A religious town turned tourist destination, Gokarna is well visited by both, Hindu pilgrims and beach lovers. Gokarna is made of two words gau (cow) and karna (ear), meaning a cow’s ear. There are two reasons based on which the town got its name, a simple Geographic and an interesting Mythological. The confluence of rivers Gangavati and Aghanashini makes this place look like a Cow’s ear. The Mythological reason is, Lord Shiva, after being sent to Paatal Lok (Hell) by Brahma, emerged from the earth in a Cow’s ear. The town is home to many ancient temples like Mahabaleshwar Temple, enshrined with Lord Shiva.
The rustic look of the town paired with beautiful golden beaches has attracted the attention of a lot of foreigners and travellers. Gokarna has seen a lot of tourist influx since the past 10 years and is now a destination that attracts pilgrims and travellers alike. Beach Lovers seeking solitude have started visiting Gokarna instead of Goa’s crowded beaches.
Being a coastal town, Gokarna has five beaches for you to visit. The main Gokarna beach is several kilometres long and generally visited by pilgrims. It is a long open west facing beach known for surfing. South of the main beach is Kudle beach, accessible by a short downhill walk. Lined with palm trees, it is the perfect place to unwind and relax. A few shacks, restaurants and accommodations are available near the beach. Otherwise, it is mostly empty.
Om beach, due to its geographical appearance, carries a spiritual significance. The shape of this beach resembles the religious symbol ‘Om’ because of the joining of two crescent-shaped pieces of land. Due to its accessibility by road, the beach has many places to eat, shop and stay at. Keep your camera ready and grab some amazing shots of the coastline and fishing boats.
A short hike from Om Beach will take you to Half Moon Beach known for its clean blue water and sparkling sand. It is famous for its beach trek and shape, resembling a half-moon. Away from all the crowds and mostly visited by foreigners and backpackers, it is a wonderful destination to enjoy some quiet. Mouthwatering food is also available on the beach shacks.
The last and final beach along the Gokarna coast is Paradise Beach, a small rocky and white sand beach. Only accessible through the half Moon Beach, it is a great place to camp for the night. It also has freshwater well on the beach. This is a great place to spend some time away from people and cities. It is not advisable to go swimming here as the waves can get quite fierce.
Gokarna has much more to do than visiting the beaches. It is a great place for surfing and sunbathing. There are a lot of water sport activities available for adventure junkies like scuba diving, snorkelling, parasailing, and jet skiing. Cocopelli is an ISA certified surfing school, offering one-on-one lessons. The waves here are suitable for beginners as well as advanced surfers. Gokarna is also a hub for Yoga. Many resorts offer Yoga classes overlooking the beach and lush greenery.
Being a temple town, the festivals are celebrated with zest here. Shivratri is the biggest festival celebrated here as the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The idol of Mahabaleshwara is pulled out on a chariot by at least 100 people. While visiting the town during festivals, be ready to witness a lot of crowds.
Renting a scooter or walking is the best way to explore Gokarna. After visiting the temples, the beaches and indulging in water sport activities, you can visit Yana, a dainty little town in the vicinity of Gokarna, perfect for cycling, and trekking. Karwar is another sea-side town around 59 km from Gokarna, known for its seafood and natural beauty. It is also known as the ‘Kashmir of Karnataka’.
The best time to visit is post-monsoon and during winters (September-December) when the climate is mildly cold and not too humid.
So when are you planning your next trip to Gokarna?