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Nainital

Where the emerald lake does its magic

“Naina” means eyes. It is a Sanskrit word. It was where the emerald eye of Sati fell on the earth after an enraged Shiva carried her charred body and toured around the earth that the Naini lake was created, the story goes. You might hear it from many locals and guides too, if you go to Nainital.

This dreamy crescent-shaped lake imparts its name to the hill city of Nainital in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand. To some, it’s crescent-shaped, to some, mango. Some call it kidney-shaped too.

Here goes another story. It is the year 1839. Two men set out on a hunting trip. One an English businessman named P Barron, the other a seasoned hunter. The two lose their ways and end up finding a lake, a tranquil, crescent-shaped lake. The businessman gets so enchanted that he quits his sugar business and decides to set up a European colony along the shores. Five years later, the lake appears in the issue of a magazine named Englishman Calcutta. History says that although the British occupied the Kumaon and Garhwal range in 1815, they did not popularise Nainital falling in the Kumaon range until its ‘rediscovery’ by the sugar merchant.

Over a century later, Nainital is one Uttarakhand’s of most popular tourist spots. Come fall or spring, it never ceases to receive love from its loyal travellers. It lies in the Nainital district.

Here, we take you in and around the city. Read on. 

VIEW POINT

Naini Lake

Hills, lakes, and much more…

The blue-green lake that you see on the Facebook and Instagram feeds of your Nainital-returned friends… The beauty of this lake is that it is surrounded by seven hills. Take a stroll along the bank and try to catch their image in the Naini waters.

A colourful boat will give you a tour of the scenic lake and help you explore the waters. You can spend your time photographing, paddling, chatting with the good old boatman, or just soaking in the beauty around. Hills, lakes and much more…

Jim Corbett National Park

A date with the wild

It isn’t a bad idea to club your Nainital trip with a visit to the nearby Jim Corbett National Park. Just 151 kilometres from the hill station, Corbett offers an enigmatic beauty comprising of rich flora and fauna. Book a safari and catch a sight of Asiatic elephants, six species of deer (some you may even find in the backyard of your hotel if you happen to stay near the jungle), leopards and if you are lucky, some royal Bengal tigers.

If you go by a bus or car, it would take you around five hours to reach the oldest national park and house to over 500 species of birds, 20 species of reptiles, and several species of mammals. Also, find dense clusters of sal, bamboo, and other flora species.

Mall Road

For that crazy shopping spree

Sip in the remnants of the colonial flavour as you take a walk along the long Mall road as it is fondly called. Now renamed as Govind Ballabh Pant Marg, the iconic road runs parallel to the Naini lake, making sure that you get your share of cool breeze during your walk.

You will get a plenty of woollen items to stock up. In fact, people from several neighbouring town and cities like Almora and Ramnagar come to Nainital to buy woollens. Flee market-lover? Even better.

Also look for local handicrafts, steamy street food, shoes, bags, and much more.

Thandi Sadak

The water, the hills, the city

“Cold Road” is what the phrase means. Thandi Sadak lies on the opposite side of the Mall Road, giving you a view of the lake along with the exuberant markets. It is said that it enjoys a cooler temperature apparently due to towering trees lining the road. You may not find expansive markets on this side of the city but you can take a walk and head over to the nearby Mall Road.

Take a leisurely stroll in the evening or find a peaceful spot to read, writer or the things you love. Or just like that head over to catch a view of the water, the hills, and the city.

Nainital Zoo

Wildlife on mind?

Wildlife on mind and find Jim Corbett too far? Known locally as the Nainital Zoo, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo offers you a view of a variety of species of animals including leopard, barking deer, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan black bear, and red panda.

Located in the hills of Sher ka Danda, it was established in 1984 and has an area of over 4,000 hectares. The zoo allows entry throughout the area except on special occasions like Diwali and Holi.

Sattal

The land of seven lakes

Literally meaning “seven lakes”, Sattal is only 50 minutes away from Nainital. Why it deserves your attention is because of the ordinariness it embodies. A small town located at the intersection of seven freshwater lakes, away from the city noise, away from all that is touristy.

Take a silent trek sniffing in the aroma of rhododendrons and oaks; go birding, catching spectacular views of pheasants, woodpeckers, owls and magpies; or just sit by the lake passing your moments reading the book you always wanted to. Don’t forget to take along your notepad. The quiet beauty may inspire some words.

You can also go angling and visit the butterfly museum.

Bhimtal

For that little island in the middle of the lake

Another beautiful town of Uttarakhand, Bhimtal is only 22 kilometres away from Nainital. What you may love to know about the little, quiet town is that amid the Bhimtal lake, there is an island, not very far from the shores.

Talking to the locals, you might hear the story that the town has been named after the mythological Mahabharata character Bhima. There is an old Shiva temple on the banks of the Bhimtal lake that is believed to have been built after his visit during his exile.

Naukuchiatal

The lake of nine corners

Naukuchiatal means “lake of nine corners”. The breath-taking place offers a variety of activities like parasailing, angling, and boating. Surrounded by thick oak forests, the lake is a great place to visit to savour some quiet moments by the water, away from the hustle-bustle of Nainital.   

activities

Trekking

Take that trek!

Give those muscles a good drill and take a trekking tour. For beginners, Nainital’s China Peak and Snow View trek routes are quite popular among tourists. Considered relatively easier, the paths are lines with pine, deodar and cypress trees.

Another short trek in Nainital is Tiffin Top Trek that is located 3 kilometres from Nainital. Here’s a story for you on that note. The route, also called Dorothy’s Seat, is named in the memory of an English woman called Kelly Dorothy who was reportedly killed in an air crash around the same place. While we don’t know about the authenticity of the story, it’s an interesting one for sure.

Other trek routes around Nainital take you through the terrains of Mukteshwar, Pangot, Kunjkharak. Choose one according to your needs (and physcial prowess).

Cable Car Ropeway

Some time with the clouds

Get a drone view of the crescent-shaped lake with the cable car ropeway available near the Naini lake. You can spend some time amid clouds on the peak the car takes you to. Several food and shopping points are also available at the peak. 

Wildlife Safari

Unravel the mystery that the jungle is

Jim Corbett National Park is only a 5 hours drive from Nainital. Sign up for a wildlife or elephant safari to catch the jungle-dwellers in action. Watch an elephant bathing, look an owl in the eye. Spot a tiger, listen to locals’ tales of leopard-encounter. If wildlife is your thing, don’t miss out on the Corbett trip.

Boating

Explore the Naini waters

They say no other place shows you lakes the way Nainital does. Think of the ample amount of boating options you may get with so many lakes in and around Nainital. Take a boat ride, soak in the sun if you happen to visit in summer and explore the calm waters of the Naini.

Rowing and paddling boats are available at the shores. A boatman will happily show you around the lake and might even tell you the tales unheard. Usual boating period per person is around 45-60 minutes. Prepare to get approached by photographers (lots of them!) offering to click you in the colourful Kumaon attire.

Naina Devi Temple

Join thousands of other devotees

Dedicated to Naina Devi, the famous temple is located on a hilltop near the Naini lake. Thousands of devotees throng the temple every year. Inside the temple are the deities’ images and two eyes signifying Naina Devi.

how to get there

By rail: Take a train to Kathgodham which is 34 kilometres from the city. Kathgodham Railway Station is connected to major cities like Delhi, Lucknow and Jammu.

By air: The nearest airport is Pantnagar Airport that is around 68 kilometres from Nainital.

By road: Nainital enjoys a good road connectivity. Here is how far it is from these cities:

Delhi to Nainital: 298.5 km via NH9

Ranikhet to Nainital: 55.9 km via Ranikhet Rd and NH109

Lucknow to Nainital: 424.8 km via Bareilly - Nainital Road

Dehradun to Nainital: 290.6 km via NH734

Chandigarh to Nainital: 531.8 km via NH 44

Ramnagar to Nainital: 65.9 km via UT SH 41

Jaipur to Nainital: 558.4 km via NH9

when to visit

Nainital receives plenty tourists throughout the year. With its temperature ranging between 10° C and 27° C Nainital in summers (March till June) to as low as 0° C in winters (October till February), it offers numerous tourism options. It is, however, advisable to check for landslides during monsoons.  

While summers are considered idea for local sightseeing tours, many travellers like to undertake trekking expeditions during the chilly months to experience snowfall.

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