Best places to visit near Gokarna
Gokarna is a coastal town located in the state of Karnataka in Southern India. For most local visitors, Gokarna is a town of ancient temples and a sacred pilgrimage. But for youngsters and international travellers, Gokarna is a hippie town complete with pristine white-sand beaches and laid-back lifestyle. In our previous article, we wrote about Gokarna, its temples and its beaches. However, apart from these beaches and temples, there are several other places near Gokarna that are worth visiting. If you have already been to Gokarna and crave for more, then head to these other destinations within a 100-kilometre range from Gokarna. Here are the 5 must-visit places near Gokarna:
1. Mirjan Fort
Mirjan Fort is located about 22 kilometres away from Gokarna town. It falls on the Gokarna-Kumta highway. Mirjan Fort is a 16th-century fort believed to be built by Queen Chennabhaira Devi, the queen of Gerusoppa (a small town near Jog Falls) which came under the Vijayanagara empire. During the medieval period, Mirjan Fort used to serve as an important port for overseas trading of spices (especially pepper). Hence the queen was also regarded as ‘Pepper Queen’. After the fall of Vijayanagara empire, Mirjan Fort went successively into the hands of Bahamani Sultans, Portuguese, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and finally to Britishers.
Mirjan Fort is mostly in ruins but whatever is left is very well maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The fort looks magnificent from outside and since we went right after the monsoon, the fort’s walls were covered in thick green moss which was a feast to our eyes. We were, however, able to see the red laterite stones that were used to build the entire fort. Mirjan Fort has 4 entrances and the entire structure is surrounded by a deep moat which must be filled with water in its prime time. Inside the fort, there are several huge courtyards. From the watchtower or the flag hoisting tower, you will be able to have a panoramic look of all these courtyards. There are a few wells in the courtyard which are now closed. We walked towards the other end of the fort where River Aghanashini flows by. You can climb up other higher decks in the fort and get amazing views of the fort from the top. You can easily spend 1-1.5 hours exploring the majestic fort.
Note: No charges are levied to enter and visit the Mirjan Fort. Clicking photographs from DSLR cameras is prohibited, however, you can click photos in your cell phones.
2. Yana rock caves
Yana caves are located about 50 kilometres away from the town of Gokarna. Yana is a small village located between Kumta and Sirsi which is famous for its naturally formed rock formations. Yana rocks are basically 2 gigantic black limestone rock formations within the Western Ghats that seem alien to this otherwise ordinary place. The 2 peaks are named as Mohini peak (300 feet tall) and Bhairaveshwara peak (400 feet tall). These names come from an ancient belief. After years of penance, Lord Shiva granted a boon to a demon named Bhasmasura that whosoever’s head he touches will convert to ash (Bhasma in the Hindi language). The demon attempted to touch the head of the boon-giver Shiva itself, who ran to Lord Vishnu for help. To help Shiva, Vishnu gained the form of glamorous Mohini and tried to woo Bhasmasura. Mohini accepted to take Bhasmasura’s marriage proposal only on the condition that he dances with her and matches her steps. As the dance progressed, Mohini touched her head and Bhasmasura duplicated her, soon turning into thick solid black ash stone as per the boon.
Sadly, these incredible rock formations cannot be viewed from outside and you will have to hike for at least half an hour minutes (15-20 minutes’ walk and 350 stairs to ascend) through a thick forest to see the rocks. Inside the rocks, are the caves where idols are installed and temples are built (Goddess Parvathi temple in Mohini caves and Lord Shiva temple in Bhairaveshwara caves). There is a path through Bhairaveshwara caves that starts by climbing some steep steps, enters the dark caves and ends towards the other side. The caves are beautiful from inside with differently patterned rocks and sunlight filtering from a few openings.
Note: You will require around 2-3 hours after you reach the parking lot to explore the Yana rocks and caves completely. There are 2 different routes to reach Yana caves from Gokarna (both same distance-wise). If you take the Kumta route to reach Yana parking lot, you will have to hike for 2 kilometres to reach the caves and if you take the Sirsi route, you will have to hike for 0.5 kilometres. Sirsi route is highly recommended if you want to club Vibhooti Falls along with Yana caves. The drive from Gokarna to Yana caves is deserted and you should return before it gets dark, so start early. Very few people visit Yana caves on regular days (weekends can be crowded) and the hike is through thick forest, hence travelling in a group is preferred than being solo. The parking charges is INR 10 per 2-wheeler and INR 20 per 4-wheeler. INR 5 per person has to be paid as entrance charge near the parking lot itself.
3. Vibhooti Falls
Vibhooti Falls is located about 42 kilometres away from the main town of Gokarna. The majestic falls are just 9 kilometres from the Yana caves. Tourists generally club visiting both Yana caves and Vibhooti falls together. Make sure you take the Sirsi route to reach both these places. After parking your vehicle at the parking lot, you will have to walk for 0.5 kilometres and then hike on rocky terrain for another 15-20 minutes to reach Vibhooti Falls. The falls is multi-tiered and surrounded by greenery. The best time to visit Vibhooti Falls is the post-monsoon season. A pool is formed by all the water that is collected from the falls and youngsters generally come here to take a plunge in the water. Even a lifeguard is posted at the location to ensure the safety of travellers.
Murudeshwar is located at a distance of 78 kilometres from Gokarna town. Drive from Gokarna to Murudeshwar is smooth and scenic. The place is a pilgrimage centre and is famous for the world’s second tallest statue of Lord Shiva. It is believed that Ravana threw one of the scattered pieces of Atma Linga in Murudeshwar (Read our previous blog on Gokarna to understand better). Murudeshwar also houses the tallest Gopuram which is 250 feet in height. Murudeshwar temple is surrounded by sea on three sides and the Shiva statue is set in a beautiful setting on top of a small hill right beside the temple. Murudeshwar beach is another attraction which is quite well-maintained and offers gorgeous views of the Shiva statue and Gopuram. Read our blog on Murudeshwar where we highlight the history, the temples, gardens, statues, caves and other places of interest in Murudeshwar in detail.
You can also try snorkelling and scuba diving at Netrani Island near Murudeshwar. You will find number of scuba diving companies in Murudeshwar and Netrani island is a popular destination for underwater adventure sports when the weather is clear and suitable. Of course the experience might not be as good as Scuba diving in Andamans or snorkelling in crystal clear waters of Umngot river in Meghalaya. However for those looking to get a first time experience of underwater activities, Netrani Island is a good beginning. We also visited Apsarakonda on our way to Murudeshwar from Gokarna. Both the waterfalls and garden at Apsarakonda deserve a quick visit. The garden is made on top of a hill that provides a good view of Apsarakonda beach from above. Apsarakonda waterfalls provides an opportunity to take a refreshing dip.
5. Jog Falls
Jog Falls is located approximately 111 kilometres away from Gokarna. It is the second-highest plunge waterfall in India and falls from a height of about 820 feet. Jog Falls is best visited right after the rainy season. The falls is basically formed by the water of Sharavathi River that plunges down the tall hill. There are various viewpoints from where the visitors can see the falls, all the viewpoints providing spectacular views of the mighty falls. To know more about Jog Falls, the different viewpoints, and recommendations on stay options, read our dedicated blog on Jog Falls.
The journey from Gokarna to Jog Falls is a 4 lane highway till Honnavar and is then a forested area but the roads are well laid and the drive is extremely picturesque. On the way, you can take quick halts at Sharavathi valley view point, Sharavathi suspension bridge and gaze at the Gerusoppa waterfalls far from the road.
Suggested itinerary for Gokarna and nearby places
You will not be disappointed by any of these above-listed places near Gokarna. In terms of itinerary, you can try out the following -
3 days - Plan to spend around 3 days in Gokarna which can include 2 days of beach hopping and cultural exploration of temples. with 1 day of Vibhooti falls, Yana caves and Mirjan fort
1 day - You can then head towards Murudeshwar and halt at Apsarakonda on the way. One day in Murudeshwar should give you adequate time to visit the temple, Shiva statue and also explore underwater activities in Netrani Island
1 day - You can then head to Jog falls and halt at Sharavathi viewpoints, suspension bridge and see Gerusoppa falls on the way. Spending a night at Jog falls would give you enough time to see it from various vantage points though we preferred spending 2 nights here
Plan your vacation for at least 5-6 days to cover Gokarna and all of these places near Gokarna.
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Have you been to any of these above-mentioned places near Gokarna? How was your experience? Let us know in the comment section below.