Since my brief trip to the Karnataka coast last November, I was looking forward to going back. The 10-hour bus journey from Bangalore on the pot-filled roads had been a nightmare, so this time I took the overnight train to Mangalore which was a lot more comfortable. The trip from Mangalore up the coast was also surprisingly a lot less bumpy because the roads had been repaved since November.
I think the Karnataka coast is one of India’s best-kept secrets. Though they share the same coastline, the beaches of Kerala and Goa have become very crowded and commercialized over the past decade, with big hotel chains popping up everywhere and direct charter flights arriving from international destinations like Moscow and Copenhagen.
In Karnataka you can still find quiet, idyllic beaches unblemished by crowds and commercialism. At my favourite beach getaway in Byndoor, we were the only guests and had the lovely beach all to ourselves! We then moved on to Gokarna, a place I had heard a lot about and had been meaning to visit for a long time.
Gokarna has always been popular with pilgrims who visit its famous Shiva temple and travellers who frequent the many beautiful beaches. The town is a charming collection of temples, narrow lanes and old houses. Pilgrims take a dip in the sea at Gokarna beach before visiting the main Mahabaleshwar temple.
The best way to get to other nearby beaches is on foot. Actually there is no other way to reach them… the fact that you can’t get to these beaches by car make them all the more secluded. A short walk from Gokarna town takes you over the hill of red laterite rock and down along a rocky path, before emerging from a coconut grove onto Kudle Beach. This wide, semi-circular beach is popular with travellers. During the day there is a handful of people swimming or sunbathing. In the mornings and around sunset, it gets busier, with many people practicing yoga, taichi or capoeira on the beach or watching the sunset from one of the many beach cafés.
At the other end of Kudle Beach a path takes you up and over the hill towards Om Beach. Along the rocky path I passed delivery men carefully balancing crates of eggs, huge sacks of potatoes, or gas cylinders on their heads! Since the beaches can only be reached on foot, this is how deliveries are made to the beach-side cafés and restaurants. Om Beach got it’s name because of its shape which resembles the Sanskrit character for Om. Smaller and quieter than Kudle Beach, this is the beach I preferred. Stepping into the water was like stepping into a warm bath. A short hike away are Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach.
I’m not a ‘beach person’ and rarely choose a beach destination for a holiday. But I like the natural beauty and calm landscape of the Karnataka coast, making it one of my favourite places in India.