Gokarna is a small and remote holy town, with four of India's most secluded and pristine beaches nestled nearby. It draws both pious pilgrims and hedonistic holiday makers with equal enthusiasm. Travel to Gokarna to get a feel for what Goa was like in its heyday, although time is limited as developers are already seeing the potential of this area.
Gokarna is located in the state of Karnataka, an hour south of the Goa border. It's around 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Bangalore, the state capital.
Getting to Gorkarna:
The nearest airport is Dabolim, in Goa. From there it's a four hour drive to Gorkana. Alternatively, trains on the Konkan railway stop at Gokarna Road station, 15 minutes from town, as well as Kumta and Ankola stations, both around 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Gokarna. Gokarna is also well connected by bus from major cities such as Madgaon in Goa, and Mangalore and Bangalore in Karnataka.
Gokarna experiences the southwest monsoon from June to August, following which the weather becomes dry and sunny. The best time to visit Gokarna is from October until March, when the weather is warm and pleasant with temperatures averaging 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). April and May are hot summer months, and the temperature easily reaches 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) then.
Gokarna's main attraction is its beaches, where people come to chill and soak up the sun for months at a time. As Gokarna is one of the most sacred holy towns for Hindus in south India, there are also some important temples to see. Unfortunately, they're off limits to non-Hindus but you can grab a glimpse inside. The Mahabaleshwar Temple houses a huge lingam (symbol) of Lord Shiva. Make sure you check out the huge chariots near the Ganpati Temple, which carry a Shiva idol through the streets while people throw bananas at it for good luck during the Shivaratri Festival in February/March.
Gokarna town has it's own beach that's popular with pilgrims. However, the beaches that are of most interest to tourists are located one after another a short distance away. There are four of them called Kudle Beach, Om Beach, Halfmoon Beach, and Paradise Beach. Each has its own appeal. Om Beach is the most happening beach, and is the only one that's reachable by car or rickshaw. The others are around a 20 minute hike away from each other through the hills and over rocks, or a short boat ride away. The last beach, Paradise Beach, is not much more than a tiny protected cove that's a patch of hippie paradise.
Bonfires, singing, guitars, and drums are familiar parts of Gokarna's nightlife. The party scene in holy Gokarna is kept in check by strict policing, although some beach parties do happen during the peak season. Officially, alcohol is banned because of the town's religious significance but you won't have a problem getting a cold beer on the beach.