Gokarna is a small temple town on the coast of Arabian Sea in North Karnataka. This town has huge religious significance, and is known for its temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Even though this is a temple town, it offers enough for all kind of tourists and travelers. Several beautiful and sandy beaches around Gokarna makes this town more than a religious place. By not being too far away from Goa, Gokarna is blessed with the beaches that are equally cherishing, and is not as crowded as Goa. That makes Gokarna a much better and an offbeat alternative to Goa.
Gokarna has many beaches that are less populated. You can find most visitors at Gokarna Beach as this is the closest beach to the town. It is about 100m from the main Mahabaleshwara temple. Due to its close proximity to the temple, this beach is visited by both pilgrims as well as regular visitors. Gokarna Beach, just like other beaches in this area, is a sandy beach with clear blue water.
Kudle Beach is a private beach that is owned by a resort. The resort has shack attached to the beach. Even though the beach is next to a resort, you can still get to this beach by a small trek along the beach from Gokarna Beach. If you have not booked accommodation in the resort, you have to leave early as you need to trek back before it is completely dark. This is not a very well populated town, and hence the beaches bears a deserted look as soon as it gets dark.
If you trek further down from Kudle Beach, you will reach Om Beach. Om Beach is one of the beaches that is more popular among the visitors than the others. The beach is named so as it looks like the religious symbol of “Om”. The beach is really beautiful, and very less crowded. There are hardly any waves at the beach, which make this an ideal place to get into and play in the sea water. You can also reach this beach by a vehicle, as there is a narrow road that leads you to the beach.
You can also witness beautiful sunset at Om Beach. With less to absolutely no crowd during sunset, you can easily get lost in listening to the nature at its best. The sounds of light waves hitting the small rocks, the waves gently touching your feet on the shore, sun losing its intense light and disappearing into the water… Are you in a dreamland?!
Om Beach is also a starting point for a beach trek that will take you to Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach. You can also take a boat from Om Beach to visit these pristine and unspoilt beaches.
If you trek further down from Om Beach, you will reach yet another pristine beach called Paradise Beach. True to its name, it is truly a paradise on earth. As the beach can be reached only by trek or by a boat (from Om Beach), and hence you will not find many people here. The beach does not have any shops, shacks nor anything. If you are planning to visit this beach, carry enough water, or soft drinks to keep you hydrated.
Half Moon Beach
Half Moon Beach is named after its shape which resembles a half moon. This is yet another beach which can be reached only by a trek or boat. The number of people visiting this beach is the least of all the beaches in Gokarna, as this is the farthest of all the beaches and has the least accessibility.
As I mentioned before, Gokarna is a temple town. The town got its name from two Sanskrit words, Gau that means cow, and Karna which means ear. So the town literally means cow’s ear. Now, I think you are curious why the town got that name. There are two stories to that. First, Gokarna is located between the confluences of two rivers into the sea. On the northern side, River Gangavati joins Arabian Sea, and on the southern side, River Aghanashini joins the sea. Gokarna lies between these two confluences, and resembles a cow’ ear.
The second story has a religious background. Shiva was sent to Patal Lok by Brahma. He later emerged from the earth in this town out of a cow’s ear and hence the name.
According to the beliefs, the Mahabaleshwar temple houses original image of Atmalinga. The story behind Atmalinga goes this way. Ravana went to Kailasa to perform penance and get the Atmalinga from Lord Shiva and take it to Lanka. Lord Shiva then handed the Atmalinga and instructed him not to place it on the ground till he reached Lanka. If he placed it down then it would establish itself on the ground. Other Gods got threatened by the notion of Ravana taking the Atmalinga away, and requested him to prevent that from happening. Lord Shiva then came up with a plan along with Lord Ganesha. On his way back to Lanka, Ravana stops for a prayer in Gokarna. He looks for a person to hold the Atmalinga until he finishes the prayer, but could not find any. After some time a Ganesha disguised as Brahmin boy appears and assures Ravana that he will hold the Atmalinga. However, before Ravana could finish his prayers, he places the Atmalinga on the ground, and it gets firmly attached to the ground. A Maha Ganapati Temple is built in honour of Lord Ganesha who prevented Ravana in taking Atmalinga away.
How to plan a visit?
The nearest airport to Gokarna is Dabolim Airport, Goa. From the airport, it takes about 3 hours drive on the scenic national highway to reach Gokarna. Alternatively, Gokarna is very well connected by bus from Dharwad/Hubli and it is an overnight drive from Bangalore/Bengaluru. Several KSRTC buses ply from Bengaluru to Gokarna.
Gokarna has several options for accommodation. From budget hotels that provide only basic facilities to a handful of luxury resorts to hostels, you can find an option that suits your pocket and comfort. You can either plan a relaxed trip, or you can backpack and visit several other attractions nearby. The nearby attractions include Karwar, Murudeshwar, Dandeli and Syntheri Rocks, Sahasralinga, Jog Falls, Bennehole Falls to name a few.
Where to stay?
- Gokarna Town
- Resorts at select beaches
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