The quaint town of Gokarna is situated at the confluence of the Aghanashini and Gangavalli rivers in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. With a prolific history, Gokarna abounds with mythical tales. Also known as the “Kashi of South India” it is also a premier holiday destination. The famed Om Beach, the lesser-known Kudle Beach, the quiet Half Moon Beach and the pristine Paradise Beach are four scenic, popular strips of sand sandwiched between the hills. There are many temples in the town and Lord Shiva is the main deity in most of them.
Gokarna is a town of stark contrasts. At one end of the spectrum are local tribals and at the other end are numerous foreign tourists. While some tourists visit Gokarna to seek divine blessings, others are there to have fun on the beach.
The crescent-shaped Kudle Beach is adjacent to the Gokarna Beach. Apart from a few shacks along the beach there is not much commercialisation. Tourists can stay at the sea-facing rooms or the beach-front shacks. The sun can be a bit harsh during the day but the heat is offset by the cool water and strong ocean breeze. As the sun ebbs into oblivion, its golden hues cast a spell over the shoreline. Sunset at the Kudle Beach is magical. After nightfall, one can enjoy gazing at the star-studded sky with the cadence of the waves in the backdrop. Kudle is a good choice for tourists who are looking to get away from the crowd. The beach is cut-off from the world outside with no mobile phone connectivity.
Om Beach gets its name because of its shoreline which traces the sacred Hindu symbol. It is the largest of the four beaches and is the hub of tourist activities. Shacks and cafes line the beach. The colours, contours and contrasts are sure to strike the visitor to Om. The turquoise blue of the water stands out against the lush green flora. One can see vendors trying to sell a variety of paraphernalia to the tourists soaking in the sun. The commodities on sale range from freshly-cut fruits and colourful beads to musical instruments like drums and flutes. The beach gets crowded on holidays when people from neighbouring towns and villages come over to take a dip in the water. Restaurants on the beach offer a wide range of culinary delicacies of different cuisines. For the adventurous, Om Beach offers activities like banana boat rides, kayaking and wave rafting during the season when the sea is relatively calm.
Half Moon and Paradise beaches are much smaller than Om and Kudle Beach. Although trekking is an option to reach these remote beaches, most people prefer to be ferried by a boat from Om Beach. For outdoor enthusiasts, these clean beaches are good camping sites. Food and accommodation options are limited to a couple of beach-side shacks. Tourists who want to hop from one beach to another can rent boats from Om Beach. Hiking to the beaches is a viable option in good weather.
The topography of Gokarna is unique. The shimmering water of the Arabian Sea, the lanky trees and the rocky cliffs seem to be in perfect harmony. The air brews a fragrance of freshness. The aerial views of the diverse landscape from the vista points in the hills are a sight to behold. From temple trails to the sun, sand and sea, Gokarna has something in it for people of all ages. With a unique blend of the ancient and the modern, Gokarna is a destination with a difference.
Gokarna is about 470 km from Bangalore and is well connected by road to Bangalore, Mangalore and Goa.
Gokarna can be reached by train from Mangalore and Goa.
Dabolim in Goa is the nearest airport.
Season : The best time to visit Gokarna is between October and March.
Namaste Café is the most popular establishment on Om Beach. This resort has cottages, Internet connectivity and a beach-front restaurant.
Hotel Gokarna International on Kudle Beach has sea-facing rooms. Beach shacks provide accommodation at rates as low as Rs. 100/- per day for tourists on a shoe string budget. There are many restaurants on Om Beach and Kudle Beach.
Konkan style cottages were built on the slopes of a hill overlooking the valley. These cottages have now been converted into a resort. The Om Beach Resort is a joint venture by the government-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts and the privately-run Kairali Group and provides comfortable accommodation and good facilities. Special tours to visit places in and around Gokarna are arranged on request.
For more information log on to www.ombeachresort.com
According to the locals there are many wild peacocks in the hills of Gokarna. If you are on a trek in Gokarna look out for peacocks and peahens.
Sunscreen lotion, caps and umbrellas will be useful on a hot day. Carry a torch if you want to venture out at night.
This article was published in The Hindu on the 6th of September 2009. Below is the link to the online version of the article.