Nainital is the largest town in the Kumaon Region of Uttarakhand. Centred on a picturesque lake, this town sprawls on the slopes around. Off late, this town has seen a lot of construction. So, to explore real Nainital, you’ve got to visit the surrounding hills. While itself being a wonderful destination, Nainital also serves as a base to explore the deeper pockets of Kumaon. The salubrious weather of the town and its forested hills have been attracting travellers from across the country since decades. Nainital was popular even during British era which is evident from the several colonial-era buildings that dot this hill station. Today it is one of the most sought after travel destinations in Uttarakhand.
Attractions in Nainital
Nainital Lake (also called Naini Lake)
The best way to explore Nainital town is to walk around this mesmerizing lake called Naini Lake. Walking around this lake, you’ll reach several attractions of the town. This lake is surrounded by the hills and a promenade runs along the shore of the lake. If you want to enjoy some leisurely moments, just sit and gaze at the ripples and the changing hues of the water of Naini Lake. As per a religious belief Naina Devi Temple, situated on the northern shore of the lake is the spot where Goddess Parvati’s disembodied eye fell. If your visit is during the monsoon (July – Sep) or early winter (Oct – Nov), do spend an afternoon by the lake, you’ll witness the surreal mist descending on the waters.
The mall road of Nainital runs parallel to the promenade of the lake. This is where you will find families ambling around and browsing shops. Here you can shop for local handicrafts, pickles, honey, etc. There are several eateries on the mall where you can stop by for quick bites.
This is a large plain area at the upper end of the lake. It was built after the huge landslide of 1881. This is where football tournaments are played and in the evening people gather here for several recreational activities. The Flats, also called ‘Maidan’, is surrounded by the Tibetan market, a gurudwara, the rebuilt Naina Devi Temple, and the Jama Masjid.
This lookout point, situated above the town, affords a panoramic view of the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas. There are several ways to reach this point. The most favourite way is to ride a cable car from the mall. Alternatively, you can also drive up, but the most interesting way is to hike up.
Naina Peak (also called ‘China Peak’ or ‘Cheena Peak’)
At the height of 2611 m, Naina peak is Nainital’s highest point. From here you get superb views of the faraway snow-clad Himalayan Peaks and also of the town below. The peak is believed to have received its second name from an ascetic named ‘Cheena’. You can either trek up to the peak or ride a horse. If you want to trek up, you will need an entire day for the trip. Riding a horse can help you complete the to and fro journey in about 4 to 5 hrs.
This ‘High Altitude Zoo’, overlooking the town, is worth visiting. Along with the other animals, it has some rare species like Siberian Tiger, Tibetan Wolves, and Himalayan Black Bear. It is not allowed to take private vehicles to the zoo. You can use the zoo ferry service available from ‘the Flats’. If you are up for an exhaustive climb, you can hike up to the zoo from the mall; the climb is pretty steep.
This was once the home of Jim Corbett – the hunter, conservationist, writer, and naturalist. Today ‘Gurney House’ is owned by an Indian family. Though they welcome visitors, you need to take a prior permission to visit. Here you can check out the furniture and cutlery used by Jim Corbett.
Tiffin Top, also called Dorothy’s seat, is situated at 7,250 ft on Ayarpatta Hill. This lookout point offers wonderful views of the Himalayan Peaks and Nainital town.
Raj Bhavan (Governor’s House)
This is the official residence of the Governor of Uttarakhand. During colonial era, it used to be the summer residence of the governor of United Provinces. The facade of the building resembles the shape of the British crown. Visitors are only allowed till the grounds. There is also an 18-hole golf course which can be accessed for a fee.
Kilbury, situated amidst the forest, is a short drive uphill from Nainital. This place is a delight for nature lovers and explorers. It has a rest house surrounded by thick forest. There is some open area in the front of the rest house. Apart from taking in the views of the Himalayas, you can also do a picnic on the ground. Many travellers prefer to walk on a trail to Kilbury from Nainital.