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.
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.
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.