Nainital - A Splendid Lake Destination in India
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".
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.
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.
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'.
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
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.
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.