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Nainital, Uttarakhand

  • (worth a trip)
  • 5-10 km
  • Easy
  • Average
  • 2-3 days
  • 3 3

One of the most famous hill towns of North India

Nainital Uttarakhand
Nainital has a wide variety of restaurants and cafes to choose from which are mainly lined up on the Mall Rd. For budget meals, head to the stalls near the Tibetan market or try one of the many dhabas in Bara Bazaar. Sonam Chowmin Corner located at Mallitaal (Tibetan market) offers one of the best momos and chowmein in the town starting INR60. Embassy, on the other hand, has been in the business for over 40 years and had been serving their 5 page menu almost ever since. You should definitely try the ‘dancing coffee’.
If you wish to visit to spend some quiet time and enjoy the scenic beauty and the fresh air, avoid the months of May and June as due to long vacations, the town gets too crowded and it may become very overwhelming and over-touristy.

Nainital is the largest town in Kumaun and is one of the favourite hill towns in the country for vacationers. The town is located in Uttarakhand in North India and is roughly 300 km from New Delhi. It surrounds a steep forested valley with the namesake volcanic lake, Naini, as its centre of attraction (quite literally). The town was established by Brits as a reminder of the Cumbrian Lake district.

 

The forested hills of Nainital are densely populated by hundreds of budget and expensive accommodation options, many markets and souvenir shops, and several walking tracks overlooking the viewpoints from where you can get glimpses of the Himalayan peaks. There are several activities for travellers to indulge in –trekking, rock climbing, Horse Riding, and boating are few of them. During the Indian summer months, when most schools and colleges are shut, this small town becomes heavily crowded with families, honeymooners, and groups of students, who come here to beat the harsh summer weather of Delhi and other nearby cities. This is also the business time for hotel owners and shop keepers here so obviously the prices double up.

 

The south east end of the lake is known as Tallitaal meaning the lake’s foot, and the north west end is known as Mallitaal meaning lake’s head. In between is the 1.5 k promenade also known as ‘the Mall’. Tallitaal is where you will find the main bus stand. The stretch between Tallitaal and Mallitaal is where you will find the maximum hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and a few candle shops (must buy souvenir). Most shops, however, are lined up around Bara Bazaar, where shops sell shawls and textiles woven by indigenous women, decorative candles is the most intriguing shapes and sizes, and pharmacies for your emergency supply of medicines.

 

Let us now explore the primary attractions and activities to be enjoyed in the town.

    • Naini Lake – As mentioned before, this emerald green lake is quite the centrepiece of this whole town and it is here that you would find most tourists hanging around during peak season. There is a temple by the lake known as Naina Devi temple where it is believed that Lord Shiva’s wife Sati’s eye had fallen. It is also believed that the emerald green color of the lake is due to the color of her eye. Neighbouring the lake and the temple is Jama Masjid (mosque) and a Gurudwara (Sikh’s place of worship). You can either choose to walk around the lake which shouldn’t take more than an hour or you can let one of the many boatmen take you around the lake for INR 160 (approx.). You can also rent a pedal boat for INR 100 per hour.

 

    • Snow View and Cable Car – A cable car service can transport you to the Snow View, which, at 2270 m, offers you a magnificent panorama of the Himalayas along with clear views of the Nanda Devi. Apart from the views, there is the usual food stalls, souvenir shops, and a kids’ amusement park known as Mountain Magic which has a few kids’ entertainment rides such as trampolines, bumper cars, and flying fix. For adults though, one of the major highlights of coming to the Snow View is a chance to further hike up 4 km to Cheena/Naina peak. You may find local guides offering you to help lead the way. You can also come to Snow view for sunrise for a cab fare of INR 200. The ticket counter to Snow View is at the bottom (starting point of the cable car). Fee for a return trip on the cable car is INR 150 for adults and INR 100 for children. Timings – 08:00 A.M to 08:00 P.M May and June, 10:30 A.M. to 04:00 P.M. July to April.

 

    • Tiffin Top and Land’s End – Walk 4 km west of the Naini Lake and you will reach Tiffin Top which is also known as Dorothy’s seat. From here, it’s a beautiful and fairly easy 30 minutes’ walk to Land’s end. Alternatively, you can also opt for a horse ride to these tops for approximately INR750 for two hours. The horses gather roughly 3 km west of the town on the road to Ramnagar to take you to this tops. You can also decide to do a shorter and cheaper version of this two hours ride (INR 350 till the Tiffin Top). Whichever you decide, you can always negotiate with the horse owners. You will also find touts gathered around the ropeway near Mallitaal who would offer you these rides.

 

Apart from these, there are agencies and clubs such as Nainital Mountaineering club which can offer rock-climbing courses on an artificial rock and on an actual 15 km rock outcrop to the west of the town for INR 3000 all-inclusive or INR 600 per day depending upon the activities you select. Experienced guides can offer nature walks, hikes, and bird and wildlife spotting, day walks, and overnight hikes with overnight stays at the local villages starting INR 1500.

 

Furthermore, there are travel agencies around the Mall which offer organized bus tours of all the local lakes and trips to Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve. Though you should check the prices in advance and make sure you understand what all the fare includes. Do not shy away from asking for discounts.

How to get there

The nearest railhead to Nainital is Kathgodam, however, Haldwani (one stop further) is the main transport hub around the town. There is rail connectivity to and from Dehradun, Delhi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, and Kolkata. Though there are a few cities and nearby towns which are connected directly to Nainital via bus, however, the nearest towns of Haldwani and Bhowali still remain the main transport hub. Regular buses depart for Ramnagar, Delhi, and Haridwar from Haldwani.
Additionally, you can also take the shared taxi service from Haldwani or Kathgodam which cost roughly INR 100 for shared and INR 500 for private taxis.

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