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 have turned this small town into a 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.
How to Reach Gokarna
Visiting Gokarna was part of our epic trip along the west coast of Karnataka in India. After a night’s bus ride from Mumbai, we reached our hometown Hubli where our road trip started. Hubli to Gokarna is just 3 hours ride. If you want to drive directly to Gokarna, Mumbai to Gokarna is about 12-13 hours scenic drive along the west coast of India.
You can also reach Gokarna from Bangalore. Bangalore to Gokarna is around 9 hours drive. Bangalore to Gokarna buses take around 7 to 8 hours and there are plenty of buses both AC and Non-AC. There are few trains too.
If you are planning to get in by air then the nearest airport to Gokarna is Dabolim Airport in Goa. Dabolim airport to Gokarna is around 150 km. You can either hire a taxi or rent a car to reach Gokarna. Dabolim Airport has a well-connected network with domestic as well as international cities.
The best option we would recommend to reach Gokarna from either of the cities is to drive as the route along the coast is scenic and there are plenty of places and small towns to explore on the way.
Where to Stay 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. If you are looking to stay in Gokarna we highly recommend Patang beach resort.
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.
If you are looking for more options there are plenty of budget and luxury options available in Gokarna. There are hostels, homestays, luxury resorts, beach shacks, dormitories and more. Check here for more acommodation options.
We had our breakfast at the resort restaurant and headed for the Gokarna city sightseeing. Here are top places to visit and things to do in Gokarna Karnataka.
Top Things to do in Gokarna
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.
Go 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.
Gokarna Mahabaleshwar and Mahaganapati Temple
The temple of Mahabaleshwar is the main Gokarna 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. This Gokarna hotel 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.
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.
OM Beach Gokarna
Drive out of the chaotic city streets to the Om beach one of the top beaches in Gokarna 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 Om symbol which gives the beach its name.
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 until 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.
Go Dolphin Spotting
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 and then another. It was our first time and we were delighted to watch them in and out of the water.
Half-Moon Beach Gokarna
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.
Paradise Beach Gokarna
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. The shallow waters of the beach are ideal for swimming.
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.
Water Sport Activities
There is a myriad of water sports activities for adventure lovers at the popular Om Beach and Kudle Beach. The activities include Jet Skiing, Parasailing, Banana Boat ride, Surfing, Kayaking and more.
Namaste Cafe Gokarna is one of the popular Gokarna hotels 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.
Kudle Beach Gokarna
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.
Wander the Quiet Back Alleys
The narrow back alleys of Gokarna are lined with thatched roof houses some of which are hundreds of year old. Wandering these muddy alleys, watching small kids playing, women doing their daily chores, the chirping of birds and mooing of cows and the laid-back atmosphere far away from the bustling city life gives immense peace of mind.
You will find these alleys and streets greener and cleaner than the streets in the cities and very peaceful.
Mirjan Fort Gokarna
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 constructed 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).
Explore Places Around Gokarna
Gokarna can easily be explored in a day or you can spend the entire day lazing out on one of the beaches. We recommend you some couple of days in Gokarna and head to explore one of the several places around Gokarna like Karwar, Kumta, Mangalore, Murudeshwara, Magod Falls and Yana. These places have gorgeous coastline most of which are hidden from crowd and tourists. These places around Gokarna are equally stunning and make for some memorable day trips. Gokarna to Goa is about 150 km which makes for a perfect weekend getaway from Gokarna. You can rent a car and drive your own to the party town enjoying the scenic landscapes along the coast of India.
Places Around Gokarna Map
Best Time to Visit Gokarna
The best time to visit Gokarna is from October to March when the weather is warm and pleasant. April and May are summer months when it gets really hot and humid. June to August are monsoon months when you can expect some heavy showers making inconvenient to get around. Most of the water activities and boat trips are not operational too. If you want to experience the pomp of Mahashivratri festival and its grand procession then visit during the month of March. The festival falls in the month of March do confirm the dates before you plan the visit.
Have you been to Gokarna? What is your favorite thing to do in the temple town? Love lazing on the beaches or explore the temples and get away to the amazing places around Gokarna, the temple town offers plenty of things to do and see.
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