Tourist’s guide to Gokarna – the sacred village of India

Gokarna, India – a sacred village, which is not only a popular tourist destination, but also the most important center of the Hindu pilgrimage. There are no bars, discos, nightclubs, parties and various entertainment. Instead, you will find picturesque beaches, unusual Indian temples and a special atmosphere that attracts lovers of a truly wild holiday.

View of Gokarna Beach

What is it and is it worth going here?

Gokarna, whose name translates as “cow’s ear,” is a small settlement located in the state of Karnataka (southwestern part of India). It is believed that it was here from the ear of the goddess Prithia, who took the form of a cow, Shiva, one of the gods of the triad, was born. The temple of Mahabaleshwar is dedicated to him, which is the main religious attraction of this place and gathers hundreds of pilgrims from around the world at its walls.

In addition, in the vicinity of Gokarna, you can find many other interesting objects. One of them is the temple of Maha Ganapati, built in honor of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and prosperity. Everyone can get inside – both local and newcomer. At the same time, for a small donation, you will be offered to try prasada (blessed food), put tilak on the forehead (a special mark), give a colored garland and even be allowed to ring the bell.

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An equally important attraction of Gokarna is the sacred lake Kotitirta, which is popularly called the Lesser Ganges. They say that the water for him was taken from this river. Local residents so strongly believe in the divine origin of this reservoir that they use it not only for ritual baths and farewells to deceased relatives, but also for washing clothes. On the bank of Kotitirthi are small signs warning about the presence of crocodiles here. True, they have not been seen live for many years. But here one of the deepest earth cracks is really there – Indians believe that it symbolizes the ear of the planet.

Kotitirta Lake
Kotitirta Lake

Among the cult places of Gokarna in India is also the Shiva Kave cave, the origin of which is also connected with the name of the deity already known to you. Foreigners are not allowed to enter this small stone structure, but no one is looking at their passport, so you can easily get lost in the crowd of Hindu pilgrims if you wish. According to old beliefs, everyone who descends into this cave will experience harmony and grace. Just remember to bring a flashlight with you, otherwise you just won’t see anything. By the way, one of the parts of Shiva Kave remained unexplored. In this regard, scientists can not decide exactly where it goes – either to the Indian Ocean, or directly to the Himalayas.

The Shiva Myth
The Shiva Myth

If believers go to Gokarna to touch the shrines, then ordinary tourists – to have a good rest. This is facilitated not only by good beaches and a relaxed atmosphere, but also by pleasant prices (many times lower than in Goa). In addition, several Hindu holidays and festivals are held here, the main of which is the Great Night of Shiva or Maha Shivaratri. On the eve of this celebration, the Indians fast, wash, dress in white clothes and go to the temple to read mantras, burn incense and conduct ritual ceremonies. The scale of this holiday is really amazing. In addition to the pilgrims who come to Gokarna from all over India, numerous tourists rush here, wishing to get to Shaivist temples on completely legal grounds (on this day they are open to everyone). Due to the large concentration of people, it is worth booking accommodation in advance.

On a note! Maha Shivaratri does not have a clearly defined date. In 2019, it is held from March 4 to 5, in 2020 – from February 21 to 22, in 2021 – from March 11 to 12, in 2022 – from March 1 to 2, in 2023 – from February 18 to 19.

Shiva Temple

Among the many religious attractions of Gokarna in India, a special place is occupied by the Shiva Temple, the main Shaivist sanctuary, whose age is more than 1.5 thousand years. According to legend, it is here that the oldest Shiva lingam is stored, a stone pillar with a rounded top, symbolizing the genital organ of the supreme Hindu deity. Connoisseurs of Indian mythology claim that the masculine dignity of Shiva, personifying his strength and unlimited power, was stolen by King Ravana. But the divine phallus did not remain in his possession for long – while Ravana indulged in meditation, the god Ganesha took possession of the body, who inadvertently dropped it to the ground. The Lingam was immediately filled with the weight of three worlds and took root forever, so neither Ravana, nor anyone else could move him. Here on Gokarna Beach Road, he still stands.

Shiva Temple

Numerous pilgrims who come to the Mahabaleswara Temple believe that the Shiva lings are able to take away sins and empower everyone who touches him with divine power. True, a meeting with a shrine requires special preparation – you need to observe fasting, bathe in the sea or Lake Kotitirtha and even shave your head. But you should not rush into the salon, because only Hindus can look at the lings of God.

Beaches

Gokarna is famous not only for its unique sights, but also for its excellent sandy beaches, located within walking distance from the village.

Cumley

One of the most popular beaches of Gokarna is located in a small but very beautiful bay surrounded by hills of volcanic origin. It is the closest to the village (about 6 km), so most visitors stop here. The coastline is about 800 m long. The entry into the water is smooth, the sand is soft, dark yellow. During low tide, the beach area almost doubles.

Cudley Beach

Coodley himself is pretty clean. There are no sunbeds and umbrellas – grab the bedspreads. There is little natural shadow, but you can always hide in one of the coastal cafes. The audience here is quite versatile – from freaks and hippies to professional yogis and homegrown philosophers. Despite this, it becomes absolutely quiet in the evenings – there are no discos and spectacular entertainments here.

It should also be noted that a not very convenient road leads to Kudle Beach. It will not work to get there by bike or taxi – first you need to climb a rather steep hill (there is a stone path), and then go down. Depending on the physical preparation, the path to the coast will take from 15 to 25 minutes.

Ohm

Om Beach, named after its resemblance to the sacred Hindu symbol, consists of two bays separated by a small stone ridge. Unlike others, it’s quite not crowded. The only exceptions are those periods when organized tourist groups are brought here.

Om Beach

Thanks to capes protruding into the sea and weak surf, the water at Om Beach is cleaner, warmer and calm. Like other beaches of Gokarna, there are several cafes, guesthouses and bungalows. Among the obvious minuses can be noted the rocky bottom and a huge number of street vendors, known for their obsession. Access to Omu is provided by a dirt road ending with a barrier (15 cents with a car). A small staircase leads to the coastline itself, in front of which a sign with a life-affirming inscription is installed.

Paradise

A small cozy beach that attracts pristine nature and the absence of any infrastructure (with the exception of a couple of cafes, beach houses and fruit shops). An ideal place for those who prefer to relax “savages” and do not count on the availability of comfortable hotels. The natural shadow here is provided by dense palm thickets growing in the neighborhood of spruce, pine, fir and other coniferous trees.

Paradise Beach

The main attraction of Paradise is the bay with dolphins, and the main entertainment is traditional Indian parties. Especially fun on the full moon night – arriving here at this time, you can get on a real coven. And here it is allowed to sunbathe topless – just go to a small lagoon located to the left of the entrance.

You can get to Paradise Beach by boat or bus. In the latter case, you should take the Gokarna bus, get to the final stop and get through the jungle (it is better to take a guide).

Gokarna main beach

Gokarna Beach is at the end of the central village street. European tourists almost do not look here – a lot of garbage, dogs, sellers and beggars. In addition, it is here that local residents rest, who, as you know, swim right in their clothes. But if you still decide to opt for this beach, go to its northern part – there are much fewer people there, and the water is warmer and cleaner.

Main beach

Housing

If you are planning to visit the sights of Gokarna in India for more than one day, take care of your stay. You have a small choice – a hotel, a bungalow under a palm tree or a small guesthouse. Housing by the sea is more expensive by 20-30%, so most tourists prefer to stay in the village, especially since the distances here are small, and the coast of the Arabian Sea can be reached not only on foot, but also on a rickshaw ($ 1.5).

The main part of the options is represented by houses of local residents who rent empty rooms to pilgrims and tourists. Usually it is very clean and comfortable enough. A bathroom and all amenities are located inside. In addition, this is a great opportunity to learn the life of Gokarna from a completely different perspective.

Guest house in Gokarna

As for beach bungalows, it can be either small bamboo huts with a street toilet, or spacious concrete houses, which have everything for a comfortable stay (fan, shower, etc.).

If we talk about prices that are valid in the high season, living in a 3 * hotel double room will cost $ 30-40 per day, while renting a guesthouse will cost from $ 12 to $ 20.

On a note! When choosing the cheapest accommodation options, be prepared for a regular power outage (usually every evening).

Where to eat

There are not so many catering establishments in Gokarna, while they are concentrated not on the coast, but in the village itself. Most local cafes (here they are called dhabbas) are designed for vegetarians, but they cook very tasty. A comprehensive lunch of 2-3 dishes and a drink will cost $ 1.5-2 per person. A few beach establishments are represented by small cafes offering dishes of European and Indian cuisine. Prices here are much higher – the same lunch or dinner will delay $ 4-4.5. Separately, it is worth highlighting the Italian pizzerias located along the entire coastline of Cudley Beach. A large pizza, which is enough for two, costs about $ 3. But with alcohol in Gokarna is very difficult. The maximum you can count on is expensive beer from under the floor.

Cafe in Gokarna

How to get from Goa?

There are several ways to get from Goa to the main attractions of Gokarna (India). Let’s consider each of them.

Method 1. By bus

There is no direct communication between these points, so you have to go with transfers. If you are in North Goa, the route will look like this: Arambol – Mapusa – Panaji – Margao – Karwar – Ankola – Gokarna. It’s better to leave early in the morning. The journey takes at least 4 hours. One way travel will cost $ 3-4.

Bus in Gokarna

On a note! In addition to public transport to Bus Main Stand, the main bus station, there are KSRTC sightseeing buses and a 24-hour shuttle owned by private Indian carriers (Sugama, RedBus, Vijayanand Roadlines, Sea Bird, etc.).

Method 2. By train

To get to the Gokarna railway station, you can take one of the direct trains from Margao. The first leaves at 12:00, the second at 14:30. The road, depending on the route, takes 1.5-2 hours. A ticket costs a little less than $ 3. Another option is to take the train to Mangalore, Cochin, Kumta or Ankola, and then get to your destination by rickshaw or regional bus.

On a note! Gokarna Road Station is located outside the village – from there you can leave by bus or taxi.

Method 3. On a bike or car
Bike in goa

If you are planning to rent a scooter, bike or car, remember that in India there is left-hand traffic, and sacred Indian cows go on the road every now and then. It should also be noted that the roads in Karnataka are even worse than in Goa, so a bike ride can take all daylight hours. Motorcycle rental costs between $ 4 and $ 6. A car is a little more expensive – $ 15-17.

On a note! When processing documents at the rental points, give preference to those modes of transport on which yellow numbers are installed (yellow inscriptions on a black background). They indicate that this vehicle can be rented out. But cars and bikes with white numbers are intended only for private use. If you go sightseeing in one of them, you will be fined immediately. At the same time, you can ride on a rented vehicle only within the state.

Method 4. By taxi

With all its convenience, this method is the most expensive. You will have to pay at least $ 60 for a taxi from Goa to Gokarna, although you can bargain for a slightly smaller amount.

Taxi in Goa

On a note! When applying for a visa upon arrival at Dabolim Airport, remember that traveling between states without a passport can lead to problems with the local police.

All prices on the page are for November 2019.

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Useful Tips

Despite the huge tourist popularity, Gokarna (India) continues to be an ordinary village, which, of course, leaves its mark on local life. To avoid possible surprises, take note of a few useful tips:

  1. The only ATM in the village is located on the way from the bus station to the main street. But it’s better not to take risks and withdraw cash in Goa.
  2. There are no official exchangers in Gokarna. Currency is changed either in the Internet cafe or in travel agencies located in the central part of the village (there are private money changers there).
  3. There are 2 markets in the village – a fruit and vegetable market, arranged on the outskirts of Gokarna every Thursday, and a central one, stretching along the main street.
  4. Gokarna Market
  5. The Internet here is very weak – not only Wi-fi, but also the one that a few Internet cafes offer (1 hour costs about 50 cents).
  6. To distant temples and attractions can be reached by rickshaw, scooter or bike.
  7. There are not so many shops in the village, and you can buy only the most necessary in them, so if you need decent shoes or clothes, look for them in Goa.
  8. Entering a Hindu temple, behave yourself – dress up right at the entrance, speak very quietly, cover your shoulders and legs, do not take pictures.

Inspection of Gokarna beach and some useful tips:

Posted by: Olga Sheyko



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