top of page

Places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka

Have you ever visited a place with some preconceived notion but then discovered a totally different side to that place? Gokarna, located in coastal Karnataka (India), was one such place for us. We planned to travel to Gokarna thinking that it is an easy-going, laid-back beach destination, but never did we imagine that Gokarna is so much more than just being beach, booze and hippie life. With all of the above, Gokarna has an interesting drawn-out historical story that gave us a completely new perspective of the place. Read on to know more about Gokarna, places to visit and our experience.

Places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka - India
Top view of Gokarna main beach_Places to visit in Gokarna

Location of Gokarna:

Gokarna is located on the western coastline in the Indian state of Karnataka. The small-town falls in the Uttara Kannada district under Kumta taluka. It is located about 150 kilometres south of Goa. Gokarna’s location is flawless, with the Aghnashini River to its south and the Gangavalli River to its north. Both these rivers meet the Arabian Sea, and Gokarna stands in dignity between both the confluences.

Places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka - India
Location of Gokarna with Gangavalli and Aghnashini river to the north and south respectively

How to reach Gokarna:

You can reach Gokarna in one of the following ways:

Air:

Dabolim airport in Goa is the nearest international airport (approx. 150 kilometres) to Gokarna. Whereas, Hubballi airport in Hubli is the nearest domestic airport (approx. 145 kilometres) to Gokarna. From Dabolim airport, you can either take a train, bus or taxi to reach Gokarna and from Hubballi airport, you can either take a bus or a taxi to reach Gokarna.

Rail:

Gokarna Road station is connected to all trains running on the Western Rail lines or Konkan rail lines. Hence, Goa, Mumbai, Pune, Mangalore, and Bengaluru (Bangalore) are well connected to this rail line. Gokarna town is 6 kilometres far from the Gokarna Road railway station, and you will easily get an auto that will take you to the main town. However, being a small station, not all trains might stop at Gokarna Road station. Ankola station to the north of Gokarna and Kumta station to its south are the major railway stations where you can get down. After that, you can easily take a bus or a taxi to reach Gokarna.

Road:

Several government and private buses ply from major cities like Bengaluru (Bangalore), Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Mangalore to Gokarna. Private taxis are also available from these cities that can take you to Gokarna. However, most of the buses will drop you at Madangeri cross or Gokarna cross, which is about 10 kilometres from the main town of Gokarna.

Places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka - India
Gokarna roads_Places to visit in Gokarna

How to reach Gokarna from Madangeri cross or Gokarna cross:

The main Gokarna town is located 12 kilometres away from Madangeri cross or Gokarna cross. You can hop on into a government bus coming from Kumta (Kumta-Gokarna-Kumta route bus). All buses heading to Gokarna from down south will stop at Madangeri cross or Gokarna cross. You can also take an auto from Madangeri cross or Gokarna cross to reach Gokarna. Remember to bargain with the auto drivers. As of 2019, the bus charges are INR 15 per person, and auto charges are INR 250 (can easily accommodate 3 people) from Madangeri cross or Gokarna cross to Gokarna main town. The autos will charge more if you ask them to drop you at the beaches.

Places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka - India
Directions and distance of Gokarna town from Madangeri cross or Gokarna cross

Best time to visit Gokarna:

Gokarna can be travelled to throughout the year. However, October to February is an ideal time to visit Gokarna as the weather is pleasant and humidity is at its least. March to May are summer months, and it becomes too hot to chill on the beaches. June to early September is the monsoon when the beaches are either closed or too desolate and unkempt. If your main purpose of visit is to see the lively temples, then the Shivratri festival in March and the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in August is the best time to visit Gokarna.


Ideal duration of visit to Gokarna:

Gokarna is known for its temples and beaches. It can be easily covered in a 3-day duration. However, plenty of interesting destinations near Gokarna are worth visiting like Yana caves, Vibhooti Falls, Mirjan Fort, Murudeshwar and Jog Falls. If you plan to cover each of these places, a 6-day trip duration will be ideal.

 

Check out other articles of places you can visit along with Gokarna -

 

History of Gokarna:

There are several interesting stories and folklore about how Gokarna got its name. Gokarna, meaning ‘Cow’s ear’, is derived from two Hindi language words, Go = Cow, Karna = Ear. Interestingly, even the zoomed-out map of Gokarna town seems to be like an ear (ear-shaped confluence of Aghnashini and Gangavalli rivers to Arabian sea).

Places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka - India
Gokarna looking like an ear in the map

It is believed that Lord Brahma, who considered himself superior and creator of the universe, was cursed by Lord Shiva for his arrogance. Lord Brahma penanced and asked for forgiveness from Lord Shiva at the very place where Gokarna exists. Impressed by Brahma’s penance, Lord Shiva appeared in front of him from the ear of a cow. Hence, the place came to be known as Gokarna (cow’s ear).


As per another folklore, the mother of Ravana (demon King of Lanka) was a loyal devotee of Lord Shiva and wanted to worship the main ‘Atma linga’ (Soul of Lord Shiva). Hence, Ravana went to Mount Kailash (abode of Lord Shiva) and performed rigorous penance to please Lord Shiva to offer him the ‘Atma linga’ as a boon. Lord Shiva finally appeared and granted Ravana the ‘Atma linga’ on the condition that he should directly take it to Lanka without placing it on the ground, failing which the linga will permanently embed where it is placed. Ravana started his journey back to Lanka after receiving the boon.


Lord Vishnu knew that Ravana was evil, and he would attain immortality and invincibility if he successfully took the ‘Atma linga’ to Lanka. He also knew that Ravana was punctual in performing his evening prayers. So, he took the help of Lord Ganesha and devised a plan so that Ravana had to place the ‘Atma linga’ somewhere on his way. When Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu hid the sun with the help of his ‘Sudarshan chakra’, giving an impression of dusk. At this time, Ravana looked out for someone who could hold the ‘Atma linga’ for him till he performed his evening rituals.


Lord Ganesha disguised as a Brahmin boy herding his cow and appeared in front of Ravana. Ravana persuaded him to hold and protect the ‘Atma linga’ without placing it on the ground. As soon as Ravana went for performing his rites, Lord Ganesha placed the linga on the ground and vanished. The ‘Atma linga’ got permanently embedded at that place. Agitated, Ravana tried chasing Lord Ganesha and his cows. He hurt Lord Ganesha’s head in the process, but the Lord was successful in disappearing. As one of the cows started disappearing underground, he grabbed hold of just its ear. Hence, the place was given the name Gokarna (cow’s ear).


Ravana tried to uproot the ‘Atma linga’, and due to force exerted by him, some scattered pieces got detached, which he threw in different directions. The scattered linga fell in Dhareshwar, Shejjeshwar, Gunavanthe, Surathkal and Murudeshwar, respectively, but the main ‘Atma linga’ refused to move. After the pieces scattered in these places, the remaining linga gained the shape of a cow’s ear. Hence, the place was named Gokarna (cow’s ear). Failing to uproot the linga, Ravana called it ‘Mahabal’ (i.e.. Extremely strong). Later, a temple was built here and named as ‘Mahabaleshwara temple’.


Since then, Gokarna has been a pilgrimage centre, but recently due to the influx of tourists to its unspoilt beaches, the eminence of the town has changed to a ‘beach destination’. Gokarna has a laid-back vibe that attracts many foreign tourists, owing to which many shacks, hotels, resorts and restaurants have come up to cater to the incoming crowd.


Nonetheless, a large number of devotees still flock to this temple town to offer prayers. All in all, Gokarna is blessed with two types of places to visit – Temples and Beaches.


Places to visit in Gokarna:


Gokarna Religious Sites or Temples:

If any of you plan on visiting the below-mentioned religious sites or temples in Gokarna, remember to respect the local traditions. Wear fully covered clothes, be quiet and do not touch objects or idols on the premises.


1. Sri Mahabaleshwara Swamy Temple

The temple was built entirely of granite in the 4th century in Dravidian architectural style. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple houses the ‘Atma linga’, which is worshipped by hordes of pilgrims visiting Gokarna. The Mahabaleshwara temple is regarded as the ‘Dakshin Kashi’ (i.e.. Kashi of the South). It is located very near to the main Gokarna beach. The Hindu festival of Shivratri is celebrated with a lot of pomp and cheer at Gokarna, where a chariot procession or Rath Yatra is held.

Places to visit in Gokarna, Karnataka - India
Sri Mahabaleshwara Swamy temple, Gokarna_Places to visit in Gokarna


2. Maha Ganapathi Temple

This temple was built in honor of Lord Ganesha, who played a pivotal role in saving and installing ‘Atma linga’ in Gokarna. A 5-feet tall granite idol of Lord Ganesha adorns the sanctum sanctorum of Maha Ganapathi temple. You can still see the blow (in the form of a hole) on the head of the idol caused by Ravana. The temple is located next door to the Mahabaleshwara temple. It is a custom to worship Lord Ganesha before the ‘Atma linga’ in the Mahabaleshwara temple.