After spending three eventful days in Gokarna, we began our journey to the next destination on our coastal Karnataka road trip itinerary – Murudeshwar.
A sleepy town till a few years back, Murudeshwar has become quite popular in recent years due to the Murudeshwar temple, its Gopuram and the second largest statue of Lord Shiva in Asia. The town has also attained the distinction of being one of India’s top scuba diving destinations owing to its proximity to Netrani Islands, an offshore island located deep in the Arabian Sea. This small coastal town has a unique charm of its own and attracts two diametrically opposite sets of tourists – pilgrims and adventure seeking youngsters which gives it a unique vibe. Fortunately, the town has space for both.
To be honest, I had never heard about Murudeswar before I planned this trip. The destination popped up during my online research while planning for the trip and after reading about experiences of other travellers, I realised that a coastal Karnataka road trip is incomplete without visiting Murudeshwar temple and Netrani Islands.
Drive from Gokarna to Murudeshwar
Murudeshwar is located approximately 80 kilometers from Gokarna and it took us around 3 hours to drive the distance. While the journey can be covered in half that time, it took us slightly longer due to the numerous pit-stops we took to soak in the sights en-route. It was also raining intermittently and that kind of slowed down the drive. We arrived in Murudeshwar at around noon and quickly checked into our hotel RNS Residency.
RNS Residency, Murudeshwar
If you ever happen to visit Murudeshwar, make sure you book your stay in this hotel. It is an old hotel and is definitely past its prime. The rooms are basic and the service and food are average. However, what makes this hotel unique is its LOCATION. Located atop a small hill jutting into the sea, RNS Residency is surrounded on three sides by the sea and the city temple on the other. All rooms have a spacious balconies overlooking the sea and the Murudeshwar beach. Experiencing the views while sipping a cup of tea from the balcony of one of its rooms is an experience you would not want to miss when in Murudeshwar.
Hotel RNS Residency derives its name from the initials of its founder, Mr Rama Nagappa Shetty, a renowned businessman and philanthropist of the region. Food at the hotel is average and consists of usual south Indian fare. Since the hotel is located adjacent to the temple it only serves vegetarian dishes. For those wanting to experience local sea-food, Naveen Beach Resort located nearby is a good option.
The Murudeshwar Temple and Gopuram
It was raining heavily when we arrived in Murudeshwar. Since the town was located in a coastal region, the downpour was severe. Unfortunately, a cyclone had formed over the Arabian Sea during the period of our visit to this part of the country and we could not explore the region as much as we wanted to.
The rains stopped for a brief late in the afternoon and we decided to visit the Murudeshwar temple immediately to ensure we did not miss out on it. Since the temple complex was located right next to our hotel, we walked down the distance and were at its gates in less than 10 minutes.
The Murudeshwar temple is a large complex built atop a small hill. Visitors need to walk several steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum. The temple complex has large manicured gardens overlooking the sea below and is a favourite with tourists trying to click images from every possible angle. The highlight of the temple is the Statue of Lord Shiva that overlooks the entire temple complex. It’s a gigantic statue and its size can only be felt as you get closer to it.
The other highlight of the Murudeshwar temple is its tall Gopuram, or entrance gate that stands tall at 240 feet and has a lift that takes tourists to the top floor for a view of Lord Shiva’s statue from the top. The sight of the statue from the high corridors of the Gopuram with the vast Arabian sea behind it is surreal and one should not miss it.
Murudeshwar temple is heavily crowded throughout the year. Although we visited it during the off-season or non-peak season, the place was teeming with devotees and tourists. It made me wonder what it would be like during the peak season. Nonetheless, the visit to Murudeshwar temple and the Gopuram was a delightful experience.
After exploring the temple, we next moved to the Murudeshwar beach located a stone’s throw away from the temple. Fortunately for us, the rain had subsided and it provided us a short time frame to visit the beach. Like us, other tourists too seemed to exploit the opportunity. The beach was full of people when we arrived and the water sport operators were having a field day negotiating rates for their offerings.
The Murudeshwar beach although picturesque from a distance, was quite dirty. At least that is what we experienced. There were religious offerings like flower garlands, coconut shells, clothes strewn all around that had turned the sand on the beach partially dark brown. Also, the water sport activity owners and ATV bikes on the beach with their diesel engines made the air all around pungent and dirty. We spent less than 30 minutes on the beach and decided to return to our hotel as we found it to be too commercialized and dirty.
As mentioned earlier, a cyclone had developed over the region during the period of our journey. As such local authorities had prohibited trips to the Islands. As such our planned trip to the Islands had to be cancelled. As such, we decided to leave Murudeshwar for Udupi the next day as there was nothing much to do.
I have captured my experiences of Murudeshwar in this small Vlog. I hope you enjoy watching it.