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Nainital, which lies in the Kumaon region of the state of Uttarakhand, is among the top hill stations of India. Located in the Shivalik mountain range of the Himalayas, this hill resort is quite popular among tourists for its natural beauty and salubrious climate. Once a summer resort of the British today this town is a hotspot for leisure tourists. It receives high footfall in the summer months when the weather here remains pleasant and favourable, unlike the rest of the country.


In terms of sightseeing, there is much to see in this town, especially its picturesque lakes, namely Naini Lake, Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal and Sattal; the last three being located in its outskirts. Another must-visit attraction in this place is the Naina Devi Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Sati. Nearby to the temple are located a church and a gurudwara, which are also worth visiting. Those interested in adventure and excitement can head to places like the Eco Cave Garden, Snow View Point, Tiffin Top, Naina Peak and Pt Gobind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo. In addition to sightseeing, one can enjoy a ropeway ride from Mallital to the Snow View Point, and thereby, getting a panoramic view of the entire valley. Besides this, adventure sports like trekking, rock climbing, horse riding and hiking can also be enjoyed here.


Those looking to spend some peaceful time can go on a paddle boat or shikara ride on Naini Lake. The experience of boating in the lake with high mountains in the backdrop is truly a blissful experience. Evenings in Nainital are best spent on Mall Road, which is lined with a number of shops dealing in clothes, home decor items, jewellery and handicrafts. The road also houses some famous restaurant chains, where one is most likely to find a multi-cuisine affair. However, tasting the local delicacies can be a wonderful experience, especially Baadi, Aloo Ke Gutke, Arsa, Bhatt ki Churkani and Ras. Another shopping spot to visit in the town is the Tibetan Market, which is set up alongside the Naina Devi Temple. Here, the most popular items to purchase are scented candles and winter clothes. 


The hill town of Nainital was founded by P Barron, who was a sugarcane trader, in 1841. One of the earliest buildings to have been constructed in the town was that of the St John Church, followed by Alma lodge, Belvedere and Ashdale Cottage. As years went by, it became a summer resort for the British soldiers and their families. Later on, it served as the summer residence of the governor of the United Provinces.


On September 18, 1880, the town saw the biggest disaster in its history, when its northern end was heavily damaged due to a landslide. Many lost their lives, and there was heavy loss of property. In the 19th century, the town saw the establishment of a number of convent schools, with their students largely being children of British soldiers and colonial officials.


Apart from this, there is an interesting legend about the famous Naini Lake, after which the town has been named. It is believed that when Goddess Sati found out that her father King Daksha had arranged a Yagna (sacrificial ceremony) and invited all the gods and goddess except her husband Lord Shiva, she was enraged. In that fit of rage, she jumped into the sacrificial fire meant for the Yagna. On finding about his consort’s death, Lord Shiva – the god of destruction – became livid and grieved. He carried Sati’s charred, lifeless body and danced the Tandav. On seeing this Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body into pieces, which fell at 64 different places; these places are called Shaktipeethas today. One such Shaktipeetha is Naini Lake, where apparently Sati’s eyes fell. In ancient times, this lake was also known by the name Tri-rishi (lake of three saints), after rishis Pulaha, Pulastya and Atri.


Nainital, situated at an elevation of approximately 1934 m above sea level, lies in a scenic valley in the outer Himalayan range. It is spread over an area of around 11.73 sq km in its namesake district. The major highlight of this hill town is the pear-shaped Naini Lake, which is about 3.2 km in circumference. The setting of this lake is picture-perfect, with it surrounded by some high mountains; the highest among them being Ayarpatha (2278 m), Naina (2615 m) and Deopatha (2438 m). Geographically, the town can be divided into two areas, namely Tallital and Mallital; the former lies south of the lake while the latter lies north of the lake.


Owing to its mountainous location, Nainital is comparatively colder than the rest of the hilly areas of the Kumaon region. Similarly, humidity is experienced less in Nainital when compared to other hill towns in Uttarakhand. During the summer season (typically from April to June), Nainital escapes the extreme heat that the rest of the country reels under. In summers, the maximum temperature rises up to 30 degree Celsius while the minimum remaining around 10 degree Celsius. Hence, it receives the highest number of tourists in this season.


The monsoon season in Nainital (July till September) brings in heavy rainfall. It begins here earlier than the many parts of the country. During this period, roads become unsuitable for driving, especially at night. Also, tourists are asked to refrain from trekking in the mountains. Owing to heavy rainfall, the mountains are less visible since they get covered with sheets of mist. With the coming of the spring season towards the end of September, Nainital gets a new lease of life with lush greenery all around and a pleasant weather.


During the winter months (December to early February), heavy snowfall is common in Nainital, and in case it rains, then the temperature falls considerably. Weather remains cold and breezy during these months. Sometimes, the temperature drops to as low as 0 degree Celsius at night. On the other hand, days remain foggy with less sunlight. This is the season when tourist crowd is less in Nainital. The ideal time to come here is from September to November and then from April to June.

How to reach

Reaching the popular hill resort of Nainital is never a difficult task, with it being connected to the rest of India through airways, railways and roadways.


By Air – The nearest airport to Nainital is Pant Nagar Airport, which lies about 72 km away. Direct taxis to Kathgodam and Nainital are easily available from the airport. Those coming from other parts of the country can choose to fly till Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, and then, either avail a train/bus/private vehicle to reach this town.


By Rail – The closest railhead to Nainital is Kathgodam Railway Station, which is located around 41 km away. This railway station receives regular trains from major stations like Delhi, Lucknow and Kolkata. Daily two trains run from Delhi to Kathgodam and vice-versa. These are Uttarakhand Sampark Kranti Express and Ranikhet Express. Buses and taxis are easily available for Nainital from outside the Kathgodam station premises.


By Road – The hill station of Nainital is well connected to major cities of North India by road. Most tourists coming from other parts of the country usually start their road journey from Delhi. The road distance between Delhi and Nainital is about 300-320 km, and this distance is covered in about 8 to 9 hours by bus and taxi. Buses to Nainital from Delhi are easily available from Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT) Anand Vihar.  

Getting Around

To travel within this scenic hill town, one can avail the services of cycle rickshaws, especially if the idea is to visit the famous promenade – Mall Road. Interestingly, in the evenings, this entire stretch of road is made vehicle-free. In case, one wishes to visit the other attractions of the town, then he or she can hire private taxis. However, the best way to explore the beauty of this hill resort is on foot. The pleasant weather and cool breeze make this experience even more wonderful.

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