GOKARNA - BEACH HEAVEN
A small town on banks of Arabian Sea, Gokarna, is one of India's most consecrated places situated in the district of Uttara Kannada, on the coastal expanse of Karnataka. Legend has it that Lord Shiva emerged here from a cow’s ear, hence the name ‘Go-Karna’ which means ‘cow’s ear’ in Sanskrit. It is also located at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghananshini. The shore is bordered by the natural splendor of four beaches - Om Beach, Kudle Beach, Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach.
A small town on banks of Arabian Sea, Gokarna, is one of India's most consecrated places situated in the district of Uttara Kannada, on the coastal expanse of Karnataka. Legend has it that Lord Shiva emerged here from a cow’s ear, hence the name ‘Go-Karna’ which means ‘cow’s ear’ in Sanskrit. It is also located at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghananshini. The shore is bordered by the natural splendor of four beaches - Om Beach, Kudle Beach, Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach. Gokarna is a contradiction in itself. A temple town, a pilgrimage site full of Hindu saints and Sanskrit scholars, Gokarna is also a hippy ecstasy with drums, guitars and hammocks.
OM Beach - Om Beach with its characteristic 'Om' shape created by two semi circular coves (and that’s where it gets its name) is one of the most popular beaches about 8 kilometers from Gokarna. A very well-liked beach by the tourists and locals, Om Beach offers an enchanting alternative to the crowded beaches of Goa. It has many isolated, private beaches nearby, which can be reached only on foot. Om Beach is known for the occasional, spontaneous psychedelic, dance festivals/parties that take place there, and on the adjacent beaches of Om Beach. This beach is distinguished by its spiritual hippies – with ash smeared on their foreheads, tattoos all over their body, long hair, beard and beads all over.
Kudle Beach – An incredible, fantastic white-sandy beach, Kudle is just about a 20-minute walk from Gokarna. It offers water sports that are much cheaper than those at OM beach. With a host of sea-facing hotels and resorts, Kudle Beach also offers sea-side shacks that rent out rooms at a cheaper rate. Well known for its shacks and cafes, it is a potpourri of cuisines ranging from Mexican to Mughlai. Excellent seafood is also served here (my favorite being the simple - Kalamari Fry). Kudle Beach also offers a much more child-friendly atmosphere, which is particularly absent at OM beach.
Paradise Beach – Also known as the Full Moon Beach, it is the furthest among the other beach destinations of Gokarna. Stony stretches mingling with sandy shores, Paradise beach is just the perfect place to enjoy a private vacation away from all the hustle-bustle. Paradise beach is also a great stretch to camp out. The sea here is calm and the beach is very clean. Open restaurants with seafood specialties and barbeques are available here. Paradise beach is accessible only by boat or trekking across the hillocks from Om Beach.
Half Moon Beach - A crescent shaped cove, it lies on a rocky stretch and a very small stretch of beach on the way to Paradise beach. Half moon beach is unapproachable by road and only means to reach it other than on foot, is by the sea.
Go backpack across this beach haven with your friends (like I did) or go alone and trek towards private beaches for some soul searching and you might just come back with a few new friends. With friendly locals and tourists, it is easy to mingle with everyone and forget about work and time. Go, lose yourself.
How to reach Gokarna?
By Air: The nearest airport is the Dabolim Airport in Goa.
By Rail: Gokarna is connected by rail from Karwar, Ankola, Hubli, Mangalore, Kumta and Margao. The Konkan Railway passes through Gokarna - Kumta (35 km) and Ankola (20 km) are the nearest major railway stations. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates buses from these places to Gokarna.
By Road: From Bangalore, there are 1-4 buses operating. It is a 12 hour overnight journey from Bangalore to Gokarna. Private buses also operate to/from Hampi/Hospet. National highway 17 is about 9 km from the town. The Bangalore - Goa Highway passes through Ankola which is 20 km from the town. Coming down to Kumta is good option because one can easily catch buses to different places (especially Mangalore) as it is well connected. If arriving from Goa, you can take a local bus from Madgaon or Canacona to Karwar, and then take another bus to Gokarna.