When we think of the word ‘Gokarna’, we immediately think of various largely untouched beaches. The rich culture of Gokarna makes it one of the most popular destinations of South India. Many mythological stories and legends have a link with this temple town. The temple town has the famous Mahabaleshwar temple and it is also a fishermen’s town. There are even ruins and forts like the Mirjan Fort. This town has the ocean in its background and tall coconut and palm trees lined up on the beaches. The most popular tourist spots of Gokarna are its beaches. These beaches are still not so commercialised like the beaches in Goa. Thus these idyllic beaches are ideal places to go to if you are looking to spend a few days away from the daily grind. Gokarna is also a pilgrim town because of the presence of remarkable temples. You will not need a Gokarna travel guide really to explore this beach and temple town.
The Best Places to Visit in Gokarna
1. Om Beach
When you are in Gokarna, the Om Beach is one of the most scenic beaches that you can be in. It is a good place for adventure lovers as they can do water sports. This beach is great for having a relaxed time. The speciality of this beach is that it is shaped like the symbol ‘Om’. Having this type of geographical shape has made it religiously significant. It is considered to be a holy place for the Hindus. Two semi-crescent shaped pieces of land join here which led to the shape and also led to the naming of the beach.
If you are interested in beach photography, you must know that this beach is loved by nature photographers. To get some exceptional clicks, you must be here during either early in the morning or late evening. Watching the changing hues of the sky from dawn to sunrise and from sunset to dusk makes you feel heavenly. Everything on the beach looks delightful, even the sand and the rocks!
The presence of the boats of the fishermen lined along the shore makes the beach more photo-worthy. You will see some fishermen deep into the sea on their boats, engaged in fishing. If you want to know more about how their life is, you can approach and have a chat with the fishermen.
If you are eager to do adventure activities, you have the option of speed boating, banana boats, trekking, bumper boats, fishing, dolphin spotting and jet-skiing.
2. Gokarna Cliff
To enjoy a great view, one must climb to the Gokarna cliff. The cliff is one of the best Gokarna places to visit, especially for the adventurous at heart. You will have to trek to reach this point, but once you see the scenery, the hike will seem well worth it. And if you feel tired and hungry, you will be surprised to see cafes and restaurants on the cliff. Sit there and refuel yourself.
3. Kudle Beach
Gokarna has many great beaches but this is certainly one of the top 4, that’s why it is the second beach on our list of Gokarna sightseeing places. The Kudle beach which is at a distance of 6 kms even has small huts made for tourists to put up and also nice cafes where they can enjoy good food. This beach is naturally shaped like a ‘C’, and has coconut trees lined up on the sides. It will take you 20 minutes to reach the Kudle beach from Gokarna by walking. This is a kilometre long beach with palm trees lined against it.
It is a great place if you just want to sit on the beach and reflect on your thoughts or look and hear the waves. If you want to go on a beach trek, this beach is the best for doing that. The ideal time to go to Kudle beach is between the months of September and May. It is very easy to go to the Kudle beach from the Dabolim airport as it will take you only about three to four hours. Try to visit either the sunrise or sunset at this beach.
4. Mahabaleshwara Temple
This temple at Gokarna has the famous Atmalinga which is a Shiva Linga of 6 feet height. Dravidian architectural style has been used to build the Mahabaleshwara temple. Thus you will see the temple has been built with white granite. The main idol here is the one of Lord Shiva which has been carved out of stone and is 1500 years old. The idol shows the Lord to be in the standing position. The temple has been mentioned in Hindu mythologies like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Mahabaleshwar Temple is called Dakshin Kashi or South Kashi, because it is as significant as the one in Varanasi.
However, you must know that as a visitor, you will only be able to view just the top part of the Linga. The entire Atmalinga is visible to the devotees only once in every 40 year, during the Ashta Bandana Kumbhabhishekam festival. But there is an entire ritual which devotees have to follow if they want to see the Atma Linga then. They have to first take a dip in the water of the Karwar beach which faces the temple. Then they have to go to the temple on the opposite side, which is the Maha Ganapathi temple. The devotees can enter the Mahabaleshwar temple only after that. Of course Mahashivratri is celebrated on a huge scale. Whenever you come, you are likely to spend an hour over here. The temple is open 6 am – 12 pm and 5 pm – 8 pm. But remember to enter in shorts and even in trousers or jeans.
5. Paradise Beach
This beach is true to its name and is a very peaceful one. You can come directly to this beach from Kudle beach. There are ferry rides available from Kudle to give you a tour of Paradise Beach. You have to pay 500 rupees for the ferry ride. You can also start the beach trek from Belekan beach or Om beach and reach here. The trek will need you to walk through hills and forests, but it is not a very difficult trek but you must have the required fitness.
For people who like to stay in camps or tents on beaches, Paradise beach has these facilities as well, though it is not a very large beach. This rocky isolated beach remains less crowded and you can have a great party if you carry your own food and drinks with you. This is a beach which is largely thronged by the foreigners and is a hippies’ paradise. You might find them sitting by a bonfire, singing and dancing. If you are not going to stay there overnight, the best thing to do is return while there is still sunlight. This is a great beach to hang out with your friends.
6. Half Moon Beach
The surrounding of the Half Moon beach is absolutely stunning and that makes the beach one of the most beautiful Gokarna tourist places. Few beaches in Gokarna have unique shapes and this is one of them. It is called the Half Moon Beach because it is shaped like one. The blue water here looks almost transparent and both the water and the sand are very clean. The sparkling water and shining sand makes it a great place to be in. The Half Moon beach is also very popular with backpackers and travellers who are foreigners.
Come to the Half Moon beach when you are seeking a place where you can unwind. And if you want to reach here after a little thrilling trek, hike to this beach from Om beach. This is also one of the beaches which is less-crowded and a fun place. There are shacks by the beach selling tasty food which you can feast on. Half Moon beach is one of the beaches to be included in the popular Gokarna beach trek. If you want to have typical sea-side experiences like swimming and sunbathing, go for them on the Half Moon Beach. The ideal time to visit this beach is between October and March and between 6 am – 6 pm. The beach is equipped with cabins. So you can indulge in camping, paddle boats, swimming, paintball and canoeing
7. Subrahmanya Temple
This Hindu temple is one of the must-visit places in Gokarna. This is one of the great temples which makes Gokarna a famous pilgrimage town for Hindus. Tourists on their Gokarna trip visit this temple in good numbers which is located in Kotitirtha. The Subrahmanya temple is one of the top revered temples in the whole of Karnataka. Needless to say, this is one of the best places to visit in Gokarna.
8. Murudeshwara temple
This temple is another of the best places to visit in Gokarna. This temple is also dedicated to the Hindu lord, Shiva. In fact, this temple has been named after him as ‘Murudeshwara’ is another name of Shiva. The temple town of Murudeshwar is famous because it has the 2nd tallest Shiva idol in the whole world and of course because of the well-known Murudeshwar temple. This temple lies on the Kanduka hill and is surrounded by water on three sides.
It takes about four to five hours to reach the Murudeshwara temple from the Dabolim airport. Try to visit the temple in the morning.
9. Water Sports
Though we are not listing any place but activities, no list on Gokarna can go without the mention of the water sports. These are what draws the adventure-seeking tourists to Gokarna apart from the religious people and beach lovers. When someone in India is hit with the travel bug and wants to go to a place which is peaceful, one of the places they should consider going to is Gokarna. It is known for its blue water and idyllic beaches.
If you are someone who wants to have fun on beaches but are put-off by crowded beaches like the ones in Goa, the less-commercialised beaches at Gokarna will be loved by you. The Om beach here is the most popular beach, followed by the Kudle beach. The less-populated and secluded but still great beaches are the Paradise beach and the Half Moon beach. These secluded beaches are a favourite with the hippies.
If you love to go on adventures to take a break from the regular mundane life, Gokarna is a fabulous destination. You can either hike along the tranquil beaches or get busy with trying the various water sports that you can do in Gokarna like parasailing, jet-skiing and banana boat ride.
10. Mirjan Fort
This is another of the hidden gems of Gokarna which remains largely unexplored. You can hike up to this fort and don’t necessarily need a car. If you are looking for places near Gokarna which is a little distant but still easily accessible, go to the Mirjan Fort. This is a place of interest for history buffs. Currently, the Archaeological Survey of India maintains the fort. The fort was built under the Vijayanagara empire by the local queen, Chennabhairadevi of Gersoppa and then had been under the rule of different kingdoms.
The fort has been built across an area of 10 acres and had been built using laterite stones. There are four entrances to the fort. The fort has interlinked wells and channels which were used for defence purposes. For maintenance work, most of the channels and interlinked wells are not open for visitors. But the ASI has been able to restore some of the ruins already inside the fort which you can see. These are the remains of the marketplace, secret passage, Darbar hall and entry doors.
The Mirjan Fort is believed to have been built in the 12 century and was later given a renovation in the 16th century! If you are visiting Gokarna with your family and have seniors too, you can take them by car. There is a parking space and then they can easily walk up to the fort. There are public toilets available and there is no parking fee or entry charges. But do not expect to see a lot of things, as basically it is just ruins, which you might not be interested in if you are on a fun and adventurous trip.
There is also a board put up by the ASI informing the tourists about the fort’s history. It opens to the visitors from 9 in the morning. The fort area is well-maintained and if you want to avoid the crowd totally, take your family members on weekdays, if possible.
11. Namaste Cafe
By now you have seen that we have mentioned the presence of excellent cafes by the Gokarna beaches. We thought of including one of the most popular ones in this list. The Namaste Cafe is on Om beach and many tourists come to Om beach just for eating at this cafe. This cafe is actually a beach front restaurant, which means the cafe faces the sea. This means that you can look at the sea while enjoying really good food. After you have completed strolling on the beach and wish to fill your tummy or vice versa, the Namaste cafe is the place to be when you are in Om beach.
Namaste cafe is like a sea-facing hotel as the property also has accommodation facilities for tourists. This serene place is perfect when you don’t want to spend a lot on a hotel room. Namaste cafe has budget staying options and its patrons have unlimited access to the beach. A room at this property costs around 1000 rupees per night. The check out time is 11 am and the check in time is 1 pm.
12. Belekan Beach
This is a beach which you can visit after you have completed some hectic sightseeing. The Belekan beach is perfect for just sitting and relaxing. But you will have to trek to arrive at this beach. It is surrounded by gorgeous mountains! Your visit to the Belekan beach is always going to be memorable, especially if you go there during the sunset. You will be amazed at the beautiful sight of the endless water and the beautiful sunset. If you are looking for relaxing and beautiful Gokarna places to visit, the Belekan beach should be one of your top choices.
This is another of all the places to visit in Gokarna which are popular as a pilgrim destination for Hindus. People go to Yaana to see the unique rock formations. Once you reach Yaana, you will find the place to be mystical and mysterious. This is a place which is surrounded by jagged rocks. And these rocks have been given their shape by heavy rainfall, harsh winds and extreme heat. These are actually caves in Yaana. The Yaana caves are one of Gokarna’s marvellous tourist destinations. To see the Yaan caves, you would have to trek through the hills. So, the best time to visit is during the winter months.
14. Gokarna Beach
Yes this is the main beach of the town and is a very long beach. The Gokarna beach is located at almost the temple town’s outskirts. Though not much visited earlier, it is now steadily gaining popularity as one of the best Gokarna attractions. The Gokarna beach looks splendid with the golden sand spread across a vast area of pristine land. One of the interesting facts about Gokarna beaches is that the locals somehow did not visit these beaches to spend time until foreigners started trooping here to relax and unwind!
Business started developing along with the development of this temple town as a popular tourist destination. This has led to the development of the shacks and cafes and also stalls selling souvenirs. Now the walk along the Gokarna beach is going to be a fun experience for you as you will come across so many stylish cafes and cool shacks. Like a couple of other beaches thronged by hippies, this is also where the hippie culture is thriving.
The Gokarna beach is also a favourite place for the devotees of Lord Shiva who come to Gokarna and also the foreign travellers who come to see the temples. This beach is great for a family picnic too but again, reaching this beach will need you to trek through mud-covered uphill paths. The paths with forests on each side makes the trek more exciting. If you love to do treks and love nature, you will be thrilled to climb the rocks. So you will be rock climbing near the sea! There are different birds and animals in this area. Many people do yoga or learn yoga in the mornings on Gokarna beach.
15. Maha Ganapati Temple
This is a small temple very near to Mhahabaleshwar temple but an important one. There is a legend based on this temple. When Lord Ravana was returning to Lanka with the Atma Lingam, the gods told Lord Ganesha. To take it from him by somehow tricking him. They told him to turn the noon into evening because that is when Rvana will have to put the Atma Lingam down.
Lord Ganesha took the form of a young boy and went to Ravana. Seeing him, Ravana requested him to hold the atma lingam for some time as it was evening and he had to do Sanatanam Vantham Pujai. He told Ganesha to not put the lingam on the floor because it cannot be unearthed if placed once. As Ravana just completed his puja, Ganesha put the lingam on the floor and tried to run away. Still Ravana managed to hit him on the head, creating a mark. Ravana tried to unearth the Atma Lingam but failed to do so, and he said Shiva is Mahabal or has mahabal, which is super-strength.
The Atma Lingam is the one which is worshipped in the Mahabaleshwar temple nearby. That form of Ganesha is worshipped in this temple as the main deity and the idol has a hole on his forehead. And Ganpati is seen to be standing here, which is unusual for Ganesh idols. The devotees can enter the temple and do the pujabhishekham under proper guidance.
Now that you are aware of all the top spots of Gokarna, when are you planning the trip? Don’t you want to go to a place which has amazing beaches, grand temples, trekking spots and also water activities? The best time to visit Gokarna is between October to March, and especially during the winter months of November to February.