For last few years Goa has been our go to destination for Christmas and New year celebration. But this Christmas we wanted to go somewhere else, a place with equally beautiful beaches and hippie vibes but lesser crowd. So we took out our weapons (cell phones) and started searching and stumbled upon Gokarna! Again thanks to our Instafam for showing us the way!
TBH we were little skeptical about the whole scene and how good the beaches would be, but after coming from a four day trip all we can say that Gokarna has it all! From calm beaches to mesmerizing temples and from mysterious caves to busy streets it has right mix of spirituality, scenic beauty and cool vibes.
If you have not been to Gokarna yet, plan it right away before the commercialisation turns this place into another tourist hub. We are going to help you with full itinerary , how to reach, stay options, beaches, other places to see etc. Let’s start with basics!
Gokarna is a small quaint town in Karnataka famous for its temples. It is famous for Mahabaleshwar temple which is believed to house original image of Lord Shiva’s Linga (Atmalinga). Also, Gokarna means cow’s ear. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow (the Mother Earth) here. It is at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini.
However, in last decade the place has emerged as hot destination for tourists worldwide for its serene unspoiled beaches and spiritual yet cool vibes. Mainly foreign travellers and youngsters have started travelling this place to get a mix of Hrishikesh and Goa, best of both worlds right?
How to reach?
The most economical way to reach Gokarna is via train. The nearest railway station is Gokarna road (6k.m), Many important trains like Matsyagandha Express, KSR Bengaluru Karwar Express, Poorna Express, Marusagar Express and Mangalore Local halt here. The other nearby railway stations are Ankola (26k.m), Kumta (30k.m) or Karwar(59k.m).
Gokarna can also be reached by buses run by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) from cities like Panaji, Bengaluru and Mangalore.
Budget Stay options
There are plenty of economical stay options available in Gokarna. You can find a stay in hostels like Zostel, or stay in shacks on beaches, or camp in your tent at beaches sp. Paradise beach. We stayed in Hostelavie right next to Zostel and it costed us 300 per night for one bed in mixed dormitory. The rooms were clean and the hostel location was good onlooking Gokarna beach. It has an inhouse café named Ocean Pearl, which serves delicious meals at low prices. You can book budget stays from booking.com
We boarded Marusagar express from Panvel at 5 a.m in morning and reached Gokarna station by 3 p.m., we contacted our hostel representative to guide us. He asked us to board a bus from main road for Gokarna bus depot from there its just 1 k.m walk. We took an auto to reach main road which charged us Rs 50, the distance was hardly one k.m.and if you have time and energy you can walk till main road to catch a bus (private or Government). We boarded a mini private bus, which charged 20 bucks per head. From Gokarna bus depot it took us 20 minutes to reach our hostel. We checked in and got freshen up. The hosteLavie is quite good for such low prices in peak season, the rooms are tidy, the washrooms are clean. We had snacks at hostel café only and left for Kudle beach to watch sunset.
Sunset at Kudle beach
Kudle beach was hardly 1k.m from our stay, as we approached beach we could see many yoga centres and cafes around.
While in Gokarna you can also indulge in Yoga sessions, we saw several yoga centres beside beaches, that looked too enticing but as we were for short span we sticked to exploring outer world instead of inner peace 😉
As we walked down to the beach we could see a beautiful far stretched beach with hills on either sides.
A clean beach with lots of shacks and cafes to sit and watch sunset while sipping beer and only beer, yes hard drinks are not served in Gokarna well in most of the places. We took out our Bob Marley printed bedsheet and sat to watch sun going down.
By the night, foreigners set up a small flea market by the beach selling dream catchers, anklets, paintings etc., again quite expensive if you ask me.
We went to Café Nistara, a small café beside beach to have some booze and snacks, the staff were courteous and service was quite good. Around 10 we left for our hostel and crashed straight away.
We woke up early to click some sunrise pictures before we start our day’s plan for beach trek, Photographers and Instagrammers will understand the grind;)
There’s a beautiful view of Gokarna beach from our hostel , the only struggle was to find a way to the beach. We eventually found the way down to Gokarna beach and reached in half an hour.
It’s the main beach in city, right next to Mahabaleshwar temple. It is mainly visited by locals and pilgrims for religious practices. It has main market beside it where you can go shop but shopping in Gokarna is something we will not recommend, we will come to this topic later in the next heading. Anyways, you can totally skip this beach if you don’t have much time in hand.
Shopping at main market
The main market beside Gokarna beach has several shops which have a nice collection of souvenirs, clothing, bags, antiques etc., but prices are on costlier side, try to bargain as much as you can. We bought a fanny bag(250Rs), harem pants(400Rs) , crochet top(300Rs.), earrings(100Rs) etc.
We also went to Mahabaleshwar temple just to have a look and it was very crowded, there were hundreds of people in line waiting to see the deity.
While I am religious in nature Paresh never like going to temple or any religious activities, and if it will take hours to see idol he is out in seconds. There was a notice reading ‘Foreigners are not allowed!’ and just when we got to know that people wearing clothes above knee are not allowed we came out.
It was around 10 a.m when we decided to head back to hostel for breakfast, as we could not find any nice café in main market. But as we were too hungry we stopped few metres away from our hostel to have breakfast in the hunger’s hut, which was good.
We took bath and got ready for much sought beach trek. While you can rent a bike or hire an auto /cab for beach hopping but it is beach trek which we recommend to do while in Gokarna. We explored four beaches on foot namely Kudle beach, Om beach, Half moon beach and Paradise beach. It took us full day and lots of effort since one has to walk around 10 k.m from one beach to another but its totally worth it. Read the full details of beach trek here: Gokarna Beach trek: All you need to know! 🙂
After an exhausting day we returned back to our hostel and hogged over egg curry and rice from hostel café. Paresh was bowled over the taste so much so that he asked for extra curry and repeated the same order other days also :/
On the third day we rented an bike from local renting company( Aryadurga Bike Rental) to explore nearby famous places. As it was peak season in December, the prices were high for scooty it was 700 Rs for 24hrs whereas for bullet it was 1100 Rs. We took thunderbird as we had to travel for distant places and thank God we did! Our plan was to cover Yana caves, Vibhuti falls, Mirjan fort and Murudeshwar temple on a single day. But we somewhere knew it will not be possible as we take our time to explore places. Moreover Murudeshwar and Yana caves are in two different direction, if you are planning to cover everything in one day, start early!
So we only covered Yana caves and Vibhuti falls on third day. While we were not so much impressed with Yana caves we totally loved Vibhuti falls. Read about our bike trip experience in upcoming blog!
We returned back to Gokarna by 6 p.m and went to Kudle beach, this time our plan was to watch starry nights beside beach. We had dinner in a shack , spread our sheets beside sea and stayed back for good two hours listening to sound of waves crashing and watching stars in sky.
We returned back to our hostel but something was not feeling right, we were regretting as we could not make to Murudeshwar temple, many of our friends suggested to visit it. We had to return our bike by 10.30 next morning and had to catch train for Mumbai in evening. That’s when we decided to wake up early morning at 5 and visit Murudeshwar , we had a clock ticking in our mind and we slept with the plan to execute it next morning.
We woke up early and left for Murudeshwar temple in pitch dark. Our plan was to drive 80K.m. to see Murudeshwara temple and come back by 10:30 a.m to return rented bike on time which we executed successfully.
After returning the bike we checked out from hostel and kept our bag on reception, for breakfast we went to Mantra café which is quite famous and is in Zostel. Everything was super pricey except desert which we loved sp. Honey cake. We ordered some Mexican burger and cocktails, the cocktails were so bad that we left midway.
We had few hours in hand so we went back to hostel, changed clothes and went first to a cliff beside our stay which Paresh found on yesterday’s morning. The view from cliff was mesmerising, even from hill we could hear the sound of waves crashing on rock. We clicked few pictures for our Instagram and trekked down to Gokarna beach.
For the rest of the day we explored main market area and streets. Talking about the streets! We loved the streets of Gokarna, the quirky murals, the rustic vibe we totally enjoyed wandering aimlessly in to narrow lanes of the town.
We went back to hostel only to have egg curry and rice for the last time :)
The Gokarna trip was done under 5K for three nights, inclusive of everything for two person(except train fare). If you liked our blog or have any query/ advice, drop a comment below. Also do not forget to subscribe to our blogs for more travel stories. Here’s leaving you with Gokarna vlog!
Happy Travelling 🙂