“One of the seven Hindu pilgrimages of India”.
Where is Gokarna?
The town of Gokarna is on the western coast of India in the state of Karnataka. Laying between the Gangavali and Agnashini rivers on the coast of the Arabian Sea.
The town is home to many temples, which is why it is one of the seven Hindu pilgrim centres of India. Large numbers of devotees visit to offer prayers and worship Lord Shiva. The main temple houses what is believed to be the original image of Lord Shiva’s linga (Atmalinga).
The laid-back, unspoiled, and rustic nature of Gokarna has made it an appealing place for western tourists to visit.
Beaches around Gokarna were deserted until the tourists started coming. Now there are shops, restaurants, and resorts to cater to the influx of tourists.
From Goa to Gokarna was by local buses.
Our intention was to make our way straight from Gokarna town out to OM beach, where we wanted to stay. A tuk-tuk was the easiest way, costing 150 Rupees. Once at OM beach, we were a little disappointed with the accommodation on offer.
Directed by a beach vendor to Shantidham cafe, luckily had chalets to rent. We were fortunate to get the last one. Set up on the cliff, this place has wonderful commanding views over the Arabian Sea and along the coastline.
A small quiet place with 6 individual basic chalets in the shade of pine trees. Each with a private balcony and ensuite bathroom. No air conditioning, only a ceiling fan, and mosquito net. This is a perfect place to escape where the only noise is the sound of crashing waves and wildlife.
The restaurant offers good evening meals and breakfast. Wifi is available, but we could only get it in the restaurant and not in our chalet. If you want to walk back to Om beach for an evening meal, you will require a torch as the path is not lit.
In the morning we were woken by the sound of the monkeys chattering as they made their way through the trees that surrounded the chalet. There was an almighty thud, as one of the monkeys, leaped from a tree onto the tin roof of the chalet, it sounded like an elephant had landed on there making us both jump out of our skin.
Places of interest
Making our way back into Gokarna, we hired a scooter for the day at 300 Rupees. This allowed us the flexibility to fully explore the coastline and surrounding areas around Gokarna.
Accessible only on foot, a 20-minute hike down a rugged mountain trail, shoes recommended. The trail start point is at Belekan beach. There are boats that can be taken to Paradise beach from here. They will want to wait for as many passengers as possible before departing. This can mean a lengthy wait.
The beach is sandy and there are some rocks. The sea was quite rough, making it fun. We would advise that this beach is not suitable for non or weak swimmers. There are no facilities at this beach.
Again, only accessible on foot. A 300m walk down a concrete pathway with steps. This path can be easily done in flip flops. A long flat sandy beach, with plenty of restaurants and bars along the back of the beach. Watching a beautiful sunset here before returning back to our chalet.
The beach comprises several gorgeous coves. Perfect for sunbathing and swimming. There’s fine swimming most of the season when the sea’s not choppy, though signs ban it during the monsoon season. Plenty of cafes, restaurants, together with beach shack accommodation along the beach.
This granite temple contains the Atmalinga enshrined on a square pedestal. The pedestal has a small hole at its centre so devotees can see the top of the Atmalinga.
The deity, a carved stone image of Lord Shiva, is seen in a standing position with two arms. The stone image is said to be 1500 years old. Foreigners, including practicing Hindus of non-Indian origin are not allowed to enter the sanctum and see the Shivalinga.