Tuesday, April 9, 2013

GOKARNA



GOKARNA





Gokarna, meaning cow's ear in Sanskrit as the ear shape. One of the Hindu epics states that "aatmalimga" of the God Shiva is in the shape of a cow's ear in the Mahabaleshwar temple & the town gains its name as Gokarna. It is a conservative Hindu pilgrimage town, home to several temples and festivals. The town itself is full of locals and pilgrims, and doesn't have much for tourists, other than a handful of guesthouses and local restaurants. ATMs, travel shops, and shops selling tourist toiletries are available here.
The town is mostly centred around the KSRTC bus stand. About a kilometer from the bus-stand , the Gokarna beach starts , forming the coast of the town. As you trudge along the narrow lanes of the town towards the beach (the lane is named 'Samudra Marg'), you will come across houses of priests where some religious talk will be going on or people invoking the Holy Lord with chants.
Most foreign tourists come to stay on one of the 4 beaches just south of town. Kudlee Beach is the first, about a 20 minute walk, followed by Om Beach, Half Moon Beach and the secluded Paradise Beach - the beaches get more remote and less populated as you head south.
The most popular time to visit Gokarna is during the 4-day Shiva Ratri festival, when 2 giant chariots are pulled down the main street and up to 20,000 pilgrims descend on the town.


Gokarna Beach

Gokarna beach is at the edge of the town, but is less popular with foreign tourists.


Kudle Beach

South of Gokarna beach, and accessible by a short walk from the auto drop off point, this is the most developed tourist beach. The long sandy beach has ample accommodation ranging from more expensive attached rooms with balcony to cheaper huts attached to the many restaurants. During the last season (March 2013) it has unfortunately become quite dirty since a few of the restaurants bury their trash directly on the beach.


Om Beach

Om Beach is further along the coast from Kudle, and named for its shape as it is split by a rocky island. It can be reached by auto, the nearer half is dominated by the Namaste Cafe and an expensive hotel development. The second half of the beach is packed with restaurants offering cheap accomodation in the form of bamboo or concrete beach huts. Internet and travel booking are available on the beach, but there are no ATM facilities.


Half Moon Beach

Half Moon beach is smaller and less developed than Om Beach, and is reached by walking over the headland from Om. Facilities are limited, there are a couple of small restaurants and a limited number of huts.


Paradise Beach

Paradise beach is the furthest from Gokarna town, but does not offer any facilities. The lodges and restaurants have been demolished by land owners and the police visit this beach at times to evict any residents.


Get in


By train

Gokarna is connected by rail from KarwarAnkolaHubliMangaloreKumta and Margao. The Konkan Railway  passes through Gokarna - Kumta (35 km) and Ankola (20 km) are the nearest major railway stations. However, some like Matsyagandha express(Mangalore-Mumbai via Madgaon) do stopover at Gokarna. TheKarnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates buses from these places to Gokarna. Gokarna's train station is actually about 8 kilometers away from the town, taxis usually ask for around Rs 250 whereas Rickshaws should be in the Rs 120-200 range (unless you arrive at nighttime during the monsoon). If you want to save some money, just take a right at the road right in front of the train station. Once you hit the main road, there's a bus stop where you can catch a bus that will take you into Gokarna for Rs 10.


By bus

From Bangalore, depending on the day of travel, there are anywhere from 1-4 buses operating. It is a 12 hour overnight journey from Bangalore to Gokarna. the experience taking the overnight sleeper was described as "being driven in a bouncy castle driven by the wicked witch of the west" - beware. There are direct train services between Bangalore and Gokarna Road. There is a day train and a night train that stop at Gokarna. Private buses also operate to/from Hampi/Hospet. You can book online ticket to gokarna from or any one of the operator's websites. National highway 17 is about 9 km from the town. The Bangalore - Goa highway passes through Ankola which is 20 km from the town. Coming down to Kumta is good option because one can easily catch buses to different places (especially Mangalore) as it is well connected.
If arriving from Goa, you can take a local bus from Madgaon or Canacona to Karwar, then catch another bus to Gokarna.


By air

The nearest airport is in Goa at Dabolim. (Rail link via Margao)

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