A beautiful emerald lake surrounded by green hills, quaint old cottages and markets , and a web of walking tracks—there are plenty of picturesque places to visit in Nainital. One of the most popular hill destinations in India , Nainital is also a part of the ‘lake district’ of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand , with lakes such as Bhimtal , Sattal and Naukuchiatal in the vicinity. Nainital’s charms include everything from boating and sailing to old temples and heritage buildings, and of course, scenic views at every other step. Here’s your guide to the hill town’s most captivating spots.
This beautiful lake lies at the heart of Nainital, with its waters reflecting the colour of the surrounding green hills. The hill station itself is divided into parts: Mallital, the northern side of the lake, and Tallital, the southern end of the lake. Boating in the lake is a favourite tourist pastime. There are rowboats and pedal boats available at various spots. For a more thrilling alternative, try sailing on the lake with a small yacht. The Nainital Boat House Club has facilities for renting yachts, guided by a boatman. A promenade circles the entire lake and is a good stretch for walking, taking in the views and the cool breeze from the lake.
NAINA DEVI TEMPLE
Perched on the banks of Naini Lake, this temple plays a central role in the origin myths surrounding Nainital. It is believed that after the death of his wife Sati, the Hindu god Shiva was so distraught that he began a tandava dance of cosmic destruction. In order to stop him, Sati’s body was scattered all over the earth. This was the exact spot where her eye fell, creating the lake. The temple’s open courtyard also offers scenic views and cool breeze from the lake.
Also known as Governor’s House, this was the official residence of the Governor of North-West Province in colonial India. It is now the residence of the Uttarakhand Governor, and is one of the few Raj Bhawans open to the public. Built towards the end of the 19th century, the imposing building is spread over an area of 220 acres. Its Gothic-style architecture was inspired by the Buckingham Palace.
The two-storey mansion contains around 113 rooms, but visitors are only allowed in its vast lawns and in the 18-hole golf course within its premises. Constructed by the British in 1924, the golf course is set around a scenic forest , and is home to several rare species of flora and fauna. Visitors can play a game of golf for a small fee or lounge in its clubhouse and restaurants.
Located on Ayarpatta Hill, this beautiful cottage was the former residence of British hunter, conservationist, and beloved writer Jim Corbett. This British-style building was built in the 19th century by the Corbett family. Jim Corbett lived here with his sister Margaret between 1920 and 1947, following which, they left for Kenya. During his time here, Corbett famously hunted man-eating tigers in the Kumaon region, and penned several books based on his experiences. The house has been carefully preserved, and still has Corbett’s possessions, including his trophies, furniture, books, and boat. It is now a private property, but informal tours can be arranged by contacting the owners via phone or email.
GOVIND BALLABH PANT ZOO
Home to a variety of endangered animals and a wide variety of flora, the Pt. GB Pant High Altitude Zoo is the perfect way to explore the mountain wildlife. Lay your eyes on rare species of animals such as the Khaleej Pheasant, Siberian Tiger, Snow Leopard, Goat Antelope-Ghooral and Serao, among several others. If you are an avid bird lover, you will be more than happy to hear that this zoo is home to several high altitude birds like the Golden Pheasant, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Red Jungle fowl and Lady Amherst Pheasant. Most of these are kept according to their natural habitat, ensuring that they feel right at home. The zoo was founded in the year 1984 but it was opened to visitors in 1995.
The panoramic beauty of soft white clouds, rocky peaks, emerald jungles, and green verdant valleys from Tiffin Top can not be put into words. The place is only about 4 km from the heart of Nainital and makes for a wonderful trek. Alternately, you may go there on horseback. Tiffin Top is also known as Dorothy’s seat as it was built in the memory of an English artist name Dorothy Kellet by her family. With so much to offer, no wonder, the place is a delight for dozens of artists, photographers, and nature enthusiasts.
With a towering height of 2,270 metres, this hilltop is an old tourist favourite for its beautiful views of the surrounding hills. Situated at a distance of 2.5 kilometres from the town, it is easily accessible by an aerial ropeway, which connects Snow View point with Mallital in Nainital. There’s an amusement park with bumper car ride for kids, and stalls offering tea and snacks. You can also trek from here to Naina Peak or China Peak, which is the highest peak in Nainital and also offers stunning views of snow-clad Himalayas.
This astronomical observatory is located on the Manora peak, and is the perfect place to indulge in star-gazing. The observatory has facilities for viewing celestial bodies on clear nights between 7 pm and 9 pm, through its high-powered telescopes. The institute was established in 1955, and is a major centre for astrophysical research. To book a visit, call the observatory or make a reservation through their website.