West coast

Despite being sandwiched between the holiday honeypots of Goa and south Kerala, and despite having been given a glittering new name by the tourist board, Karnataka's 'Sapphire Coast' has thus far been slow to attract tourists. Yet the landscapes here are dreamy, riven by broad mangrove-lined creeks and carpeted with neon green paddy fields, and the beaches retain a wild beauty, almost entirely innocent of the joys and perils of banana pancakes, necklace hawkers and satellite TV.

The hilly port town of Mangalore makes a pleasant, relaxing stop between Goa and Kerala, but the jewel in the Sapphire Coast's crown thus far is undoubtedly Gokarna: a hippy stronghold, mass pilgrimage site and tremendously sacred Hindu centre. It's little more than one narrow street lined with traditional wooden houses and temples, but it is packed with pilgrims and has been adopted, along with Hampi, by the Goa overspill: people lured by spirituality and the beautiful, auspiciously shaped Om beach. The no-frills hammock and beach hut joints of yore have now been joined by the snazzy, eco-conscious CGH Earth's well-regarded boutique yoga hotel, SwaSwara, based on the Bihar school.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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