There are times in life when you want to leave everything behind for a while, forget all the worries in life (ohh you wish you could) and take a break. A visit to Gokarna is the panacea. Located along the coastline in north west Karnataka, around 120 km south of Goa lies the small town of Gokarna. A holy town with numerous temples, chiefly dedicated to Lord Shiva. Apart from its temples, Gokarna has some of the most beautiful beaches in India. It was one of the dens of the western hippies in the 1980s. Even today, during the season (September to January), the place gets thronged with foreigners, who camp on the beaches in their tents and hammocks for months together. There are several yoga camps that run only during that season, with instructors coming from abroad.
A trip to Gokarna during the off season (we were there in early August) was a delight in itself. Added to the fact that the number of tourists during the period was less, the charges for accommodation was very low. There are lodges and hotels along the beach, but we opted to stay at one of the lodges in the town itself, as the rates were much cheaper (a difference of atleast 1000 bucks per room night). One must definitely try out the local cuisine at the smaller restaurants and hotels, with the fish thalis and other seafood delicacies. And being a temple town, there are a plenty of options for the veggies too.
There are several beaches in Gokarna, most famous of them being the Om Beach and the Kutle Beach (majority of the tourists come here), which are located around 6 km from the town. Autos ply from the town to both these beaches. Om beach, as the name indicates is because of the shape that the beach has, forming a large Om with the sea on one side and the hills behind. Both beaches have restaurants serving food as well as alcohol. Amazing sun kissed beaches, where one can wade into the waters or just lie on the beach, soaking in the sun, are the main attraction of Gokarna.
Then there are the lesser known beaches, the Half-Moon Beach and the Paradise Beach. We met a German (he had been holidaying in Gokarna for the last 3 months….3 months ), who trekked along with us and showed the way to both the beaches. Half-Moon beach has no road connectivity, the only way to reach there being a trek through the hills adjacent to the Om Beach. And since there is no connectivity, there is hardly anybody on the beach (Me and my friends were the only 3 people on the beach on the day we went there). During the on-season, this is one of the favourite destinations of the foreigners, who camp here enjoying the blissful combination of the beach and the privacy offered by its location.
For the extremely adventurous, there is the trek further from Half-Moon to the Paradise beach, which is a combination of a tough trek and an extremely slippery path across the jagged rocks along the shore. The timing of the trek to Paradise Beach is extremely important, coz during the high tide, the rocks get submerged partially with the waves, getting across can be really dangerous. (We crossed pass the rocky stretch at around 11.00 in the morning). Remnants of ‘Paradise Café’ which was a happening joint (loads of music, foreigners, booze and drugs) of the past; which was brought down by the government authorities – gives us a bleak idea of what heaven this place offered for the hippies. Nowadays Paradise Beach is similar to the Half Moon Beach, with absolutely no commercialization; devoid of all the dirt and waste usually found at other populated beaches in India.
Sunset is something one should not miss at any cost in Gokarna. Be it from one of the various cliff tops or from the beaches down below, watching the setting sun lighting up the waters with its golden rays is a majestic sight in itself. The sight of the glimmering waters is one that will make every tourist want to come back to Gokarna once again for sure. All in all Gokarna offers a piece of nature, with its magnificent beaches, the splendid cliff tops, the jagged hills and the abundant greenery; that has still not been completely tarnished by the modern day tourist.
Start the day with an early morning (9.00 am is not early morning…more like around 6.00) walk on the beach, or a hike to one of the hill tops around, or join in for the morning aartis at one of the temples. Spend the day soaking in the sun; trekking through the hills; exploring or even better, cycling to villages (one can rent cycles from the town) around Gokarna; trying out the local fish curry at a small road side hut; or just jumping into the waters and battling out with the waves. Towards the end of the day, grab a beer; get yourself to a spot where the only sound you hear are those the waves and the chirping birds; and watch the sun go down into the golden waters. After the sunset, if possible, get sleeping bags, get a fire going and spend the night, in the open, under the starry night, on the beach. Truly Gokarna will offer you the break that you have been dreaming of.
About the Author – Thanks to Suraj T Jose for the beautiful article. Suraj, a Design Engineer at HAL-Bangalore and a voracious traveler, always makes it a point to pen down his travelogues and capture the beautiful moments with his camera.