UTTARAKHAND

Exploring the nine wonders of Nainital

We were excited to unwind in nature’s bliss and went exploring the nine wonders of Nainital during the 3 days holiday in September. Any guesses why we chose this city for the quick getaway? Well, it is one of the closest and easily accessible hill stations from NCR.

Panoramic view of Nainital lake

The journey began

We reached Haldwani at 6:30 am after an overnight Volvo journey from ISBT Anand Vihar and hopped onto a connecting local bus which reached Nainital at 8 am. The sparkling water of the lake, pleasant breeze and a peaceful atmosphere felt so welcoming. Instead of hiring a cab, we walked to our hotel. We started the walk from Thandi Sadak with the lake on right side and temples on left. It was tiring with heavy bag pack on each back, yet a mesmerizing view. A walk of three kilometers felt like thirty! Credit goes to our city life style. Only after we checked into our hotel (Treebo Cloud 7) we breathed relief. Thanks to the no-rush-off-season, we were allowed an early check-in.

We left for sightseeing around 11 am. A friendly cabbie offered to tour us around in 500 INR which seemed a fair deal. We added four more places to the list.

Here are the nine wonders of Nainital which we toured in a single day.

1. Eco Cave Park

We went inside perceiving it to be a protected park or nature garden for visitors to relax. But this place turned out to be a beautiful spot for adventure.  A flight of stairs takes you to an open space directing towards caves, labelled as Tiger Cave and Panther Cave. As the name suggests, these caves were the dwelling places of the big cats tiger and panther, now converted into tourist spots. 

The rocky slippery interiors are difficult to trek on. A bulb dimly lights up the entrance till you are in dark feeling the rocky walls. Trekking inside the cave can be uneasy if you have breathing problems or are scared of dark. Sunlight gushing through the exit might give you little relief. The feeling to walk through the dingy caves where these big carnivores crawled once gave us goosebumps.

Tip: Give your heels a miss. Dress up in comfy cottons and flat/sports shoes. Avoid if you have ortho or breathing difficulties.

Apart from these caves, there is a little eating joint, a number of view points, nature trails and an entertainment zone with Bulls Ride. The noisy generator and thick smoke was disturbing, but that’s how tourism sustains. Entry fee-Rs 10 , Bulls Ride fee– Rs 50

2. Lovers’ Point

At lovers’ point

An extremely beautiful place, lovers’ point was a place popular among couples for a romantic getaway. May be that’s how this point got its name. One can hire a pony to reach the points at higher altitude like Tiffin Top, Naina Peak which are not accessible by vehicles.

Romantic getaway

Entry Fee- None Horse ride– Rs 60

3. Naina Peak

Also called the China Peak, this is the highest peak in Nainital at an altitude of 2600 meters above sea level. From this topmost point you can view the majestic Himalayas, Tibet border mountains, the eye shaped Naina Lake and the beautiful vista of the city. You can indulge in thrilling activities like trekking, horse riding or a simple hike in the surrounding forest. We had arrived to this point in our taxi. You can otherwise ride a horse back from Lovers Point.

Tip– Ditch your heels. Dress up in comfortable casuals.

Entry Fee– None.

Timing– Best views can be experienced on days with clear sky. Open all day. Yet being an isolated place, advisable to be back before dark.

4. Snow View Point

Telescopic cameras are planted at this place for visitors to see Himalayas and China Peak. They sell you the view of hills which tower the China border and various corners of Himalayas. 

Seriously, we never feel like paying just for the view of mountains, which may not be even visible in clouds. Personally, we would like to visit the place instead. The guides promote the view of “Palankhet”, the place which gained popularity in Bollywood hit “Raja Hindustani”. 

Part cloudy that day, Sun literally paid hide and seek with us. Nevertheless, the surrounding tall mountains were surreal and refreshing.

Entry Fees– None, Only charge for telescopic camera  

Dress Code: None. Heels do not work. If visiting in winters, layer up with warm clothes.

Timing– Can be visited any time. Advisable to be back before dark.

5. Bara Pathar

This is a trekking spot and a trekking school as well. We had nothing to do here and moved on to the next point. Book your advanced slots if you wish to trek or learn rappelling/trekking.

6. Khurpa Taal view

At an altitude of 5500 feet, Khurpataal is a small hamlet with pleasant weather and a pretty lake with crystal clear water. This lake is known to change seven colors. Only god knows how! We could not spot anything as clouds blanketed the whole area. Yet we got a good photo opportunity. This spot is lesser known and hence makes for an ideal getaway from the hustle bustle of daily life.

At Khurpataal

7. Nainital Lake

The lake that gave the name to the town completes your tour of Nainital. Spread over 120 acres , the freshwater lake is approximately 99 feet deep. Surrounded by coniferous forests on the hill slopes and Naina Devi temple on its Northern end, the lake is a source of income and life for the residents. Go boating any time of the day and soak in the scenic beauty around. Watching the clouds blanket the hills and Sun peeping through them left us speechless. You can never get enough of the lake!

Boat fares depend of the type of boat you hire. We preferred a traditional oar boat, rowed by a capable Neveen Joshi. A swimming coach by the day and a boatman in his free time, he expressed his concern over ecological depletion coupled with corruption and politics. He said there is a dire need of saving all natural resources for the world to survive and we could not agree more. The world needs more people like Naveen.

Our row hero Naveen Joshi

The animal lover within me spotted two little pups safely tucked in a shelter. Their mum came to check on the pups and left them in my company. The wooden shelter was covered with an old life jacket for the pups to keep warm. Nainital is indeed an animal friendly place. No body harms or chases stray dogs.

Fullball pups

8. Mall Road

Post a late lunch and quick nap at hotel, we headed back to the market place where we saw the visited Mehrotras house of wax, the oldest candle house in Nainital. The shop has beautiful , innovative and a huge variety of candles which make lovely gift-ables or showpieces.

At Shiva Restaurant we gorged on crunchy tikka with choley and cutneys. This was the best tikki snack plate we had in years! 

Strolling from the market place, we moved further to witness the Nanda Devi festival. The rush, the well-lit colorful stalls, the cultural dancers on the streets, everything gave us an adrenaline rush. The dancers decked up in cultural costumes belong to the Chholiya sect. They celebrate by dancing to the tunes of their cultural instruments and take rounds of the town. 

The Nanda Devi fair held each year, sees thousands of vendors setting up their stalls for a week, selling everything from toys & utensils to home furnishing & imitation jewellery. The entire place is decorated with lights amid tight security deployed during the crazy fair rush. 

9. Naina Devi Temple

Visiting the Naina Devi or Nanda Devi temple is a must visit in Nainital, especially during the Nanda Devi festival time. I was at loss of words on entering the temple premises. The aura makes you feel so positive and energetic! 

Evening aarti

As the sun sets behind the hills, the bright colorful lights enliven the temple grounds against the glittering waters of the lake in the backdrop. And needless to mention the evening aarti is not be missed. As the temple bells echo in the air with an unmatched energy, the head pujari takes a round of the whole temple with the divine aarti. 

There is a mosque few meters away from the temple, and the religions have co-existed peacefully all these years. We headed opposite to the mosque to meet Swalay, who hails from Nainital and had guided us for this trip. So glad to have met him and we chatted for more than an hour, discussing Indian tourism, politics, history- geography of Nainital and what not. 

The trio

After dinner and a box of sweets from Mamu’s Sweet Shop, we called it a day, preparing ourselves for the next day adventure in Kilbury and Pangot. 

Tip– Baal mithai (a specialty sweet from hills), coconut burfi and chocolate burfi are the ones to die for!

Apart from these nine wonders of Nainital, there are few offbeat places near the city worth visiting.

How to reach Nainital-

Nainital is at distance of 297 km from Delhi.
The only railway line closest to Nainital is the terminating station at Kathgodam  which is 24 km before the hill station. Hire a taxi or local bus for further journey to Nainital.

Well connected by roads, Volvo buses terminate at Haldwani which is 30 km from Nainital. You can book Volvo from-  https://www.utconline.uk.gov.in/

For onward journey you can hop onto a local bus to reach Nainital.

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