Gokarna's beaches are slowly gathering popularity to the tune of beaches of
Goa. Number of incoming tourists is increasing every year, and with more and
more foreign backpackers arriving here trying to escape crowded Goa, Gokarna is
getting crowded too.
Overview. Gokarna is probably only place where both pious and the
hedonistic have something to look forward to. The Mahabaleshwara Temple in the
town is one of the holiest in South India and is frequented by pilgrims. And
there are many beaches, some well isolated, which beckons backpackers.
Orientation. Gokarna is just south of Goa, which is how its beaches
got discovered. Five beaches, each a thirty minute walk from its neighbour and
all separated by hills, making the picturesque place that Gokarna is. The
Mahabaleshwara temple is in the center of the town, which is also close to the
Things to do and Places to see
Kotitheertha. This is a large tank near the temple, and is in a
quieter part of the town. Pilgrims come here to perform Shraddha Karma.
Mahabaleshwara Temple. This is one of the holiest temples in South
India. So not surprisingly, is surrounded by houses of temple priests. The story
behind the temple goes like this. Ravana received Atmalinga from Shiva, and was
instructed not to keep the linga on the ground ever. On his way back from
Kailasa, Ravana stopped at Gokarna for his prayers, and was looking for someone
to hold the linga for him. Ganapathi came in the disguise of a boy, assured
Ravana to take care of it but dropped it to prevent Ravana from benefiting from
the linga. The place where Ganapathi dropped the linga is said to be the place
where the temple now is.
The Beaches. Below is the list of beaches, listed from North to
Gokarna Beach. This is the longest of all the beaches, almost 7km of
straight stretch of sand. It is located at one edge of the town and is popular
more with pilgrim crowd than backpackers.
Kudle Beach. A kilometer of walk south of Gokarna Beach, Kudle Beach
is surrounded by hills on three sides and sea on the fourth. If not for the
backpacking population that crowds the beach, this would have been a paradise of
sorts. But fear not, it is still a nice place, though falls short of its
Om Beach. This is the most popular of all the beaches, and the names
comes because of its shape similar to Om. It is a 20 minute walk south of Kudle.
This is the last of the beaches connected by motor road. There are a few
resorts and budget hotels to stay here near the beach, but may not be
operational through the year.
Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach. These two beaches are further
south by 15 minutes from Om Beach, and not very far from each other. Both
beaches are much isolated, as they are not connected by motor roads and there is
no habitation in the vicinity for a couple of kilometers.. The isolation makes
them more appealing and worth a visit.
How to Reach. Gokarna is approximately 500km from Bangalore and 150kms
from Panaji. There are direct buses from Bangalore running every night. From
Goa, you can take a bus to Kumta, the nearest well connected town and then take
a local bus to Gokarna. 'Gokarna Road Station', a train station on the Konkan
Railway line, is approximately 6kms from Gokarna town.
Food and Accommodation. There are many beachside shanties that serve
foreign backpackers in Om Beach and Kudle. Gokarna town has a few budget
accommodations, 'Hotel Gokarna International' the most prominent of them.
Namaste Cafe, a budget hotel on Om Beach has many rooms but often turns away
Indians. Om Beach also has a few mid-range resorts. You can get South Indian
cuisine in the town, but whatever food available along the beaches is prepared
with backpacking foreign clientele in mind.