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Gokarna Travel Guide - A Delight For Beach Lovers

Discussion in 'By The Sea' started by Debapriya Deb, Aug 7, 2015.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    Are you someone who is fascinated by the hippy culture of Goan beaches but yet avoid going there for a vacation due to it being pretty expensive on your wallet? If you would like to experience the bohemian, idiosyncratic lifestyle of Goa at a fraction of the cost that a Goa trip attracts, then you are going to fall in love with Gokarna and its spectacular beaches. Right from beach partying to night outs at beach shacks to adventure sports activities - you name it and Gokarna has it to offer to the tourists. It's no less than a mini Goa, far away from huge expenses that Goa is known for.

    A Brief Introduction to Gokarna

    Gokarna, located at the confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini, is a beautiful beach town situated in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, on the Bangalore-Goa National Highway. The pristine beauty of its virgin beaches attract large number of travellers from all over the country, and abroad as well.

    It wasn't a popular tourist destination even a decade ago. Gokarna was more famous as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centers. The 1500 years old Mahabhaleshwara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is the main religious attraction here. It is one of the few holy temples that has the original image of the Shiva's linga (Atmalinga). The temple attracts massive number of devotees during the festival of "Shiva Ratri" by the end of February.

    Quite naturally, Gokarna is a town of contrasts. It is a temple town in one hand and also a beach destination on the other. The blend of traditional values and modern culture gives it a unique dimension. Due to its laid back, unspoiled and rustic nature, western backpackers started visiting Gokarna about a decade ago. Since then, it created lots of interest among Indian travellers and soon transformed in to a popular beach destination. It has especially become a favorite among young Indian professionals and students coming from Bangalore and Mumbai.

    Gokarna offers an unique combination of several beaches nestled between charming hills. Gokarna beach, Kudle beach, Om beach, Half-Moon beach and Paradise beach - every beach is characterized by its own highlights and are fundamentally different from one another in their own rights.

    Getting There

    By Road:

    Situated along NH-4 which connects Bangalore to Mumbai and every other places in between, road transport is the most preferred mode of travel to Gokarna. Besides travelling by your own car or hired taxi, you can also get plenty of local buses from nearby places like Karwar, Ankola, Kumta, Mangalore and Margao. Gokarna is well connected by bus service with Bangalore and Mumbai.

    From Bangalore:

    Route: Via NH4 <> Bangalore -> Tumkur -> Chitradurga -> Ranebennur -> Haveri -> Yellapur -> Ankola -> Gokarna (513 KM)

    Gokarna attracts majority of its tourists from Bangalore. Besides the Karnata State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), there are a number of private bus operators which operate daily bus service between Bangalore and Gokarna. Gokarna is a 12 hour overnight journey from Bangalore by bus. The fleets ranges from ordinary buses to the highly luxurious Volvo and Mercedes buses. You can choose between AC and Non-AC buses. Sleeper-class buses are also available on this route. Given below are a few of the top transport operators that ply daily buses from Bangalore to Gokarna.

    1. KSRTC - The State Government undertaking KSRTC buses have the largest fleet which includes Non-AC Semi-Sleeper Rajhamsa, Corona Ambari Sleeper and Airavat Volvo Semi-Sleeper buses. Fare ranges between INR 500 for Rajhamsa service to INR 650 for the Volvo buses. You can book online at www.ksrtc.in.

    2. SRS Travels - SRS Travels is another reliable operator that operates buses on Bangalore-Gokarna route. 2+2 Non-AC Seater tickets are priced at INR 650, while 2+1 Sleeper Class buses would cost you INR 750. AC Volvo buses are available on weekends only and those are priced at INR 900 per ticket. You can book online at their official website or purchase your tickets from GO-IBIBO and MakeMyTrip.

    3. VRL Travels - If KSRTC and SRS are booked out, then you can try the service of VRL Travels. INR 500 is the ticket price for Non-AC Seater, while for a ride on Non-AC Sleeper bus, you need to shell out another 150 bucks. Tickets are available through GO-IBIBO, MakeMyTrip and ClearTrip.

    From Mumbai:

    Route: Via NH4 <> Mumbai -> Pune -> Satara -> Kolhapur -> Belgam -> Hubli -> Yellapur -> Ankola -> Gokarna (724 KM)

    Mumbai too is well connected to Gokarna by private bus services. The approximate travel duration is 15 hours. Bus journey usually starts at late evening and reaches Gokarna by next afternoon. A ticket from Mumbai to Gokarna can cost you in the range of INR 1000 to INR 1400 depending on your preferences. Couple of reliable services which operate Mumbai-Gokarna buses are listed below -

    1. Anand Travels - Anand Travels operates 4 daily buses between Mumbai to Gokarna. Their fleet of vehicles include 2+1 AC Volvo Sleeper Class, 2+2 AC Volvo Semi-Sleeper, 2+2 Non-AC Seater and 2+1 Non-AC Sleeper buses. One way AC Volvo Sleeper tickets are priced at around INR 1350, while Non-AC Sleeper and Seater buses would attract INR 1000 and INR 1100 per person respectively. INR 1250 is the per ticket cost of Volvo Semi Sleeper buses.

    2. Canara Pinto Travels - Quite similar to Anand Travels, Canara Pinto Travels also operates both AC and Non-AC buses from Mumbai to Gokarna. You need to shell out INR 1400 for 2+2 Volvo AC Semi-Sleeper bus and INR 1000 for 2+2 Non-AC Seater. Tickets are available on MakeMyTrip.

    From Goa:

    Route: Via NH17 <> Panjim -> Margao -> Canacona -> Poinguinim -> Karwar -> Ankola -> Gokarna (163 KM)

    If you are coming from Goa side, then you can catch a local bus from Margao or Canacona to Karwar, then hop on to another bus from Karwar to Gokarna. Another option is to come via Ankola, which falls en-route Bangalore-Goa Highway. Ankola to Gokarna is a 20 KM journey by local bus.

    By Train:

    Gokarna has a railway station named as 'Gokarna Road' which is actually located at a distance of 8 KM from the town center. But only a few of the long distance trains stop here. Few important trains that provide stoppage at Gokarna Road station are listed below -

    From Bangalore: Yesvantpur - Karwar Express (16515)
    From Bangalore: SBC-Karwar Express (16523)
    From Mumbai: Matsyagandha Express (12619)
    From Mumbai: Maru Sagar Express (12978)
    From Mangalore: Mangalore-Madgaon Passenger (56640)
    From Pune: Poorna Express (11097)
    From Goa: Madgaon-Mangalore Passenger (56640)

    Ankola (20 km) and Kumta (35 km) are the nearest major railway stations for travelling to Gokarna. Both Kumta and Ankola are well connected with all prominent railway stations in the adjacent states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa.

    By Air:

    Gokarna has no airport. Nearest domestic airport is at Dabolim, Goa. You can land at Dabolim airport and then catch a bus or train from Margao. International travellers can fly in to either Bangalore or Mangalore airport and avail bus or train service to Gokarna.

    Getting Around Within Gokarna Town

    Gokarna is a small town which can easily be explored by walking. Places that are located at some distance can be visited by auto rickshaws. You also get to hire bicycles at affordable cost from the town for the purpose of local sightseeing.

    Accommodation Options:

    Gokarna has a wide range of hotels and guest houses for accommodating the travelers, however, you should not expect super luxurious five star accommodation. Tariffs are relatively much cheaper compared to Goa. Budget class hotels with basic amenities would cost you around INR 300 to INR 700 per day. Mid level hotels with AC room, car parking, rooftop bar/restaurant would be available for INR 800 to INR 1200. You can also book a room in one of the few luxury beach resorts for as low as INR 1500.

    Reliable Hotels in Gokarna:

    1. Hotel Gokarna International (Tariff - INR 550 Onwards)
    Near KSRTC Bus Stand, Main Road, Gokarna
    Contact (+91) 83862 56622

    2. Haripriya Residency (Tariff - INR 650 Onwards)
    Kudle Beach, Gokarna
    Contact (+91) 95913 78321

    3. Paradise Holiday Cottage (Tariff - INR 650 Onwards)
    Near Kudle Beach, Gokarna
    Contact (+91) 83862 57943

    4. Namaste Cafe (Tariff - INR 800 Onwards)
    Near Om Beach, Gokarna
    Contact (+91) 83862 56622

    5. Patang Beach Resort (Tariff - INR 1250 Onwards)
    Opposite To Ganga Beach, Bhavikodla, Gokarna
    Contact (+91) 94483 02260

    6. Jungle Lodges & Resorts (Tariff - INR 3000 Onwards)
    Om Beach Road, Bangle Gudde, Gokarna
    Contact (+91) 80405 54055

    7. Kudle Beach View Resort (Tariff - INR 4000 Onwards)
    Kudle Beach, Gokarna
    Contact (+91) 81309 67666

    Beaches in Gokarna

    Gokarna Main Beach:

    This is sort of a 'town beach' used by the locals for religious rituals and all sorts of activities. It is not an ideal place for getting in to the water and hence it does not attract the tourist fraternity much, except for the surfing enthusiasts. Cocopelli Surf School organizes surfing trainings on this beach. If are an experienced surfer, then you can rent the board and other equipment for surfing along the Gokarna coastline. Besides, for accessing other virgin beaches in Gokarna, the town beach is your starting point.

    Kudle Beach:

    The first beach you will come across while trekking towards south alongside Gokarna town beach is the Kudle Beach. The trek begins from the south of the Ganapati Temple and heads down the coast through a footpath. Kudle is accessible after a short 15 minutes walk. Alternatively, you can also hire an auto from Gokarna town to drop off at Kudle.

    Kudle Beach is bestowed with utmost beauty of nature. It has a kilometer long pristine stretch of pure white sandy beach. Surrounded by palm trees on the backdrop of the aqua blue Arabian sea, Kudle beach is certainly a charming place to explore. If you want to spend a peaceful evening with your loved ones, then you can head towards the furthest corner of the beach away from the beach shacks.

    You may also indulge in a game of beach volleyball near the beach-side shacks. There are plenty of shacks on the beach where you can laze around and just soak up on the sun with a drink and your favorite novel. With its calm atmosphere and refreshing breeze, Kudle is the perfect place to get lost in to your own world.

    Om Beach:

    Located at a distance of 8 KM from the town, a further 20 minutes walk towards the south from Kudle beach will take you to the Om beach. Om Beach is the most well-known beach in Gokarna town which is always abuzz with lots of tourist activities.

    Om Beach has a unique charm of its own. It is a golden sandy beach dotted with submerged rocks in the middle. The rocks create an arch shape that resembles the auspicious Hindu religious symbol of ‘OM’, that's how the name Om Beach has emerged. It's a place where one can spend a whole day doing absolutely nothing. Just recline back on a rock and relax with a mug of chilled beer. You can also indulge in water skiing, surfing, paddle boats and banana boat rides to satisfy your adventure instincts. Para-gliding too is generating lots of interest among the tourists at Om Beach.

    Om beach is lined with numerous open air restaurants and beach-side accommodations. If you are a self-proclaimed foodie, then you can expect a great feast on yummy sea foods. A host of beach cafes and eating shacks are there to serve you delicious seafood - at a very reasonable price. Mesmerizing natural landscapes, delicious sea foods and various water sports activities are the highlights of this vibrant beach.

    To sum things up, Om beach offers an amazing blend of tranquil serenity and vibrant atmosphere to bring you a bundle of joy and present you with a lifetime of fond memories. Nestled between greenery all around, it is ideal for rejuvenating your soul while enjoying its natural splendor.

    Half Moon Beach:

    Much smaller in size compared to Kudle and OM Beach, Half Moon Beach is an isolated place situated at a distance of 4 KM further down the southern side. Half Moon Beach and Om Beach are separated by a over-hanging cliff that offers a great view of the Arabian sea. From Om beach, another 20 minutes trek through the small meandering path leading up to the cliff takes you to the Half Moon beach. It's a great place to enjoy a number of adventurous and fun related activities.

    If adventure is on your mind, then a night camping right on the beach is a must to activity here. There are a few beach huts and shacks over here. You may also set up your own tent at a favourable spot. As there is no electricity, you will have to rely on lanterns and candles - which is an added bonus for the adventure seekers. You need not have to carry your own equipment, those can be rented from the shack owners. Water sports is not an option on this beach, but it is absolutely safe for swimming.

    Paradise Beach:

    Paradise Beach offers you a virgin stretch of golden sandy shore enveloped in surreal beauty of nature. This beach can be reached by either a boat ride from Kudle / Om beach or a hike through a secluded over the cliff trekking trail, so it's not crowded by tourists. You can spot dolphins on your boat ride if you are lucky. Being far away from the center of all tourist activities, it is an ideal spot for swimming, sun bathing and spending leisurely moments with your friends and family members. To experience its surreal beauty, visit Paradise beach on a full-moon night. You will be absolutely delighted with the breathtaking views of the sea shining in the bright moonlight.

    The beach is also famous for its open restaurants offering mouth-watering delicacies of sea-food items. During the peak season, barbecue nights and bonfire gatherings organized by the beach shacks can provide you a blissful experience to be cherished forever.

    Other Tourist Attractions at Gokarna

    Mahabaleshwara Temple:

    One of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centers, the Mahabhaleshwara Temple is a 1500 years old structure dedicated to Lord Shiva situated at the western end of Gokarna's main street. This temple houses the original image of Shiva's Atmalinga and it is flocked by thousands of devotees every year on the occasion of "Shiva Ratri" festival.

    Maha Ganapathi Temple:

    Dedicated to Lord Ganesha, it is an ancient temple situated on the east of Mahabaleshwara Temple. The black stone idol of Lord Ganesh measuring 1.3 meters is the major attraction here.

    Mirjan Fort:

    A time-tested structure constructed during the 16th century, the Mirjan Fort is a historical monument on the bank of River Aghanashini. Located on the south of Gokarna off the National Highway 17, it is situated at a distance of 21 KM from Gokarna town.

    Must Do Things at Gokarna

    Para Sailing:

    Para sailing at Om beach gives you the wings to fly, literally. It can provide you some breath-taking bird's eye view of the Gokarna coastline. With the wind gushing in your ears and the amazing backdrop delighting your eyes, it is a must do activity at Gokarna which can provide you a spell of adrenalin rush and unmatched excitement.

    Banana Boat Ride:

    Another adventure activity at the Om Beach is the banana boat ride. A group of 5-7 individuals would climb atop a narrow boat quite similar to the banana trunk. Then the boat gets pulled in to the relentless waves of the Arabian sea. The challenge is to hang on to your position as long as you can. The last man standing is the ultimate winner. It might sound quite simple, but in reality it's a great test of your grit and balancing act.

    Best Season to Visit Gokarna

    Gokarna receives heavy downpour during the monsoon season. Since the South-West monsoon usually arrives here in June and lasts till September, you can visit Gokarna anytime between October and May. Winter days of November to February attract the majority of the tourists and it is regarded as the perfect time to visit Gokarna.

    Jessica_91 and Chahal like this.

  2. Jessica_91

    Jessica_91 Member

    That is such a beautiful place and I am very tempted to go there on my next trip. Those beaches look fantastic. I have been staying away from secluded beaches in the past as I have been made to believe that it is not safe, what is your opinion about the security aspect?

  3. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    I have been to many secluded beaches in the recent past - both alone and with family/friends, but never faced any issues from the security perspective. Having said that, one has to consider the security aspect seriously and take basic precautions. This not only applies to Gokarna, but even for any other place that you might be visiting.

    Few of my suggestions would be -

    Refrain from venturing out alone during the odd hours.
    If possible, travel in a group with family members and friends.
    Respect the local culture and
    Try to avoid any unwanted confrontation with the inhibitents.

    Jessica_91 and Gori Bride like this.
  4. Ashwin Mahesh

    Ashwin Mahesh Member

    I had been to Gokarna a few years back, so my experience is not a recent one. Albeit I would any day recommend visiting Gokarna instead of the much more touristy beaches of Goa. Apart from OM beach which is commercialised, the other beaches are secluded without proper connections via roads. Hope it stays the way it is now, ensuring the peace and tranquility of the place.
  5. Aja

    Aja Member

    I can't believe a place as beautiful as that is not overrun by tourists! I believe people tend to flock to big cities and ocean beaches. I can see those anywhere. Give me the peace and tranquility over any of that stuff.