Along the West Coast of India, in Karnataka, lies this sleepy little town called Gokarna. Gokarna literally, means “Cow’s Ear”. I know it sounds funny and you would wonder why this name. It partly stems from a legend and partly, from its location. But will come to that interesting story a little later in this post.
Originally a Hindu pilgrimage center, it is now, an important tourist destination – not just as a temple town but its lovely rocky beaches and hills. Around 140 kms from Goa, this place has become increasingly popular with foreign tourists in India. A completely different experience from Goa and Karwar, Gokarna is about a peaceful beach holiday.
However, this does not mean that there isn’t much to do in this small town. Here is my list of 10 things to do in Gokarna –
1) Beach Trekking in Gokarna
Sounds like the most obvious? Am sure. But there is a slight difference here as you really have to trek (not walk) to the beaches in Gokarna. Gokarna is situated amongst the hills and the beaches are literally on the other side of the hills. A literal climb and descend along the hilly rocks from one beach to another – which is actually, where the fun and excitement lies. Gokarna has 5 major beaches – Gokarna beach, Kudle beach, OM beach, Half Moon Beach and Paradise beach.
Gokarna Beach is in the main town and is quite popular amongst the locals and the pilgrims. Shivratri is one of the main festivals celebrated in this town and the celebrations are held on this beach. The beach is not preferred by tourists. A nice beach nonetheless. Going forward to the next beach – Kudle Beach, which is one of the main tourist beaches in this town.
Circled by hillocks and dotted with rocks, Kudle beach is a pleasure to spend time on. The beach has a lot of shacks and small inns. You can trek up the little rocks along the way and feel the waves splash onto your toes. Not a bad idea to perch on them and stare out of the sea. I totally enjoyed doing the same myself. Trust me, it is a calming feeling 🙂
From the Kudle Beach, you have to trek up a hill and descend down to the most popular beach in Gokarna – OM beach. Named after the serene “OM” symbol of the Hindus, this is not just popular with the tourists but also, amongst the locals. This beach has limited food and restaurant options.
Next, trek over to the other side of OM beach to find the Half Moon beach – kind of like a lagoon. This has far lesser options of restaurant and shacks and is quite secluded. As you trek along further, you will move to the last of the beaches on this trail – the Paradise beach as below. This is the further away from the town and most unspoilt of the 5 beaches of Gokarna.
The trek is quite easy and light for all kinds of trekkers. If you want to try something different, you can opt for a boat ride to all these beaches as well. :-). Boat rides are available on both Kudle beach as well as OM beach and you can either choose to go with a crowd or take it by yourself.
2) Visit the Temples
Originally a temple town, there are a few ancient temples around Gokarna with a fair amount of history and significance. The key amongst them is the Mahabaleshwar temple, within the main Gokarna town. This temple is home to the Shiva linga – one of the key reason for the name Gokarna. Time for me to reveal the legend that I mentioned earlier about the name Gokarna.
The geographical reason for the name is that the town is at the confluence of Gangavali and Agnashini river and is shaped like the cow’s ear. However, legend has it that Lord Shiva had emerged from the ear of the cow and hence the name. How and why the same happened is a long story and can be read here.
Visiting this temple gives you a very serene feeling. The deity here is over 1500 years old. While you are at visiting temples, you can even visit a few others – Aadi Gokarneshwara temple, Ganapati temple, Koti teertha etc.All these are at close distance from each other.
3) Relax with a massage
Most of the hotels and resorts as well as inns on the beaches offer you massage services. The most popular are the Kerala Ayurvedic treatments. You can opt of a regular full body massage or go specific based on your preferences. From a head massage to a foot massage, these massage centers have quite a few options on their menu. A very soothing experience. especially with the waves giving your a background music score 🙂
4) Become a Foodie
With the shacks on the beaches and good local restaurants, the foodie in your is bound to spring out. From Italian pastas to Indian Thaalis – these food places serve your the best. Don’t miss out on two places in particular – the first being in the main Gokarna town called Prema restaurant. This is a non-descript place, with a shabby looking board. Initially, I mistook it for a store but don’t go by the looks. The menu here completely defies its appearance – It has everything from Israeli bread to Pastas and Indian Thalis. The food here is absolutely mouth-watering and AMAZING. So much so, that we ended up going here on two days of the three day stay that we had. You have to try out the home made icecreams and GADBAD here. Check out the Trip Advisor reviews here.
The other must visit place is by the OM beach – Namaste Cafe. This place has an amazing view of the Arabian sea. The food here is a mix of Italian and Indian. Personally, I felt that the food was much better and tastier at Prema Restaurant but there is no beating the ambiance of this place. I would recommend an evening here for sure, as the place is beautifully lit and while you wine and dine here, you can hear the vibrant sea in the background and feel the sea mist on your face.
5) Venture out for a drive
There are plenty of places close to Gokarna, each unique in their own way. Since I have covered places like Dandeli, Yana and Karwar in an earlier post, I will not dwell on them further. These places are around 50 -100 kms from Gokarna. To more about what you can do in this place, click this link.
One place that I would specifically mention is Murudeshwar. This place as you can see in the picture is known for its gigantic Shiva statue. This is the second-largest statue in India. The statue is worth a visit for its sheer magnificence. Its beauty is further enhanced by the lovely blue backdrop of the Arabian Sea. Murudeshwar is around 55kms from Gokarna.
You can also, plan a Scuba diving expedition when in Murudeshwar. Netrani Island – just off its coast, has more than 6 amazing dive sites to explore the underwater. You can even plan your PADI certification near this island. Check out my own experience through this post on my PADI certification at Netrani Island
6) Yoga by the Beach
Do it by yourself or join the groups at various resorts like the Namaste Yoga Farm or the Swarswara resort. It is not unusual to see a lot of tourist practicing yoga in the mornings and evenings on the Kudle beach or the OM beach. You can pick from a 7 day course to a longer course while here.
7) Experience the Star-Studded Sky
The night sky in Gokarna is actually wonderful -clear and star studded. With the cool breeze blowing on your face, waves splashing along and lovely sand below your feet, a stroll on the beach is exactly what you should do. Try lying down on the beach and counting the stars – Sometimes, meaningless tasks like this add to the charm of the place 🙂
8) Do the Water Sports
Get your adrenaline going with some watersports on the OM beach. You can opt for some parasailing, banana boat rides, snorkeling or kayaking. However note that these are available only during the peak season.
9) Get bitten by a photo bug
Gokarna Beaches are quite unusual with their rocky surfaces and hillocks. They look really stunning in the evening and morning light and this should contract a shutterbug in you. Take a stroll along with your camera or phone and try to capture the lovely landscape in front of you. Try your hand on catching the waves on the rocks. Here is one of mine. I am pretty sure it would have been even better beach picture if I had my GoPro handy.
10) Soak up the Town
Gokarna is a small town and you can literally walk and cover the entire town. Small little trinket and clothes shops along the way to the Gokarna beaches and colorful bags being sold. You can spend a little time just walking around and getting a feel of this small sleepy town.
I would not be surprised if you are already looking up for your trip after reading this list of 10 things to do in #Gokarna. 🙂
- There are regular buses from Bangalore and Mangalore to Gokarna. There are a few trains as well to Gokarna.
- Gokarna is around 550 kms from Bangalore and the roads are fairly good. So, if you are up for a long drive. This could be an option.
- The nearest airport to Gokarna is Goa. It is around 100 kms from Gokarna and you can hire a cab from the airport to the town.
- The best season to go to Gokarna is from September upto April. It gets a little too warm in May and June.
- There are plenty of resorts and hotels for your stay in Gokarna. Recommended amongst them is Namaste Cafe on OM Beach and Kudle Beach Resort on Kudle beach. I personally, have stayed at the latter and here is my review of the same.
- There are plenty of stray dogs on the beaches. Though they are harmless, one can always be a little careful.
- Be a little careful when stepping out in the evening on the beaches. You will see a lot of tourist smoking and drinking. There is a bit of a hippie culture in some parts of Gokarna.
- Carry enough Sun Screen while here.