Also called ‘Lake City’, Nainital is a popular hill station nestled at an elevation of 2,084 metres amid the Kumaon Hills in Uttarakhand. Surrounded by lush green hills on all sides and brimming with sparkling lakes, adventure activities, unbeatable vistas of the Himalayan mountain ranges and salubrious weather year-round, it is the perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Keep reading to discover the best things to see and do in Nainital.
Take boat trip on the scenic lakes
The major highlight of Nainital is its picturesque lakes that are surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. One must-visit includes Naini Lake, which is a natural freshwater pear-shaped lake, located in the heart of the city. Encircled by seven majestic green hills and a serene environment, the lake is a nature lover’s paradise. For those looking for a bit of adventure, get your fix on the lake by taking part in activities such as sailing, paddle boating and row boating.
Other must-visits include Sattal, made up of seven freshwater lakes; Bhimtal Lake, which stands out with a tiny island in the middle of the lake; Sariyatal Lake, which is a heart-shaped lake and Khurpatal Lake, a hoof-shaped lake. Visitors will love the different hues of the water, the abundance of nature and the tranquil atmosphere, while activities like boating and fishing are truly memorable. A view from the nearby mountains, however, is one of the most stunning sights you will remember from your trip. You’ll also find many food joints around these lakes, should you wish to replenish your energy levels.
Nestled on a hillock on the north side of Naini Lake, the Naina Devi Temple is one of the most popular Shakti Peethas of the Hindu religion. Dedicated to Goddess Naina Devi, the temple is visited by people in thousands every year, and more so during the holy occasions, such as Shrawan and Navratri. The main entry gate of the temple is adorned with two huge lion statues and the inner sanctum comprises three idols – Kala Devi (left), Naina Devi (represented by two Netras, or eyes, in the centre) and Lord Ganesh (right). This place is also rich in scenery as it is in divine spirituality. The open courtyard of the temple offers breathtakingly beautiful vistas of the mountains and lake. You can reach the temple via road, trekking or cable car (available from the base point to the hilltop).
After visiting the Naina Devi Temple, pop by the nearby Bhotia Market, which is brimming with shops selling everything from clothes and accessories to fashionable bags, ethnic items, handicrafts, souvenirs and much more – you’ll surely find something satisfying here.
Soak in the Himalayan mountain views from Tiffin Top
Set an altitude of 2,292 metres, Tiffin Top is a famous mountain peak in the city. Surrounded by the Himalayan mountain ranges and a lush environment of deodar, oak and cher trees, this place is a haven for nature lovers. Plus, the panoramic vistas of the city and the surrounding Kumaon Hills make it a photographer’s dream. The peak is also a delight for adventurers, with many activities waiting to be explored, such as rock climbing and rappelling. To reach the summit, be prepared for a trek, which is easy and full of amazing Instagram-worthy shots. Alternatively, you can reach the top via horseback riding, which is quite an enthralling experience.
Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city from the Snow View Point
Another famous attraction in the city is the Snow View Point, which offers a 360-degree view of the city and the snow-laden mountains, such as Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Trishul. It can be reached by cab or on foot, but for a memorable experience, it is best to opt for a cable car ride that runs from Mallital to Snow View Point, treating passengers to spectacular views of the Naini Lake and the surrounding hills.
Go wildlife spotting
Set at an elevation of 2,100 metres, the Pt. G.B. Pant High Altitude Zoo (or, Nainital Zoo) is the only high altitude zoo in northern India. Visitors can spot a great number of species of animals and high altitude birds, including Siberian tigers, Himalayan black bears, sambar deer, red pandas, Tibetan wolves, golden pheasants, Lady Amherst pheasants, red junglefowl and rose-ringed parakeets, to name a few. Also, there are lots of fun activities for both parents and children in this family-oriented environment.
Also referred to as the Governor’s House, the Raj Bhawan was built in the 1900s and was the Court House back in the day. Today, it serves as the residence of the Governor of Uttarakhand. Its most appealing feature is its grand Gothic architecture, complete with European patterns. In addition, it is also famed for its 18-hole golf course that is nestled amid the lush forests, which is home to several rare and unique species of flora and fauna. Visitors are welcome to relax on its sprawling lawns and clubhouse, as well as play a few rounds of golf for a small fee.
Set on a hilltop, Hanuman Garhi is a Hindu temple that dates back to the 20th century and is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. This temple, besides its spiritual vibe, is famed for its truly scenic sunrises and sunsets. In fact, it is at its most stunning during sunset. Time your visit before 4 pm in the evening to capture the spectacle.
Observe the winged beauties at the Pangot and Kilbury Bird Sanctuary
Within the Nainital district lies the Pangot and Kilbury Bird Sanctuary, which is home to more than 580 bird species, making it a paradise for bird lovers. Collared grosbeaks, brown wood owls, laughing thrushes, blue-winged minla and kalij pheasants are among the few to be found here amid the lush forests of rhododendron, oak and pine of the sanctuary. It is also a refuge for several species of animals, including leopards, sambar deer, barking deer and yellow-throated Himalayan martens.
Located just a stone’s throw away from the famous Mall Road, the Eco Cave Gardens are a group of six caves, though small in size, but large enough to evoke the spirit of adventure in anyone who visits. The caves represent some kind of animal habitat, hence named likewise, such as Tiger Cave, Flying Fox Cave, Squirrel Cave, Panther Cave, Apes Cave and Bats Cave. Visitors can crawl their way out and explore the interiors. Also, there is a musical fountain, which is operational only during peak season.
While you’re in the region, it is worth visiting the Jim Corbett National Park, which is approximately a four-hour drive away from Nainital. It is among the oldest and biggest tiger reserves in the country. It is home to 488 plant species, 586 species of migratory and resident birds, 25 species of reptiles and 50 mammal species. Needless to say, the major highlight here is the tiger, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the white tiger. Besides wildlife, the scenery is spectacular, complete with waterfalls and trekking trails. The best way to explore the park is via jeep safari.