around Gokarna which are equally remarkable and make for some memorable day trips.
Have you been to Gokarna? What are the places you recommend to be a must visit?
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