About Gokarna

Gokarna by the Bagmati river, Kathmandu
Gokarna by the Bagmati River, Kathmandu

Gokarna is just 10 kilometers from Kathmandu City, situated beyond Boudhanath, in the northern region of the Kathmandu Valley. It lies within a serene forest area, with the main attraction being the majestic Gokarna Mahadev temple complex.

Located adjacent to a cleaner section of the Bagmati River, the temple complex escaped damage during the 2015 earthquake. It is encircled by an extensive array of stone statues, funeral ghats, and unique shrines that are not commonly found elsewhere in Nepal.

Gokarna is accessible if you bypass the mid-morning and afternoon traffic congestion in Kathmandu. For those interested in nature, the surrounding protected area offers ample opportunities for hiking. Culture enthusiasts will find Gokarna to be a lesser-known gem that can easily be incorporated into their itinerary.

Gokarna is an ideal half-day excursion from Kathmandu City. Whether you choose to rent a car/taxi or take a local bus, the journey is straightforward and convenient.

Did you know?

There are several "tour operators" who offer trips to Gokarna. Unless you like tours, they are not necessary and quite expensive.

My guidebook to Nepal contains extensive heritage information and walk through to Gokarna at a fraction of the cost.

Getting to Gokarna

There are several transportation methods to Gokarna, depending on your budget and schedule.

Buses run from the Ratna bus area approximately every 30 minutes and are the most budget-friendly way to Gokarna (costing 25 rupees). However, in 2023, these buses depart from the roads, making them challenging to locate. The bus stop next to the hospital currently transports passengers to Gokarna—details can be found in my Nepal guidebook. Taxis can be scarce in Gokarna. Booking a two-way taxi ride from Kathmandu can cost between 1600 to 2000 rupees and may involve waiting times.

An alternative is to hire a taxi in Gokarna and return via bus.

For full details, please read my free online guide on getting to Gokarna.

Things to See & Do in Gokarna

Nearly all trips to Gokarna begin from just outside the main Gokarna Mahadev temple complex. The bus from Kathmandu will drop you off here, provided you request it. Alternatively, the bus stops at a terminal around the corner from the temple. Simply take a left from the bus stop and follow the road back to the temple if you disembark at the bus stop.

If the bus or taxi drops you off outside the temple complex, there are two entrances to choose from. The most popular is the main entrance at the bottom of the hill to the right. There's a large open area there, followed by a small gate just in front of the temple. The building to your left before the gate is the ticket office (you might need to call out to summon the attendant).

The second entrance is just before the main entrance to the right, near the store where people wait for a bus back to Kathmandu. There are a series of steps leading down to the temple complex. At the bottom to the right is a building that usually houses someone who issues tickets.

Gokarna Temple Complex:

The Gokarna temple complex is relatively small but is one of the most feature-filled complexes in all of Nepal.

Detailed map and diagram showing Gokarna Temple Complex, statues and shrines
Detailed map and diagram showing Gokarna Temple Complex, statues and shrines - available in my Nepal guidebook

The main temple takes center stage, but surrounding it is a collection of statues and sculptures that outnumber many other places in the country.

In front of the temple are the ghats which you can walk along up to the suspension bridge. It's worth crossing over to the mid point of the bridge to get a great look at the temple area. To the left are several other fascinating shrines which we'll also take a look at below.

It's customary to walk clockwise around the temple. Though walking back and forth is fine when looking at the statues and shrines.

Gokarna temple (Gokarneshwor):

The tall three-roof temple was built in its current form in 1582. It is said the actual temple dates back further due to the areas royal history throughout the ages. The temple is dedicated to Shiva in Mahadev form (Shiva’s “great god” form).

Along the front of the temple there is an impressive golden door and even more wonderful torana above it. The torana depicts Shiva and his consort Parvati at the center in the Uma Maheshwar position (Parvati on Shiva’s knee leaning on him). Above them is Garuda. Behind the door is the inner sanctum which is usually locked and contains a revered Shiva lingam.

Statues around Gokarna Complex:

Surrounding the Gokarna temple are dozens of Hindu and Nepali statues. The large statues with circular bases have depictions of Hindu gods that are not found elsewhere.

To the side near the main entrance is a statue depicting Shashthi, next to it on the right is Durga, then Mahagauri (Durga), then one more of Durga the mother goddess again. Gokarna Temple with statues all around itFinally we come back to Shiva’s trident. At the front of the temple past the golden door is Ganesh, then a lone Hanuman followed up by a unique statue of Krishna with a Gopi (one of his maiden followers).

On the far side of the temple near the steps you'll find a rare statue of Indra on an elephant.

To the rear there is a Nandi statue which in itself is unusually placed as it's normally located to the front of a Shiva temple.

Parvati's Shrine:

In the rear side corner is a small shrine to Shiva's wife Parvati. The shrine is usually open and there's a statue of Parvati inside dressed in a sari like dress.

Reclining Narayan:

To the front of the temple and down the steps by the river you'll come across an unusual stone statue of Narayan lying on a bed of snakes.

Vishnu Shrine:

To the left is a temple like building which is dedicated to and Vishnu known as Vishnu Paduka. Inside there’s a statue to Vishnu along with a set of his foot prints.

Tree Shrine:

Tree Shrine in GokarnaWalk around the Vishnu temple to a series of shrines and you'll quickly come across one of the best tree shrines in all Nepal. Most likely this small Shiva shrine looked like the others beside it until a seed landed and this large trees vast root system took hold. Inside the shrine is a small stone Shiva lingam.

Ghats in Gokarna:

The Bagmati river opens up in front of you as stone steps lead down the ghats. As you walk towards the bridge you’ll pass the old ghats where cremations still take place today. Up ahead and closer to the bridge are more modern ghats. Do be aware that cremations take place and taking photos of them is not appropriate. From the top of the bridge you should get a great view looking back at the temple an

Around Gokarna:

If you are after a round of gold at a premier location then the Gokarna Forest Resort Golf Range should be a familiar name to you. Designed by same people who created Gleneagles in Scotland it’s a premier course. Costs range from 5,000/7,000 rupees for 18 holes during weekdays and weekends. Equipment rental starts at 2,000 rupees.

Entrance Fees to Gokarna

There is no entrance fee to visit Gokarna. However, to enter the Gokarna temple complex, there's a 100 rupee ticket. Get the ticket from either the main entrance or the one near the bottom of the main road steps.

Map of Gokarna

Full directions to Gokarna, maps, and diagrams of the temple complex are available in my guidebook below.


Restaurants in Gokarna

Restaurants are virtually nonexistent in Gokarna in terms of tourist meals. There are a few local cafes serving food near the bus stop at the top of the steps leading to the temple complex. It's best to stick with basics here, like noodles.

Accommodation in Gokarna

There is very little accommodation available in Gokarna. The area is close enough to Boudhanath and Kathmandu to avoid having to stay there overnight.

That said, there is a resort nearby. Gokarna Forest Resort offers rooms starting at USD $100+. You can check the Gokarna Forest Resort pricing here.

For those on a budget wanting to stay in the area, consider Tranquil Home Stay. It offers 6 clean rooms and very welcoming hosts, providing a peaceful stay. Located near Shiksyalaya School and Nepal Engineering College. Tranquil Homestay pricing and bookings can be made here.

Download my guidebook to Nepal

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Full Nepal Guidebook
Complete country guide with quick heritage walks (includes Gokarna)




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