Gokarna which is a spiritual town on the western coast of Karnataka, offers a lot of options for the backpackers and tourists. Here is a list of ten must do/ see things in this coastal hamlet-
Mahabaleshwar temple- Gokarna has been known for ages as a spiritual town and the Mahabaleshwar temple next to the main beach of Gokarna attracts large number of pilgrims through out the year. The temple which is built in Dravidian architectural style is famous for its Atmalinga or Shivlinga which can only be viewed through a hole in the pedestal. A visit to this temple during Shivrathri would be a great experience as the town celebrates the big festival with a Rathyatra and other celebrations.
Walk through the alleys- The narrow dwindling streets and alleys of Gokarna with numerous cows for company is an interesting place to start your day. With temple paraphernalia displayed on both sides of the streets by the vendors, the place looks colourful, vibrant and religious. One can pick up rudrakshas, miniature shivlingas and many other interesting artifacts from the displays.
Hippies & Halakkis- This spiritual town is also known to be a hippie's paradise. People from world over land in Gokarna to explore the hippie lifestyle and to meet the hippies who have been visiting this place for many years. You can have interesting conversations with them and chances are quite high that you get inspired to live their lifestyle. Another genre of people one might see in Gokarna are the Halakki tribals. They still lead an ancient way of life and the women still wear traditional attire and distinct jewellery. They can be very easily seen on the streets of Gokarna selling vegetables, flowers and curios.
Gokarna beach- Even though the main beach of Gokarna is not the most preferred one by the travellers or tourists, this beach is definitely the most visited by the pilgrims. As per the customs, it is only after a dip in the waters of this beach can one enter the Mahabaleshwar temple. Even though the beach does not look very pretty with a lot of litter, a walk on the same early in the morning can leave one with a fresh mind and a blissful view of the Arabian sea.
Om beach- If there is something that is more famous than Gokarna itself in Gokarna, it has to be the Om beach. Renowned for its Om shaped appearance, this beach is a big hit with travellers. With numerous shacks and cafes, this is the beach where the foreign travellers head to escape the crowds of Goa. Its a long beach with rocks jutting out and serenity at its best. You can find hippies, Buddhist monks, European backpackers and the Indian nomads strolling on this beautiful beach. It is nice 6 kms drive over the hills with splendid views from Gokarna town to Om beach. A visit to Gokarna without a glimpse of the Om is definitely a crime.
Kudle beach- The second most preferred beach after the Om, it lies between the main beach of Gokarna and Om beach. Kudle beach also has a lot of cafes and shacks and invites numerous travellers during the peak season. The view of sunset on Kudle beach from the top of the cliff is breathtaking. One can also trek across the rocks and reach Kudle from Om beach.
Half moon beach- Walk towards the southern end of Om beach and a narrow pathway leads you through the bushes into the hills to the Half moon beach. The magnificent vistas of the Arabian sea can leave you awestruck. Approachable only by trek or on boat, this small beach in the shape of a half moon is a secluded one and a heaven for solitude seekers. The beach does not have any shacks or cafes and the only way you can spend time is by counting the waves or catching the crabs.
Paradise beach- Another secluded beach which gets active only during the peak season. It remains closed during the other half of the year. Paradise beach can be accessed by trekking further south of Half moon beach. Again, the accessibility is only by foot or by boat. Definitely a paradise for people who would love to stay away from civilization.
Catamaran ride- The fishermen on Om beach/ Kudle beach/ main beach are quite eager to take you on a boat/catamaran ride. Bargain well and head into the Arabian sea with them. A splash of the salty waters is sure to leave everyone refreshed. A catamaran ride from one beach to another is definitely exciting. Beach hopping cannot get better than this.
Namaste cafe- The most well known shack in Gokarna is the Namaste cafe on Om beach. The cafe cum shack has been carved out on a rock that leads to the beach. The restaurant faces the Om beach and is one of the best places to relax with a mug of beer in Gokarna. It has good rooms and the food is quite delicious. Their Tuna sandwich is one dish which every visitor must bite into.
A detailed post on Gokarna is here- http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.in/2011/03/coastal-circuit-unplugged.html