Gokarna is a quaint, heritage town in the coastal Karwar belt. A huge attraction for tourists and pilgrims, Gokarna (meaning ‘cow’s ear’) gets its name from the ear-shaped meeting of 2 rivers, the Agnashini and Gangavali. Only 156-km away from the much touted beach destination Goa, Gokarna surprisingly offers more choices of action! If you love being outdoors, you will enjoy walking or cycling up undulating roads through green hilly forests and pristine fields, passing by lotus ponds and village temples. Beaches in Gokarna offer a breathtaking view of the ocean and are less crowded than Goa, hence great for beach bodies. If you feel the need for a spiritual retreat far from the madding crowd, ashrams like the Shankar Prasad Ashram readily offer yoga and food for the body and soul. If you seek history and culture, the town, its legends and mythology will appease your hunger for knowledge. Briefly put, Gokarna is a must-visit if you are looking for an offbeat vacation that has something in it for everyone!

Attractions: Popular beaches – Om, Kudle, Half moon and Paradise beaches, beach side shacks for accommodation, beach side restaurants offering Western and Indian cuisines, Yoga lessons, cycling and walking. Lord Shiva is the main deity of this town and his presence can be felt in the magnificent Mahabaleshvara Temple. Other temples that have mythological significance are the Bala Ganapathy, Bhadrakali and Sri Ram temples. You could also take a dawn/ dusk boat ride across the Gangavalli river to view the scenic beauty or just stroll around to see the local fishing community.

Shopping: The local market sells cotton garments and bed linen, scarves and beach wear. Shops near the Mahabaleshwar temple sell brass artifacts, gems and statuettes. Be sure to negotiate the price! Hotel Prema near the Gokarna beach, is a good place to eat varieties of Indian and Western food and also shop for spices, jaggery, honey, ayurvedic powders and herbal teas.

Accessibility: 9 hours approximately by road from Bangalore airport, 3 hours from Goa airport; travel by train, taxis and buses is feasible.

Best time to visit: October to February is the best time to visit Gokarna. The Shivarathri festival in February-March attracts a large share of pilgrims and is also a good time to be in Gokarna if you are not crowdphobic! Try and avoid summer (April-May) and the monsoon months (June-August) as they are not the best of times to go to the beach and swim.