At this point, I’ve just come to terms with the fact that sometimes life interrupts your plans and you have to make time for what’s more important. Last year I took a one-month hiatus from travelling to care for my newly adopted dog before I left for Spiti Valley in August. This year, I took yet another month-long hiatus to care for my little sister appearing for her grade 12 board exams. I’m telling you, there’s almost no difference between dogs and toddlers. But as life interrupts, life also makes way. Spiti changed my perception of a lot of things. It made me calmer, taught me to a great deal about respecting Mother Nature and showed me how most happy memories and made by accident. Spiti is now my favourite mountain place in the whole wide world. It is perhaps then of little surprise that when I broke my hiatus this year and travelled to Gokarna solo, and stayed at Trippr Hostel, Gokarna I was rewarded with some of the best five days of my life, and I do not say this casually.
Gokarna is a small temple village located on the coast of Karnataka and its narrow lanes, ancient Shiva temples, spectacular beaches and best of all- the warm people have my heart.
how to reach gokarna
The nearest city to Gokarna is Bengaluru which is well connected by both road and rail. Other cities which have daily direct buses to and from Gokarna are Hyderabad, Pune and Maharashtra.
where to stay in gokarna
It took me some time to research the place I wanted to stay at in Gokarna. Being a solo traveller, there was no doubt I’d stay at a backpacker hostel. While I hardly have any requirements while travelling, one thing that I usually need is to be as close to nature as I can be, all the while being away from the noisy, music blasting, litter throwing, ruckus creating tourists. And the moment I laid my eyes on Trippr, Gokarna thanks to Google Uncle, I knew that’s where I’d stay.
View from my bunk bed at Trippr, Gokarna.
Trippr, Gokarna is perhaps the ideal backpacker hostel located away from noisy crowds, close to nature and promotes sustainable energy management. Located in the absolutely peaceful and lesser-known Middle Beach, it is the only beachside hostel/ hotel in all of Gokarna and you can literally wake up and walk into the ocean. My mornings at Trippr consisted of waking up with the sun, changing into my swimsuit, spending an hour in the ocean, taking a shower and getting dressed and heading to the in-house cafe for some breakfast. Though the cafe there does not have a big menu, it’s enough to fill your stomach with a side of wholesome conversations courtesy the Trippr staff and your fellow travellers. Honestly though, what more could I ask for?
Another very interesting thing about Trippr is that it’s fully powered by solar electricity! For water, they use an underground borewell and they also have handy solar-powered lamps for anyone who wishes to roam around the beach at night. I absolutely loved how environmentally conscious the hostel was, doing their bit to reduce their carbon footprint as much as they can. If that’s not an added plus point that would make you pack your bags and stay at Trippr right away, I don’t know what is!
things to do in gokarna
- Paradise Beach
This is perhaps one of the most popular things to do in Gokarna- and rightfully so. This day hike takes you through some of Gokarna’s most pristine beaches where roads do not reach. Instead of taking the usual route from Kudle, the guys at Trippr suggested we begin from Belekan Beach and then head towards Kudle, and so we did! Accompanied by the hostel manager and now a good friend, Mayur, we reached a small (and the only) shack at Belekan and stocked ourselves with water and some bread omelette before heading on towards our first stop- Paradise Beach. A small beach lined with palm trees, this is the perfect place to take a nap under the shade of the palms and do absolutely nothing. Since the waters here are very rough, the scope of swimming in the sea is very limited. People do, however, carry their tents and camp here but this is not ‘permitted by the law’ and the police might come and ask you to leave (and possibly fine you too.)
- Half Moon Beach
The next stop on the trek is Half Moon Beach which is by far, my favourite. It’s shaped like a crescent and the water here is somehow just perfect for swimming and I ended up spending an hour and a half floating in the ocean and going with the waves. Every now and then I would feel myself being pulled deeper into the ocean but the next moment it would spit me back out and I would land at the shore! There is a single shack here known as Shiva Moon Cafe that also provides basic lodging facilities and I’ve sworn to return to Gokarna and spend a night or two here (and I highly recommend that you do too!)
- Om Beach
From Half Moon, we further went up to Om Beach which is uncannily shaped like an ‘Om’. Om Beach can also be accessed by road, however, it is a disappointing place to be at. The sand had remains of an oil spill that took place some days ago and the beach was strewn with plastic here and there. On the other hand, hiking under the sun in the middle of an April day started taking its toll on me and by the time we reached Om, I didn’t have it in me to go any further till Kudle Beach so we decided to take an auto and head back to the ho(me)stel.
Pro tip: If you do end up completing the trek, you can also further hike from Kudle to Middle Beach where Trippr is located.
This temple was one of the first places I visited in Gokarna. Ram Tirtha is a beautiful Ram Temple located on a cliff near Main Beach which is famous for its natural spring water which has been channelled to flow through the mouth of a Nandi Bull. The folks at Trippr come here daily to collect the spring water and whatever is cooked in their kitchen is cooked using this water. It’s a serene place to come and spend some time by yourself, meditate or let that creative juices flow!
phytoplanktons at paradise beach
Phytoplanktons are bioluminescent organisms that live in the ocean and glow whenever the water is disturbed by the waves. These microscopic beings glow bright enough to be seen by the naked eye on a dark night and Trippr Gokarna organizes a special night trek for a small fee to Paradise Beach complete with a trek guide and a campfire to make for the best night of your life. If you’re lucky enough (unlike me), you will be able to spot these neon blue beings floating in the sea (and swim with them too!)
Pro tip: On some nights, the phytoplankton is visible from Trippr at Middle Beach too. (It’s real, I’ve seen photos).
Picture credits: Speaking Tree
A 4th century temple, the Mahabaleshwar Temple is the main temple in Gokarna and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Another one of the first places I visited in Gokarna, my friend and the property manager of Trippr, a devout Shiva bhakt himself, guided me through this ancient building, all the while narrating the legend to me. This temple houses the Atmalinga that the demon Ravana, a Shiva devotee, had brought from Mount Kailash from Lord Shiva himself. Ravana was told never to put the Atmalinga on the ground or it would be rooted in the ground at that spot forever. Soon, he had to perform his evening rituals and needed somebody to hold the Atmalinga for him when he saw a Brahmin boy who was actually Lord Ganesha. He agreed to hold it for him on the condition that he will call out for Ravan thrice and if he doesn’t appear, he will place the Atmalinga on the ground. Ganesha rapidly called out to him thrice, not giving him enough time to appear and then proceeded to place the Atmalinga around which a temple was constructed later. The Atmalinga can be seen by the visitors through a small hole and it is considered to be a holy ritual to place one’s finger in the hole and then touch the finger to one’s forehead. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple premises and foreigners are not allowed to enter inside.
stroll through car street
Car Street is the main street in Gokarna where most shops, flea markets and the Shiva temple are located. There are small shops selling colourful clothes, jewellery and other trinkets and are a nice place to cop a souvenir or two from. In the middle of Car Street, there is also the massive wooden Rath placed which is supposed to be hundreds of years old and has beautiful intricate carvings all over it. The Rath is parked there year round and only moves during the Maha Shivratri every year when a massive procession takes place. It is believed that several people have tried to move the Rath but have failed, and the Rath is only moveable during the big Shiva festival.
Yana Caves, located some 40 kilometres from Gokarna, are two beautiful rock monoliths composed of black, crystalline karst limestone. The bigger cave is known as Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and is some 120 meters in height while the smaller one, Mohini Shikhara, is about 90 meters in height. Situated in the middle of a dense forest with a small stream flowing by making the place almost surreal, the caves are also home to hundreds of bats that can be seen fluttering about overhead, as well as the Giant Honey Bee known as hejjenu in Kannada.
These caves can be reached via a short hike of about 500 meters from the main roadhead where a parking lot has also been built. There are plenty of snacks available at the entry gate as well as inside, near the temple at the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara. When I visited, they had closed the common route to the cave, and instead one had to first remove the shoes and enter the temple and then hike up barefoot to the cave.
Pro tip: The bigger cave is probably a bad idea for you to visit if you’re claustrophobic. However, the smaller one is not as narrow.
The Vibhuti Waterfall is a magnificent three-storeyed waterfall located just 8 kilometres from Yana Caves. To reach the falls, one must take a short hike through a well-marked trail. The first pool is home to a number of tadpole and fish that are very attracted to the dead skin on the feet and make standing in the pool almost unbearable! Pestered by these tickling fish, I made my way up to the very base of the waterfall traversing through some very narrow and slippery rocky trails. The gush of the water was tremendous even during the summers and the water in the pool was cold enough to give you chills. Although the experience was extraordinary, I will not recommend going to the top of the waterfall unless you can climb rocks on all fours, and really know how to handle swimming in deep waters. I have seen fellow travellers almost get pulled in by waterfalls once at Mukteshwar and once at Vibhuti itself. So please don’t try to be a machist hero and pull stunts that might just prove to be fatal- or accidental- at the very least.
places to eat in Gokarna
Bhagvan cafe, middle beach
Bhagvan Cafe is located right next to Trippr and this the place that the folks at Trippr suggest to all their guests. One meal at Bhagvan’s, and you’ll understand why. It’s got a bright hammock attached to palm trees to nap on, a bunch of tables neatly arranged right on the sand and also a beautiful deck upstairs with seating on the floor. The food here is every bit delicious be it the falafel platter, cheeseburger or daal chawal. I recommend the lemon nana- a refreshing drink made with lemon juice, fresh mint and loads of crushed ice.
This is the go-to place for some authentic South Indian food followed by the delicious filter kapi. Pro tip: My host later told me that Pai Restaurant is far better than Pai Hotel. When you make a visit to Gokarna, make sure to try out the restaurant and let me know in the comments how it was!
shree shakti cold drinks, car street
My host took me here on my first day in Gokarna and I’m so grateful to him for introducing me to this place. They serve the most delicious, flavourful and light homemade coconut ice cream there is. I have never been a fan of coconut or any of its byproducts (barring coconut water, of course) so trust me when I say this, you have to try it out. Have to.
Omkar’s, car street
Omkar’s is famous for its refreshing coolers but the one things you should be sure to try out is the kokum soda they sell. Kokum is to the South what buransh is to the North, except that buransh is a flower and kokum, a fruit. This juice is known for its herbal properties and works especially well for heat prevention. This is the very drink that brought me to life post my heat stroke during the Five Beach Trek, when even electrolytes failed to do so!
My five days in Gokarna were spent playing beach volleyball at Trippr, stargazing, immersing in the local culture, literally chasing sunsets, running wild and free in nature and having wholesome conversations with (as cliched as it might sound) people who became family. And I can vouch for the fact that the experiences I had at Gokarna wouldn’t have been possible without the warm and friendly faces of Trippr. The vibe there is out of this world to an extent that I feel I cannot do it enough justice by merely putting it into words. You have to be there to experience it.
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We love transparency! This post was sponsored by Tippr, Gokarna but the views expressed are solely my own (in case you couldn’t already tell!)