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Top 6 places to visit in Gokarna


How to spend a blissful weekend in Gokarna

This Guide Contains

Top Places (Detailed)

Time Required

Ticket Links

Cost Breakdown

Interactive Map with Day Plans

Transport Options

What to Eat/Drink?

Gokarna (Cow’s Ears) is a small coastal town on the Arabian Sea with an old school, peaceful charm to it. I would describe it as a mixed bag - On one side there are packs of family vans looking to explore the spiritual side of the city, while on the other there are young Indians and foreigners enjoying the various pristine palm-lined beaches spread across the town.

You should know this though - there are 2 parts to this city, split by the Aghanashini river. I call them the calm side and the crowded side. The calm side is towards Kumta. When you enter Gokarna from Kumta, the area is lined with a number of beautiful beach facing resorts - Reasonably charged accommodations, extremely friendly staff and locals, and extreme sense of calmness is what this area offers. To add to this, the beach area that each of these resorts open up to, are almost like private beaches for the guests. Imagine sipping on a cold beer, munching on some crispy tidbits while listening to the waves of the beach and seeing no people till far far away! That’s the calm side for you in a nutshell. The restaurants of these resorts are extremely clean and well kept and they all have local cooks - humble, mind blowing healthy food is what they serve!

And then you have the crowded side - the main town basically. Four beaches and the main temple are the biggest crowd pullers here - Om beach, Kudle beach, Half Moon beach, Paradise beach and Mahabaleshwara temple. You will find a ton of stay options - the biggest advantage of staying here is being closer to the center and easy access to the main beaches. A haven for extroverts - you would find a lot of interesting people to talk to here.

One thing unique to Gokarna is the clifftop views of its beaches. In most places you would get to see the beach at ground level, but in Gokarna, most beaches are surrounded by elevated climbable hills/mountains and hence you get a birds eye view of the beach like never before!

If you have a personal vehicle, I would suggest staying in the calmer side and driving down when you find the need to. It is a scenic 1 hour drive (~40 km)

(Map included at the bottom of the article)


Our Journey in Pictures


🥘 What should I eat?

Food is fairly cheap in Gokarna - Would highly recommend dining in the restaurants of the various resorts spread across this little town. The stand-alone restaurants/cafes from our experience were not that great.

🍛 Seafood - With the town being right by the coast, super fresh seafood is widely available. The local cooks do a commendable job at bringing out their best with every dish.
Top recommendations :


1) Mahabaleshwar Temple

 💳 Free  | 🕑 30 mins 

What is it?

A religious shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, the lineage of this temple can be traced back to the 4th century.

Story Time

Way Way back, one day, Ravana's mother was praying to her favorite God - Shiva, with immense devotion. Her prayers were interrupted by the Lord of the Sky (Indra) and she was very upset. Seeing his mother really disappointed, Ravana decided to get her a Shivalinga (Atmalinga) from Shiva's abode - Mount Kailash. Ravana then sets forth his journey. He shows Shiva his devotion and faithfulness and manages to win him over. Shiva then bestows him with a linga, but with one condition - the linga should not be placed on the ground and if it is, then it would get stuck to that spot. Ravana, now all happy with his newly acquired linga, starts his journey back to Lanka. When he arrives closer to present day Gokarna, he realizes its time for his evening prayers. Confused, he takes help from Lord Ganesha to hold the linga for him. Ganesha tricks Ravana and places the linga on the ground and runs away with his cows. Ravana tries to chase them but is only able to touch just one of the cows ears. Hence the name Gokarna. Ravana then tries to lift the linga with all his might, but realizes its impossible and names it Mahabaleshwara (very powerful) and thus began the story of this pilgrimage!

What to expect?

A part of the Kudle beach is right outside the temple. Expect to see a lot of people(can’t stress enough on the ‘lot’ part), in and around the temple premises and at this part of the beach. Hindus from the surrounding areas visit the temple to pray to Lord Mahabaleshwara and to also perform final rituals of departed souls. Roads get very narrow when you get closer to the temple - Recommend parking your vehicle a little far from the main area (where the roads are at least a little broader), and walk to the temple. There is also an old Maha Ganapathi temple next to the main Shiva temple.

The temple has a very strict dress code. You can enter the temple’s first layer with a slightly relaxed dress code, but if you wish to see the main Linga (Atmalinga) then you must adhere to the dress code.

  • The boys : Dhoti/Lungi and no shirt (shawl on top is allowed)
  • The ladies : Saree, Chudidar or Lehenga

2) Sri Bhadrakali Temple

 💳 Free  | 🕑 30 mins 

What is it?

A peaceful calm temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. When the all-powerful demon called Vetrasur conquered the three lokas, the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva devised a strategy to defeat him. They created a feminine warrior called Durge. Various gods gifted her with special powers to fight Vetrasur. After she conquered the demon, Lord Shiva re-christened her as Bhadrakali and sent her to Gokarna as a protector of the town.

What to expect?

At the gate of the temple, statues of two lions and two warriors depict the power of goddess Bhadrakali. The statue of the goddess is seen in her ferocious avatar with big eyes, teeth and four hands holding weapons. The temple is beautifully decorated with flowers at all times and is hard to miss!

How to get there?

  • On a ride out from Gokarna’s main bus terminal towards Om beach, you could stop over to visit this imposing temple to your right.
  • Friday’s are busier than other days of the week

3) Om Beach

 💳 Free  | 🕑 30 mins - 1 hr 

What is it?

A beach in the shape of the holy symbol ‘Om’ - basically two crescents joined together! This is the biggest crowd puller of the 3 beaches in Gokarna offering water sport activities (kayaking, banana boat rides and jet ski rentals) and a few beach side eateries. The shacks here do offer beer, which is another reason why its a major hit among tourists! Coast guards are present on the site to ensure safety of all visitors.

What to expect?

A nice clean beach to chill and watch the sunset and also enjoy a boat ride! You cannot drive till the beach. Once at the main parking area, a fleet of downward stairs (~5 mins walk) get you to the beach. Try spotting an aerial view from one of the higher clifftops surrounding the beach to be able to see the ‘Om’ shape. Water sport activities are relatively cheaper here as compared to Goa.

Namaste Cafe - one of the most famous cafes in Gokarna is located here


4) Kudle Beach

 💳 Free  | 🕑 30 mins 

What is it?

A beautiful beach best known for its picturesque sunrise and sunset. Super clean like most beaches in Gokarna and relatively lesser people as compared to Om beach. The major striking difference between Om and Kudle is the vibe oozing out from either. Om beach is more fast paced, busier and filled with hustle bustle, while Kudle has a much more chill vibe to it. Both extremely endearing in their own ways. To add to this, its quite a shallow beach and you could literally walk into the sea and just keep going! Its quite a widespread beach. There are mainly 2 ways to enter - One closer to the Mahabaleshwar temple (this part is also known as the Gokarna main beach and is filled mostly with families) and the other is the main entrance with the parking lot on top.

What to expect?

The beach is lined with a number of shacks serving good food and caffeine induced drinks (life saviors!). Once at the parking lot, you have to climb down a few fleet of wide stairs to make it to the beach. Black rocks welcome you once you get down from the trail. This part of the beach is quite popular among couples, youngsters, foreigners and hippies giving the beach its enchanting vibe. On specific nights you could spot artists performing near the shacks and strangers bonding over bonfires!

  • We loved the food at Uma garden and coffee at Tribe Valley. La Pizzeria is great for Pizzas.
  • A range of accommodations are available by the shoreline at Kudle beach - The cheaper ones ranging from INR 400-800 per day (with no extra amenities other than a bed and a washroom), while the more fancy ones with good amenities for INR 1500- 3000 per night!

5) Paradise Beach

 💳 ₹500 per day to rent a tent  | 🕑 overnight stay

What is it?

Visiting the paradise beach is an experience in itself. This is in no way your regular beach - the crowd, the travel and the culture here is enthralling! First off, there are just 2 ways to reach this secluded mysterious beach : Either you take a ferry or you hike your way to the beach. Both are equally beautiful in their own ways but I’d recommend the hike if you are able to, just for the thrill of it. Once you reach the beach you could either just visit for a couple of hours or decide to stay here! Yes, right at the beach. You could bring your own tent (you know the one you bought from Decathlon and never used, time to bring it out) or you could rent tents for INR 500/- per day.
Highly highly recommend camping here. The crowd is majorly young and has a wild energy! You will meet the most beautiful people, wonderful storytellers and make ever-lasting memories here. Best place to see the luminous planktons too!

What to expect?

One of the best beaches in India - completely serene and feels untouched. Remember how authors of novels describe certain places as ‘She found herself here’ - That’s the feeling most people echo with at Paradise beach! You will find foreigners camping here for weeks and months. There is a café that is open till 9pm. You are free to eat, dance, sing and do whatever your heart wills on this beach! Quite a paradise for sure. No power supply and limited light post sunset. Its mostly just torchlight, your tent and you! Food and other facilities are slightly expensive mainly due to the transportation difficulties. Paradise beach is definitely one of a kind.


6) Mirjan Fort

 💳 Free  | 🕑 3 hrs 

What is it?

There are multiple versions narrating the existence of this fort, but the main one is that of the mighty queen of Gersoppa - Rani Chennabhairadevi! We all love a fierce queen now, don’t we!

Story Time

The fort is believed to have been built by Rani Chennabhairadevi belonging to the Vijayanagara Empire. She ruled for an outstanding 54 years from here and also lived in this very fort. With multiple ports being in the surrounding area, indigenous products were shipped to other parts of India and also out of India to Europe. The main crop of the area, pepper, too was widely shipped during her rule and hence she was also known as the 'Pepper Queen'!

What to expect?

The fort is spread across a wide area and gives stunning views of the western Ghats. There is not much left of the fort itself and there is nothing major to see. If you have extra time in hand and just like to go back in time in your parallel universe and imagine what life would have been in the golden ages of the fort and maybe go even wilder and imagine yourself being the ruling queen, then you could easily spend a good 1-2 hours here!


How to reach?


Curated list of Places to stay:


Travel Tips

✔️ A lot of resorts do not serve alcohol - highly recommend calling and checking with the staff beforehand. If you fancy a drink or 2 while chilling at these resorts, you have to BYOB 😉

✔️ Try to read about all the view points for the beaches. You get a beautiful birds eye view of all the beaches from multiple clifftops in the city. Never would you have seen the beach from such raised pretty spots. Maybe pack some food and have it in one of these view points. Please remember to not litter!

✔️ There’s something called the Beach Trek that is popular in Gokarna. Its basically a trek that starts from Kudle beach, leading to Om beach, continuing to Half Moon Beach and finally ends at Paradise beach. Many companies organize group beach treks and is quite a fun experience. If you are with your own group, you could try this trek yourselves too! A good day adventure with nice breaks in between!

✔️ Gokarna has high tide in the mornings and low tide in the evenings! The place we stayed, they had their dining area out in the open just by the sea. In the mornings during breakfast, the water would almost reach the dining area! It was beautiful 😟 And later in the evenings, it felt like the waves packed up, said their goodbyes and went back home to sleep.


Map

📌 Use the below interactive map for directions:

✔ Clicking the top right button opens the map in a new tab showing the different sections. Click on view map legend if browsing on phone
✔ Save the map in your Google Maps for easy access later: Click the ⭐star button beside the name of the map. You can access the map later from Google Maps > Saved > Maps

Santosada Prayana! :)
  • architecture and heritage
  • arts and culture
  • forests and camping
  • road trip
  • south india
  • transport and travel
  • water and sand
  • weekend getaway

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