BY THE SEA -COASTAL KARNATAKA
Due to the rush for popular tourist destinations, coastal Karnataka is often missed by the travel enthusiasts. We had been eyeing this trip for quite some time and planned it when we had a window open for a short road trip. We initially thought of starting from Mangalore , but due to time constraint we shortened our trip and chose Udupi as our starting point. Though Udupi is known to be a temple town (13th-century Sri Krishna Temple), it has lot of more sights to offer. Udupi has some beautiful beaches which are comparatively less crowded. You can reach Udupi from Bangalore by overnight Bus or train or from Mangalore which has its airport and is only 55km away. You will find numerous hotel accommodation options as well.
On the very first day morning on reaching Udupi, we booked a motor cycle for hire .Two good options are Royal brothers https://www.royalbrothers.com/ and RR Bros.First stop we made was Malpe beach. It is more of a commercial beach in the centre of the town. You can book a short boat trip to St Mary’s island on shared basis.But unfortunately due to bad weather it was cancelled. Though we enjoyed some fish fries and local Chinese fast food at the stalls there.
Our next stop was Kodi Bengare. This tiny strip of land is nestled between the sea and the back waters. The ride through this place is amazing. It has two beaches namely Beach Bengre Kemmannu and Bengre Beach. Infact Bengre beach is on the tip on this land right on the Sita river and sea confluence. It does not have a proper access but the view is simply serene.
We spent the evening in Kaup Beach. The lighthouse on the beach is open for visitors between 5:30 AM to 6:30 PM and the panoramic view offered is magnificent. One can aim for sunset atop it but it can get crowded over weekends. Again we would suggest you to take the route through Malpe-Padukere Main Bridge.One can have a beautiful view of the local harbor from the bridge.
Next morning we started for Murudeshwar which is 102 km away, connected most of the way via the scenic NH66. On the way you will cross Maravanthe Beach just few km out of Udupi. Murudeshwar hosts the famous Shiva temple on the top of hillock piercing into the sea.One can opt for scuba diving from Murudeshwar, but it does not have much vivid coral lifeforms to offer.
Our final destination was Gokarna, which literary means ear of the cow. It has historically been a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus. But off late it has become a modestly popular destination for beach-lovers, modern hippies ,yoga and booze lovers. Gokarna has three main beaches – Gokarna beach, Kudle beach and Om beach. There are a few other smaller beaches which can be visited by speed boats.
The main Gokarna beach can best be described as the religious one. Kudle and Om beach are two connected coves down either side of hill. Mind it , you will have a small climb up or down the hill either way but not a big challenge for any fit adult. You have to park your vehicle on the top unattended , but it is safe. Alternatively you can take an auto if you reach directly to Gokarna bus stand or train station(both few km away ).
Kudle beach is the one where you can get on the beach accommodation in shacks and chill out. Om beach too has options for staying but they are limited, Namaste Cafe being the primary crowd puller. There are many shacks on Kudle beach , and from most of them you either have a direct beach access or beach view. Please note online portals still has a very few listing which are actually close to the beach and they may be pricey. We suggest you to go the old way, and search one by one by foot. You will get cheaper options and little bargaining skill will help. Gokarna is still mostly a cash based economy, so do not depend much on your cards.
Both Kudle and Om beach has been made home many Israelis, who often come for long vacations. This has led to number of eateries serving authentic Israeli cuisine. If you get the chance of waking up early in the morning you can find many people performing yoga on the beach.If you are interested you can join one of the many yoga retreats near by. Namaste cafe is one to look out for if you are looking for a good breakfast. Also, Om beach gets its name for its Om shape which is best visible while having breakfast from Namaste Cafe.
Now for the things to do in Gokarna.To be honest there is not a variety of things to choose from. Nights in Kudle beach are mostly when you can enjoy the sea view with drinks and good food. You should not expect partying culture like Goa but it is more of happy ,relax and have fun kind of place. Alcohol is available in most of the shacks and they are open till mid night. You can opt for some basic water sports activities in Om beach or take a boat ride @400-500 Inr depending on the season.Small treks on the hillocks is fun offering a great view.
Finding the best season to visit will go all the way to define your Gokarna experience.Summers are usually too hot and you can hardly venture out post morning .Rainy season is a good alternative if you are willing to take you chances with rain, cloudy weather, off season prices and least crowded beaches. Winters are good but yes not early winters as it will still be hot. Do avoid long weekends or new years eve or Christmas unless you are very sure of your accommodation as with limited options available, it can become a challenge.
Overall, Gokarna for us have become a place of retreat and relaxation. It has all the flavors of Goa but with its own rustic charm and serene demeanor.