Nainital- The Lake District of India

Surrounded by verdant hills and a sparkling lake is Nainital – a hill station in the Northern state of Uttarakhand in India. A favourite among honeymooners, nature lovers as well as families it is picture-postcard perfect. Located in the Kumaon region, it provides panoramic views of the snowclad Himalayas from vantage points. With seven lakes in and around it, Nainital has earned the tag of ‘The Lake District of India.’ Each of these lakes viz Bhimtal, Sattal, Naukuchiatal, Khurpatal, Malwatal, Harishtal and Lokhamtal have their own charismatic beauty and pristine glory.

Nainital Lake with overcast sky View @Rafiq Somani

After visiting Binsar, Almora, Kausani, and Ranikhet, we drove to Nainital. We passed the glittering Naini Lake on our way to the hotel. After checking into our hotel, we were excited about going on a boat ride, but first, we needed to grab a bite. We had lunch at the Chandani Chowk restaurant on Mall Road which is a doppelganger of Delhi’s famous eatery area. The children relished the chaats and fast foods here.

Boats on Naini Lake, Nainital @Rafiq Somani
Naintal Lake @Rafiq Somani

Soon it was time for our boat ride on the Naini Lake. After wearing safety jackets, we were all set for our boat ride. Colourful yachts dotted the lake as they wrestled with the winds to stay afloat. The gentle breeze blew on our faces as the boat glided on the misty lake. Occasionally the mist would drift, and the sunlight would set the lake glitter like the night stars. All around us were the hills covered with dense forests with the emerald green lake in the centre shining like a jewel. This experience of boating made one feel like larvae sheltered in a cocoon.

Boating on Naini Lake, Nainital @Rafiq Somani

After the boat ride, we headed to the Eco Cave Gardens. On the way we passed the Cricket ground where a match was going on. Imagine an open field surrounded not by spectators in a stadium but by trees on hills.

Cricket Ground, Nainital @Rafiq Somani

The Eco Gave Gardens had several interconnected caves and passages. The kids were excited as they crawled through the caves having their share of adventure and fun. They even pepped me up by saying I mustn’t be afraid and provided tips to crawl through the narrow spaces. The child in me played along. The garden had scenic points from where we could see the town and surrounding hills.

View from Eco Cave Gardens, Nainital @Rafiq Somani

An aerial view of the kidney-shaped emerald green Naini Lake is one of the highlights of Nainital. We decided to go on a horse ride to Naina Peak, which is the highest point of Nainital. From here we could see the jewel-like Naini Lake nestled among the hills. The snowcapped Himalayan mountains covered with mist had a pinkish-orange hue due to the golden hour of the evening when the sun was at the horizon. Viewing the majestic Himalayas in all their brilliance makes a thousand emotions run through you. There is a certain aura and mystery that these mountains hold as they have been mute witnesses of life’s goings-on.

View from Naina Peak @Rafiq Somani

We saw the St Joseph’s college a British colonial-era building which has featured in several movies including Naseeruddin Shah starrer Hindi movie ‘Masoom’. Next, we then visited the Mall Road, which had several shops selling woollens, souvenirs and candles. The Tibetan Market had locals selling their wares and we even visited a handmade candle store. Candles in all shapes, sizes, aromas and fragrance are a must-shop for item. After dinner, we then headed to the hotel. We retired early to bed as the next morning we wanted to wake up early to go to Kilbury 12 km from Nainital.  We were told it would provide us with a panoramic view of the Himalayas.

St. Joseph’s College, Nainital @Rafiq Somani

The next morning, we drove to the Kilbury Forest Rest House, which is nestled among pristine forests. It was biting cold, and the chilly winds sent us shivering although we were covered in jackets and shawls. From a viewpoint here we got sweeping views of the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas. We clicked some pictures and hurried back to our hired car, which was warmer. On the way back, we stopped at another point called Himalaya Darshan. In the foreground were layer upon layer of verdant hills and valleys while the snowcapped Himalayas appeared as if they were sailing in the clouds.

Himalaya Darshan, Nainital @Rafiq Somani

The Naini Viewpoint is what we visited next. From here we could see the Naini lake surrounded by hills covered with pine and other trees. It was now time for our cable car ride.  After purchasing tickets from Mallital booking counter, we hopped into a trolley. The kids were incredibly excited as we were to get a bird’s eye view of the town. We tried to identify the spots in Nainital that we had visited the day before. ‘There is the Naini Lake! That’s the Mall Road…’One can see the Himalayan range, Tiffin Top, Zoo from the ropeway. The barely 2-3-minute ride ended on Snow Point from where once again the snowclad Himalayas were visible.

View from Naini View Point @Rafiq Somani

Our trip to the Lake District of India was now complete. We were all set to visit our next destination, the Jim Corbett National Park. (That is a separate travelogue)

There are a lot of other things you can do in Nainital like visiting the zoo, adventure activities like rock climbing, paragliding or birdwatching. You may even want to see the neighbouring lakes or do some camping. Spending time in the lap of nature, amidst hills and lakes, with scenic vistas of Himalayas make Nainital a sought-after destination.

Note: This trip was made several years ago when we had a basic camera, so the photographs are not high resolution. Thanks for your understanding.

GETTING THERE- Nearest Airport: Pantnagar Airport, which is 65 km away, is the nearest airport. The other option is IGI Delhi which is 300 km away. From here you can hire a car.
Where to Stay: You can do a net search for an array of staying options depending on comfort and budget. Do choose a lake view or hill view room if possible.
Travel Tip: Do try and visit the neighbouring lakes as well as Jim Corbett National Park, which is 65 km away. 

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