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Nainital - A Splendid Lake Destination in India

Updated on June 21, 2011

Nainital, one of the most popular hill resorts in India, is situated in the Kumaon region of the state Uttaranchal. It is a small town at a height of 1934 metres above sea level and set amidst the towering Kumaon peaks.

The small hill town of Nainital is centered around an enchanting blue-green lake, called Naini Lake. Naini lake is pear shaped/eye shaped or mango shaped and is also known as "Green Emerald Eye". The wonderful lake is surrounded by forested hills on its three sides, the glittering water reflecting the silhouttes of the trees and the hills, which accounts for its emerald green colour.

Nainital district and its surroundings are dotted with numerous lakes nestled in the foothills, hence it is also popularly known as "The Lake Destination of India" or the "The Lake District of Uttaranchal".

The Naini Lake - Green Emerald Eye
The Naini Lake - Green Emerald Eye

Historical Background


Nainital was covered with dense forests, without any inhabitants and was a favourite spot for hunters. In 1841, a British sugar trader, Lord Barron along with his hunter friend went into the forests and lost their way. While trying to find their way back, they discovered the placid lake. The records say that Barron was enamoured by the scenic beauty of the lake and its surroundings and established an Europeon settlement around the lake.

Since 1858, Nainital has been a popular tourist resort and the summer retreat of the British government. Later it became the summer capital of the Uttaranchal State government.

Indian mythology:

According to Indian mythology, once heavy-hearted Lord Shiva (God of creation) had carried his wife, Goddess Parvati's charred body from the plains to the Kailash peak of the Himalayas. During his journey, various parts of Parvati's body fell on different regions, which are considered extremely sacred by the Hindus, called "Shakti Peeths".

Nainital is thought to be a highly religious place, being one of the 64 "Shakti Peeths", where Parvati's eyes fell. Hence the place acquired its name, Nain (means eye) and Tal (means lake) and mother goddess "Naina Devi" is devotedly worshipped by all the Nainitalites. There is a temple of "Naina Devi" in the northern side of the Naini Lake. The eye shaped lake is attributed to this belief.

View of The Himalayan Peaks
View of The Himalayan Peaks
Khurpa Tal
Khurpa Tal

The Main Attractions

Why will you choose Nainital as a holiday destination?

Whether you are a honeymooner or planning a weekend get-away from the maddening crowds, whether you want to relax in the cool, pleasant weather during the sweltering Indian summers or plan an adventurous trip, Nainital has a lot to offer to it's tourists' platter.

What you must do?

  • Take a paddle in the lake while inhaling the fresh air and absorbing the breathtaking view of the surounding hills
  • Boating, yachting, kayaking and canoeing are the fun and adventurous activities which you can enjoy
  • Take a walk through the Mall road while peeking into the ecstatic eateries and attractive shops or take a walk along the lakeside on the well paved walkways.
  • Take a ropeway (also called trolley) from the northern side of the lake (native name Mallital) to access Snow View point, situated at the height of 2270 m to feast your eyes on the excellent view of the northern range of the Himalayas. On a clear day you can vividly see some of the highest peaks of the Himalayan range, such as 'Camel's Back Peak' and 'Nanda Devi Peak'.

Boating in Nainital
Boating in Nainital

Excursions around Nainital:

  • There are quite a few spectacular lakes around Nainital which are worth seeing. They are Bhimtal (named after Bhim, one of the Pandava brothers of the famous Indian epic Mahabharata), Sattal (made from seven lakes), Naukuchiyatal (lake which has nine corners), Kamal tal (lake of lotus flowers) and Khurpa tal (lake like a cow's foot). All of these lakes have boating facilities.
  • Some popular hill stations like Ranikhet, Kausani, Almora can be visited from Nainital. These hill resorts are at a higher altitude and hence snow-capped Himalayan peaks can be observed more clearly on a sunny day. Also the journey through the winding roads amidst the green covered mountains offers picturesque scenary.
  • There are two famous wild life sanctuaries around Nainital - Jim Corbett National Park, one of the first wild life reserves in India and Binsar wild life sanctuary.


Aligned along the Mall road there are plenty of eateries catering a variety of cuisines - gourmet food, Chinese, continental, authentic Punjabi food and local Kumaon cuisine. You must try restaurants like Machan, Embassy and Sher-e-Punjab for real taste of Indian food. The rates are reasonable and food is of good quality.


There are two main shopping centres, the main one along the Mall road and the other one is called Tibetan market near Naina Devi temple in Mallital. The southern end of the Naini lake (called Tallital) and the northern part of the lake (called Mallital) are separated at 3 km distance.

You would like to buy a wide variety of scented candles (manufactured in the local factories), Pashmina shawls (very fine handicrafted Kashmiri shawls), cardigans, Kumaoni woollens and many other attractive gifts. Remember to bargain! Visit a couple of shops to understand the price range and then buy if buying anything expensive.


Sightseeing in Nainital

The 'must see' sightseeing spots are:

  • Cave Garden
  • Kilbury Point from where on a clear day, northern peaks of the Himalayas are visible
  • High altitude zoo, which houses leopards, Siberian tiger, Snow leopard and mountain bears

Exploring in the cave garden
Exploring in the cave garden
View of the Himalayan peaks from Kilbury
View of the Himalayan peaks from Kilbury
Leopards in the High Altitude Nainital Zoo
Leopards in the High Altitude Nainital Zoo
View of the lake from our hotel room balcony
View of the lake from our hotel room balcony
Relaxing in the balcony which overlooked the picturesque lake
Relaxing in the balcony which overlooked the picturesque lake

How to get there?

You can reach Nainital by:

  • Railroad: The nearest railway station is Kathgodam (35 km away from Nainital). Express trains depart from Delhi, Lucknow and Agra to Kathgodam. A pre-paid taxi is to be taken from Kathgodam railway station (fare about Rs. 600)
  • Air: The nearest airport is in Pantnagar, from where taxi will be available and the fare will be approximately Rs. 1000-1200.
  • Bus: Bus facilities are available from capital city, Delhi and takes about 9-10 hours to reach Nainital.
  • Car: Nainital can be reached by one's own vehicle or car by the same route as the bus and takes about the same time as the bus.

Hotel accomodations:

There are innumerable hotels along the Mall road to suit all kinds of budget. Most of the high end and moderate budget hotels have lake view rooms.

We had stayed in a very good hotel, situated slightly above Mall road called 'Welcome Park'. The standard rooms were as good as deluxe rooms, the difference being in the furniture and decor of the room. Basic facilities like 24 hours hot and cold water, lake view from the room and adjacent balcony, room service meals and beverages and reasonable price range made the hotel an attractive deal. Also since it was at about 5 km above Mall road, continuous car service for drop and pick-up from the Mall road was available. Though we had preferred to walk up and down, we used to take the car while climbing up to the hotel at night, when our legs felt really tired.

I would highly recommend other tourists to put up at this hotel.

Best time to visit:

If you desire to experience the hustle and bustle in Nainital, then plan your holiday in peak season, that is between April-June and Sept-Oct.

But if you wish to have a quiet and peaceful holiday and explore at your own pace, off season will be the best time to visit.

Summers are quite warm but cool breeze from the lake makes the evenings and early mornings pleasant for walking. Daytime can be hot and cap will be needed if you spend the day outside.

Winters can be quite cold and it snows in Dec-Jan. It is a splendour to watch the frozen lake.


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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Your article tempts me to head for this destination. Sure, it is in my future travel plans. You have done a good job by providing the required stuff in an impressive style. Thank you for sharing. Keep on writing. All the best.

    • travelholidays profile image


      5 years ago from India

      Surprising to read that Nainital has a high altitude zoo ! . I thought it is a nice hill station . 'buying anything expensive' thanks for the prior information :) The cave garden image is so perfect :)

    • profile image

      Jim KABLE 

      5 years ago

      Dear Geoffrey WILLIAMS And David TUTTON:

      Researching noted Indian actor Amitabh BACHCHAN who apparently had some schooling in Naintal - at Sherwood College [named for the Sherwood Foresters - of which an historic part was the 45th Foot - one of my great x 3 grand-fathers a member - died in a skirmish after Badajoz at Fuentes de Oñoro on May 5th under the command of WELLINGTON] - and is now appearing as an actor in the just released movie The Great Gatsby (Baz LUHRMAN dir. & starring Leonardo di Caprio) - I came back to this site! And found your entries. I'd be pleased to be in direct contact with you both - to put you in direct touch with my cousin Greta B. who is now the B. Family historian. shoin(at) Jim

    • profile image

      David Tutton 

      6 years ago

      Jim Kable and Geoffrey Williams...... I used to holiday at Buttress Castle, it apparently collapsed in an earthquake around 1994. Before that it was a holiday home for many years for Missionaries who belonged to The Salvation Army and worked in India. I t was owned by The Salvation Army since before 1953 when my parents first stayed there, and had already been used for a number of years before then by this organisation although I do not know when thy actually aquired the property. I have a number of photographs taken in and around that property.

    • profile image

      Geoffrey C.R. Williaims 

      6 years ago

      I was interested to read the comment by Jim Kable, as he is related to the Buttress family, who originally built Buttress Castle. Eliza Buttress was my Gt. Grand Aunt, and it was her husband John Buttress that I believe originally built the Castle. It would be nice to be in touch with Jim Kable.

      My wife and I fifty years ago, spent our honeymoon in Naini Tal. A beautiful spot. Very much changed now since our 50 years ago visit. Buttress Castle is no more, but it is a holiday home for families of the Armed Forces. We re-visited a few years ago.

      Geoffrey Williams. Sheffield. England.

    • Ebey Soman profile image

      Ebey Soman 

      7 years ago from USA

      India is so beautiful!! And I am not saying this because I am a Indian but because it is a fact!

    • profile image

      Jim KABLE 

      7 years ago

      Dear Nainital - what a gem of a place!

      A good Indian mate (Scientist) whom I met while teaching in Japan is coming to Naintal with his wife this week! I am really interested in Nainital because a cousin by marriage (deceased 2000) had a great grand-father (family name BUTTRESS) whose younger brother built a castle in/near Nainital - Buttress Castle. I can't find any reference/picture - though have heard it became a school/various schools succeeded in it???

      Any information on that I would really appreciate!

      I am nowadays living back in Australia. I had a brief visit to India ("Bombay", Delhi, Agra, "Madras") early long ago but memories incredibly vivid.

      William DALRYMPLE is one of my heroes - I have read all his books! Chandra BOSE, too...(I have visited the temple in Tokyo where his memorial stands)! India was one of my special studies in History III at Sydney University in 1968.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nainital a nice place for vacations. One can see the beauty of Nainital in the pictures included in your hub.

    • Rudra profile image


      7 years ago

      I have been there once, a great place indeed.

    • sriparna profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks dreamreachout for stopping by and leaving insightful comments.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You have written on my most favourite hill station which I first visited in 1986 and going again this October!! Nainital is a charm(mayajaal) and everything about it is enchanting!! Oh yes, leaving aside all the hi-fi stuff, I love the Aloo-Matar at Shere-e-Punjab!! Ofcourse, no one can end a Nainital visit without the mementos of its famous candles and wax products!! :)


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