I always have a penchant for hill stations. The Himalayan Mountains with their magnificent snow-capped peaks and green pastures, standing tall in silence always attract me. So… when I got the proposal for a trip to Nainital I readily accepted it. The magical charm of lakes was bonus with the beauty of mountains. And now, when I am writing this post I feel happy about the decision I made in haste.
Nainital, the City of Lakes at the heart of Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. The scenic landscapes dotted with emerald-green lakes surrounded by mountains and pleasant weather almost year-round attracts tourists from all across the country.
Nainital district, also popularly called as the ‘Lake District of India’, consists of several naturally created freshwater lakes and mountains. Tal means ‘lake’ in local language. They say there were more than 50 such lakes most of which now have disappeared. The effect of human civilization!
Sometimes the thought of ‘how fast we are losing our forests and natural resources’ dreads me.
Where to Stay
We stayed in Hotel Shalimar, a budget hotel with a strategic location ensuring quick access to the town’s mall as well as spacious rooms overlooking the Naini Lake. The boat pier was visible right from the hotel’s veranda.
(You can read my review on TripAdvisor for a better idea of the hotel)
But if you are looking for a luxurious accommodation there is Grand Hotel on the Mall Road to offer you magnificent view along with high-quality service. . However, these are examples only. Hotels are aplenty in Nainital.
We reached the hotel at around 1 pm and took a much-needed shower and had lunch. After that we set out to explore the town.
Things to do
In my opinion there are five must-dos in Nainital District which are –
You will find two types of boats in Nainital for recreational purposes – paddleboats and rowing boats. The view of white swan-shaped paddleboats lining up the wharf at Naini Lake was simply inviting.
However, we finally went for a rowing boat since it can accommodate up to four people at a time excluding the boatman. Charge is Rs 210 per boat for a 30-minute ride. As we were enjoying the ride on the pristine water I looked at the promenade along the lake. It was lined with maple trees. There yellowing leaves were looking fiery in golden streaks of afternoon sun.
On my asking the boatman said that the depth of the lake in 128 feet which, I thought, is formidable! Fishing is allowed but you need special permission from the concerned authority. As we returned to the dock a wonderful sight caught my attention. A gaggle of geese gathered along the bank where some tourists were standing and throwing foods at them. It seemed like the ducks were asking – Hey! What do you have for us? 🙂
From my experience I think this is the first and foremost thing to do when you are in Nainital town. The ropeway or the cable car takes you to the Snow-View Point situated at a height 2270 meter from where you’ll not only get a panoramic view of Naini Lake but also a breathtaking view of the snow-capped peaks far away. One ride (to and from) costs Rs 150 per head for adults and Rs 100 for kids.
The board on the counter says the timing to buy tickets is from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. But when we reached there by 4 p.m. the counter was already closed. The ropeway is operated by the government. As we inquired we were told that there is a quota for daily tickets. As soon as the quota for the day is full the authority closes the booking counter. Unfortunately, that was the thing happened with us. We had to return disappointed because we did not have the time to go back the next day.
Sightseeing in Nainital mainly includes visits to Bhimtal, Sattal, Naukuchia Tal, Nainital Zoo, Waterfall, Sunset point and Khurpatal.
Bhimtal is situated at a lower altitude than Naini Lake. The aqua blue water beckons onlooker to have a boat ride or at least spend some time by the waterfront. Fish lovers may like to see the aquarium situated in the middle of the lake. Although the tickets for boating and aquarium are separate you have to collect them together from the waterfront office in case you wish to find out what’s in store at the aquarium.
It was a bright sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed boating under the sun. The smell of fresh water brought by the cool breeze rejuvenated my soul. It was the serenity of the place that I liked the most.
Sattal is a combination of three lakes joined together naturally. Apart from boating facility there is one more attraction. It offers a 15-minute trek to the church on top of the hill on the other side of the lake.
I enjoyed trekking along the narrow, steep walking trail with giant pines and other coniferous trees creating a canopy over my head. The trail ends in front of a Church. I sat down in front of the closed door of the church and tried to feel the silence and sanctity of the place amidst the constant chirping of crickets.
The lake Naukuchia tal is comparatively smaller than the previous two and to me the most beautiful one. The place was much quieter than the other two spots…probably because of lack of crowd. The boat wharf here is built with floating buoys. I stood at the end of the ramp facing the lake and felt like I was floating away – it was amazing! 🙂
On our way back we halted at the temple of Hanuman ji – Hanumangarhi Temple. The huge statue of the ape god standing like the guardian of the hills inspires awe and admiration.
Your Nainital sightseeing is not complete if you don’t visit the Waterfall; take a bird’s eye view of Khurpatal and watch the sunset from the sunset point there. We rented a small car for Rs 500 that will take us to the waterfall and return to the mall from where we started. The waterfall is about 15-20 minutes drive from the town center. It was nice sitting by the waterfall under the towering pines and listen to the sound of rippling stream.
On our way back we were to see Khurpatal and sunset point.
The sun was nearing the horizon. So, we left the waterfall behind and arrived at the Sunset Point, which awaited us with a grand surprise. I peeped down the cliff to discover the scenery that swept me off my feet! The sun was about to hide behind the mountain and I could capture only the following image in poor light. 😦
“It’s almost impossible to watch a sunset and not DREAM” – I read this quote somewhere. When we were watching the sunset at Khurpatal these lines occurred to my mind … so true!
Nainital Zoo, official name Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant Zoo, is one of India’s few high-altitude zoos. Here you will get a hint of Kumaon’s rich flora and fauna. Be prepared for a face-to-face meeting with some of Himalaya’s rare animal species such as snow leopard and black bear. In addition, there is leopard, Siberian tiger, wolf and wide variety of birds.
This one is for adventure lovers. If you have a strong heart and feel the urge to fly like a bird go for paragliding at Bhimtal. The cost for a single trip is Rs 1500 per person. I thought I need some more time to gather the courage to take up the flight. However, here is a glimpse of the Bhimtal paragliding site for your perusal … 😉
Even if you are travelling on a budget, shopping is UNAVOIDABLE.
To me, shopping is a part of travelling, especially in a place like Nainital where you’ll find so many things worth buying. The mall road is lined with stores offering woolens, candles, woodcrafts and ornaments. There were trendy woolen caps, scarves, stoles, ponchos, cardigans and jackets for kids, women and men. Price for women’s caps range from Rs 100 to 500 depending on the knit quality and design of the items.
However, I could not resist buying a few sets of woolen cap and neck-scarf for my sister and me.
Well… how do you like my new accessories?
The Mall Road leads to the main chowk (‘market’ in vernacular term), flanked by a Gurdwara and Nayna Devi Temple at one side and a Mosque and a Church on the other. The chowk is the recreational center of Nainital town. There were Tibetan and Cashmere stores as well in the main market.
Nainital is also famous for candles. You’ll find a variety of candles at the stores. In fact, candle making is an art here. Diwali was round the corner and I bought some colorful pieces of candles as a souvenir to take back home.
Eating in Nainital
After shopping we had some snacks (Aloo Tikki) and a cup of hot chocolate from a street-side eatery. There is no dearth of food outlets in Nainital – from full-service multi-cuisine restaurants to small street-side food stalls there is something for every budget. You’ll get a list of eateries in Nainital here. If you want to relish a cup of coffee in the afternoon while enjoying the view of Naini Lake Café Coffee Day on the Mall Road would be the right place for you.
Just like every good thing has an end, our Nainital exploration came to an end and we left for Kausani the next morning. But deep inside my heart I felt an urge to coming back in the city of lakes someday.
To be continued … 🙂