Gokarna has a rich heritage, pristine beaches, homely food, easy accessibility, friendly locals and perfect weather at budget prices. Gokarna is located at the northern tip of Coastal Karnataka (Uttar Kannada) and is also considered as a Temple Town and also called Dakshin Kashi (Kashi in South), though it does not get as crowded as Kashi. At the same time nature has been extremely generous making it an ultimate vacation for the entire family.
Gokarna has easy accessibility by road from Goa, Mumbai and Bangalore by road. We traveled to Gokarna from Bangalore in the month of December. Our intention was to spend quiet, quality but activity filled time for the entire family. Since we wanted a Beach vacation, and had visited Goa and Kerala recently, and were short of time (4 days) Coastal North Karnataka was the top choice. We made travel reservations to and from Gokarna & also the resort bookings in advance while keeping the local travel plans for later considering unpredictability. With 4 days of trip planned, we set out from Bangalore at night towards Gokarna by road.
Day 1: Our plan for today was to check in at the resort and explore the areas round the resort. Since we came by public transport, the place we were let off was the last stop i.e is the bus stand. There are many places for lodgings at walking distances around the bus stand on the main road, which is just next to the bus stand. Our booking was close to Kudle Beach which is around 2 Kms from the stand. Auto /Rikshaws were waiting inside the stand for passengers. Driving on the narrow and occasionally crowded streets was a tough ask. The 20’sh looking driver accomplished it with ease also giving us the first glimpse of the town. The view of Kudle Beach from resort was amazing. The Auto/Rikshaw charged a flat fee of Rs 100 for 3 of us, with luggage to drop us to Kudle Beach and we had to walk to the resort that was 50 metres distance from Rikshaw stop. Scooters / 2 Wheelers are not as easily available for rent here as in Goa. On check in our resort manager asked us to definitely visit the Sunset Point in the evening. Since we had no local guides, we took his word.
Sunset Point: Sunset Point hill is located just on the left hand side of the road descending to Kudle Beach and there is no entrance fee. Just climb up the hill and get a place to sit and enjoy the work of nature. You get to see group of kites at close distance. It’s very quiet and the views on the Arabian sea keep will you enthralled for hours. On a sunny day, the water appears as if there is a golden path.. you just have to visit it.
After returning from the Sunset point we had refreshing evening swim in the resort pool that was empty (you don’t require heated pools even in December here). We had a fulfilling dinner of local sea food, cottage cheese curry, rotis (local bread) with rice. Typically the options for dinner are limited and the sea food type is based on availability. At times you need to give your choice in morning for dinner. The guarantee is that the food is fresh. With Day1 behind us, our plan was to start Day2 early to beat the crowds.
Day 2: Our plan for today was to visit the famous Mahabaleshwar and Ganesha temple in the morning followed by city walk. We were told to get there as early as possible as the queues build up really fast later in the day.
Mahabaleshwar and Ganesha temples: We had our breakfast consisting of local delicacies, fruits tea and coffee, packed our water bottles and started out for the temples. It was the same road which we took by Auto yesterday, but today we walked the distance and reached the main Bus Stand road in 15 minutes. There was no traffic and hardly any commercial activity, though the road felt safe.
On the road I assisted a local, an old person to carry his bicycle as it was heavy for him to lift. We had plans to do Darshan of the lord, but coincidentally found that this old gentleman was also a Pandit (Priest) and Shastri (Teacher) in the area and was known as Sitaram Shastri. He helped us with the Pooja’s in both the Mahabalashwar and Ganesh temples in quick time. Even though queues were building up, we completed our Pooja at the Mahabaleshwar temple in 30 minutes and the Ganesha temple in 15 minutes, much earlier than expected and had rest of the time for exploring the town.Now the Pooja’s were complete and with the blessings of Lord Shiva and Ganesha so easily, we felt at peace.
Walk around the Town: Cows are considered sacred in India and more so in Gokarna. They have the highest priority and free pass here. So we were prepared seeing them everywhere and they did not disappoint.
The first place we visited was Gokarna Beach. Gokarna Beach is around 500 mts from the temple and you can talk a leisure walk to the place if you don’t mind the crowd. You can see old houses, locals selling idols, trinkets, bangles, memorabilia and fresh coconut. The fresh coconut prices in Bangalore and Gokarna are the same Rs 25 which came as surprise as we were expecting a lot lesser being on the coast.
Gokarna Beach was one crowded place and we decided return after spending some time there. We walked around the local deserted and narrow streets to get idea of the place. Its possible to complete the entire area in the downtown area (communities near the temples within a noon by walking. We had lunch and then came to Kudle Beach for the evening.
Kudle Beach: There is diversion going to Kudle Beach from Gokarna City Bus stand road, and it is really narrow. It has a small board directing to Kudle Beach. Just look on your left side while going on the main road, before the Ganesha temple. We walked back on the same road which we came by in the morning, it was sunny and hot compared to the morning. October to March are the right times to come here, as summers April through May are really hot and it rains a lot in monsoons June through September. Once the paved road ends, descend on to a mud road to reach the beach. This is about 300 meters. The Beach is awesome, sand is white and water is clean. Beach was clean and was not crowded as we headed to the sea. We saw people swimming deep and some going as far as Sunset Point. We had a fun 3 hours in the Arabian sea with an occasional 6 – 8 feet wave coming our way after which we decide to admire the sunset and rest before heading back.
Day 3: Today was the beach hop day on the Coastal Trail. Our aim was to start at Kudle Beach and just keep walking south. After breakfast and packing up water supply, fresh fruit we started on our trip. We started from Kudle beach, walked the beach, before the hike started. The trail on the mountain is easy, on the right hand side is the pristine Arabian sea and on the left are coastal forests and plantations.
We went up the trail and about 40 minutes or so came to OM beach which is famous for its shape like the OM character. You have to ascend to near by rock to see the OM character else you can easily miss it. OM beach was crowded compared to Kudle beach, possibly because it is easily approachable by paved road as compared to Kudle Beach.
After walking past OM beach, we continued on the mountain trail. This trail goes deep in the plantations and has thick vegetation around. After walking for 30 minutes, we decided to return back and take a boat ride instead. We returned back to OM beach and asked the locals if they can take us for a boat ride, which they agreed at Rs 500 for the two of us if there were other passengers who can accompany us. We had to wait for more passengers to make this trip feasible. Some beach hoppers joined us in 30 minutes and we started boat ride. First we went to Pearl beach and saw Nirvana beach at a distance. These boat rides are famous for spotting dolphins. We saw a couple playing gleefully on our way to Pearl Beach.
Pearl Beach was a very small beach compared to Kudle and OM beach and was not very approachable. We came back to OM beach, had a quiet fresh fruit drink at the shack on the beach and started our walk back to Kudle Beach and then back to the resort. There are a lot of water sport activities close to OM beach, we decided to give it a skip. On reaching the resort we cooled down in the swimming pool had a quiet evening Yoga session at the resort. A nice homely dinner and we hit the bed.
Day4: Today’s day was exploring the places nearby and then returning back to Bangalore in the evening. We had booked a taxi for travel and the plan was to go to Idagunji Ganesha temple, Murudeshwar and then return to Gokarna for travelling back to Bangalore.
Idagunji and Murudeshwara: The drive was on a highway before we diverted to Idagunji temple. The idol is a standing Ganesha idol, which is not very common.
After a quick stopover we reached Murudeshwar at around 2 PM. The Shiva temple was extremely crowded and queues were really cramped up. It took us about 20 minutes in the noisy crowd to reach the sanctorum and after few seconds there we were asked to follow out. It was everything but a quiet experience. We continued our trip with a show depicting the creation and heritage of the Gokarna and Murudeshwara area. It was good to understand the history and heritage and to know the reason of devotion towards the Mahabaleshwar (Lord Shiva) in this area. The huge white statue of sitting Lord Shiva, with giant snakes as garlands, over looking the Arabian sea was just a reminder of how much people worship and love Lord Shiva.
Mirjan Fort: Our cab driver, Vidydhar told the next stop was Mirjan fort, which came as a surprise as we had not planned for it. The fort is about 500 metres from highway, so you don’t have to travel long to reach it and can easily be seen within an hour even if you are a history buff.
The place was quiet and you could take a leisure walks along the ruins. There are some underground passes which were locked and appeared spooky. On reaching some vantage points at higher altitude you get a good view of the places nearby. After spending some time, marveling the ruins we returned back to our taxi and Vidyadhar dropped us to Gokarna Bus stand, where we boarded our evening bus back to Bangalore.
We reached Bangalore early morning but not before thinking about the pristine waters, white sands, leisurely walks, breathtaking sunset views, fantastic hospitality and knowing that the time we spent together as a family is going to be cherished in our memories for ever.
Points for fellow travelers – Though these are well known it never hurts to revisit
- Gokarna and northern coastal Karnataka makes real good destination for entire family including children and senior citizens if you want to get away from city life for a while. Good times to visit here are from October to February.
- To fully enjoy the place, you must be ready to walk. It appeared there are more tourists than locals in this area and walking around is safe. There are no directions or maps so carry your own GPS or map guides.
- Food choices are limited as compared to Goa and takes preparation time, but the food tastes homely and service is genuine.
- There are a lot of budget lodging and food options along the main temple road, that are safe and they offer a glimpse of the local life.
- If you have special healthcare needs, you need to be well prepared as this part comes in rural area and there are no super speciality hospitals available. Local clinics are available for emergency.
- We did not come across any two wheeler rental agencies like in Goa and came to know that Auto/Rikshaw have a monopoly here. So you can either drive yourself, pick up a rental from Goa and drive or walk around. If you book an Auto/Rikshaw negotiate the charges before getting in. The Rikshaws do not have distance metres on them.
- Travelers also choose not to stay in Gokarna, but coastal villages or ashrams around Gokarna, which is OK. The government bus connectivity is excellent and safe.
- The Gokarna Beach trek trail is amazing and is recommended. The views of Arabian sea that you get from high altitudes are fantastic. If you decide to do trek on Gokarna Coast trail be prepared in advance or take a guide. The trail is well traversed and marked from Kudle Beach to OM Beach. From OM Beach onwards it goes through thick plantations and the markings are not clear.
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