Nainital is synonymous with turquoise lakes and Kumaon hills. Adding to its charm is the architecture, food and culture, that still retains some flavour of the bygone British era.
This town was discovered by an English sugar trader, P Barron, and was later developed into a vibrant summer retreat for British soldiers during the Raj.
Nested in the foothills of the Himalayas, Nainital welcomes travellers with a pleasant climate and subtle grace. Amongst the clouds, fresh air, and a vast expanse of green, this town has everything one looks for in a weekend getaway destination.
To kick off your tour, here’s a list of tried-and-tested places you can visit when you are in the ‘City of Lakes’.
Top Places To Visit In Nainital
- Nainital Lake
- Sariyatal Lake
- Khurpatal Lake
- Eco Cave Gardens
- The Mall Road
- Naina Devi Temple
- Tiffin Top
- Naina Peak
- Land’s End
- Nainital Zoo
- Astronomical Observatory
With its blue-green waters mirroring the seven peaks that border its edges, Nainital Lake occupies the centre of the town. Several buildings punctuate the surrounding tree cover, with their painted facades telling stories of colonial times.
A lake cruise is the best way to take in the scenic charms. Tourists can choose from a couple of options available, ranging from Gondola-like boats and paddle boats for slow rides to more adventurous ones like yachts and kayaks. The months of March, June, November and December are ideal for boating when the weather is relatively pleasing, and sun rays not that harsh.
Go for: Boating and photography.
On the way from Delhi to Nainital, Sariyatal Lake lies on the Kaladungi Road, 10 kilometres ahead of the main city. Small streams flowing in from the surrounding hills fill up the lake, making it look like a shimmering blue pool of water with a lush green cover on the sides. Without many townships in close vicinity, it is wrapped in absolute peace and solitude.
Another key feature of Sariyatal is the Himalayan Botanical Garden. Spanning over 30 hectares, this garden has become an eminent centre of study with its butterfly park, library, herbarium, and fernery providing insight into the rich flora found here.
Go for: Views and peace.
This lake, located at a distance of 10 kilometres from Nainital, is a less explored spot in the town. For those looking to get away from the tourist rush, this is the place to be at!
The emerald lake looks heavenly with a thick vegetation cover on its left and a string of colourful cottages on its right. A variety of fish live wholly in its freshwater allowing for activities like fishing and angling.
The temperatures here remain soothing throughout the year, including summers, making it ideal for casual strolls and DIY treks that would help you bond stronger with nature.
Go for: Fishing and trekking.
Eco Cave Gardens
Just a kilometre away from the Mall Road, this site has a series of natural and man-made, interconnected caves that resemble the natural habitat of animals such as tigers, panthers, bats, squirrels and apes. Inside, there are narrow, rocky paths one can crawl or climb through for a little dose of adventure.
Besides this, the hanging gardens and musical fountains keep tourists engaged in the evenings. To entertain kids, there are activities like mechanical bull rides and a small ropeway.
Go for: A fun-filled day.
The Mall Road
The hit place to go for shopping, eating and everything in between, this street is always buzzing with tourists and locals.
It is lined with several shops and colourful signage that help tourists find souvenirs of their choice. There are ones for handloom textiles, local handicrafts, candles, artificial jewellery and wooden items, all available in a wide variety.
Eateries across the street serve local delicacies like Ras and Baadi (highly recommended) along with mainstream North Indian options, feel free to take your pick.
Go for: Shopping and eating.
Naina Devi Temple
Believed to have been built in the 15th century AD, this temple has long drawn pilgrims to the town. It is located atop the Naina Hill, at the northern end of the Nainital Lake. Dedicated to Goddess Sati, the temple comprises of a vast courtyard, a sacred peepal tree and idols of Hindu deities. The inner sanctum houses the figure of the presiding deity representing her in the form of eyes.
Devotees come to visit this temple in large numbers during the Navratri (September to October), Shravani Mela (July to August) and Chaitra Mela (March to April). Grand fairs are organised on all these occasions, celebrated with high energy and devotion.
To reach the temple, you can walk a short distance from the main bus stand of Nainital, and from other locations in the town, you can take readily available taxis and autos.
Go for: Prayers and peace.
At a distance of 54 kilometres from Nainital, this quaint hamlet is characterized by fruit orchards and coniferous trees. Tourists come here to soak in the calm atmosphere away from city chaos.
Besides being famous for its serenity, it also holds religious significance for Hindus who come here to visit the 350-year-old Mukteshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Its prime location at the highest point of Mukteshwar lures tourists with captivating views of the Kumaon hills.
Adventure enthusiasts indulge in activities like rock climbing and paragliding at ‘Chauli-ki-Jali’.
Go for: Calm and adventure.
Offering a bird’s eye view of the entire town, Tiffin Top is a treat for photographers. It was named ‘Dorothy’s Seat’ by a British Army Officer Col. Kellett in the memory of his wife Dorothy Kellet.
Located on Ayarpatta Hill, it can be reached via 4-kilometre trek that can be covered on foot or ponies starting from the Mall Road. Surrounded by towering Cher, Oak, and Deodar, the picturesque scenery here lends itself to aimless gazing.
Pack a picnic lunch, stroll along the paths on the slopes, or indulge in adventure activities such as rappelling and rock climbing conducted at the top.
Go for: Views and picnic.
Being the highest point of Nainital at an altitude of 2,615 m, Naina Peak is perfect for getting a panoramic view of the entire town. Also called China Peak, you can spot the mountains on the Tibet border from this point.
For those who like long walks, a trek to this peak can prove to be a blissful experience. Take a 6-kilometre-walk starting from the north-end of Mallital, pass through the forests of rhododendrons and Cupressus, breathe in fresh air and enjoy the scenic beauty. Less adventurous tourists have the option of hiring pack animals from Mallital or Snow View Point.
Go for: Views and peaceful walk.
To witness a grand view of valleys and the Khurpatal Lake from a height of roughly 2000 metres, head to Land’s End, located at about 4 kilometres from Nainital. You can take a vehicle to Barapathar followed by a leisurely 1-kilometre trek. As an alternative, horseback rides are also available for better access.
The ultimate point of Land’s End is the cliff where the town seems to have reached a dead-end. From this point, the views of the terraced fields and neighbouring hills give off countryside vibes. The sight of the Khurpatal Lake changing colour every hour is quite fascinating, from intensely aquamarine to mirror-like silver and then into pale orange.
Spread a blanket and lie back with a book, or simply absorb the views.
Go for: Views and relaxation.
One of the few High Altitude Zoos in north India, Pt. G.B. Pant Zoo is situated on the Sher Ka Danda hill at the height of 2,100 metres above sea-level. It is home to several endangered Himalayan species, and animals like Royal Bengal Tiger, Tibetan Wolves, Sambar, Leopard Cat and Himalayan Bear. You can also spot many high altitude birds like Kalij Pheasant, Lady Amherst Pheasant, Rose Ringed Parakeet, and Red Junglefowl perched on the canopies of towering woods.
A steep motorable road goes to the zoo from Tallital bus station. You can cover this 2-kilometre distance on foot or by car. The zoo is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 09.30 am – 4.30 p.m.
Go for: Wildlife
To strike off stargazing from your to-do list, reserve an evening for a visit to the Astronomical Observatory, located 9 km south of the city. Sitting on the top of the Manora Hill, 1,951 metres above sea level, the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Science is easily reachable via taxi.
Through the four high-power telescopes at this full-fledged modern observatory, visitors can take a closer look at the moons, stars and other celestial bodies. It is recommended to take prior permission from the authorities and fix time slots for your visit before-hand. The Astronomical Observatory opens from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm and slot windows are available between 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm for night viewing of the galaxy.
Go for: Seeing stars and galaxies.
If time permits for some more exploration, you can utilise your extra hours by visiting other nearby attractions like Pashan Devi Temple, Snow View Point, Jeolikot, Governor’s House, Pangot, Kilbury Bird Sanctuary, Gurney House and Binayak.
Surrounded by lush green slopes and sparkling lakes, Nainital makes for a perfect getaway for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its salubrious weather, a range of adventure activities and unbeatable vistas, this town is worth discovering.
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