Surrounded by mountains on three sides, one of the most beautiful and composed hill station of India, commonly known as “Lake district of India”, Nainital is built around a quirky shaped lake “Naini lake” giving the hill station its name, Nainital. This lake resort is located at a height of 1,938 metres, perhaps the weather is pleasing throughout the year and is a paradise for the people who adore the beauty of the nature, snow-capped mountains and serene lakes.
This small yet beautiful town is surrounded by seven hills, famously known as ‘Sapta-Shring’ namely – Deopata, Ayarpata, Naina, Handi-Bandi, Lariya-Kanta, Sher ka danda and Alma. The town is a fusion of all hues of nature. The Naini lake flows through the heart of the city and is the pride of the Nainital. It is popular for activities like paddle boating and row boating. Many gaily coloured yachts can be seen sailing on the scintillating lake. This lake is also home to a national level yachting competition.
Nainital attracts a large number of domestic as well as international tourists every year. Nainital has everything to offer to every kind of traveller whether they’re there for lakes, nature, adventure, climate, food or shopping, Nainital has everything in its lap. Some of the important places to visit here are Naina Peak, Tiffin top, Naina Devi, Nainital lake, Raj Bhavan, High altitude zoo, Bhimtal and Sattal. This town is also famous for its various schools and research facilities.
In the ‘Manas Khand’ of ‘Skanda Purana’, Nainital is referred as the Tri-Rishi-Sarovar, the lake of three sages, Atri, Pulastya and Pulaha who came here on Pilgrimage and penitence. Upon finding no water to quench their thirst, they dug up a hole at the location of the present-day lake and filled it with water from the sacred lake Mansarover of Tibet.
Another belief regarding the origin of Nainital is that The Naini Lake is one of the 64 ‘Shakti Peeths’ or religious sites where parts of seared body of Sati (Parvati) fell on earth while being carried by Lord Shiva. The place where the Sati’s eyes (called Nain in hindi) fell, became Naini-tal or the lake of the eye. The Goddess Shakti Is worshipped at the Naina Devi Temple on the north shore of the present-day lake.
After the Anglo-Nepalese war (1814-16), Kumaon Hills came under the British rule, but it was not until 1841 that this beautiful hill station was discovered, with the construction of the first European house (Pilgrim Lodge) by P. Barron, a British sugar merchant. This started the process of settlement in this once concealed mountain resort with villas and boulevards coming one after another. Soon, the summer capital of erstwhile United Province was set up here as Nainital became an important administrative town as well. Prior to 1839, the valley of Nainital was covered by thick forest and inhabited by local hill tribes.
The culture of Nainital is a mirror reflecting the god fearing, simplicity and traditional lifestyle of the people living in this region, away from the hustle and bustle of metro cities. Despite the well-developed tourism industry in Nainital, the people here have preserved all the traditions of the yesteryears. Songs and dances that were created centuries ago are still an integral part of the tradition and are still performed in the city to this date. Chholia Nritya is one such dance, performed with the support of swords and shields. The other tradition dances such as Chhapeli, Jhora and Bhangda are also performed here.
The locals hold a tremendous faith in traditions and practices of the past like they believe that all demise grieving and mourning ceremonies should happen on Tuesdays and Saturdays only. The rest of the days are entailed for auspicious activities. Visiting a sick person on mourning days is strictly prohibited and girls can’t visit their guardian’s home on Thursday. A dark dab is put behind the ears or the temple to keep the abhorrence away.
The local people perform a custom known as “Jagaar” to summon their nearby divinities mainly being Golu Devta, Aidi, Sam, Bholanath and Gangnath. The extensive way of life and parties of Kumaoni people mainly revolve around religion and culture and are not influenced by the modern lifestyle of the city life. The most popular languages spoken here are: Kumaoni, Garhwali, Hindi and English.
Just like any other place in India, Nainital has its own unique and delectable combination of herbs and spices to make up for the mouth-watering dishes. Nainital nestles a variety of cuisines ranging from North Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Continental and Nainital’s local cuisines. Nainital’s customary cuisine are a must try for every food lover.
Rice or roti is a fundamental part of Nainital’s cuisine and it is served with various types of chutneys. There are many different recipes for various types of rice. The delicious local cuisine consists of dishes like Ras (made of several dals), Bhatt ki Churkarni, Baadi, Aloo ke Gutke (A spicy delicacy made up of boiled potatoes), Arsa, Gulgula (a sweet dish), bal mithai and many more. Tourists traveling here make sure they don’t go without tasting the local mouth-watering cuisines of Nainital.
Restaurants and Cafes to visit :
I Heart Café – The British inspired aesthetics are clearly reflected by funky graffiti on the walls, exposed bricks, rusty wooden tables and chalkboard menus. This fussy café is perfect to while away and chill in afternoon while sitting outside in the sun outside the café.
Address – Mehra Estate Mehragaon, Bhimtal
Sakley’s – Started by Swiss Chef Salcheli, Sakley’s is the oldest bakery in the town famous for home style pastries. It has accomplished to preserve memories of the old and pristine Nainital with its pretty pastels and floral prints.
Address – Mall road, Nainital
Embassy Restaurant – This restaurant is regarded as one of the most happening place to eat in Nainital. With the central location on Mall road, the restaurants offers very delicious food along with a relaxing ambience and mild music. It is a multi-cuisine restaurant, but its speciality is the India Dal served here.
Address – Mall road, Nainital
If the thought of shopping makes you happy, Nainital is bound to please you. Nainital has an array of options when it comes to shopping. From lush mall road and plethora of small markets, Nainital has something for everyone. The town offers variety of things ranging from branded bags to locally produced apparel and products with Mall road being the biggest market. It is a place where you’ll find anything and everything of your choice without getting a hole in your pocket. The street has chain of shops located on the banks of Naini lake and is definitely a must visit. Tibetan market or Bhoti market is another famous market distinctly known for scarfs, shawls and women clothing.
What you will like
The dazzling view of landscapes to subdue your sight. Pleasant weather throughout the year. A paradise for almost everyone be it an adventurer, photographer, devotee or a couple.
What you might not like
It has become one of the mainstream tourist destination and perhaps remains crowded most of the time, especially in peak season.
Nainital is mostly ideal for everyone. People wishing for an interlude from the hot summer, adventure enthusiasts, trekkers, photographers, nature lovers and devotees of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, this place is a paradise for all.
How to Reach
By Air– The Pantnagar domestic airport is located close to 65 km from Nainital. Jagson airlines and Kingfisher airlines are available at this airport which takes off from New Delhi. After reaching Pantnagar, one can go for taxi which will take you on an excursion of about 2 hours before reaching Nainital.
By Rail– The nearest railway station is located 35 km from Nainital, the Kathgodam station. There are more than half a dozen trains that has a stoppage at Kathgodam as it is directly connected to Delhi, Lucknow, Agra, Haridwar, Dehradun and so on. A taxi will sure you reach to Nainital from just outside the station within one hour. You can even board a bus for Nainital from Kathgodam at very fairly cheap price.
By Road– Because of a well-established road network of North India, it is not much of a hassle to reach Nainital by road. It takes up to 7-8 hours from Delhi via road to reach Nainital. Uttarakhand State Transport buses operate on a regular basis from Delhi to Nainital. The town is also connected with other cities by all classes of buses operated by state public transport service.
Best Time to Visit
The weather is pleasant and mild throughout the year except for winter months. It becomes very cold in winters and the months from January to March are signed by snowfall. The climate of Nainital is maintained by the lake here which showers rains almost every afternoon here. The best time to visit is between April to June and then another span is between September and October. But if equipped with the right clothing, any time of the year is suitable to visit.
Day 1- After reaching Nainital, begin your day with the rope-way trek to Snow point to enjoy the picturesque views of Himalayas. After returning, enjoy boating in sparkling water of Naini lake. Head to Tibetan market, popularly known as Bhotia Market, to shop some souvenirs. Have a delicious lunch at a local restaurant and proceed to Naina Devi temple and Gurudwara. Start the half day sightseeing tour covering Himalaya darshan and many other points. Stroll along the Mall road in the night before having dinner at one of the local restaurants on Mall road.
Day 2- Have a tasty breakfast and proceed to start the famous lake tour visiting the nearby lakes such as Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal and Sattal. You can also decide to do some adventure sports like Paragliding, Bungee jumping, Rock climbing, River crossing, Rappeling and so on. Visit the holy temple of Gorakhal and Kainchi Ashram. Pick up some fruits and pulses from the Bhowali market on your way back. End the day with dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 3- Start the day with an early breakfast as you’ll headed for local sightseeing of Ranikhet including places like KRC museum, Chaubatia Garden, Haidakhan Temple, Golf ground and Rani jheel. After the sightseeing, visit Mukteshwar and Ramgarh approax 55km from Naintal. Visit places like Chauli ki Jhali, Mukteshwar Temple, IVRI institute, Methodist Church and to top it off all, Mukteshwar provides a panoramic view of Himalayas from here. Return to Nainital and have dinner at Mall road.
Day 4- Have breakfast before checking out. Leave with the mesmerizing memories to relish throughout your life.