Gokarna | A temple town and beach town rolled into one charismatic zone

Gokarna, Karnataka

Famous. Famous for its beaches. Famous for its holy sites. Famous of its international travellers.

Gokarna, seems to be one of those places where everybody-who-has-heard-of-it wants to visit; and everybody who has visited it, wants to go again. For us it had been on the cards for a while. One time, a trip had been planned and we were all set to go but a couple of things cropped up on the home front and we had to cancel it. A month later, thankfully it worked. And from ‘want to visit,’ it became a ‘have to visit again’ destination.

For us, Gokarna was that first stop along the Karnataka Coast; it was that place where we got beach-dirty after what seemed like  a long, long time. Then we would go beach hopping and have our fill for the time being.

Gokarna, Karnataka
The bustling Gokarna town

 Gokarna: Seemingly crowded; yet very charming

We spent our first morning there driving through the town and visiting the Main Beach. These parts of Gokarna were crowded. It screamed tourism. Leisure tourism and religious tourism are really big here; bigger than I had imagined it to be. And there were tourists from abroad and home, making it a very interesting mix of people, and giving Gokarna a character of its own.

Despite the crowds, Gokarna has a charisma of its own. The heart of the town wears the look of another age with its antiquated buildings and narrow streets. Its famous Car Street’s lined with small shops crammed with flowers and lamps and clothes with ‘Om’ printed on it. There were shops  selling idols and framed pictures of all the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. There were shops selling colourful ‘holy’ threads to be tied on wrists and necks and japamalas (prayer beads strung together to keep track of chants, like rosaries). And then there were toys and bags and colourful attires and all kinds of souvenirs you can think of.

Gokarna, Karnataka
Temple car, Car Street, Gokarna
Gokarna
Gokarna, Karnataka
Scenes from Car Street

 Gokarna – the beach-town

The Main Beach was equally swarmed with Gokarna’s people; people of different shades of skin, all come to see and experience the this alluring town.

Spiritual, cultural or leisure, whatever is one’s reason for visiting Gokarna, a walk or ride or drive to the beach is quite irresistible. On the warm winter day that we were there, it looked like even the bovine populace were out to bask and enjoy the sun and sand.

Main beach, Gokarna
Main Beach, Gokarna

Main Beach, Gokarna

For us the weather was too hot and not exactly beach-weather. So we decided to spend the mid day hours driving around. As we drove out of the hot-and-happening areas, we saw the sights typical of the Indian west coast: houses crowned with sloping terracotta roofs; just right for the heat and those famous SW Monsoons that hit these parts, coconut trees and small restaurants selling ‘fish-meals.’

Then we drove toward a part that was pretty much deserted as we headed to Om Beach. We saw Kudle Beach on the way there.

Gokarna
Gokarna, Karnataka
Kudle Beach, Gokarna
Kudle Beach

Later that day we decided to hit the celebrated Om Beach. You’ve probably heard of it. For those of you who haven’t, this beach is called Om because the beach is naturally shaped to an almost perfect ‘Om.’ This beach, everybody will tell you is a must-visit. Apart from the natural shape, this beach is known for it’s western crowds, its enchanting atmosphere, gorgeous sunsets and the renowned Namaste Cafe.

We spent the evening watching the boats come in and some leave on late-evening sails. And then there was the sun who was all set to call it a day. So we hung out there long enough to see the sun set over the Shiva Rocks and then went to grab a bite (and a beer for hubby) at Namaste Cafe.

Om beach, Gokarna
Om Beach

By the time we decided to call it a day, the night had settled in and the beach was deserted. Although the cafe was still open and still buzzing with activity, it looked like those who had to leave the area had already left. As we walked back to the parking area which was up the hill, there was an eerie stillness as we went up that unlit path, and we wondered if it was too late an hour to be walking that way with a five year old and a baby. That evening we hadn’t driven to the beach. Our resort’s vehicle had dropped us there and the plan was to hire an auto-rickshaw back. After a rik-ride through a good 4-5 kilometres of an isolated stretch, we were back at our accommodation and impressed with the rickshaw driver who hadn’t asked for a rupee more than what was the fixed fare back into town, even though it was an odd hour. Now if you are a Bangalorean (or Bengalurean, as we officially are now) you know that is something to be impressed by. So the good man was very handsomely tipped.

The following day we would drive up north to Karwar and the morning after that we had planned to walk down to Kudle beach; which unfortunately did  not happen. To see Kudle Beach, to chill out at Namaste Cafe, to check out the other beaches that called for a trek and to record my second impressions of Gokarna, I must head that way again.

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49 Comments

  1. You have captured the ambiance of Gokarn beautifully in your images and narration.

  2. Lovely travelogue and pics, Dee.

  3. Om beach looks beautiful. On my list. Yes its hard (not impossible) to find such auto driver in bengaluru 🙂

    • I looking forward to reading about it on your blog, Arun.

      You are right. Not impossible. The are good guys.
      It's odd — some auto drivers ask for 'double charge' to take me from Indranagar to CV Raman Nagar; that too in broad daylight. And this has happened more than once in the last month. And obviously I refuse because I know how much the fare comes up to and after a while I manage to find somebody who'll just restart his meter and ask me to hop in. They get tipped for not trying to loot me 😀

  4. I have visited long ago during the analog days. I have this strong desire to revisit after reading your post.

    • Time for some digital photographs from there, Indrani. 😉 It's a place you can visit again. And I'm sure you find more people there this time. 🙂

  5. I hardly knew anything about this place… thanks for sharing Dee. The pictures are lovely, and I surely want to go there someday 🙂

  6. Haven't been to Gokarna, but the rath, the landscape and the ambience look very similar to Udupi, where I have been recently.

    • Hi Somali,
      Nice to see you here. Welcome. 🙂

      In that case you visited Malpe I'm sure. When we drove along the Karnataka Coast we went all the way — from Karwar to Surathkal. Although the places we stopped at were on the same coast and did have some semblance, I thought I saw changes in character.
      Especially Karwar and Gokarna seemed to have an ambience of its own. Gokarna was fascinating!

      Thank you for stopping by, Somali. 🙂

  7. cool to see some pictures of Gokarna which is such a lovely place 🙂

  8. Good to see the place still retaining old world charm.

  9. I knew of Gokarna as a beach town but not as a temple town! Either way it looks beautiful!

    • When I first heard of Gokarna — a long time ago, I don't even remember when — I learnt that it was a temple town. It is in the last 5 years or so that I've been hearing and reading about it as a hot destination. And now I see why it is.
      These beaches and the temples are an odd mix yet it feels so right for Gokarna.

      Thank you for coming by, Mridula. 🙂

  10. Lovely account and beautiful pictures… 🙂

  11. Lovely pictures and nice post……

  12. some lovely pictures and I so much envy you i want ot travel a lotttttttttttttttttttt 🙂

    Bikram's

    • Thank you, Bikram.
      You don't have to envy me. Just pack your bags and head out every now and then. It's good for you, Bik!
      I hope you are having a good week. 🙂

  13. Awesome clicks, esp the Om beach one! I had loved Gokarna beach and the laid atmosphere and the crowd it gets on my ride there 🙂

  14. Those images have captured the spirit of Gokarna. I almost visited Gokarna in 2007 when I was visiting Goa. Your post reminds me not to miss it next time.

  15. It is a nice place to explore… nearby Murudeshwar is also great

  16. Very nice post. Beautiful sunset to end the day. These small towns carry a lot history. It is so interesting to hear some unusual story of human achievements, human failings. Some love some hate, one just has to listen carefully. I so love to roam around aimlessly in the narrow lanes and listen to stories people have to tell.

    • Thank you so much, Mr Ray.
      Yeah, that was a beautiful ending.
      You are so right. I feel like I merely scratched the surface but I still found Gokarna very interesting. I must visit again.

  17. You have explored such charming small town and places during your India stay. Little gems of India. Gorkarna looks lovely with a dose of religion and pristine views.

  18. I liked the Om Beach and the Sunset there. I feel beaches in India are more often pretty dirty…I see one in your pic as well (the one which has boats in capture).
    The place though looks to be a great visit.

    • The main beach is not the cleanest beach in Gokarna. 😐
      But don't let that prevent you from seeing Gokarna. It is a unique place, I must say. And Om Beach, a must visit.
      I wish I could have shown you some of the best beaches around here, Alok; couldn't fit it all into the Gokarna part of my trip. 🙁

  19. Absolutely wonderful, Nambiare! Loved your narration which re-kindled a lot of memories. Never loved a destination as much as Gokarna.

    • Thank you. Nice to hear that from you, Niranjan.
      And thank you SO MUCH for all the info you filled me up with, about the area.

      I know… 🙂 From your posts and what I heard from you, I could see that Gokarna affected you like no other destination. I hope you make it up there again, soon.

  20. Thanks for the wonderful joyful tour of Gokarana and incredible glimpses of its people,bazaars,beaches & sunset !

  21. Lovely post Divya. I visit this place quite often, almost every year. Though so crowded makes me feel calm!

  22. That post was a visual delight besides learning so much about a lesser known treasure, Divya!

    • Your comment fills me with gladness, Mr. Bhatia. Thank you so, so much.
      I hope you get to see these parts for yourself, soon. You will love it. 🙂

  23. Beautiful picture…….

  24. Haven't heard about this OM beach.Thanks for sharing.Likes the picture "Sunset from Om beach" which is simply superb.

    http://www.srikri.com

  25. Its still on my 'want to visit ' list Dee and by your description which I trust and images which are real not edited like crystal clear one of the OM beach , it seems similar to the Holy City Haridwar – crowded with tourists , locals , sadhus .. somewhat dingy yet has that inexplicable charm . MUST VISIT I must say 😀

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