When was the last time you felt the whiff of fresh air? The air that rejuvenates your heart and soul! Fortunately, I had that experience during my trip to Nainital, a hill station in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, which is also popularly known as the lake district of India. Known for its pristine lakes and majestic hills, Nainital is serene and draws a contrast to the ‘hurly-burly’ of the town.
Every year, hundreds of tourists throng this place which is surrounded by lakes and is blessed with a beautiful landscape. Once a British hill station, Nainital serves as an excellent example of European architect as it proudly houses buildings that belong the Victorian period. I was also surprised to find the district so unperturbed by the outer world. Diversity flourishes here and people of all kinds can be found. There are foreigners from all races, mostly Tibetans refugees, who have set up their own businesses.
While the place offers many sightseeing options, here is a list of best places to visit in Nainital and enjoy the majestic view of the Himalayas and the lakes:
1. Naina Devi Temple
I began my trip with Naina Devi Temple, for my mother feels that it is a good omen. The temple, located at the northern end of the Naini Lake, was built in 15 AD and is mentioned in the Kushan period. It is one of the fifty one Shakti peeths and is of great importance to the Hindus. The devotees worship a pair of eyes in this temple and it is believed that when Lord Shiva was carrying the burnt body of Goddess Sati, one of her eyes fell at this place. Therefore, Goddess is worshipped here in the form of eyes. People from all over the world come and visit this temple.
I would suggest you to visit the temple after dusk as it is all lit up with bright lights and it’s reflection in the Lake is mesmerizing. Amidst the loud chants of mantras and the
ringing of the bells you might just discover your spiritual self and leave with a content heart.
2. Tiffin Top
I am an acrophobic who takes the stairs instead of a lift, so when I chose a place as high as 2290 metres, I was sure I was never coming back. But there was something about the snow covered mountains that made me leave my fear behind. Tiffin top, which is also known as Dorothy’s Seat, was built by a British army officer, Col J.P Kellett, in the memory of his wife, Dorothy, who died while sailing on an England- bound ship. Located at an altitude of 2,290 metres on Ayarpaata hill it will give you an eagle view of the entire town. Tiffin top is called so because people go here for family picnics carrying their ‘Tiffins’. You can enjoy trekking to the top if you are healthy otherwise hiring a pony is the best alternative.
The orange tinge that you witness around the white snow makes you feel drunk with the beauty of nature. If you look below, you would notice the fog playing hide and seek with you by revealing just what needs to be seen.
3. Naini Lake
Nainital is synonymous with Naini Lake. It cannot be called as a tourist spot because no matter where you stand in Nainital the lake comes with you. I went boating quite a few times actually. There are so many colorful boats that it almost looks like Gondola. You can paddle your own boats or hire a rower.
My oarsman told me that the lake was in the shape of an ‘eye’ and that it was believed to be the emerald green eyes of Goddess Sati. You can see the entire town looking down at the lake as if owing its existence to it. There are ducks all over the southern part of the lake and you can even feed them.
4. China Peak
China peak or Naina peak is the highest peak of the town and stands high at an altitude of 2,611 metres. Again, if you can you can trek or you can hire a pony if you have become a couch potato like me! The way up to the China peak is beautifully adorned with deodar and oak trees. The peak commands an entrancing view of sparkling snow laden Himalayas from Bandarpunch in west to Api and Nari peaks of Nepal in the east.
5. Governor’s House
More commonly known as the ‘Raj Bhawan’ it is the place that is meant for photographers and the history buffs. Built in the ‘Victorian-style,’ the Gothic mansion stretches over 220 acres. Constructed in 1899, it was the summer home of the British governor and is now used by the governor of Uttarakhand. It has all the luxuries including a golf course, ball room and a swimming pool.
There are a lot of minor tourist spots that can also be visited like ARIES, the zoo, churches and Kilbury. The surrounding areas like Naukuchiatal , Bhimtal and Sattal are also very good and can be visited if you have the time. Even if you were to go for a shopping spree then the Tibetan market offers unique souvenirs and the best prices. The finest time to visit Nainital is during the winters and if you are lucky enough then you might get to witness a white Christmas.
Bhimtal is a lakeside town named after Bhima, Mahabharat’s fascinating mythological figure. Bhimtal is proudly located at 1,370 metres above sea level and is appreciated for its aesthetic charm. This lake town is becoming increasingly popular with everyone because it is located near Nainital and has some of the most prestigious hotels that are considerably cheaper than Nainital’s.
The lake Bhimtal sits in the centre of the picturesque place with a tiny island, where there is a lovely enormous aquarium. Bhimtal provides magnificent views of the grandeur of nature and visual landscapes. Bhimtal is well linked by roadways and is an excellent tourist destination at all times as the climate is beautiful: gorgeous spring and autumn; comfortable summer, and sunny and sweet winter. Even the monsoons are ideal— misty and emerald-hued.
ARIES, which is a leading astronomical institute in India, stands for Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences. After independence, in 1955, the ARIES observer was established but was afterwards moved to the more convenient Manora Peak in Nainital. If you are travelling with children you must visit the Observatory.
With one of the most advanced technology telescopes in the country, one can see the moon and the stars and other celestial bodies which are otherwise blocked to normal eyes. During a few days around the full moon, night visits are usually possible.
The depths of peace and serenity are found in one of the Nainital district’s popular lake towns, Naukuchiatal or the Nine cornering lakes. Situated in the Kumaon Himalayas and regarded to be among the deepest of the lakes in the Nainital District, this little hill station is the perfect holiday resort in the Uttarakhand region. The lake sits at a height of 1220m and is 53 m deep in a beautiful valley, extending to 983 m. Once here, you will get the opportunity to pick up your picnic baskets and simply relax and take part in activities like bird viewing, fishing & fishing, para-gliding, and rowing. Naukuchiatal is also recognised for its Escape Festival held each year in May which is known for its extravagance and is frequently visited by people on family holidays, honeymoons and individuals.
Mukteshwar is a pleasant location in the district of Uttarakhand, 2.285 metres above sea level. The name comes from the temple of Mukteshwer Dham which is 350 years old with Lord Shiva as its resident deity. An amazing and wonderful view of the impressive Himalayan range is found on the top of the mountain on which Mukteshwar Temple stands. Mukteshwar is a destination to plan your honeymoon and also family holidays while being surrounded by the sky-kissing undulating mountains.
Mukteshwar is surrounded by British houses with red roofs, picket barriers and antique wooden window frames, and is teeming with colonial charm. The whole area has a profound silence and is a wonderful natural retreat. In addition, tourists can also make a trip to a campus of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute founded in 1893. Another remarkable site is the Energy and Resources Institute’s Renewable Park that uses solar energy to satisfy its needs in energy.
Image courtesy: Pradeep Pande