#HauteHaunts: Fancy A Fun Weekend Getaway To Gokarna?
If our towns and cities had human qualities, Gokarna would be two-faced. Why? It boasts of being one of the most spiritual places in India, while also having some of the best beaches in the country. When people take a trip to this scenic town in Karnataka, they’re often confused about whether they’re on a beach holiday or on a temple run. It is indeed the best of both worlds!
Gokarna literally means “cow’s ears” and gets its name from the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers – Gangavali and Aghanashini — that it is situated on. There is also a legend that states Lord Shiva was born out of a cow’s ear, and thus the name. This small, mesmerising town has lots of little secrets engraved in its soil, that’s for sure!
What To Do
Gokarna has four main beaches, among a ton of other smaller ones. Om beach is the most happening one, and that’s why it’s the most crowded too. Locals come out here to perform their religious rites. There is another reason for this kind of devotion – the shape. It is literally in the form of the auspicious Hindu symbol signifying “om”. A word of caution, though: this is a very crowded place, and the locals tend to be a little too touchy here — but literally and figuratively!
If you want a quiet place to chill and watch the sunset, then head to Kudle beach. It is Gokarna’s largest beach but surprisingly not too many people visit it. It has an array of shacks that make yummy, rustic food. The USP of this beach, however, is the number of surfing schools that dot it. The best-known one is the Cocopelli Surfing School, where you can learn how to ride a wave in no time. For those who are not into adventure sports, can learn a few yoga postures at the beach too.
Half-Moon and Paradise beaches are situated some 30 minutes apart, and can be reached after hiking through the hills or a short boat ride. Paradise beach is frequented by a lot of free-spirited tourists and hosts some great parties, so if want to party all night long you know where to go!
People here are devotees of Lord Shiva and one of the most magnificent temples – The Mahabaleshwar Temple — is at the heart of this town. It houses a beautiful lingam of Lord Shiva that attracts tourists from around the world. It is here that people often perform the final rites for their loved ones. Most of the temples in Gokarna are off limits to non-Hindus, but everyone is welcome to catch a glimpse of them from the outside. Like every other religious place, make sure you are aware of all customs before visiting one.
Murudeshwara is another must-visit spot when in Gokarna. It has the second largest statue of Lord Shiva in India. Also, the drive to the place is amazing, with hills one one side and the beach on the other.
During the Shivratri festival, Gokarna becomes one of those towns from old mystical tales that are full of mystery and colour. Huge chariots pass on the streets with Shiva’s idols. Locals throw bananas on them as a part of an old ritual. Firecrackers line the streets. And, of course, the traditional drink bhaang is available at every nook and corner!
Apart from locals, there are a lot of foreigners who stay in Gokarna — almost half the population, actually. They usually live close to the beachy side of town. And this is when the bonfires start and Gokarna comes alive at night. From holy beads to beers, from religious chants to loud music the scene takes a gradual change.
Gokarna is usually hailed as a more chilled out version of Goa. But it will never truly be Goa — the temples make sure of that. It is beautiful how two completely different sides to the city can reside in perfect harmony.
Where To Stay
For those who want to a luxurious experience, the best options are SwaSara Beach Resort and Kudle Beach Resort. The former is actually a yoga meditation centre where people go to cleanse their minds and bodies. Kudle and Om Beach Resort are family favourites.
Most backpackers opt for the popular Namaste Café to stay in. It is a fantastic place to taken in everything that Gokarna has to offer at a moderate price. Nirvana Guest House falls under the same category and is a major hit with tourists.
But the real beauty of staying in this little town are the many home stays available here. For instance, the Hari Priya Residency. We recommend staying at these places to enjoy your vacation to the fullest. The hosts cook meals that will leave you asking for more!
Zostel has also opened an affordable hostel in Gokarna that is perfect for your next group vacation with friends. There also comfortable huts available on Om and Kudle beaches.
How To Get There
The nearest airport to Gokarna is Dabolim, in Goa. From there, it’s a four-hour drive south to Gokarna. Trains are also available from the Konkan Railway, which halt at Gokarna Road Station, which is 15 minutes away from the main town. There is good connectivity from Kumta and Ankola stations, both of which are around 25 kilometres from Gokarna. It also has bus routes from major cities such as Madgaon in Goa, Mangalore, and Bangalore in Karnataka.
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