GOKARNA(sanskrit: 'cow's ear') is one of those culture-clash Indian towns that has one culture piggy-backing on the other!
Primarily it is a deeply revered and conservative Hindu pilgrimage town, with a much-celebrated
Shivaratri festival and an amazing AUM symbol-shaped beach. Gokarna is also a magnet for backpackers/hippies (like yours truly!??)
that have come for the string of undeveloped/underdeveloped beaches
and this marriage of the religious and psychedelic is thrown right back at you with endless Ganesh-twance-flouro-incense stalls aplenty.
But don't expect a mini-Goa, the vibe is far more
laid-back, long timer and cosmic than its near-namesake 2 hours up the coast.Three of the beaches can't be reached by road,
you have to trek across the landscape and this has secured them sanctuary-type status with a general lack of development.
It's part of the 'follow the sun' circuit that sits between Goa and Hampi and is disproportionately popular with Israelis, stoners,
and of course, Israeli stoners :)
The two beaches that can be reached by road are the town beach and OM beach. Town beach is rather featureless, shadeless and endless!
OM has the sacred shape, compact size, reasonably protected swimming, smattering of beach huts/restaurants, wandering cows and
Kudle beach is a short walk from town and the domain of the backpackers.'Full moon' and 'Paradise' I leave for next time!
I can't comment on the temples as caucasian face= non-hindu= not welcome here.
Don't get me started on that!!
One always hears remarks how Gokarna is 'like how Goa used to be'. I can't make any comparisons as I have yet to explore the delights of Goa personally.
But I know these comments are founded on the lack of development, noise pollution, ravey party scene, hawkers/touts and alcohol culture to be found here.
Everybody I met who had been to both places insisted this was the friendlier place and that was good
enough for me.