Highway to paradise: The beaches of Uttara Kannada

Highway to paradise: The beaches of Uttara KannadaMurdeshwar beach and Shiva

The beaches of Karwar (Uttara Kannada district) in Karnataka, which has Goa as its border, have been attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world since decades. The beach at the district headquarters was described by Rabindranath Tagore thus: "The sea beach of Karwar is certainly a fit place in which to realise that the beauty of nature is not a mirage of the imagination, but reflects the joy of the Infinite and thus draws us to lose ourselves in it....." Named after the poet laureate, who spent considerable time in Karwar, this beach is now a popular tourist destination. A disused naval warship, which is now a museum, is the star attraction on the beach. A morning walk on this beach, when fisher folk return from the sea with their catch, is quite refreshing.
The port of Karwar, fort of Sadashivgad and the island of Devbagh, where Jungle Lodges runs a tourist camp, are some of the interesting places to visit near Karwar. On the way to Sadashivgarh there is a small temple known as Khapri temple, where the deity is offered liquor and cigarettes!
About 40kms south of Karwar lies "Om Beach", which is in the shape of Sanskrit letter Om, and is most popular with foreign tourists, who consider it is a good alternative to Goa. Since the beach provides privacy, it has more foreign presence than local. A large number of hotels and resorts, including an Ayurvedic spa, have been developed near this beach, which lies close to the temple town of Gokarna.

Murdeshwar beach

Honnavar bridge


Gokarna is an important pilgrimage place for Hindus. According to legend, when Ravana was carrying the 'Atmalinga' of Lord Shiva, which was given to him as a boon, he was forced to keep it on the shore of Gokarna and the lingam got embedded there. The Mahabaleshwara temple of Gokarna has this lingam as its main deity. Shaped like the ears of a cow, the lingam is inside the ground where Lord Ganesha was said to have placed it. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha too.

From Gokarna one can reach Kumta, whose beach sunset is quite famous. River Haranashini meets the Arabian Sea near Kumta amid stunning surroundings. The historical Mirzan Fort, built in the 17th century during Vijayanagar Empire, is near Kumta. The fort is said to have changed hands many times. The secret passage, which takes one outside this fort and the well, are quite popular. The wooden handicrafts of Kumta are also well-known.
About 25kms from Kumta is Yaana, which is famous for its unusual rock formations. The two major rock formations in Yaana are the Byraveshwara Rock and Mohini Rock. Popular with trekkers, Yaana has served as the setting for many movies.

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Sunset at Murdeshwar

To the south of Kumta is Honnavara, a port town which finds a mention in the documents of various foreign travellers such as Abdur Razak, Varthema, Vargosa, etc. Honnavara is where river Sharavathi meets the sea. The two-kilometre long road bridge and the winding Konkan railway bridge on the river are a big attraction. A few kilometres away is Gunavante, and its roadside Gurukrupa Bhattara Hotel. The hotel serves crisp ghee dosas and beaten rice (avalakki) with curds, my all-time favourite dish, and is popular with travellers who traverse the highway.
The famous temple of Ganesha at Idagunji is close to Gunavante. Idagunji is also known for its Yakshagana. However, it is Murudeshwar, located 20kms from Idagunji, which attracts most tourists. The sunset, "tallest" Shiva statue in the world, beach, temple, and water sports attract young and old tourists alike.
Near Murudeshwar is Bhatkal, which has a very placid and lovely beach. Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar is said to have stayed at a house on this beach a few years ago and was said to be excited about it.
All the beaches are located close to the National Highway connecting Panaji to Mangaluru. The Konkan Railway also passes through this stretch. Plenty of accommodation, suiting all budgets, is available in these places. Merely driving on the national highway with the Arabian Sea on one side and the rail track on the other is a thrilling experience indeed.

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