Why Goa when you can Gokarna!
Gokarna. What is it in this village that attracts people like a magnet? I think a few years ago this small quaint beach village had hardly carved a place in the map of the tourists & travellers alike. But since few years, Gokarna is emerging as the next beach hot-spot for foreigners as well as for Indians. So before heading to Gokarna, I asked myself again, What is it in this village that is slowly attracting people from all over the world like a magnet? The answer to this was quite simple actually – ‘VIBE’ Yes it’s the vibe of Gokarna. No! It’s not a name of a popular night club or an infamous casino. On the contrary, it is the connection of a heart with the place & its atmosphere.
For people who are relatively new to this place, Gokarna is a coastal town & a Hindu pilgrimage destination located in the district of Karwar in the southwestern state of Karnataka, India. The locals of this region believe that Lord Shiva had emerged from the ear of a cow in this city and hence the city has been named as Gokarna which when translated literally means ‘Cow’s Ears’. It is amusing to find cows roam everywhere in the city & sometimes they even chill with their other cow friends on the beaches & in restaurants (Lol! Chill they are friendly & probably just want a drink)
The city is shaped like an ear and is located on confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini. Apart from that it also has sacred temples and a beautiful Arabian sea coastline surrounded with mountains. The mesmerising beaches & the historic culture bring tourists & travellers as well as Indians & Foreigners in large numbers to this coastal city. Hence, if you are a beach person, Gokarna is sure to satisfy all your senses and this Gokarna travel guide will bring you close to your beach dreams.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN GOKARNA
A 10 km beach trek which starts from Belekan beach up to Kudle beach attracts trekkers from all over the country of India. It is an easy to moderate level trek requiring high endurance to complete the six- eight hours long journey in a day. Many trekkers, keen to test their endurance & strength, have Gokarna beach trek circuit noted in their bucket-list, for which they proceed to this city, either solo or with a group, from all parts of India. On one side, the trek gives staggering views of the turquoise Arabian sea (Yes! the water here is turquoise in colour!!) and on the other side you get to witness the green-covered mountains of Gokarna.
The route of the trek starts from Belekan beach – followed by Paradise beach – Half Moon beach – Om beach – Kudle beach – and ends at Gokarna beach. Trekkers prefer this route as Gokarna beach lies in the city-centre and you get to come back to the city centre by evening. Further, it is a bit inconvenient to find public transport from Belekan beach back to the city centre throughout the day. Also, unlike Kudle, Om & Gokarna beaches which is equipped with facilities to cater to the tourists, Belekan beach hardly has any food joints or other facilities for trekkers & travelers. Having said that, you can also start the trek from Gokarna beach following the reverse route up to the final Belekan beach on advance arrangement of transportation from Belekan beach. The entire trek normally takes 6-8 hours however that depends upon the number & hours of halts one takes.
The best time to start the trek is at Sunrise and reach your final beach before sunset to relax and witness the beautiful sunset. Kudle & Gokarna beaches are the best spots to experience beautiful sunset views. Thus, the entire experience from start to end is a perfect blend of nature with all its elements right at one place. Don’t you agree?
Gokarna is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage city where Hindus from all over India come to offer their prayers & to perform other spiritual & religious rituals to various Gods & Goddesses in this sacred city. These temples are located at a short distance from each other & can easily be explored within a day on foot. The Mahabaleshwar temple, Mahaganapathy temple, Bhadrakali temple & Mahalasa temple are some of the popular temples in the region of Gokarna.
1) The Mahabaleshwar temple or Dakshin Kashi as they say, is the oldest temple dating back to 4th Century and dedicated to an incarnation of Lord Shiva namely Lord Mahabaleshwar. This temple is considered to be one of the most sacred temples of Lord Shiva and hence most of the people on a pilgrimage to Gokarna make it a point to visit & pray here.
2) Located right behind the Mahabaleshwar temple is The Mahaganapathy temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This peaceful temple contains a black stone idol of Lord Ganesha where you can peacefully pray and spend some time in the sacred complex.
3) Further, 10 km away from the city centre is the Mahalasa temple which again is a Siddhivinayak Ganesh temple where all the festivals especially Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on a large scale.
4) Last but not the least is the Bhadrakali temple dedicated to Goddess Uma, wife of Lord Shiva, who is also considered to be the protector of the town of Gokarna. This temple is nearby from Mahabaleshwar temple & The Mahaganapathy temple of Gokarna & can be easily explored on foot.
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual exercise originated in the ancient India which is practiced in the modern times by plenty of people worldwide. Beach yoga on the other hand is practicing the same on the beach. Gokarna has plenty of Yoga schools and training institutes offering Yoga & meditation courses thereby attracting spiritual enthusiasts to this beach town. The peaceful sound of the waves have the ability to bring peace & calm one’s mind and adding yoga to this peaceful setting can have positive effects on thoughts & on the body.
HOW TO REACH?
BY AIR :- There are no airports in Gokarna and the only way to reach would be either by road or by railways. Dabolim airport of Goa is the nearest airport from Gokarna, situated at a distance of 140 km approx. Regular taxis ply from the airport to reach Gokarna. Air travel is the fastest way to reach this city & can be expensive for people following a strict budget.
BY ROAD:- Yes it is absolutely possible to reach Gokarna by road. Plenty of Private & KSRTC buses ply on this route frequently at a reasonable cost. The Private buses will take you directly to Madangeri located on the outskirts of the city from where you can easily find tuk-tuks for Gokarna whereas the KSRTC buses will drop you in Gokarna depot right inside the city center. Usually there are overnight buses which go between Mumbai – Gokarna. Also, one can reach this destination with their own vehicle. It takes on an average 14 – 16 hours to reach this city by road.
BY RAIL:- Gokarna has its own railway station but most trains do not stop there. Hence, Ankola (20km from Gokarna) is the next nearest railway station to this city. It is the cheapest way to reach the city and hence is recommended for those who are on a shoe-string budget. Certain trains like the Matsyagandha Express halts at Gokarna station itself but not all. Nevertheless, you can find public transport from either of the stations to your destination.
BEST TIME TO VISIT AS PER THE CLIMATE:
SUMMER: In Summers that is during Mid February to May the temperature is extremely hot and humid in the day as well as in the night. The average temperatures during this time are within the range of 38 to 45 degree Celsius thus making it difficult to stay without an Air-Con. You will find yourself constantly sweating irrespective of the fact whether you undertake any activity or no.
WINTER: This city experiences winter from November to Mid February where the temperature in the morning is usually warm and during the night it is pleasant. Winter temperatures in Gokarna range from a chilly 16 degree Celsius to as high as 32 degree Celsius. Other reason to visit Gokarna in Winter is to experience its culture in the most raw form. The most famous festival of Shivratri is celebrated on a grand scale in Late February or early March in Gokarna. During this time, the Hindu pilgrims come from all over India to pray & to make offerings to the deity. It is the peak season for tourism & also considered to be the best time to pay a visit to this city especially due to the pleasant weather & its festival.
MONSOON: The rainy season, which starts from June to September, receives extremely heavy & torrential rains but the temperature is usually pleasant in the day and at night. Heavy discounts are offered on activities & accommodation which is why monsoons make the entire trip affordable & economical for travellers following a strict budget. However, The generally calm, cold waters of the beach becomes extremely risky and unreliable for swimming and hence its better not to venture in the such risky waters.
WHERE TO STAY IN GOKARNA?
Gokarna is a backpackers paradise. Several hostels & camping spots are lined up in this town which aims to provides great opportunity for backpackers like us. We opted to camp at Halfway Home and I would definitely recommend experiencing camping in this beach town. This camping area is located just 2 mins from Kudle beach which can also be a great start for your beach trek. Depending upon your budget & your convenience, you can also choose from other accommodation options in Gokarna
*Book your stay by clicking on the above links*
WHAT TO SHOP?
As Gokarna is a spiritual & beach town, there are many things to buy from here which are:
1) Religious items like incense sticks, brass lamps, prayer beads, picture frames of Gods and Goddesses etc.
2) The specialty of Gokarna namely Kallusakkare which is a kind of sugar candy.
3) Papad, spices, dark chocolate, tea, coffee & such other authentic food items.
4) Seashell necklaces, earrings, bracelets & other locally designed jewelry.
HOW MUCH DOES EVERYTHING COST & HOW TO BUDGET?
One great thing about this city is that it caters to all types of travelers depending upon your budget. There are cheap places and great places to stay & at the same time there are hotels which are completely draped in the lap of luxury. It all depends upon how much you are willing to spend. The cost to stay here for two starts from $10 and upwards (Rs. 700/- & above). And if you’re lucky you might find places which are even cheaper. This city thrives on tourism as one of their major source of income & hence competition in the hotel industry is quite fierce.
Food is quite cheap in Gokarna. One will mainly find Chinese, North – Indian, Italian cuisine in almost all the restaurants. If you are a hardcore fish eater then make sure to visit Gokarna in peak season as restaurants serve all the fishes only in the peak season. In rest of the seasons you will only find prawns & calamari in these restaurants. Also, avoid trying south-Indian cuisine as it is quite difficult to find authentic South-Indian restaurants and dishes in Gokarna. Normally, restaurants and hotels charge $1 – $3 (Rs 70- Rs. 200) for all cuisine types. I do not recommend cooking anywhere but definitely having a barbecue is highly recommended especially if you are camping anywhere in this region.
The best way to travel within Gokarna is to have your own personal vehicle. If not then there are tuk-tuks to take you from one place to another. However, be sure to bargain your way before hiring one. Apart from that there are buses going frequently within the city and the timings of these buses are specified in the bus station itself. Gokarna is popular for the beach trek which does not require vehicle thereby saving the cost on transportation.
There are plenty of things to do here some of which I have already mentioned above. The entire city is more about nature, temples and mountains which is mostly free of cost. There is almost no requirement to pay on most of the activities thereby saving plenty of money in this category.
- Hiring Bikes may cost anywhere between Rs. 300/- to Rs. 500/- However make sure to bargain for it before hiring one
- Be prepared to pay substantially higher amount than the actual MRP of the alcohol as only few shops in this city sell alcohol.
- Pack full length clothes if you wish to explore the temples. Short clothes & sleeveless are not allowed inside the temple premises.
- It may be difficult to find authentic south-Indian food here & only few restaurants serve the same.
- Bargain before hiring a tuk-tuk.
- You may also head to Mirjan fort, Yana caves or Murudeshwar for a day-trip.
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