Whenever someone mentions a beach holiday, Goa is the first place that everyone visualize. Many do not realize that there is another low key paradise south of Goa, called Gokarna. Gokarna is a tiny temple town in Karnataka, just 3-4 hours drive from Goa, with laid back, secluded and pristine beaches. The town draws pilgrims, holiday makers and backpackers with equal enthusiasm. This is a great place to travel on a budget as well. Travellers come here from around the world to escape the cold winters. This is the perfect place to slow down, make new friends and get a different perspective on life. Also if you’re seeking for some peace and quiet, or if you want to muse or an idea for a new book or article, then this is the right place for you. Day 1We reached Gokarna early in the morning, having travelled from Bangalore the previous night, and checked in at the Hotel Gokarna International (which we booked online). Initially, we planned on putting up at Zostel. But unfortunately, it was fully booked because, mind you, December- January is the peak season for travelers in Gokarna. Our next option was to check the cottages around the beach, but again found that the ones with reasonable pricing were booked. So we booked a 3 bed single room at Hotel Gokarna International which is a little farther away from the beaches and were not very sure what to expect. When we got there we were welcomed to a fully furnished spacious room on the 2nd floor including a balcony with a view. At Rs. 1000 per night split between the 3 of us it was great value for money.Om beachBreakfast at Kudle beach There are 5 main beaches in Gokarna- Om beach, Half moon beach, Paradise beach, Kudle beach and Gokarna beach. Om beach was where we were headed first. The beach is named so because it is shaped like the auspicious symbol when viewed from above. True to its name, the beach was really tranquil and serene. We were dog tired and hungry, so we immediately headed to Namaste cafe for lunch. This cafe is famous for its seafood, and is perfect if you’re hungry and looking for a nice relaxed time. It has a great ambience and a beautiful view of the Arabian sea. I had a tuna sandwich, shrimp fried rice and a beer for lunch, totally costing me about 380 Rs, which, according to the food and service, is good value for the buck . We relaxed for a while and then headed to Kudle beach.Kudle beach from the hillKudle beach, which is only about a 15-20 minute trek from Om beach, is much bigger and definitely more vibrant. The first thing we did when we got there was go for a swim. The sea was calm and the water level was only neck deep for about 40/50 metres from the shore line, making it ideal for swimming. After swimming for a while, we ventured into one of the many cafes/shacks in the perimeter of the long C-shaped shore and ordered pizza, and a beer each. The price of beer is almost the same in all the cafes here- about 140/150 per bottle. You can totally soak up the vibes of the beach by sipping beer and facing the lemon yellow sunset of the horizon, while checking out the various activities carried out along the beach. You can see performances with no boundaries here – people doing yoga, some doing namaz to the sunset, some jogging along the shore, some playing a musical instrument. It is also not uncommon to see mothers playing with their kids or a random traveller voluntarily cleaning up the beach. A woman, sitting beside us, was watching the horizon and periodically scribbling on her notepad. I realized that I had come to the right place.It was dusk by the time we left the beach. We raced our bicycles downhill in the semi darkness with full-on adrenaline rush ( not recommended).Day 2Paradise BeachPosersOn the second day, the first thing we did was rent 2 scooters at Rs 200 for 24 hours per scooter. We headed to Kudle beach for breakfast and also to get to get a glimpse of the sunrise. But we forgot the fact that the beach is west facing, hence no sunrise view. We had our breakfast and packed some food for our journey to Paradise beach. It is important to get your own food at paradise beach as there are no shacks or cottages here. This beach is the farthest from the town and is accessible only by trekking or a boat ride. We drove our scooters up to where the road ended and trekked for about 30 minutes. When we finally got there, we were greeted by a group of Russian tourists. This one guy with dreadlocks, upon seeing us, began to speak Manipuri (my native tongue). I was surprised. He told us that he had been to each and every state in India, including the north-east, and made some good Manipuri friends as well. Upon asking what he learnt from his travels in India, he said that India is very diverse, more like a country of countries; where language, culture and landscape differ from one region to another, yet all these differences bound together by some spiritual element. Impressive this guy, I thought. He, then, continued speaking some Manipuri slangs and I gave him a 10 on 10.The trek to paradise beachParadise beach is much quieter and more secluded compared to the other beaches, which makes it ideal for camping. You can camp the night if you bring your own camping gear. It was customary to howl and greet every incoming traveller on the beach. That particular day, we three were the only Indians on the entire beach. Nevertheless, trust me, it is a great place to make new friends and to just let go and relax. When dusk approached, we exchanged goodbyes and headed to Kudle for dinner. Even at night, the beach was brimming with life. We witnessed the local fishermen’s day’s catches from the sea- wide variety of fishes, crabs, prawns, even a jellyfish. Then we sauntered around the beach, listening to the crashing waves in the darkness, and sat around bonfires with strangers jamming their guitar.Day 3Our last day began with an early morning swim and then breakfast at Kudle beach. Afterwards, we went on a boat ride after a boat owner convinced us to show us dolphins in the sea. Sure enough we got to see dolphins for the first time. It seemed like they were playfully teasing us – popping up momentarily and then diving down again. They did not seem to mind the boats nearby.Dolphin finAfter the dolphin experience, the boat took us to Om beach, and then to half-moon beach. A man sitting alone, passionately crushing his stash of weed, welcomed us to half-moon beach. We had not been here before, so, we walked around for a while. This beach, more like a lagoon, was much quieter than Om beach or Kudle beach and would be perfect for a picnic or even camping. We visited paradise beach once more and then headed back to Kudle to end our ride. We bought some souvenirs, bid farewell to the beach and went back to our hotel to check-out. Buses to Bangalore leave only at night , which gave us ample time to explore the town. Gokarna beach was just close by, so we decided to check it out. This beach is much more crowded compared to the others, and has more local visitors and pilgrims than tourists. Jet skis and boat rides are also available here. We had our lunch in a nearby cafe with a view. Next we wandered around the hypnotic streets of Gokarna, lined with souvenir shops and traditional red-tile-roofed brick houses. You can find spiritual idols, clothes, spices, necklaces, musical instruments, books, pooja items, just anything authentically Indian in the shops here, and that too at relatively cheap price.By nightfall, we boarded our bus back to Bangalore and promised among ourselves to make this trip happen again. Other than the scenic pristine beauty of this place, what I also learnt about this place is that the local residents are very friendly and down to earth. They’ll never try to rip you off, as is the case of many other places in India. The foreigners here have deep respect for the locals and vice versa, making this place perfectly balanced and give off a very peaceful hippie vibe. If you ever plan on going to Gokarna, trust me, you’ll have a very different, genuine and an amazing experience.