India // Karnataka //

The beaches

Notwithstanding Gokarna’s numerous temples, shrines and tanks, most Western tourists come here for the beautiful beaches to the south of the more crowded town beach, beyond the lumpy, reddish-coloured headland that overlooks the town. Many lounge for weeks, taking advantage of lax attitudes and imbibing potent bhang lassis.

To pick up the trail, take a left off Car Street beside the Shri Mahaganapati temple and follow the newly cemented path for twenty minutes uphill and across a rocky plateau to Kudlee Beach. This wonderful kilometre-long sweep of golden-white sand sheltered by a pair of steep-sided promontories is now punctuated by around fifteen restaurant-cum-hut ventures and one proper hotel. This is the longest and broadest of Gokarna’s beaches, and with decent surf too, though the water can be dangerous.

It takes around twenty minutes more to hike over the headland from Kudlee to exquisite Om Beach, so named because its distinctive twin crescent-shaped bays resemble the auspicious Om symbol. Apart from the luxury resort set well back from the beach, largely flimsy huts and the odd hammock still populate the palm groves, usually belonging to restaurants that offer a constantly expanding range of cuisine.

Gokarna’s two most remote beaches lie another half-hour walk/climb over the rocky hills. Half-Moon and Paradise beaches, are, despite the presence of a few chai shops and extremely basic lodgings on each, mainly for intrepid sun-lovers happy to pack in their own supplies. If you’re looking for near-total isolation, this is your best bet.