Disclaimer: Whatever I have written, is based on my 2 days experience (July 14-15,2012 -which is considered an off-season). But let me tell you, monsoon is also one of the best time to visit Gokarna, especially if there is an adventure & demophobia gene in you.
Popularly known as Gokarna, it actual name is Gokarn or “Cow ears”. Situated on northern coast of Karnataka, facing Arabian sea, the place is a popular Hindu pilgrimage, which also boast of number of sea beaches.
The village revolves around Mahabaleshwar temple (Atma lingam-Lord Shiva temple) & spread over few fishing villages cum beach. This gives town a very contrasting view, especially in peak season. At one end we have a more traditional temple going pilgrimage tourism & on other hand is “beach n booze” tourism.
– More of a temple tourist rather than hip-hop booze tourists
– Has got ATM facilities (SBI, AXIS bank, Karnataka Bank to name few)
– a “filthy” toilet/bathroom facility near beach (near to temple).
– Near temple, dharamshala & other plenty of cheap staying options are available. Unless a tourist season (winter months of Nov-Feb) or some festival, accommodation should be easily available.
– In town, eating options are limited restricted to mainly vegetarian south Indian food.
– Bus stand, hardly 500 mtrs from temple.
– Main beach (200 mtrs from temple) has got parking facility
– All major phone network works here
In & around town:
– More about booze tourism
– No ATM facility (so make sure you withdraw enough money from Gokarna)
– Better stay options
– Variety in cuisine food (especially sea food)
– Less crowded, at least in off season
– Hiring Auto/Taxi only mode of public transport
– Phone network becomes weak as you move away from town. (No network in Paradise beach)
Season: October – Feb. The rates, availability, crowd etc. is function of season & festivals. During season, be ready to pay extra & in off season, do bargain a bit.
By road: Gokarna is well connected by major towns like Bangalore (480Kms) ,Mangalore (250KMs), Hubli (50 Kms), Vasco,Margo, Panaji (~200Kms) etc.
Both government & private buses run, with options on luxury & cost. Check out websites of Redbus, KSRTC, NWKRTC, Goa Transport, Maharastra transport, Travel Yaari, SRS, VRL, Seabird etc. to plan your travel.
By train: Gokarna railway station (Railway Code: GOK) is 5-6 Kms from temple & is well connected by Konkan railways (Trivandrum to Mumbai).
By air: Goa, Hubli & Mangalore are closest airports.
By sea: Not an option, unless you are a fisherman
Wondering, How many days to stay?
For some Foreigners, this is Cheap Goa & so many stay like months long. Indian tourist generally stay for 2 days but majority drop by for a day to peek into temple & Om beach.
So it depends on your adventure & budget & exclusivity needs. My recommendations, especially to Bangaloreans & Hyderabadis & Mumbaikars, it’s worth staying a weekend.
What to do (in 2 days)?
– Visit temple, even if you are an atheist (it doesn’t do any harm). It would be just another traveling experience
– Trek/Hike along the beach. Cover Kudlee beach, OM beach, Half-moon beach, Paradise beach (see details below)
– Chilax in any one of beach side restaurant (Namaste Café- recommended. It is one of the few which are open through-out the year). Most of the beach side shacks disappear beyond season.
– Visit Yana, some 60 Kms from Gokarna.
– Salt water bath in any of the beach (recommended : Kudlee beach)
We did all of these, with still plenty of time remaining to Kill.
Route: Main beach-Kudle beach-Om beach- Half moon beach- Paradise beach-Bellekan
One side distance will be around 12 Kms & can take up-to 5-6 hrs. leaving aside Main beach, we did all in close to 5 hrs.
One can to return by tracing same trek or by taking road from Bellekan village. Bellekan village is connected by bus ( one every 1.5 hrs from 9AM to 7PM). If lucky, you may get an auto (Rs.250 to OM beach).
We started like 11AM from Om beach, reached Half-moon beach by 12:30 followed by Paradise beach by 1:15PM. Got Auto from Bellekan Village & were back to OM beach by 3PM. After having lunch, we headed again towards Kudlee beach which is half n hour picturesque hike from OM beach.
Point to be noted: During monsoon, trek may get very slippery & also you will find hardly (infact none) any shop or help. So be prepared. If needed just in case, you can take help of passing by fishermen. But my recommendation: it’s worth the every drop of sweat. Also hardly the beaches are named, so may not know that you have reached the destination.
Om beach: It got its name from Sanskrit character, to which beach shape resembles, which is pronounced as OM. Interestingly, my short name in OM, but I warn it is not named after me. The beach is rocky, course sand & dotted by fisherman huts. Namaste café (for eaters n drinkers) & nearby park are main attractions. It does not have proper parking facility, so expect chaos unwarned. The park atop is worth spending time, especially on sea shell made Raja like seats.
Om beach to Half-moon beach: The trek involves crossing few small hills. The hill edge, where a palm tree still holds its fort is worth sitting n relaxing sea views. Also views of OM beach from here, confirms why it is called so.
Half-moon beach: Supposedly in shape of moon crescent, one still wonders why is it called so? Any ways the blood red stones on this & in-n-around sea shore does give it an alien planet touch. Only problem it is littered.
Paradise beach: (Now a hell beach) When we went, we knew we were there. Reason, at that time it resembled like Kashmir. YES Kashmir, a beautiful place, but ravaged. The beach locked by two hills is accessible by trek or by boat. All the hut-stay options were destroyed by forest department, as it flouted many laws. The place was littered by remains of stones, plastic bottles & booze bottles (Old Monk & KF seemed to be ruling here). It can be dangerous to walk bare footed. It is beautiful, but man just gave it too many wounds, just like Kashmir. Anyways, it is treacherous trek from supposedly “Paradise” to Bellekan. You will feel like lost, but just follow the trails, as we did.
Bellekan village: It is a beautiful paddy growing village with hospitable people. Just ask anyone & they will point to bus stop (right on edge of the sea).
Om beach to Kudlee Beach: Although just half an hour walk, but it was the best part. It started with small but beautiful garden maintained by tourism department, followed by plain igneous rocked hill top with superb sun set view points, followed by fine sand Kudlee beach. Kudlee resort is here (but was closed). We had an hour salt water bath here in this long fine sand beach. It is littered, but not to extent others are, thanks to limited accessibility.
Yana: 60 kms from Gokarna, these volcanic rock are millions of years old, belonging to Gondwana age. Situated in deep forest, it is good 2KM hike from road. The circling around 300 mtr circumference of the rock involves some risk, as it is mandatory to be done bare footed ( I guess for safety reason). Pointed stones, slippery, darkness, insects will all make you scream at the end, “oh! Oh!..It’s end”. A taxi from Gokarna (to-n-fro) will cost Rs. 1500. Public transport is not there. Note: it will be criminal to litter here. It is a raw jungle & villagers have provided a dustbin every 200-300 mtr. And someone who litters despite this, should be hanged.
Temples: Although there are many small temples dotting the main town, but Mahabaleswar & Ganesh temple are two major ones. Mahabaleswar Temple is believed to be a Atma-lingam, revered by Hindus & Lord shiva followers. The two chariots near temple come to action only during Shivratri (month March). Men have to go topless inside temple, as per rituals. When we went (4-5PM), there was hardly any crowd, as one in used to see in a major Indian temple, so we were kind of lucky.
Temple Beach: It is just 200 mtrs from temple & is also the longest. It has got parking, toilet & eating options. If not littered, it would have been a very beautiful beach.
Nearby places: Murudeshwar, Honavar, Karwar, Jog falls.
So about our trip:
Who all: Five friends: Avijit, Smruti, Srikant, Nihar & myself
Dates: 13th July (Friday evening) Started from Bangalore. 16th July Morning (Monday) we were back. [10-11 hrs journey each way]
How: By SRS sleeper buses (Rs 500). Try to get front sits. Back sleeper seats may make you feel like going in Bullock-cart. Buses are ok with decent neatness & cleanliness (6/10).
Stay: Namaste café (OM Beach). Rs 900 dual share cottages (upstairs). They also had Rs. 1500 cottages (downstairs n more closure to beach). Being one of the few options that remain open through-out the year, so expect crowd here, especially on weekends. It is also known for best food servicing restaurant in the town (western food, salad, pasta, pizza, sandwiches n North Indian food). It was serving only KF beer.
Cottage neat ness n cleanliness : 6/10. Although provided with mosquito net, bed, hot water & cold water facility, everything was bit dampy (becoz of rain & off season factor). But then “itna paise main itna hij milega”. For couple, downstair cottages are recommended (Rs. 1500). For bachelors, upstairs are fine 😉
Environment: 8/10. It is green & it boasts of many small creatures (especially during monsoon). Beware of one of such creatures in your room.
Namaste Café food taste: 7-8/10.
Cost: 8/10. The cost was below my expectations. Location, ambience, service are all worth the money spent.
Overall Experience of stay: 8/10. If localities had taken care of neatness in beaches, it would have 9/10.
Day1 (14th July): Reached Gokarna by 8:30AM. Auto from bus stand to Namaste café (7-8KMs), charged 125 bucks. After having cold-hot water bath & savoring on western style sandwich, we headed straight to hiking (from OM beach to Paradise beach to Bellekan village). Returned from Bellekan to OM Café in an auto, coughing out 250 bucks. After having lunch went to Kudlee beach via beautiful OM beach garden. After having bath n fun in Kudlee beach, we trekked back to OM beach just before final rays of sun were to hit Gokarna for the day. Whole evening n night was to be spend with friends & celebrate French revolution day in our own way, as occasional monsoon clouds hit the land for the first time in their journey.
Day 2 (15th July): While all my friends were dozing off after late night sleep, I woke up at 7 to inhale fresh morning sea breeze along the coast. To my surprise, there were many like me doing the same. I just sat on a rock to gaze sea above sea, albeit a black one. While fishermen were going n coming from sea, dogs were sleeping after securing the beeches whole night (don’t know from whom). People like me had looks of appreciation towards hard working, but scantily earning fishermen, who were busy in removing the smallest & scantiest of the fishes, who were unlucky to get into their nets. For couple of hours the same drama continued, as I thought about the clouds, which will travel more thousands of kms in this country giving life to millions while taking back few in return. Wish I were a monsoon cloud. With this note, I returned to my room to freshen up. Finally after morning activities & breakfast we made a sudden plan to go to Yana. By 12:30 we checked out & were on our way to Yana. Reached there by 2:30PM. After 1.5 hrs walk of historical geography, we went to Gokarna to pay our homage to al-mighty for creating such a beautiful world & giving us an opportunity to enjoy a part of it. It was 5:30PM with still two hours left for our bus to leave for Bangalore. Killed half n hour in beach & then just relaxed in bus stop for an hour.
Bus started at 7:30 PM & we reached Bangalore next day 6:30 AM, after a humpy n bumpy ride. Overall a relaxing holiday came to an end, with plans for next in the making.
Gokarna: 8/10 (Good for anyone & everyone, for a chillax weekend)
Namaste Café: 8/10….so highly recommended
SRS travel for journey: 6/10
Just be flexible, respectful to culture, respectful to nature (please please don’t litter), drink responsibly. Wish you a happy, safe & clean journey.
Gokarna is indeed very beautiful. But littering is a serious problem. All the beaches are littered with plastic water bottles, chips packet & booze bottles. Let’s not be the last one to appreciate it’s beauty.
Please be an “explorative & not an exploitive tourist”.