Set on the Arabian Sea in the Indian state of Karnataka, Gokarna is an important destination for Hindu pilgrims. They journey here to worship at sacred sites such as Koti Teertha, known as 'The Holy Pond'. Gokarna is also known for golden-sand beaches – some of which are only accessible by boat or trekking over rocks. The town's streets are lined with small shops selling a cheerful mix of handicrafts, jewellery and devotional wares.
Hostels in Gokarna range from a stylish wooden hostel right on the beach, colourfully decorated accommodation with a spectacular clifftop sea view, or relaxed rooms tucked away in lush greenery. You can even go eco-friendly by choosing a Gokarna hostel which runs entirely by solar power. As well as dorms (mixed and single-gender) and private rooms, you can choose to stay in traditional woven huts. Many Gokarna hostels arrange activities like 'photo walks', beach volleyball and trekking. Helpful staff and free Wi-Fi are useful for arranging onward travel.
Most visitors will arrive into Gokarna's town centre, where you'll find thousand-year-old temples and busy market streets. Gokarna Beach is a favourite with both locals and pilgrims – and fishermen on their boats, bobbing out at sea. Along the coast, sandy Kudle Beach is one of the most popular for visitors. Others, like secluded, lagoon-like Half Moon Beach, are only accessible by craggy paths and boat. Furthest from Gokarna town is Paradise Beach, which you might find you have all to yourself.
Many of the top things to do in Gokarna are centred on its beaches. You can go surfing, try snorkelling and other watersports, or attend yoga classes on Kudle Beach. At night, a lack of urban lights means that the beaches are perfect for stargazing – you might even see bioluminescent plankton in the sea as well! Cultural highlights include Mahabaleshwar Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, who was believed to have emerged from the nearby rivers.
Dabolim Airport is around 160km away. You can take a bus to Gokarna, which is a 6-hour journey with a change at Margao. The train is faster, but you'll need to take a taxi at either end of the journey – first to get to Madgaon Junction railway station, then from Gokarna Road station into town. It should take less than 3 hours overall. From Bangalore, it's a 9.5-hour bus ride or a 16-hour train. In Gokarna, you can get around on auto-rickshaws or hire a motorbike.