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(courtesy: shivanshsingh)

Situated in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, Nainital is evidently one of the best hill stations of the Indian subcontinent. At an altitude of around 2,000 m above sea level, this Himalayan town rejuvenates every visitor with its scenic beauty and pleasant atmosphere. Not only by nature and adventure seekers, Nainital is visited by lakhs of devotees as well for its religious significance. It is home to one of the 51 shakti Peeth, Naina Devi Temple.

Often referred to as the Lake District, this hill station is sprawled around a mountain lake Naini, with shimmering emerald waters. Adding to its charm is the fact that this town is surrounded by seven hills, commonly known as Sapta-Shring, namely, Naina, Deopata, Handi-Bandi, Alma, Lariya-Kanta, Ayarpata, and Sher-Ka-Danda.

This hill station is also home to many renowned personalities of the world. The author, and conservationist, Jim Corbett was born and educated in this town. It is also the birthplace of the known Indian popular classical singer, Anoop Jalota and cricketer Manish Pandey, while the Sherwood College of Nainital has seen legendaries like actor Amitabh Bachchan, Kabir Bedi and Major Somnath Sharma, who was India’s first Param Vir Chakra awardee, as its students.

Enjoying good connectivity via road, with capital cities like Delhi and Dehradun, Nainital is one of the most popular weekend destinations from Delhi, Agra and other cities. Nainital is an ideal place for all kinds of holidays, from family to adventure or honeymoon. There are plenty of staying options, from resorts to hotels and homestays, to suit every budget or holiday type.

Geography and History of Nainital

The hill station of Nainital is located in Kumaon division of Nainital District. Once the summer capital in the British Era, it is now the judicial capital of the state. It is home to the Governor of Uttarakhand and also has the state’s High Court.

The town has a rich historical background. It was under the Katyuri Dynasty of the 10th Century. However, after the fall of Katyuri reign, the entire Kumaon region was slowly captured by the Chand Dynasty. Later, after the Anglo- Nepalese War of 1814-1816, Kumaon Hills came under Colonial rule.

What sets Nainital apart is its mythological association. It is said to be the place where the eye of Goddess Sati fell. Lord Shiva was doing Tandav dance with her body after Goddess Sati sacrificed herself at her father’s yagna to express her unhappiness. The name of the town which means ‘Lake of the Eye’ also originates from the same religious belief.

Places to visit in Nainital

1. Naini Lake- Beautifying the centre of the town, Naini Lake is one of the most striking features of Nainital. This fresh body lake, surrounded by magnificent peaks of Ayarpata, Laria Kanta, Handi Bandi, Cheena Peak, Deopata, Alma,and Sher Ka Danda enchants everyone with its pristine waters and lush greenery. Popular for picnics and walks, one can also go boating here.

2. Naina Devi Temple– A prominent Hindu religious site, Naina Devi temple is one of the 51 shakti-peethas. Dedicated to Goddess Sati or Mata Naina, this temple is believed to be the place where eyes of Goddess Sati fell. This was during the Tandava dance of Lord Shiva. The God had danced with the body of his wife, Devi Sati, when she had emulated herself in her father’s yagna to protest against his treatment towards her husband Lord Shiva. The hill station also received its name after this famed temple.

3. Tiffin Top- One of the most popular tourist attractions, Tiffin Top is the place to visit for a breath-taking view of the Himalayan range. Also known as Dorothy's Seat, is also frequented by picnickers. This place is named after Dorothy Kellett, wife of an army officer Col J.P. Kellett, who built it in the memory of his wife.

4. Snow View point- Snow view point, as the name indicates, welcomes tourists with a picturesque view of snow covered Himalayan range. Situated at a height of 2270 metres above sea level, it presents panoramic views of Trishul, Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot Peak. It is accessible via cable car from the Mall Road.

5. The Mall Road- A popular shopping hub, the Mall Road of Nainital connects its two ends- Mallital and Tallital. It runs parallel to another tourist attraction, Naini Lake. An ideal place for a relaxed stroll, it also houses various restaurants, offering mouth-watering and authentic cuisines.

6. Gurney House- Once a home of British conservationist and author, Jim Corbett, Gurney House, is situated in Ayarpatta hills, close to Nainital Lake. Though a private residence, tourists can enter with a prior permission. It also houses a museum and a nursery.

7. Sariyatal- Situated on the Kaladungi Road, this heart shaped lake is a must for those seeking some peaceful time in nature. The surrounding lush greenery adds on to the beauty of this serene lake. Sariyatal is around 5 km away from the Nainital town. One can also visit Himalayan Botanical Garden, which is located nearby.

8. Nainital Zoo- Also called as High Altitude Zoo, Nainital Zoo is located at an altitude of 2100 metres above the sea level. It is one of the three high altitude zoos in India. Spread over 4.6 hectares, this zoo is home to rich fauna and flora. Some of the animals that one can spot here are Tibetan Wolves, Leopard Cat, Royal Bengal Tiger, Himalayan bear, Japanese Macaque, Sambar, Barking Deer, etc.

9. Guano Hills- It is not only a favourite spot for trekkers, but also among photographers. The view of the town and the Himalayan range from here is absolutely mesmerising. Trail leading to Guano hills leads you through a forest filled with Oak, Bamboo and Deodar trees. With birds like grey woodpeckers, black-chinned babbler, commonly seen here, it is often visited by bird watchers too.

10. Raj Bhawan- A two storied building, Raj Bhawan is home of the Governor of Uttarakhand. It was built by British architects H.S. Wildeblood, F.W. Stevens and F.O. Oertel. Once the summer residence of British officers, it has more than 100 rooms, swimming pool, golf course and lush landscape. Resembling the Palaces of Scotland, Raj Bhawan has a Gothic style of architecture.

Other sightseeing places in Nainital are HimalayanView Point, Naina Peak, Hanuman Garhi, Aerial Ropeway, Eco Cave Garden, Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, Kilbury bird sanctuary, Pashan devi temple, ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences), Himalayan Centre of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Kainchi Dham, Land’s End, Khurpatal Lake, Naina Devi Himalayan Bird Conservation Reserve, Sattal Christian Ashram, St. John in the Wilderness Church, Shri Neem Karoli Baba Ashram, Pangot, Tibetan Market, Jeolikot, Mukteshwar temple, Astronomical Observatory, Peora, Bhowali, and Sitabani.

There are many scenic destinations, within a range of a few hours near Nainital. Travellers can club these destinations with their tour to the hill station like- Sattal, Bhimtal, Mukteshwar, Jim Corbett National Park, Almora, Ranikhet, Auli, Haldwani, Naukuchiatal, Ramgarh, Rishikesh and Kumaon.

Things to do in Nainital

Nainital boasts of not only enthralling sightseeing places but also of a wide array of exciting activities to do. Paragliding, especially at Bhimtal-Jangli Gaon road and Kotabagh is something no traveller should miss.

With ample scenic trails such as Pangot trek, Khurpa Tal Trek, trekking and hiking are two of the most popular activities when visiting this hill station. If looking for something unique, then opt for Hot air ballooning, for a memorable ride in colourful balloons above the majestic valleys and townscape. With many unique golfing courses, one can also spend a relaxed day Golfing in Nainital.

For those who love water sports, this town has many choices for them as well. Some of these are Yachting, Gondola ride, Canoeing, Kayaking and paddle boating.

As we know, no tour is complete without shopping. So, visit Mall Road market, Bara Bazaar, Tibetan market or Bhoti Market for a quick shopping spree of locally produced items and authentic cuisines.

Best Time to Visit Nainital

The best time to visit Nainital is during the months of March to June. However, if you wish to experience the hill of winters and admire the snow-capped mountains, then plan a Nainital Tour from the months of October to February.

The hill stations receive heavy rainfall from July to September, hence it is advisable to avoid visiting this town during monsoon.

How to reach Nainital

By Flight- The nearest airport to Nainital is Pantnagar Airport, which is around 70 km away. Tourists can either hire a taxi or board a local bus to reach Nainital from the airport. The Delhi IGI Airport is around 300 km from the town.

By Train- The nearest railway station to Nainital is at a distance of 23 km, Kathgodam Railway Station. From here tourists can take an auto rickshaw or bus to reach the hill station. There are train services from Delhi and other cities to Kathgodam.

By Road- The capital city of Uttarakhand, Dehradun is around 280 km from Nainital. It can be reached within 6 hours of driving. The distance between Nainital and New Delhi is about 300 kms. There are many direct buses from the capital city to the hill station. It takes around 7 hours of time to cover the distance.

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