The hill settlement of Nainital is full of natural beauty and was a popular summer retreat for the British during the time they ruled India. It features the serene, emerald colored Naini Lake and action filled strip called The Mall, lined with restaurants, shops, hotels, and markets.
The town is actually made up of two areas, Tallital and Mallital, which are on either end of the lake, surrounded by mountains and connected by The Mall. Nainital is the perfect place to come and simply enjoy nature and the pristine views, which you’ll find in abundance there.
Nainital is 310 kilometers (193 miles) north east of Delhi, in the Kumaon region of the state of Uttarakhand (previously known as Uttaranchal).
Getting to Nainital:
The nearest train station is at Kathgodam, around an hour away. One of the best trains to take is the overnight Ranikhet Express
from New Delhi, which departs every evening at 10.45 p.m. Alternatively, Naintal is well connected with other parts of India by road, and buses frequently run. It takes around 8 hours to get there from Delhi by road. The nearest airport is at Pantnagar, around two hours away away. Jagson Airlines
has permission to service that route from Delhi, but it’s best to check if flights have commenced operating.
When to Visit Nainital:
Weather wise, the best times to visit Nainital are from March to June and from September to November. The area experiences heavy rain in July and August and landslides are known to happen. Winters, from November to February, are very cold and sometimes it snows in December and January. If possible, try to avoid peak times from mid April to mid July and October, as Indian holidaymakers converge on the place and hotel prices skyrocket.
One of the most relaxing things you can do is go boating on Naini Lake. Peddle boats, row boats, and small yachts are all available for hire. For fantastic views, take the Aerial Express cable car from Mallital up to Snow View. If you’d prefer, you can also ride a horse up there. Animal lovers will be interested in visiting the well laid out Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo
, which has some wonderfully exotic high-altitude species. It’s closed Mondays and national holidays. Those who want to get a feel for how royalty lived should have a meal at the historic Palace Belvedere
overlooking the lake.
Nainital Adventure Activities:
Nature walks, trekking, horse riding, and rock climbing are the main adventure activities on offer around Nainital. The Nainital Mountaineering Club runs trekking and rock climbing expeditions. There are so many beautiful forest walks that you can do, including a 3 kilometer (1.9 mile) walk to the Dorothy’s Seat picnic spot at Tiffin Top. From here you can continue walking 45 minutes through the forest to the breathtaking viewpoint at Land’s End. The trek to Naina Peak (also known as China Peak) is also particularly memorable. To see an incredible sunset, head to the Hanuman Garhi temple that's just out of town.
Nainital Side Trips:
There are many settlements similar to Nainital in the hills around this region and you’ll find plenty of tour operators in The Mall who offer excursions there. Some recommended side trips include Ranikhet, Almora, Kausani, and Mukteshwar. A half day tour of the enchanting local lakes, including Sat Tal, Bhimtal and Naukuchiatal, is also enjoyable. Kilbury, with its unspoiled forests, offer a peaceful getway only 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Nainital. In addition, it’s possible to visit the Corbett Tiger Reserve from Nainital.
Nainital Travel Tips:
The cable car up to Snow View is very popular so try to get there early as possible after it opens at 8 a.m. in the morning. You’ll also get the clearest views in the morning. The entry of vehicles into The Mall is restricted during the busy tourist months of May, June and October, enabling visitors to leisurely wander around. If you find that Nainital is too crowded at the time you’re there, do visit some of the quieter surrounding places. Also, for a more peaceful experience in Nainital, stay in a hotel away from Naini Lake and The Mall.
Most of the hotels in Nainital are set around the lake. The Hotel Alka
is located right on the water front and has a wide range of colonial style rooms ranging in price from around $70 for an economy room, up to $190 for a family apartment, during the high season. The restaurant here is excellent as well. In a quieter location a short distance away from The Mall, The Pavilion
offers really charming and spacious rooms from $60 to $100. Packages are available. A more luxurious heritage option nestled right up in the hills is the Claridges Naini Retreat
, with packages starting from around $220 for two nights.