Nainital – The Glittering Jewel in the Himalyan Necklace
Tucked away in the Kumaon foothills of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1,938 meters, Nainital is one of the most charismatic hill stations that India harbors. Its enchanting panorama, sprinkled with natural resplendence in the form of varicolored coppices and dazzling almond-shaped lakes has earned it the well-merited moniker of “Lake Paradise”. The garlanded beauty of the place beckons day-trippers, nature-seekers, and travel enthusiasts all across India. Especially, for North Indian denizens, Nainital holds an inimitable charm and forms the perfect retreat from cacophony and city blues.
Nainital is a glittering jewel in the Himalyan necklace, blessed with scenic natural spledour and varied natural resources. Nainital popularly known as the, “lake district of India” and is situated in Uttranchal. The word Nainital means, “Naini” meaning “the eye” and “Tal” meaning “the Lake”. The word Naini is derived from the Goddess Naina, the temple was built on the upper edge of the lake however it got destroyed by the landside which took place in the year 1880. Nainital was earlier the summer headquarters of the British. The natural beauty and the Naini Lake makes it the famous tourist destination.
Best time to visit Nainital
Nainital is located in the Kumaon hills and the weather is very pleasant throughout the year except during winter months. The temperature is not very high at any time but in winters it becomes very cold. The climate of Nainital is regulated by the lake here which showers rain almost every afternoon. The best time visit the place is between April to June and then again in September October. The months of January to March are marked by the snowfall which is for a very short time. It is advisable that contact any local person before going to Nainital to watch snowfall.
How to Get There?
The nearest railway station is that of Kathgodam which is connected by trains from Delhi and Howrah. The narrow gauge trains come from Lalkuan which is 55 kms from Nainital. From Lalkuan and Kathgodam regular taxi and bus services are available for Nainital. Nainital is well connected by buses with other parts of the state. Inter state services are also available. The state transport corporation as well as the private operators have their buses on this route.
By Air – The nearest airport is at Pantnagar, located 70 km from Nainital. However, airports in Delhi and Lucknow are more convenient, owing to their easy accessibility from the rest of India.
By Rail – An excellent network of broad gauge railways easily connects Nainital to places like Delhi, Kolkata and Dehradun. The nearest railhead is Kathgodam, 35 , which is connected by metre guage to Agra, Bareilly and Lucknow. Some of the important train connections from Kathgodam are: Shatabadi Express, Howrah Express (3019/3020), Ranikhet Express (5013/5014), Rampur Passenger (1/2 R.K. Passenger and 3/4 R.K. Passenger), Nainital Express (5308/5307).
By Road – Nainital is easily linked to adjoining areas in Uttaranchal and other important north Indian cities such as Delhi (310 km), Haldwani (40 km) and Dehradun (300 km) by a good network of roads.
Some of the major road distances are:
Almora – 62 km.
Agra – 379 km.
Kausani – 117 km
Ranikhet – 60 km.
Corbett (Dhikala) – 128 km.
Bareilly – 141 km.
Nainital Tourist Attractions
The nucleus of Nainital’s exquisite beauty is beautiful lake. In the day, mirrored in its waters stand seven proud hills, dotted with pretty cottages and villas. This reflection alone holds one spell bound. More beautiful than this however is the lake at night when the myriads of bulbs from the hill sides and quite a large number hanging near the lake’s edge stab their magic light into its waters.
The lake offers the holiday makers ample opportunity for yachting, boating or paddling the boat. Boating rates in conventional rowing boats ranges from Rs. 30/- to Rs. 50/- in peak season days from one end of lake to another end. Paddling boats are available on hourly rate from Rs. 50/- to Rs. 90/- depending on type of paddle boat and tourist rush. Rowing as well as paddling boats are available at both ends of lake.
The north end of lake is called Mallital while the southern one is called Tallital which have a bridge (Danth popularly named) having Gandhiji’s statue and post office on its sides .It is the only Post Office on the lake bridge in whole of the world.There is Bus Station , Taxi stand and Railway reservation counter on the same lake bridge , both ends have well laid out shopping centres,with beautifully laid of marts ,stores and luxury shops.
Bhimtal, situated at a distance of 22kms from Nainital, is named after one of the Pandav brothers called Bhim. It is a beautiful island at the middle of the lake which is one of the main tourist attractions in Nainital. The vast lake below the hill offers boating and fishing facilities to the tourists. The largest lake in the district of Nainital, Bhim Tal is 1701 metres by 265 metres, 265 metres longer than Naini Lake. The lake known for its magnificent majesty is situated at an altitude of 1371.6 metres above sea level.
Bhim Tal has an island, to the north-east side, which is an exquisite gem in the middle of the lake. It is situated within the range of temple bells, which have been chiming for the last 300 years in the 17th century edifice, beneath the shadow of the towering mountain rushing precipitously down to the emerald green lake. The island is only 91.4 metres from the shore.
Naina Peak is also known as the China peak. This peak is the highest point in Nainital at an altitude of 2611 mts. and at a distance of 6 Kms from the town. It commands an entrancing view of sparkling snow laden Himalayas from Bandar Punch in west to Api and Nari peaks of Nepal in the east , a full Himalayan range in one side and a birds eye view of the lake city of Nainital in its full grandeur on the other. With a pair of binoculars a good panorama of the tract surrounding Nainital is obtained . Pony or Horses can be hired to visit this peak either from Snow view or from Mallital. From here Nainital appears as a bowl. You can walk or take ponies to the peak. From this peak you can capture the exciting views of Nainital. Naina peak also gives a good view of the Camelback peak. There are no hotels or restaurants on the top so carry food and water along with you.
It is the most easily accessible hill top, height 2270 mts. and at a distance of 2.5 Km from the town. The spot is accessible through ropeway. This peak is also connected by motor able road. Snow view as the name suggests offers an indescribably beautiful and breath taking picture of the glittering snows of Himalyas.It has a temple. Tea, snacks, Photographers are available at this place.
Though popular for its spectacular sunset views, another highlight of the spot is the Hanuman temple located atop a nearby hill. It is around 3.5 Kms away from the bus stop at an altitude of 1951 Mts. Hanuman Garhi is a religious centre and famous for its sun set view. One can go to Hanuman Garhi by taxi, bus or even on foot from Nainital. It has a temple complex presiding deity being Lord Hanuman besides Ram and Shiva. At the instance of Neem Karoli Baba around 1950 these temples were built. On the other side of the hill there is Shitala Devi temple and Ashram of Lila Sah Bapu.
Situated on Manora peak it is about 1 Km from Hanumangarhi if some one prefers to visit it on foot . By road it is about 9 Kms from Nainital . It is a centre of astronomical studies and optical tracking of artificial satellites. For night viewing of stars and planets some days are fixed on moon lit nights and permission is necessary.
Observatory was established at Nainital in 1955 and shifted to present location of Manora Peak in 1961. The primary objective of the observatory has been to develop facilities for modern astrophysical research in stellar, solar & theoretical branches of astrophysics.On some selected clear nights the visitors are also shown some celestial objects through the telescopes.
St. John Church
The church of St. John in the Wilderness was established in 1844 and is located on the north end of town (Mallital), about half a mile north-west of the Naina Devi temple. The church was so named by Daniel Wilson, the Bishop of Calcutta, who, after falling ill during a visit to Nainital in 1844 to lay the foundation of the church, was obliged to sleep in an unfinished house on the edge of the forest. (See excerpt from Josiah Bateman on the Literary references to Nainital page.) A brass plaque on the altar is inscribed with names of the victims of the Landslip of 1880.
Naina Devi Temple
The Naina Devi Temple was destroyed by the landslip of 1880 and later rebuilt. It is located on the northern shore of Naini Lake. The presiding deity of the temple is Maa Naina Devi represented by two Netras or eyes. Flanking Naina Devi are the deities of Mata Kali and Lord Ganesha.
Corbett National Park
Set up in 1936, the Corbett National Park is India’s first and the finest national park. Situated in the foothills of the western Himalayas in the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal, the park spans across some 920.9 square kilometres at an altitude of 600 to 1,100 metres. Today the park has grown considerably in size and now includes the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of its 1,319 sq. km of reserved forest area.
Naini Tal has a small but a very beautiful Zoological garden. There are many animals kept here which includes Deers, Bears, Tigers and many more. The hygiene and cleanness of the zoo is a point which attracts the mind even if one ignores it. Not surprising this zoo is one of the most clean zoos in the country. The zoo can be reached on foot or taxi can be hired.
Tiffin top/Dorothy’s Seat
Located at a distance of 4 Kms from the town this peak is 2292 mts. above the sea level in Ayarpatta region is Dorothy’s Seat. As the name suggests, pack a picnic hamper and head to this rugged hillside for a lazy afternoon. The road to this picnic spot crawls along the rugged hill side swaying this way & that, and than all in one breadth in hushed silence suddenly unfolds a canvas on which nature has painted this beautiful spot. Tiffin Top commands an excellent view of the Himalayas as well as the neighboring country side. Dorothy Kellet was an English painter who used to sit here and paint Himalyas. Dorothy seat is a memorial build by her husband and admirers after her death in an air crash. This pleasant spot offers a partial view of Nainital.
Also known as Governor’s House and formerly, Government House was built in 1899 and designed in the Victorian Gothic domestic style (also called “domestic Gothic”) by the architect F.W. Stevens. Originally built as the summer residence of the governor of the North West Province, it later became the summer residence for the Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces. Currently, Raj Bhavan is the official guest house for the governor of Uttarakhand and for visiting state guests. The complex consists of a two-storied mansion with 113 rooms, a large garden, a swimming pool, and golf links. Obtaining prior permission is must for visiting.
Its altitude is 2118 mts. & it is located at about 4 Kms from the town. The best feature of this spot is that one does not have to climb much and as the name suggests one feels on reaching the area that the end of the land has really come. Needless to say the view of the neighboring hills and valley and the Khurpatal lake is exquisite from this point. One can go to Barapathar on a vehicle and then walk about one Km. up to the spot.
Shopping in Nainital
Shopping in Nainital is a delightful experience. For a discerning shopper, it is impossible to return from a tour without shopping in Nainital.
Fabrics and woolen garments are the most popular items for shopping in Nainital. Most of such woolens are woven by the women of Almora. A variety of sweaters, cardigans, caps and shawls in exquisite designs and brilliant colors would arrest your eyes.
You can also pick up intricately carved cane sticks and multicolored candles in unique designs while shopping in Nainital. Like all hill stations, beautiful wood-carved utilities and objets d’art are also huge hits for shopping in Nainital.
In the fruit market in Nainital, you can buy fresh-from-the-orchard apples, peaches and cherries.
Hang out at the teeming shops at The mall for shopping in Nainital. The shops are replete with artifacts and souvenirs from various parts of Uttaranchal. Never mind if you need to bargain a little bit with the shopkeepers to get the reasonable prices.
The Mall is the main shopping center in Nainital which has some of the good shops where one can do some shopping.
In Nainital the main items to be bought are
- The woollen garments
- Decorative pieces made from wood.
- Decorative colorful candles
For the woolen garments the Bohtia Bazaar is the best place whereas “The Mall road” and the Mallital are places for good bargain of candles and wooden stuff.
Ranikhet – The hill station, idyllic in its charm, Ranikhet with its majestic pine trees, is 59.5 kilometres from Nainital.
Bhimtal – The myth goes that the lake was built during the Mahabharata era. You can get taxis and buses at regular interval from Nainital. On the Nainital-Bhimtal road is Mahra Village. Here through the efforts of Dr. Yashodhra Mathpal a rich collection of the cultural and archeological items have been made. These artifacts from the Uttrakhand region gives you an insight into the cultural heritage of this area. At Bhimtal you can enjoy boating and have food at the restaurant on the island in middle of the lake. Bhimtal is 23 kms from Nainital and there are good accommodation facilities at the place.
Naukuchia Lake – Just four kms from Bhimtal is lake with nine corners hence it is known as the Naukutchia lake. This is an ideal place to spend your holidays and relax. The lake is full of lotus and is surrounded by forest with a backdrop of the mountains, all this creates an ideal condition to enjoy boating in here or sit on the banks and feel the breeze coming from the lake. There are regular bus and taxi services to this place and the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam has got its rest house where you can stay.
Sat Tal ( Seven Lakes ) – On the way from Nainital to Bhimtal is a group of seven lakes called the Sattal. Nature has really provided this place beauty in abundance. There is government Bunglow where you can spend the night. Taxis and buses are available to Sattal from Nainital. It is 22 Km from Nainital.
Nanda Devi Fair – Nanda Devi Mela is a fair of great religious and cultural significance. It is held at Nanda Devi Temple in September to commemorate the memory of Goddesses, Nanda and Sunanda.
Mukteshwar – Once this place was the cantonment for the British troops. Today this place has been converted into a Vetenary Research Institute. Mukteshwar is full of natural beauty and from here the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas are clearly visible. The greenery of this place attracts visitors attention. Mukteshwar is only 52 kms Nainital but very few bus services are available for the place.
Ram Nagar – Ramnagar is 49 kms from the Jim Corbett National Park but this place is famous for wild life trekking. One can watch the animals from close quarters. Nearby is the famous Gargia temples. During the seasons when the Corbett park is open for visitors, the local travel agents and operators conduct one day sight seeing tours from this place. Ram Nagar is 65 kms from Nainital.
Ramgarh – From Nainital this place is the 26 kms. The environment is very good for health. The whole place is surrounded by Apple groves and trees of many other fruits. Rest houses are available to spend night.
Trekking options in Nainital
1. Nainital Betalghat Trek
2. Nainital Binayak Trek
3. Nainital Kainchi Trek
4. Nainital Kilbury Trek
5. Nainital Kunjkharak Trek
6. Snow View Trek