Gokarna is a small town situated on the Karwar coast in northern Karnataka. It is a place of worship, a Hindu pilgrimage centre and as a tourist destination due to a number of beaches that surround it. Gokarna literally means cow’s ear. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from a cow’s ear, and hence the name. It is also located at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini.
The main tourist attractions are the beaches namely Gokarna beach, Kudle Beach, Om Beach, Half moon Beach and Paradise Beach. The Gokarna beach forms the coast of the town while the other beaches lie to the south of Gokarna. It is essentially a beach-utpoia. For those interest in the town’s cultural heritage, the town houses the famous Shiva temple where you can find the Aatma Lingam enshrined.
Gokarna is a place with lush green coconut palms, blue seas and clean sand. Om beach is called so as it is shaped like an om sign. Kudle beach is like a cove, surrounded by Western Ghats on three sides and the open sea on the other. Om and Kudle beaches are within trekking distance of one another giving spectacular views while climbing up or down the mountain. Paradise and Half moon beach are a little further away to trek but can also be reached by boat. One of the most distinctive features of most of these beaches is that they lie vey close to the Western Ghats. So as you soon as you descend the mountain you meet the sea, which looks pristine and feels enigmatic.
Food and Shelter: A number small shacks and restaurants surround all the beaches where food and shelter can be arranged for at relatively low prices. The sea food at some of the restaurants is simply amazing. Vegetarian food is also available for people prefering to eat vegetarian.
Getting there: Gokarna has a railway station. Any train from the Goa route can be used to reach there i.e. Konkan railway passes through Gokarna. The nearest airport is Mangalore 240km away. It is also well connected by road to Mangalore, Karwar and Bangalore. For the more adventurous Gokarna is also part of the Beach Trekking Route from Bellikere to Murdeshwar.
Time to Visit: Best time to visit Gokarna is from September to June. Avoiding it during monsoon is advised as it gets very muddy and slushy. It’s a small version of Goa with lots of beaches at small distances to one another and does get crowded from December to March.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roop/58167133/]