Nainital is conveniently the most prized possession of Uttarakhand. Located in the Kumaon foothills of the outer Himalayas, at about 6000 FT from sea level, it is one of the most famous hill stations in India. Nainital is a valley with an eye-shaped lake & “Naina” is the highest of all the mountains surrounding the lake, hence the name “Nainital”.
Inspite of having visited the town several times, spending most of my school summer vacations & several winter vacations there with my family, Nainital never lost its charm for me … always offering something new!
Nainital is at an 8 hour drive from Lucknow (my hometown) & about 7 hour drive from Delhi, making it quite a convenient gateway for travelers from these cities. It’s an easy-to-plan trip, ideal for a weekend. There are plenty of economical & comfortable hotels available on the town’s Mall Road … overlooking the beautiful ‘Naini Lake’.
The popular hill town has, literally, everything it takes to please a traveler!
The beautiful, stagnant pool of water in the heart of the city, ‘Naini Lake’ or religiously also known as ‘Naina-Devi Lake’, is best enjoyed on a boat with stunning scenic surroundings pleasing your senses. Situated next to the lake is the famous ‘Naina-Devi’ or ‘Nanda-Devi’ temple dedicated to Goddess Sati. According to mythological legends, the eye of Goddess Sati fell at this point, creating the eye-shaped ‘Naini Lake’.
The ‘Golu-Devta’ temple in Ghorakhal (falling under the Nainital district) is another major place of religious significance in Nainital. It is approximately 4 KM from Bhowali (a small quaint town close to Nainital). The temple is popular for its age-old unique rituals. One such ritual is that devotees make petitions at the temple, using stamp papers, to seek desired decree in litigations. On accomplishment of their wish, the deity is shown gratitude by hanging bells. The temple is decorated with scores of beautiful bells of all sizes, reflecting the power of gratitude!
On a clear day, travelers can enjoy a spectacular view of the snow-capped Himalayas from the ‘China Peak’ (also called the ‘Naina Peak’) and the very famous ‘Snow View Peak’. One of the most exciting ways to reach the Snow View Peak is by Arial ropeways (cable cars), which commences at ‘Mallital’ (the plainer area of Nainital, adjacent to the Naini Lake).
Nature has generously endowed Nainital with numerous lakes, green valleys and picturesque landscapes. Apart from the ‘Naini Lake’, there are several other lakes in this ‘lake district’! The ‘Bhimtal Lake’, about 22 KM from Nainital, is the biggest lake in the region. The ‘Khurpatal Lake’ along the Kaladhungi Road and the ‘Naukuchiyatal Lake’ are other impressive lakes. The ‘Naukuchiyatal Lake’ is a unique nine cornered lake, as clearly suggested in its name.
The Nainital Zoo is another must-visit! It houses several unique species of birds and animals living at such high altitudes. Nainital’s Botanical Garden, on the way to Kaldhungi, has a collection of several native plants and species.
The ‘Eco Cave Garden’ of Nainital, is not to be missed either! Situated on the Kaladungi Road, it is a cluster of interconnected caves and hanging gardens. There are 6 underground caves, named after various wild animals that they resemble, connected through tunnels. Some of these caves are so narrow that people have to crawl through them, which in turn adds to the fun and adventure. After exploring the dark caves, visitors are greeted by a musical fountain show. It is the first show in Uttarakhand that is inspired by Disneyland.
The hilly terrain of Nainital is perfect for adventure enthusiasts, who wish to explore the beauty of the hill station on foot. ‘Barapatthar’, an excellent trekking spot 4 KM away from the main city, and ‘Kilbury’, 12 KM away, are perfect spots for some peace and solitude amidst green forests and panoramic views of the Himalayas.
The famous ‘Boat House Club’ is a royal and prestigious club anchored on the banks of the Naini Lake. The amazing food and exclusive dining experience along the lakeside, makes this hangout really worth it.
The vibrant ‘Mall Road’, along the beautiful lake, and the popular flee market of the city, ‘Tibetan Market’ are the most preferred places of shopping and eating in Nainital. The markets are dotted with shops and shacks of local specialties; selling Tibetan bags, exquisite scarves, ethnic dresses, intricately designed shawls, woolen mufflers, junk accessories and stylish watches. Another highlight of this market is that all these fascinating articles can be purchased at affordable prices!
In a nutshell, from a simple walk by the enchanting lakeside, to an excursion to admire the beauty of the bustling marketplaces, to an adventurous trek, to a quiet cup of tea while enjoying the quaint distant peaks, Nainital has plenty to offer.