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

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...
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, 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, 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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50 Comments on this post.
  • magiceye
    13 May 2015 at 12:47 am

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

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 9:52 am

      I'm so happy hearing that from you.
      Thank you so, so much, Magiceye. 🙂

  • Rachna
    13 May 2015 at 2:02 am

    Lovely travelogue and pics, Dee.

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 9:52 am

      Thanks a ton, Rach. 🙂

  • Arun Prasadh
    13 May 2015 at 3:22 am

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

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 10:01 am

      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 😀

  • Indrani
    13 May 2015 at 3:47 am

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

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 10:03 am

      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. 🙂

  • Archana Chaurasia Kapoor
    13 May 2015 at 4:42 am

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

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 7:27 pm

      You are welcome, Archana, Thank YOU.
      And I'm thinking you and Desh would want to visit it again. 😉

  • Somali K Chakrabarti
    13 May 2015 at 6:12 am

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

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 7:36 pm

      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. 🙂

  • joshidaniel.com
    13 May 2015 at 8:57 am

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

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Gokarna is interesting! Fascinating!
      Thank you for visiting, Joshi. 🙂

  • Rajesh
    13 May 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Good to see the place still retaining old world charm.

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 7:39 pm

      I swear.

      It was surprising (in a good way) to see that even with all those tourists, Gokarna seemed to wear the look of another age.

  • Mridula
    13 May 2015 at 4:59 pm

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

    • dNambiar
      13 May 2015 at 7:48 pm

      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. 🙂

  • Maniparna Sengupta Majumder
    13 May 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Lovely account and beautiful pictures… 🙂

    • dNambiar
      14 May 2015 at 11:43 am

      Thank you Maniparna. 🙂
      Nice to see you here again.

  • SelfDrive Trips
    14 May 2015 at 6:58 am

    Lovely pictures and nice post……

    • dNambiar
      14 May 2015 at 11:44 am

      Thank you. 🙂
      How do we address you, btw?

  • Bikram
    14 May 2015 at 9:40 am

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


    • dNambiar
      14 May 2015 at 11:45 am

      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. 🙂

  • wanderingjatin.com
    14 May 2015 at 12:29 pm

    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 🙂

    • dNambiar
      14 May 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Thank you Jatin.

  • umashankar
    14 May 2015 at 4:02 pm

    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.

    • dNambiar
      15 May 2015 at 1:43 pm

      That means a lot, coming from you, USP. 🙂
      You must go. Don't forget to take your photography equipments.

  • Shrinidhi Hande
    15 May 2015 at 12:17 am

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

    • dNambiar
      15 May 2015 at 1:45 pm

      It is. I haven't had my fill, Shrinidhi.
      I have to go back.
      We went down to Murudeshwar too. The post will come up in a couple of weeks.

  • Abhijit Ray
    15 May 2015 at 3:53 am

    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.

    • dNambiar
      15 May 2015 at 1:47 pm

      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.

  • Saru Singhal
    16 May 2015 at 3:11 pm

    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.

    • dNambiar
      31 May 2015 at 7:15 pm

      We tried to make the most of our time there. Little gems, indeed.
      Gokarna is a very interesting mix.
      Thank you, Saru. 🙂

  • Alok singhal
    16 May 2015 at 3:25 pm

    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.

    • dNambiar
      31 May 2015 at 7:25 pm

      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. 🙁

  • R Niranjan Das
    17 May 2015 at 6:05 am

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

    • dNambiar
      31 May 2015 at 7:29 pm

      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.

  • Ramakrishnan Ramanathan
    17 May 2015 at 10:33 am

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

    • dNambiar
      31 May 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Thank YOU Ram. That's so kind. 🙂
      I'd been away for a bit. What did I miss on your blog? I'll come by, soon. 🙂

  • Kusum Sanu
    18 May 2015 at 1:00 pm

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

    • dNambiar
      31 May 2015 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you, Kusum.

      Oh yeah? that's nice. 🙂
      Crowded, yet peaceful — I guess that's a quality pretty unique to Gokarna.

  • Rahul Bhatia
    22 May 2015 at 3:56 am

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

    • dNambiar
      31 May 2015 at 7:34 pm

      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. 🙂

  • Kirti Bali
    29 May 2015 at 9:06 am

    Beautiful picture…….

    • dNambiar
      31 May 2015 at 7:34 pm


  • Sri Kri
    5 June 2015 at 6:28 am

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


    • dNambiar
      28 June 2015 at 3:57 pm

      It is one of the most popular beaches of Gokarna. And it beautiful.
      Thank you. 🙂

  • Kokila Gupta
    1 July 2015 at 5:39 am

    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 😀

    • dNambiar
      6 June 2017 at 12:15 am

      So sorry I missed your comment dear Kokila.
      My pics are edited a wee little bit 😁 but believe me, the area is beautiful.

      Yeah, it’s pretty crowded with tourists nd pilgrims but it still manages to charm you. I hope you get to go soon. <3.

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