Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka

12th Mar 2014
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 1/10 by Riya Poojary
Fishing boats at Gokarna beach
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 2/10 by Riya Poojary
Vintage look of the town
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 3/10 by Riya Poojary
Relaxing by the beach in Gokarna
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 4/10 by Riya Poojary
Beautiful view of Kudle beach
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 5/10 by Riya Poojary
The famous Mahabaleshwar temple
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 6/10 by Riya Poojary
Quick bite at Namaste Cafe
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 7/10 by Riya Poojary
Namaste Yoga Farm
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 8/10 by Riya Poojary
Simple and peaceful: Namaste Yoga Farm
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 9/10 by Riya Poojary
Most famous of all: Om beach
Photo of Where Religion Meets Serenity: Gokarna, Karnataka 10/10 by Riya Poojary
Scenic backdrop of Jog Falls

India is a place full of surprises. It is an ultimate destination for everything you demand. Whether it's exotic, piquant food, rough terrains, unexplored towns, quaint villages, traditional houses, plethora of traditions, distinct cultures, confusing dialects, colorful streets, impressive nature and spiritual souls- India has it all. Every city you tick, every road you take, every turn you debate is womb to for one of these in abundance. But if you are short on time and are looking for experiencing it all in just a transient sojourn, head down to the north of Karnataka. Labeled as Goa’s shy sister, this serene coastal temple town of Gokarna in Uttar Karnataka is quiet and a perfect getaway from everyday chaos and crowd.

Surprisingly, it is not among the top contenders for many local and foreign travelers. Just four hours away from its much visited and celebrated neighbor, Goa, heading down to Gokarna will wind you up amidst virgin beaches and breathtaking landscapes. Gokarna features as a destination for an ardent pilgrim but it is as much a must-visit destination for a beach lover looking for the best beach vacation. With 360 degree views of the pristine, unspoiled beaches, swaying palm trees and extremely exquisite tropical flowers, it’s surprising how Gokarana hasn’t made it to the top of popularity polls. But I guess that is what makes this place such an elegant treasure, nestled peacefully away from prying eyes. If you are looking for an idyllic vacation with a good read by the hammock on the beach, a long stroll over the soft sand, savoring amazing food in small cafes and long treks in narrow paths, then Gokarna is where you should go next.

Gokarna temple also known as Mahabhaleshwara temple is the main temple of Lord Shiv in this town. Being the town’s main deity, it is tacit that the locals worship him with zeal and this temple stands as a dedication to their deity. Gokarna is not a big territory to traverse. It has uncomplicated routes which make it easier for relishing culinary delights at Om beach during the day and watching the sunset at the Half Moon beach. As the locals are used to this beautiful view of the giant orange sun descending upon the mighty ocean, you will probably be aiming to be on the beach, awestruck by this divine view and spending the night singing around bonfires on Kudle beach. But if you think just soaking some sun and gazing at the panoramic view is not something you can do for more than a few hours, don’t worry, there are quite a few water sports you can indulge in at the Om beach. There would be nothing more augmenting in this trip than trekking from Om beach to Half moon beach under the shimmering starlit clear sky. Start the next day visiting the local markets or turning it into one of yoga retreats or getting a peak into the intimidating vista of the Jog Falls.

Give this place a chance and it will show you how a village, conservative in its look need not compromise on its ambience and hospitality. Gokarna is essentially a small temple town which has a beautiful landscape to offer to every traveler in search of comfort and relaxing days off their mundane and chaotic life. Quell the desire to only visit the hyped places and take the off beaten road to explore the real India.

This temple is considered to be one of the most pious temples of Lord Shiva in not just South India but in the entire country. As the name suggests the temple here is dedicated to Lord Mahabaleshwar, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The temple is located between the Gangavali and Agnashini river mouth. Gokarna means "cow's ears". This name is derived from the ear-shaped meeting of the two rivers. The name also comes from some stories in Hindu mythology. You should definitely interact with the locals, who will more than happily tell you the stories of the Atma Linga and Ravana from Hindu mythology. You shouldn't miss this place if you want to see typical Hindu temple rituals with religious practice performed by priests. This small town has been famed for this sacred temple. It has a small hole at its center from where devotees can see the top of the Shiv Linga. The old architecture of this place is created with granite stones and a carved stone image of Lord Shiva in a standing position is said to be 1500 years old.

Photo of Mahabaleshwara Temple, Gokarna Beach Road, Gokarna, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

This serene beach stretching up to many kilometers is situated at the edge of the town. You will not find many tourists all the way out here. It is more popular with the pilgrims. Since Gokarna offers the luxury beach holiday with five tranquil beaches, the crowd gets well divided, leaving enough breathing and lazing space for each one on every beach. So you can be sure of enjoying a quiet time all by yourself on the sandy beach with a pleasant breeze.

Photo of Gokarna Beach, Gokarna, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

Head back to your hotel at Kudle beach. This place is a blessing. You can choose ocean view rooms or luxurious cottages. They even offer stay in enchanting tree houses in the middle of lush green trees and beautiful weather. You even have the liberty to stay in cozy bamboo huts while sleeping under the moonlit sky and watch the palm leaves sway to the music of the winds. If you are up for it, there are some regular yoga classes that you can sign up for. How much more relaxing can this break get?

Photo of Namaste Yoga Farm, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

After spending some time at the hotel, go down to the Kudle beach. This is roughly 20 min away from Gokarna beach. It has expensive accommodation in cheap huts to various eating options. I would suggest you don't visit in monsoon since the beach gets dirty for those months. It's a place you go to when you want to have no connectivity and enjoy a peaceful three days. Spend the evening around some bonfires by the beach, singing to the tunes of guitar and drums.

Photo of Kudle Beach, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

Start your next morning watching the sunrise as you sit on the coast of Om beach and see the sun mature from tangerine to amber to giant yellow bulb overhead insisting that you get up and head for some breakfast. Om Beach is the most popular one among the tourists and so this place offers many boarding and lodging options. Just 6 km away from Kudle beach, Om beach offers some fun activities by the water. Though not like Goa, but you can still indulge in some water-sports here. Surfing, water-skiing, parasailing and banana boat rides are some of the options. It will be a great way to add some variety and activities in the otherwise rather laid-back itinerary. Enjoy a massage when here. This trip is pure nirvana, ain't it?

Photo of Om beach Road, Banglegudda, Gokarna, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

Living by the beach, you should come here for some ultra tasty seafood dishes, especially the grilled calamari (squid), Pomfret preparations, prawn masala and King fish (surmai) sizzler. It gives a good menu carefully picked up from Mexican, Israeli and Indian food.

Photo of Namaste Cafe, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

It is a small beach and has limited restaurant and lesser huts. But still, as it is not as popular as Om beach, you can expect to be all by yourself while enjoying a nice stroll. The best way to not make this trip monotonous is by trekking from Om beach to Half Moon beach. I suggest you start the trek just before sunset so you can reach the beach side when the sun descents. The trek will include stretches of narrow paths overlooking the sea. You will be exposed to a panoramic view of the beach while the trek reaches its almost end. After watching the glorious sunset, lay down on the beach under the gaze of the heavily star-laced sky.

Photo of Half Moon Beach, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

Finally the time has come to leave Gokarna, a place which has helped you savor your solitude. So before the Uttar Karnataka district, visit the Jog Falls, located almost 111 km from Gokarna. It is a beautiful waterfall which is further enhanced by the lush green environment it survives in. The waterfall is created by the Sharavathi River dropping 253 m (830 ft), making it the second-highest plunge waterfall in India. This is an absolutely scenic view that one can see. You can take a plunge in the water at the base.

Photo of Jog Falls, Karnataka, India by Riya Poojary

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