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Nainital: The Lake Town



JIM'S INDIA TOUR

I arrived at the Lake town on a summer morning after having boarded a bus from Delhi the previous night. From Haldwani, the road began to spiral up the hills. This stretch of road just before reaching Nainital is the most precarious, with so many stern ravines; and a road that barely fits two vehicles. At Nainital the bus came to a stop at the edge of Naini Lake, a view I had seen so many times on magazines and photographs.

The town is named after Naini Lake which, is again named after goddess Nain. According to the Hindu mythology the lake is one of the 64 Shakti Peeths; where parts of the charred body of Sati (Parvati) fell while being carried by Lord Shiva. The spot where Sati's eyes (or Nain) fell, came to be called Nain-tal. There is a temple dedicated to goddess Nain on the edge of the lake.
Nainital is a gorgeous town that still retains some of its colonial charm. Few bungalows from that era still survives today including the Gurney House which was once occupied by the Jim Corbett and his family. Since its foundation and the construction of the first European house in 1841, it has always been a popular getaway for British officers and their families who served in the Army, trying to escape the brooding heat of the Indian plain in summer.

The weather is pleasant but the tourist can be ridiculously loud and annoying. The influx of tourist is more than four times that of the town's population during peak season from May to June. It gets worst during weekends, when people from the nearby plain flood in to escape the heat. Nainital is easily accessible by road and takes just over an hour drive on the hilly road to reach the town; making it one of the most popular hill stations in India. The weather changes drastically as you reach Nainital. Apart from the height which is at 2,084 m the cool breeze from the lake and surrounding trees keep the town cool. Days are pleasant with a lot of sunshine; and mornings and evenings are breezy and cool.

Nainital is a town centered around Naini Lake. The economy of the town is dependent on tourism. It is a favorite with domestic tourists. It is not much a hub for foreign tourists and there is a reasonable explanation for this. It all comes down to overpriced hotels. Finding a Hotel can be a real challenge during the peak season. Even if you manage to find one, the tariff would be sky high and they have the upper hand because you are left with no choice. Tourist seasons are short and they want to make the most while it last. The room tariffs come down to almost one third during off seasons. Some of these hotels even rented out their rooms to tenants during off season. The idea of an ideal destination should feature affordable hotels. In this case Nainital does not come close to places like Manali and Leh, where more foreign tourists flock. Most foreign tourists came for a long halt, and don't want to spend unreasonably. On the other hand Indian tourists stay mostly for a week or so and they are ready to splurge.

How To reach: Buses for Nainital leave Delhi everyday from 9pm to 12 midnight from ISBT, Anand Vihar. Fare charges can also be bargained from Rs.300 to Rs. 700. The nearest railway station is at Kathgodham, 34 kilometers from Nainital.

When to Visit: Nainital can be visited year round but the peak season is from May-June and from September- October. But to get the view of snow and the experience of it one has to visit Nainital in Winter. The perks of visiting during off season is that one gets a much better Hotel bargain. The roads are least crowded and taxi fares too come down reasonably.

Traveling in the city and around: The town itself is pretty small and can be covered on foot or one can commute on Rickshaws from Tallital to Mallital and like wise. For a sightseeing tour around the city, one can hire a local taxi. The fare are exorbitant during peak seasons and rationality does not apply during this few months. One has to bargain a lot. The best part of the town cannot be covered by vehicles and requires a lot of trekking.

Where To Stay: There are hundreds of hotels on Mall Road. In peak summer almost all hotels are booked in in advance and it is hard to find rooms less than Rs.1500. The best thing is to book online, in advance. Hotels are less expensive as one moves up the steep slope, away from the Mall Road.

Where to Eat: There are so many restaurants on the Mall Road like Embassy, Machan, Cafe De Mall etc. CCD and Dominos also have opened shops on the Mall Raod. Sonam is a popular restaurant in a small gully inside Tibetan Market and they serve the best momos and Chowmein in town. Finding a seat can be a difficult task.

Places to visit and things to do in Nainital:

1. Walk along Mall road at evening: Like most British colonial hill stations, Nainital has a Mall road, which is also the most sophisticated and beautiful part of the town. The Mall road runs parallel to the lake from one end of town to the other. The road is lined with hundreds of hotels, restaurants and shops and comes alive towards evening when the road is closed to vehicles. Strolling along the road lined with vibrant maple trees was a cool experience.

2. Hike to Naini Peak (also Known as china or Cheena Peak): Naini Peak is the highest peak around Nainital with an altitude of 2,615 m. Understandably, it also offers the best view of the town but it can only be reached by a trekking route 6km from town. The trek cuts through beautiful forest of rhododendron and oak trees. A hike to the peak to me epitomize my visit to Nainital.

3. Horse ride to Tiffin Top: Government approved horse ride to Tiffin Top is one of the most adventurous thing to do in Nainital. The govt. approved rate is Rs.700 for a person and covers 6 places including Land's End and Tiffin Top. The track passes through beautiful forest of rhododendron and deodar trees. Tiffin Top offers a good view of Nainital.

4. Eco Cave Garden: Eco Cave garden is around 2km from Mallital. It is set in a natural setting and there are 6 caves in the garden. One can enter the garden at an entry fee of Rs.40 per person. The interior of the caves are nicely lit and are as cool as an air conditioned room.

5. Boating at Naini Lake: Boating is a major tourist activity in Nainital. Government have set fixed rates (Rs.200 for each boat), lifting the burden of bargaining on this one. Apart from the spectacular view, the cool breeze makes this wonderful experience.

6. Cable Car Ride to Snow View Peak: On a clear day, this peak offers spectacular view of snow peaked Himalayan mountains. In summer those view are a distant dream but a Cable Car Ride (for Rs.150/person) and is worth an experience. There is a small children park at the peak.

7. Pt.G.B. Pant Zoo: The Nainital Zoo is at an altitude of 2100m, on a steep slope. It is also one of the only High Altitude Zoo in North India. Opened to public in 1995, it is today a popular tourist attraction. The zoo is home to a Bengal tiger, leopards and colorful species of pheasants among many others.

8. Visit Places of Worship: The best known temple in Nainital is Naini Devi temple, after which the town is named also named after. There is a Gurudwara next to the Naini Devi Temple. There are few churches from the British era, including St. John in the Wilderness.

View of Nainital at night from Naina Peak

View of Nainital at night from Naina Peak



Hotels near Mall Road at Nainital.

Hotels near Mall Road at Nainital.



The town is built around Naini Lake

The town is built around Naini Lake



Interior of Embassy Restaurant, one of the well known places to eat out at Nainital

Interior of Embassy Restaurant, one of the well known places to eat out at Nainital



A couple walking by the lake at Nainital

A couple walking by the lake at Nainital



Trekkers at Naina Peak, Nainital

Trekkers at Naina Peak, Nainital



 

Horse ride towards Tiffin Top at Nainital

Horse ride towards Tiffin Top at Nainital



Visitors ebtering the Tiger Cave at Eco Cave Garden in Nainital. There are altogether six caves in the garden

Visitors ebtering the Tiger Cave at Eco Cave Garden in Nainital. There are altogether six caves in the garden



Boating is a major tourist activity at Nainital

Boating is a major tourist activity at Nainital



Cable Car Ride runs from Nainital to Snow View Peak

Cable Car Ride runs from Nainital to Snow View Peak



The Nainital Zoo has become a tourist attraction over the years. major attractions here are a Bengal tiger, Snow leopards and pheasants

The Nainital Zoo has become a tourist attraction over the years. major attractions here are a Bengal tiger, Snow leopards and pheasants



Naini Devi Temple on the edge of Naini Lake

Naini Devi Temple on the edge of Naini Lake



 

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