I sip on my warm coffee as I watch a jet plane leave a long white trail in the evening sky. The air is clean, crisp and refreshing. I let myself experience the things happening around me- a motorable parachute flying in the faraway sky, birds gliding through the air, a few photographers capturing a picture of the seashore and the glorious sunset. I’m at Zostel Gokarna, 550 kilometers away from home and listening to some melodious North-East Indian music playing in the background!
For years, Gokarna had been on my travel list, so I decided to begin my new year travels with this beautiful place. A little about Gokarna: It’s a small coastal town in the southern part of India. It is well-known for the Mahabaleshwar temple, the not-so-crowded beaches and the many Yoga centers. Apart from this, one can find many hidden-away-from-the-crowd cafes and restaurants that offer local food and soulful country music. What I really like about this place are the local people- people who are always ready to help, have a great sense of humor and are full of warmth and love, so much so that they even keep drinking water pots on the streets for the thirsty stray animals to drink from (definitely not a usual sight!).
Since not many people know about Gokarna, I have put up a list of places (including cafes and restaurants) that you should definitely visit while you’re here.
1. Middle beach
Away from the maddening crowd, the Middle Beach is situated at a distance of about 3 kilometers from the main town and is perfect for anyone seeking solitude. The clean greenish-blue water of the Arabian sea and the soft white sand on the beach is as stunning as it sounds.
2. Bhagavan Cafe
Located on Middle Beach, this hidden cafe offers mouth-watering local food at budget prices. If you enjoy reading, you can choose a book (or two :p) from the hundreds kept in the shelf. A must-visit place for the foodie in you!
3. Chez Christophe
Located not far from Bhagavan Cafe, this traditional French restaurant radiates a mix of tropical and French vibes. If you are a vegetarian, the Ratatouille is to die for! Best recommended if you walk from the main road through the farms and village houses to get to this place, instead of taking the traditional beach route.
4. Kudle beach
The most favourite beach amongst the tourists, I would recommend you to enjoy the beach early in the mornings when there aren’t a lot of people around. If you are renting a bike or have your own vehicle, make sure you park in a safe place and walk down to the beach.
5. Om beach
Pretty sure the name rings a bell in your mind when you think of Gokarna. Om beach is situated at a distance of around 3 kilometers from Kudle beach. You can either hike or simply use a vehicle. Mangrove trees on the shore offer enough shelter to lay back and soak-in the calm and serene vibes of the place.
6. Paradise beach
The main highlight of my trip is spotting Phytoplanktons on a starry night. Phytoplanktons are micro-organisms that glow at night and can be spotted in waters where the river meets the sea. It takes a good half an hour’s time to hike to this beach, but it’s definitely worth the effort. You can also lie down on the soft sand, stargaze and spot shooting stars if you’re lucky! (unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to click any pictures of the night).
7. Mahabaleshwar Temple
Considered holy by Lord Shiva’s devotees, this religious place is home to the only Atmalinga in the world (you can read more about it’s history by clicking on the link). I would recommend anyone entering the temple to dress appropriately so as to not hurt local people’s sentiments. If you are fond of street shopping, there are a lot of shops around the temple where you can choose from a wide collection ranging from musical instruments, traditional kurtas, handmade diaries to spices and condiments (I recommend you to bargain before buying any of these as the shop-keepers sell the items at exorbitant prices).
8. Cafe Mantra
Situated inside Zostel Gokarna’s premises, this hill-top cafe offers a charming view of the Gokarna Beach. The good music, the fresh ambience, the drool-worthy food, the spectacular view of the sunset and the Arabian sea makes this cafe a must-visit place.
The whole experience of backpacking in this beautiful part of my country has paved a promising path to explore the other hidden gems in India. Add a bit of responsible travel and gratefulness to your adventurous soul, you are good to go!
Have you been to Gokarna yet? Would love to hear about your travel experiences in the comment section.