Thursday, March 12, 2009


Nainital - enigma for vision

At an elevation of 6,350 ft (1938 m), Nainital is one of the loveliest of Kumaoni hill stations in the North Indian state of Uttaranchal. Way back in 1841, it so seduced the Briton, Mr. Baron that he construed a house called the Pilgrim's Cottage and gradually beckoned the world to behold at his quintessential new discovery and the rest is history. This erstwhile summer retreat of the colonial kingpins is now ranked amongst the best of vacationing destinations in India. This 'lake district' was once home to wildlife conservationist and man-eating-tiger hunter Jim Corbett, whose escapades and travelogues are still reiterated with pride. The Corbett National Park and the legion of lakes - Bhim Tal, Sat Tal, Naukuchia Tal and, of course, Naini - are Nainital's jeweled attractions.


Naini Lake: Nainital was once brindled with about 60 lakes and was called 'Chakta'. A legend goes that after Sati committed suicide, her dazed husband Lord Shiva went about carrying her body and her eye happened to fall near a lake. The spot is commemorated with the Naina (means 'eye') Devi temple, and needless to say, the lake is the pristine Naini lake whose waters are still considered holy.

Naina Peak (or Cheena peak): At 8566 ft (2611m), Nainital's highest peak stands overlooking the beautiful eye-shaped Naini lake. The young and energetic can hike up the 6 km from the north-end of the town (Mallital) and for those who dare not, ponies can be hired in Mallital or on Snow View. But miss-it you should not!

Land's End: About 4 km away from the town center and perched at 9,452 ft. (2881 m) on the southern border of the lake, this hill affords a quintessential view of another lake, Khurpa Tal and of course of the entire Nainital.

Astronomical Observatory: The telescopes and binoculars set up near Hanuman Garh for those jaw-slacking views of the valley.

Snow View: The best and the most adventurous way to head for this curio at a supreme 7447 ft. (2,270 m) is to take the motorable cable-car from Mallital. It is the perfect vantage point for those breath-taking views. Some believe Muse sits there, for after the trip one is full of poetry and elated diction.

Adventure trails: Horse riding at the Mall and to reach roof-top joints like the Snow View Point, Tiffin top, Kilburi from the Mallital area. Boating cruises on the Naini Lake, treks in the verdant hill and the aforesaid cable-car ropeway offers some lip-smacking options perfect for sunny afternoons. Equipments for mountaineering and trekking can be hired from the Nainital Mountaineering Club and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam. For angling and fishing, permits needs to arranged from different Govt. Centers. One can also hire yacht from the Yacht Club at Mallital.

Festivals: Come September and the quiet town throbs with tourists and pilgrims coming to attend the Nanda Devi Fair and watch the various cultural shows. Vasantotsav, held during Jan-Feb at Ramnagar - the Gateway to Jim Corbett National Park, for obvious reasons, attracts more tourists and cultural fiesta from the Garhwal and the Kumaon hills is showcased.


The main shopping promenade is the Mall, which, along with Mallital, is good for wooden stuff and decorative candles. Also check out the Tallital bazaars and the Tibetan market for woolens, cane items and local handicrafts. The best one to head if you have a knack for collecting endemic products, is the Hill Top Tourist Point or Kasta Kala Kendra Collection.


Nainital doesn't have an authentic cuisine, but offers a wide-ranging variety of Indian and continental food. Most restaurants are located on either of the Malls, typically visited by tourists. Marino, at Tallital, is known for its vegetarian thalis, Embassy (Mallital), serves safe and trusty Mughlai food and Sakley's (Mallital) is known for its sumptuous continental dishes.


Corbett National Park (63 km SW): Established in 1936 by Jim Corbett, among others, this national park is Himalayan India's last expanse of wilderness. For wildlife enthusiasts, the place to stay is Dhikala, the KMVN accommodation. From here you can head into the forest on an elephant or jeep safari. The park is closed from mid-June to mid-November.

Sattal (23 km): Literally meaning seven lakes, is a group of small lakes nested together, at an altitude of 1370 m. A spot less explored, this is where you must head for the solitude you so much need to cherish the bounty of nature.

Ramgarh (26 km): Located 26 km from Nainital, Ramgarh is surrounded by fruit orchards, especially apples.

Mukhteshwar (52 km NE): At 2286 m or 7,500 ft, it provides some eye-warming view of the Himalayas, especially of Trisul and Nanda Devi peaks. There is an All India Research Center for Animal Treatment here. For those interested in history, you must visit the PWD guest house at the end of the ridge where Jim Corbett once lodged when he came to shoot the man-eater of Mukhteshwar.

Bhimtal (22km): This lake, which is larger than Naini Lake, at an altitude of 1370 m has an island with a popular restaurant on it. There is also a 17th century temple complex, the Bhimeshwar, alongside a 40 ft high dam at one end of the lake. Tourist buses for Bhimtal leave Nainital at regular intervals.

Ranikhet (60 km): A sheer beauty at 1829 ft., its beautiful pine trees, orchards, the temples, create a feeling of nostalgia and followed by an heart-ache when you turn to leave.

Location :
In Kumaon hills, Uttaranchal

Go there for :
Lakes, Corbett National Park

Climate :
11°-27°C (Sum); 2°-16°C (Win)

When to Go:
Mar-Jun, mid-Sep to October

Local Tongue:
Kumaoni, Garhwali, Hindi

STD Code :
+91 - 5942

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