Gokarna, the picturesque temple town located in the Uttara Kannada area of Karnataka is well-known for the devoted following of Lord Shiva. A completely memorable gateway, this town is popular for its amazing collection of beaches and temples. Every year, thousands of visitors drop down to Gokarna looking for a quick getaway from the rush hours of city life. As you enter the town, the cool breeze and greens all around surround you like a cozy blanket that takes you deep into nirvana.
Known as a popular centre for pilgrimage, this town is based alongside the Karvar coast with fringed lining of palm trees and the tall coconut trees that add to the existing beauty of Arabian Ocean. The town derives its association with several popular legends along with epic deities from Hindu mythology. According to a popular legend, the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva actually emerged from a cow’s ear at this place. This is why the town has been named Gokarna which loosely translates to “Cow’s Ear”.
So if you have been planning a trip to this picture perfect town, here are the popular places to visit in Gokarna.
- Top 10 Places To Visit In Gokarna
- Top 11 Things to Do in Gokarna
- 1. Dive into blue waters of Nirvana Beach
- 2. Observe the power of Goddess Durga at Bhadrakali Temple
- 3. Breathtaking view at Bada Beach
- 4. Dark adventure at the Shiva Cave
- 5. Budget Food at Namaste Café
- 6. The 150-Year-old Mahalasa Temple
- 7. Water Sports at Gokarna
- 8. View of Sahyadri Hills at Yana
- 9. Souvenirs with bargain shopping
- 10. Witness verdant greenery at Lalgulli Falls
- 11. Enjoy the beachside trekking
- How to Reach Gokarna
- Location Map
- Where to Stay in Gokarna
- Where to Eat in Gokarna
- Climate/Temperature in Gokarna
- Best Time To Visit Gokarna
- Gokarna History/Legend
- Gokarna Etymology
- Gokarna Culture
Top 10 Places To Visit In Gokarna
Gokarna is a well-curated mix of beaches and temples that is worth your visit. But do not be mistaken thinking that Gokarna is just that. The town is pretty and perfect in terms of places to visit. As a tourist, you can breathe in the luxury of the surrounding nature while enjoying peace and serenity of the beaches with the roaring sounds of the waves crashing over the rocky beaches. If you love taking pictures amidst the colorful nature and its royalty, make sure Gokarna is at the top of your list for places to visit.
1. OM BEACH
Imagine you are sitting by the beach over a high rock and the small droplets of sea water touch your face making you fresh from deep within. Did you love that idea? Did your heart suddenly swell up with the feeling of happiness and content? Well, a visit to Om Beach is just what you need. Get ready for a mesmerizing setting that takes you to another world where you can forget all your stress and relax with no thoughts, doubts, or issues blocking away your mind from grasping the beauty hidden in the nature surrounding you. This beach is one among the popular tourist attractions in Gokarna that houses a serene landscape which is perfect for the adventure junkies that love to indulge in the trill acquired from a variety of water activities.
The most fascinating feature that brings people to this place is the fact that beach is actually shaped like holy symbol “Om”. This attracts a huge population of tourists looking for a place to unwind and relax. Even though the beach has a great natural beauty when compared to several other places in the town, it is way less crowded that actually charms the tourists with a particularly rejuvenating ambience. For the folks that love holding a camera to capture natural beauty, Om Beach is the perfect locale to fill your memory bag with and a great place to test out your photography skills. When visiting Om Beach, make sure you plan the trip anywhere between October and March during the winters. Indulge in a series of water activities that include popular options such as dolphin spotting, rides with banana boat, fishing, jet skiing, bumper boat, as well as beachside trekking.
2. MAHABALESHWARA TEMPLE
If you seek the list of places to visit in Gokarna in 2 days, make sure Mahabaleshwara Temple is one from this list. With a creatively crafted brilliance that comes from the classic era of the Dravidian rule, the Mahabaleshwara Temple derives its popularity from the famous Shiva Linga which is also known as the Atma Linga. The people here worship this symbol of Lord Shiva with the tag of being “Dakshin Kashi”, a locale that is paralleled to Varanasi based Shiva Temple in terms of religious categorization. Holding a position as the prime attraction of Karnataka, this temple houses a stone carved idol of the deity Lord Shiva which is about 1500-year-old.
As you enter into the temple, the peaceful aura takes you to a memorable and long-lasting spiritual retreat that refreshes your soul from head to toe as you get closer to the almighty and his grandeur. According to a popular legend, the locals here believe that the 3-eyed deity, Lord Shiva, bestows his blessing to the devotees who simply come in for a glimpse of the creator of the world. This is not to say that the temple is just for the religious folks, if you are one among the fans of the rich local culture and art, make sure you get to the Mahabaleshwara Temple and check out this beautiful masterpiece and appreciate the effort that went into crafting it. However, make sure you refrain from visiting this temple between after 12:30 pm and before 5:00 pm, as it is closed off during these hours.
3. KUDLE BEACH
Shaped in the form of a geometrically perfect “C”, Kudle Beach ranks as one among the beautiful tourist attraction of Gokarna. The entire beach is decked with gigantic coconut trees that make it a wonderful escape for the ones who love a quiet and peaceful place all to themselves. The simplicity and sheer beauty of this beach comes as a breathtaking surprise for the regular 9 to 5 job holders who find it difficult to spare some time and indulge in the beauty of nature. Whether you seek a place for family outing or vacation, Kudle Beach is the one destination that brings you a plethora of nature’s best served as a platter to your eyes.
The beach attracts several tourists; mostly the backpackers and foreign visitors who seek leisure stroll around the beautiful beach or want to fulfill the urge for surfing or swimming. The beach is also houses an array of beach shacks as well as makeshift huts crafted from bamboo. Here the visitors can spend a night at the beach to enjoy the night view as the stars glisten in the sky with the horizon-less border of the vast sea. If you are in search of top places to visit in Gokarna, Kudle Beach is the perfect destination for a trip between the months of November and February.
4. HALF MOON BEACH
Listed among the most mesmerizing places to visit in and around Gokarna, the Half Moon Beach flaunts picturesque surroundings located away from the noise of the busy city. The beach is named after its shape which is similar to that of the half moon. Even with a beauty so gorgeous, the beach gets minimal traffic which is why one can relax here without having to worry about the unnecessary crowd. The beach glistens against the perfect blue water with sparkling clean sand around it. For someone in search of a peaceful place to unwind, Half Moon Beach serves as the perfect spot to enjoy a thrilling destination that is a few miles away from Om Beach at a trek-able distance.
When at the Half Moon Beach, make sure you enjoy by taking part at the fun activities available for you while gorging on some amazing delicacies that are available at adjoining shacks by the beach. This beach serves as the idyllic escape from city noises or traffic while you indulge in fun activities such as swimming, exploring the beach, or basking the photons of the sun above you. From the list of activities available here, you can indulge in canoeing, swimming, paddle boats, camping, paintball, as well as cabins to stay at. The best time to visit this beach is somewhere between the months of October & March.
5. PARADISE BEACH
If you ever wondered what paradise would feel like, the Paradise Beach located at Gokarna is the perfect example of heaven on our Earth. It is also known by the name “Full Moon Beach”. The beach is nestled in a location away from the hustle and bustle of civilization where you can relax and be by yourself without constant noises or presence of crowd. The ones interested for activities such as camping, picnics, or simply watching the huge waves as they crash against the big rocks, can plan a visit to this beach and indulge in a surreal experience. Swimming can be an amazing activity at this beach but beware as the ocean currents at times can be pretty strong.
One can easily drop into this beach after opting for a small trekking adventure from Half Moon Beach. You can also reach this beach via the motorboats owned by local people. This beach once used to be a popular place for weed trading given the fact that foreigners used to visit this locale very often. However, all commercial activities have been banned in here. Even the water sports have been curbed down to an all time low. However, this has a reduced the crowd resulting in access to a peaceful and serene location that allows you to loosen up. Paradise Beach ranks among the best places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka especially during the months between October & March.
6. GOKARNA BEACH
Looking for places to visit in Gokarna in 1 day? Why not drop down to the Gokarna Beach after you are done scouring through the Mahabaleshwara Temple? The Gokarna Beach acquires a major ratio of tourist visit given the fact that it is very close to the Mahabaleshwara Temple and the folks visiting this temple can easily have some fun at this beach. It ranks as Gokarna’s main beach given its huge popularity among the visitors.
When visiting Mahabaleshwara Temple, the locals here consider it a holy blessing to opt for a dip into the water before entering the temple followed by worshipping Lord Shiva. The beach is the perfect example of nature nestled amidst civilization where one can spend quality time with friends and family. If you are search for the places to stay near Gokarna Beach, make sure you book a room at the stunningly decorated beach stays in the surrounding area where you can have a great view of the Arabian Sea. The best time to pay a visit to this beach is around Shivaratri when the lights dazzle up the area with festive splendor.
7. MIRJAN FORT
Mirjan Fort holds a special position when it comes to the important places to visit in Gokarna. The fort stands along the hypnotizing banks of the Aghanashini River. This particular fort houses a rich history that stems all the way from 16th century. The fort is believed to have been build under Queen Chennabharadevi’s patronage.
She was known as India’s “Pepper Queen”, given the fact that this fort used to serve as the central location for spice trade that was captured later on by British to be used as armory. The fort houses some intriguing collection of artifacts such as clay tablets, Chinese Porcelain, gold coins, etc. All these artifacts belonged to the Portuguese Viceroy named Conde De Sarzedas which was later on excavated by the ASI in the year 2001.
8. MAHA GANPATI TEMPLE
If legendary stories and places associated with them are something that attracts you, make sure you get to the Maha Ganpati Temple which is a popular attraction for the pilgrims. Located in close to the renowned Mahabaleshwar Temple, this one is dedicated to the Hindu Deity Lord Ganesha. This temple flaunts a picturesque depiction of spiritual ambience that accentuates the temple’s beauty.
As per a renowned local legend, Lord Ganesha tricked the ruler of ancient Sri Lanka, Ravana into dropping the Shiva Lingam in this place which led to the construction of this temple. Of all places to visit in Gokarna, this serene location is frequented by people that seek blessings of the Lord Ganesha while taking a peek at the marvelous architecture of the temple. It’s an amazing locale for history buffs who have certain degree of appreciation for Dravidian architecture.
9. KOTI TIRTHA
One among the highly sacred places, the Koti Tirtha of Gokarna in Karnataka is actually a renowned man-made water tank that is mostly frequented by tourists as well as the locals in the area. The tank is surrounded by some beautiful temples and the water here is used for the ritualistic bathing purpose as well as immersion of idols.
According to a legend well-known in Gokarna, the Koti Tirtha was actually believed to serve as the origin point for thousands of springs. The Koti Tirtha is particularly close to renowned Mahabaleshwara Temple, thereby attracting several visitors who perform ancient rituals in the area while paying respect to their ancestors. So if you seek religious rendezvous, Koti Tirtha should be the place you need to visit at least once in a lifetime.
10. Café 1987
Gokarna tourism isn’t just about the beaches and temples, it also about the amazing food in the area. Among the cool cafes in Gokarna, the Café 1987 is the one with particularly wonderful ambience as well as amazing food that lingers on your taste buds for long. It is also one among the cafes in Gokarna, that comes with the opportunity to indulge in good and tasty breakfast when out with family and friends.
You can also get amazing South Indian cuisines with that authentic aroma that fills the room as you take a bite out of your order. The café is popular for its pleasing vibes and awesome décor. So, if planning to host a surprise birthday party in Gokarna, you need to plan the same at Café 1987.
Now that you know what the popular places to visit at Gokarna are, let’s expand more on this town and its whereabouts.
Top 11 Things to Do in Gokarna
Apart from visiting the above mentioned places, here is a list of things that you can do when at Gokarna.
1. Dive into blue waters of Nirvana Beach
If you are in search of an offbeat place in Gokarna, a visit to the Nirvana Beach is a must. A trip to Nirvana Beach is one among the popular itinerary to be added to your things to do in Gokarna. This beach decked with the amazing blue colored water is located in a secluded locale with the hustle and bustle of humans far-far away from this place.
If a peaceful beach time is what you require, the Nirvana Beach eminently serves the purpose of bringing you such comfort. The waters here are cool with a refreshing touch every time you dive inside. The most mesmerizing feature that makes it a sure visit is the fact that the beach is stretched out along a beautiful area that can be a captivating delight for the ones looking for a great sunrise and the rustic sunset. The beautiful and tranquil setting serves as an amazing place to have some fun and indulge in crazy things to do in Gokarna.
2. Observe the power of Goddess Durga at Bhadrakali Temple
If you have run out of things to do at Gokarna, let us add one more option for you. The Bhadrakali Temple is actually dedicated to the Goddess Uma, the prime deity of this pilgrimage centre. When looking for list of things to do in Gokarna, plan a visit to this legendary temple that houses an array of stories associated with the power of the Hindu deity. According to the legend that is spoken by every mouth in this town, a demon named Vetrasur had seized control over 3 lokas.
In order to defeat him, the trinity comprised of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and the 3-eyed Lord Shiva went on to create the female warrior named Durge. Goddess Durge was blessed with several powers bestowed by these gods in order to defeat this demon. Post winning the battle, she was re-christened by Lord Shiva as Bhadrakali. She is also believed to be Gokarna’s protector.
3. Breathtaking view at Bada Beach
A trip to the Bada Beach is one of the best things to do in Gokarna. It is said to be one among the cleanest locales in the town of Gokarna. It houses a captivating landscape with the beautiful roaring sea as the background. This beach can easily be reached as you opt for an exciting trekking trip to the beach coming all the way from Kirki to the town, Gokarna.
With hills located on either side, this beach offers quite a refreshing halt to the ever-speeding lifestyle. The best time to get to this place is during the months that start from November all the way to February which mostly comprises of the winters.
4. Dark adventure at the Shiva Cave
If you are an adventure junkie, there are several fun things to do in Gokarna. The Shiva Cave brings to you access to a dark long cave with fascinating history behind the same. Although this cave isn’t as popular as other places in the town, it is actually something that might attract your attention. The cave is comprised of the holy Shiva Lingam that requires you to trail inside the cave for a distance in order to get to the holy site.
The interiors are dark which is why the tourists need to carry torch with them to illuminate the pathway. Don’t be surprised if you encounter any bats in the way as the cave is home to several species of bats dominating the area. Even the surroundings outside this cave are amazingly beautiful. It is said that a visit to this Shiva Lingam is known to grant all the wishes when prayed by the purest of hearts.
5. Budget Food at Namaste Café
There are endless things to do in Gokarna, Karnataka. So if you are tired and hungry from your fun and frolic at the Om Beach, make sure you visit the Namaste Café which ranks among one of the popular places to eat when at Gokarna. This restaurant provides two things that will surely attract you. The first being a spectacular beach view and the second being an amazing collection of delicacies that comes at affordable prices.
Won’t you love eating a scrumptious plate of delicious meal while watching the waves unfold as they reach the beach? Whether you love a quite walk in order to feel the beach sands or need a place to relax and bring back your energy, Namaste Café can be one among the places to be. This serene locale offers multiple stay options, so just pick one of your choices without burning holes in your pocket. Not just that, the café brings you a collection of the most exotic dishes that get you into a happening mood as you play around with your pals.
6. The 150-Year-old Mahalasa Temple
Gokarna’s Mahalasa Temple ranks among the holiest temple in the area which is something you shouldn’t miss when planning on indulging in things to do in and around Gokarna. Also known by the name Shri Mahalasa Siddhivinayaka Temple, this holy place of worship was actually built way back in the past which is somewhere around 150-years-prior today.
This was when the idol of Lord Shri Siddhivinayak was actually installed in this temple. If you are looking for important things to do in Gokarna during festive seasons, you can drop in during popular festivals such as Shravana Sankashti, Ashwin Shashti, and Ganesh Chaturthi to experience pomp and grandeur of the best kind.
7. Water Sports at Gokarna
This laid-back town houses idyllic beaches with pristine waters that allow the travelers to seek the most peaceful vacation especially when it comes to water sports. Even with its proximity to Goa, the town doesn’t commercialize its water sport to an extent that is similar to the party destination of India.
Nevertheless, you can indulge in a myriad of water sports such as the parasailing, jet-skiing, and banana-boat ride. Seeking some things to do in Gokarna Beach, make sure you invest some time in these popular water sports. If you want to learn the basics of water sports, make sure you get some training from professional surfers at the local schools especially for surfing activities.
8. View of Sahyadri Hills at Yana
Placed amidst the country’s richest biodiversity, Yana is actually a mini hill station that is a thing of immense beauty. This place ranks among the top things to do in Gokarna. The thick greenery and peaceful surroundings cast an amazing spell over the trekking enthusiasts. It is located at a distance of 140 kilometer from Hubli. The Yana is surrounded by the Sahyadri Hills at North Karnataka. Blessed with an ever-enchanting freshness and greenery of Western Ghats, this hill station is actually pretty famous for two gigantic limestone monoliths that attract the pilgrims from all over the country.
The Mohini Peak and Bhairaveshwara Peak at Yana are actually said to flaunt religious importance while representing Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva respectively. Deck with religious relevance, this locale is also perfect spot for the trekkers and bird watchers. A trekking pathway involves a steep and long pathway of 3 kilometers length going all the way to these twin peaks. Yana village is the perfect symbolic representation of rustic rural India with the muddy roads, laid-back lifestyle, and huts that look somewhat like mushrooms.
9. Souvenirs with bargain shopping
Shopping is something that adds to the fun of visiting a new place with new things to bring back home and the local specialties. A shopping trip at this town is one among the famous things to do in Gokarna. As you scour through the pilgrimage sites at Gokarna, you will come across several shops that sell out delightful objects and local specialties at prices that make your shopping experience all the more special.
When shopping at the streets of Gokarna, make sure you get home some souvenirs such as prayer beads, brass lamps, picture of gods & goddesses in picture frames, incense sticks, idols, and several such religious items. Not just this, when shopping at Gokarna, you can also get yourself decorative items, seashell jewelries, and several other things that can easily be found at a beach-side town. Oh, and don’t forget the Kallusakkare. It is a sweet sugar based candy that comes with a particularly refreshing taste. It is a must when you visit this picturesque town.
10. Witness verdant greenery at Lalgulli Falls
Love the way the water falls over the rocky bottom from a great height? Why not witness the exuberant scenario at the Lalgulli Falls? This waterfall ranks among the most frequented tourist location for the nature lovers. This mind-captivating creation by nature is the perfect snap of peaceful backdrop and picturesque ambience. If you are looking for things to do in Gokarna during monsoon, make sure a visit to this place is one among those tasks. This is because the waterfall doubles in the amount of water as it falls down from up above. Have a memorable picnic amidst the greens with your family or friends.
You can also take part in the collection of thrilling adventure activities such as river rafting, trekking, and many other adrenalin boosting water sports organized at the River Kali. Lalgulli Falls is the perfect example of perfection with virgin nature and beautiful birds chirping all around you as you trek your way towards this waterfall. If you are a photography enthusiast or someone who loves bird watching as hobby, the Lalgulli Falls is the right place to do just what you want. Also, the tourist visiting this waterfall can spare some time to visit the Hanuman Temple located near this hill.
11. Enjoy the beachside trekking
As you come out from the greens, experience the open waters when trekking at the beaches of Gokarna. The pristine beaches are so mesmerizing that the long treks would seem too easy to cover as you seep-in the beauty that surrounds you while being guided by the local qualified instructor.
Trekking at these beaches in Gokarna brings enormous joy as you get to learn more and more about the town and the history behind each locale. Your journey through a cover of dense and lush tropical forest will surely add to your collection of memories to last forever.
How to Reach Gokarna
If you are opting for airways, you can reach Gokarna by booking a flight from your city to the Dabolim Airport located in Goa. As you reach Dabolim, opt for a bus, taxi, or train that will take you to Gokarna. Dabolim Airport is at a distance of 106 kilometers from Gokarna.
Gokarna is also well-connected with major roadways to close by cities. You can get a direct bus from nearby cities such as Mangalore, Bangalore, and Goa. One can also opt for buses that run directly from Delhi all the way to Gokarna.
Gokarna Road Railway Station is the closest to Gokarna which is located at 8 kilometers distance. The next closest station is the Ankola Railway Station which can be found at 20 kilometer distance from Gokarna.
Where to Stay in Gokarna
Gokarna being a popular holiday destination attracts people from all over and houses an array of options for one to stay. If you need the Gokarna beach view, there are multiple resorts and hotels to make your stay all the more beautiful. You can pick from popular hotels and resorts such as Gokarna Kudle Beach View, Om Beach Resort, Sanskruti Resort, Namaste Café, SwaSwara Resort, Suragi Homestay, and many others.
Where to Eat in Gokarna
Whether you want something to eat when dining with a sea view or a place known for the local delicacies, Gokarna has it all. You can indulge in quality food served at restaurants and Gokarna shacks such as Namaste Café, Café 1987, Chez Christophe, Mantra Café Gokarna, Pai Restaurant, White Elephant Restaurant, etc.
Climate/Temperature in Gokarna
Given the fact that the town is located by the Arabian Sea, Gokarna weather throughout the year doesn’t vary majorly as seen in the cities or towns far from sea areas. Gokarna temperature varies between the marks of 18 degree Celsius in the winters ranging all the way to 40 degree Celsius during the summers. The town is mostly hot & humid due to ample moisture content in the area.
Best Time To Visit Gokarna
The best time to visit this town is during the winter months when the temperatures are amazing to roam around and explore the town properly. So make sure you plan your trip between the months that start from October all the way to March.
The history of Gokarna town goes as back as the Tretayuga when the demon Ravana reached Kailasa Mountain to perform a rigorous penance in order to extract “Atma Linga” with his prayers to Lord Shiva. After years of penance, the lord finally granted his wish but warned him that the same should be carried by him as he walks all the way to home. Atma Linga should never be kept on the ground during the journey else it would be eternally embedded in the very same location. Lord Vishnu knew that Ravana would use this Linga for bad purpose which is why he conceived a plan with Lord Ganesha to trick Ravana at Gokarna.
As a religious person, Ravana wanted to perform his daily rites but needed someone to hold the Linga. This is when Lord Ganesha came in the form of Brahmin boy and offered to help Ravana. However, he told that he will only hold this Linga as long as the weight is bearable. After it becomes too much to handle, he shall call upon Ravana 3 times and failing that he would drop the linga on ground. Now after keeping the Linga for a long time, Ganapati called upon the king of Lanka but he couldn’t listen to his voice. Now failing to hold onto the Linga, Ganapati placed the powerful object there itself. Ravana immediately knew he was tricked and tried to lift the Linga but failed to do so. Today, that same Atma Linga is a part of the Mahabaleshwara Temple which is the main Gokarna temple attracting millions of visitors all year long.
As defined by Mr. Akbarli, Gokarna is actually the perfect combination of the best of Karnataka and Goa mixed together in proper proportions. This town is actually located by the border shared by Goa with Karnataka. Gokarna is Sanskrit word for Cow’s ear. The locals here believe that Hindu deity named Lord Shiva who is known for having 3 eyes and resides at the Kailasha Mountain, emerged at Gokarna from a cow’s ear and hence the name of this town. This ear-shaped confluence can be found between two rivers named Aghanashini and Gangavali. Not just that, this town finds mentions in the holy book Shrimad Bhagavata Purana where it has been stated that this town used to be the home of Gokarna and Dhundhakari who were brothers.
Gokarna is actually famous for its collection of temples as well as its reputation for being an amazing holiday destination. The town is decked with banana, coconut, and similar trees in the area with seas as blue as the sky and sand beaches that are very clean. This laid-back town flaunts two major streets that are lined with a collection of traditional brick houses with tile-roofs and several shops for daily needs. Most of the beaches at Gokarna consist of shacks available at rent. The prime language spoken in this town is Kannada while English and Konkani are also among the top languages spoken in this region. The town celebrates community festivals such as Kartika mahotsava, Mahashivaratri, and Suggi Habba (Halakki Vakkaligas’ Prime Cultural Festival).
Gokarna, a gem decked in the collection of tourist places the state of Karnataka houses, has its very own rustic, wild and an untarnished charm. Even with the tag of a small town, it successfully attracts several visitors all throughout the year. Whether you are looking forward to the Gokarna Om Beach or the Gokarna Paradise Beach, this town will never disappoint you with the laid-back hotspots and its collection of famous pilgrimage sites.