In today's time when almost all the travelers are hooked to social media, posting their travel stories, itineraries, no destination is a secret anymore. The first thing we do when deciding our next travel destination is we search for it online to get almost all details about the place. A virtual tour of sort!
So when I decided to spend my New year eve with my wife in Gokarna, i read almost 10-20 travel stories for the destination. Each describing how Gokarna is a silent version of Goa. But after spending good 3 days here, i bet to differ from this overly believed view.
Goa, a destination for party poppers, is no more a destination to 'explore'. Overly commercialized with pubs, cafes and what not. Devotion is the last thing on your mind when you hear the word - Goa. Gokarna on the other hand is a place away from all the hustle and bustle. The beaches here are serene and in a way untouched. They are hidden gems ready to be explored.
New years eve was on our mind when we booked the train tickets to Gokarna from mumbai. Its was overnight train journey of 12 hours. We boarded the Matsyagandha express from LTT at 3.30pm. The train arrived at Gokarna road railway station at 4.30am. We decided to wait at the railway station until sunrise.
Now something that I noticed and needs a mention here is, unlike other destination where there are taxi and auto drivers waiting to fool with your money, Gokarna is an exception. The people here are genuinely good. I would go to the extend of saying that I was not feeling like bargaining, apart from the flee market.
We took a cab and head straight to our hotel which was 10 kms away. Though the check-in time was 11 am, the hotel owner was courteous enough to allow an early check-in, for no extra charges. The hotel was Shri Sai Ram hotel (https://www.makemytrip.com/hotels/hotel_sri_sai_ram-details-gokarna.html)
We quickly had our breakfast and checked a couple of shops for bike rental. We found one for 750 bucks/day and booked the same for 2 days. The point to mention here is during off seasons you can get the same for about 250 bucks/day. Mahabaleshwar temple was hardly a km away from our place, so we decided to start with the blessing of Lord Shiva.
The temple is a historical monument and has a prominent part in the mythological story. The dress code, i would say should be moderate enough for a temple. Shots are strictly not allow. The sign board outside the temple says that even foreigners can not enter the temple.
Though we were in queue for about 45 mins, we forgot all that once we were inside the temple garbagrah. We seeked our blessings, offered our prayer and must say this was a soothing experience.
Adjacent to the temple is the gokarna beach. This is the longest beach in gokarna. The beach is very clean and plenty of eateries at the very entrance of the beach.
This is one of the less crowed beaches in gokarna. If you are on a soul searching trip here, Gokarna beach is the ideal place to be. With very less disturbance, you can have all the time for yourself.
We decided to witness the sunset at Kudle beach and found that it was around 6 kms from our hotel. So we started around 4.30pm and reached the beach by 5.15pm. Like of the beaches here, this one too is secluded. You have to park your vehicles at the hill top and then decent through the marked path before reaching the beach.
P.S: Trekkers and Hikers generally cover the 4 famous beaches in gokarna by foot. The beaches are adjacent to each other, just separated by a hilly forest. So the order of the beaches is Kudle beach - Om beach - Half moon beach - Paradise beach. If you have your own tent, you can erect the same and continue your hike the next day. But a word of caution here, staying on Kudle and Om beach is not allowed and your fun can be interrupted by police officials.
At the time of sunset, the beach was so beautiful. You can't argue if the sea is more beautiful or the sun. There was joyfulness in the air. The beach has plenty of cafes and shacks around it. You can easily find a place to stay here. We had some snacks in the Le Pizzeria cafe here. The cafe is well known as it is run by a french couple. I must say they have really tasty food here.
We decided to head back to the hotel after sunset. If you are not staying near any of the beaches, beware that most of the hotels in gokarna close out before 10 pm and some won't take order post 9 pm. They strictly follow such timings as they open early morning, some as early as 6 am. Luckily we could have our dinner in a small restaurant nearby and we were the last customers allowed!!
Om beach was 7 kms away from our hotel. You have to park your vehicle about half a km from the beach. The beach has an awesome view from the hill top. I was awestruck at the first sight. The beach has the shape of the auspicious Om symbol. The rocks here offer amazing picture backdrops. You can sit back and relax.
The beach has one of the famous cafe, the Namaste cafe. The beach is very clean. We spent about an hour roaming around at the beach. Now there are boat rides that you can opt for. The offer a ride to the 2 adjacent beaches, a sangam(where river meets the sea) and if lucky enough you can sight a couple of dolphins. We had no plans to hike to the nearby beaches, so opted for the boat ride. It was 300 bucks per person.
Half moon Beach
This is a very small beach shaped as a crescent moon. With no electricity, this beach just has a small shack and offers some snacking, expect nothing fancy here! Camping here would be definitely fun. Off the grid, in all aspect would be true for this beach.
The last beach in our list of beach hopping was paradise beach. The boat guy obliged to take the boat ashore at paradise beach, to get a couple of good pictures. I am glad that people asked for it. This beach too do not have any cafes or shacks. You can camp here at your own risk.
We then went past the sangam and were fortunate enough sight a dolphin. Everyone onboard the boat were thrilled at the visual. I bet we would have not felt the same, had that been a Shark!!! And in no time the boat was turned around to take as back to Om beach.
We had our lunch at Namaste cafe, i would highly recommend this place when in gokarna. We went back to our hotel room and decided to head out for dinner and then to Gokarna beach to welcome the New Year 2k19 :).
P.S: Ask for Open house Fish Land, on the Kudle road for amazing mouthwatering seafoods. Though the place lacks the ambiance, the tasty food balances out the odd. A must try when in Gokarna.
This was the first day of the year. We had our trained booked for mumbai, late in the evening. We knew that Murdeshwar was just 2 hours bus ride away from Gokarna. Going to Murdeshwar and seek blessing from Lord Shiva at the start of the year seemed quite promising. We had a bus plying from the bus stand near to our hotel. 8.45 am was the time of departure. Ideally by 11 am we should be at Murdeshwar.
Coming so near to this place and not visiting here is a foolishness. This is not a destination you should keep waiting for next time!
The bus drops you one the main road. The temple is just 1 km away from here(autos ply for 30rs from here to the temple) and the murudeshwar railway station is on the other side of the road. We went and got a room for ourselves to freshen up and keep our luggage, before heading to the temple.
P.S: Any kind of dress is allowed here. The temple opens in the morning for darshan and closes at 1 pm, and then reopens at around 3 pm and stays open until 7 or 8 in the evening.
The temple is so well located. The beach covers 3 sides of the temple. The 2nd largest Shiva statue stand at this beach coast with all the glory. The first view is enough to skip a heart-beat. The beauty of this place can't be put into words. The temple premise has a lot of 'picture perfect' views. You can seldom hold yourself back from clicking pictures here. We spent good 2 hours enjoying the view and soaking in the blissfulness of this place.
P.S: The birds eye view image of the tall Shiva statue which you often see online, is actually captured from the 18th floor of the tall building, right at the entrance of the temple. The main gate of the temple is below this building. The building has paid lift service, to take you to the 18th floor. From here you can enjoy the simply mesmerizing view of the Shiva statue and the awe-inspiring view of the waterbody surrounding the temple. You would sense the feeling of being blessed by the almighty.
So this brings an end to our perfect New year trip. We boarded the Matsyagandha express from Murudeshwar railway to reach mumbai early morning the next day. All in all this was a soul-soothing experience to visit these places. If you ask me, if you are not that big a fan of clubbing, Gokarna should be your ideal choice over Goa, anyday ;). Ditch you Goa plan and visit Gokarna instead, you won't regret.:)