Trekking, boating, cave-walks and sightseeing—there is no dearth of things to see and do in Nainital. Here are our top picks
Orientation: From the lake, the town backs into the hill side. The main bus stand is at Tallital, on the southern end of the lake. The northern end is known as the Mallital. The Mall Road connects the two.
Boating in Naini Lake
The most popular attraction of Nainital, the lake is excellent for boating. There are paddle boats and gondolas on hire. Yachting enthusiasts can contact the lake-side Boathouse Club (www.boathouseclub.in); non-members can visit the heritage club by paying a nominal temporary membership fee.
Cable car ride to Snow View
Take the cable car (open 10am-4pm) to Snow View (2,270metres) where, on a clear day, you can see the Himalayan ranges, including the Nanda Devi peak. The three-minute ride offers a panoramic view of the city and the lake. There are food and souvenir stalls here as well as an amusement park (Magic Mountain; +917669152362).
Explore the Echo Cave Garden
Located a km away from the Mall Road, the complex containing underground caves and hanging gardens, is maintained by Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam. The caves represent the habitats of different animals and have been named like-wise. The caves are lit with petroleum lamps; you will have to crouch or crawl through some of the caves—the Tiger cave being the easiest and the Bat cave the most difficult. It is open between 9.30am-5.30pm (entry and camera fees applicable).
Take a tour of the Flatts
Flattened by a landslide in 1880, this large flat ground with the Naina Devi temple in one end, is a recreational ground off Mallital. There is also a mosque and a gurudwara. Sporting and cultural events are held from time to time. You can check out the ‘chaat bazar’ for savouries and the ‘bhotia market’ for woollens and other things. There is also a roller skating rink here.
Trek to Dorothy’s Seat
Also called Tiffin Top, Dorothy’s Seat, perched at 2,292metres, is a popular trekking route and picnic spot. The more energetic can walk up to Land’s End (from where you can see the Khurpa Tal) through a forest of pine and oak. If you want a pony ride, be ready to negotiate the jostling touts and the pony drivers.
Trek to Naina Peak/China Peak
At 2,615metres, Naina Peak (locally known as China Peak) is the highest point in Nainital. It is a gradual climb, gentle to moderately difficult depending on your fitness. Or, you can take a pony ride. You can either access it from Mallital or from the Snow View point.
Visit Gurney House
About 3km away from Mallital, Gurney House was built in 1881 by Jim Corbett’s mother. The famous hunter and conservationist too stayed here and you can see some of his trophies and personal artefacts here with prior appointment with the current owners.
Visit Nainital Zoo
This small but high-altitude zoo is home many alpine fauna such as Himalayan black bear, Tibetan wolf, several species of pheasants, and goral. About 2km from the Tallital Bus Stand, private vehicles are not allowed to go up to the zoo. But you can take a shared jeep (or you can follow the steep trek path) from Mall Road. The zoo is open on all days except Mondays and select holidays, from 9.30am-4.30pm (entry and camera fees applicable).
Visit Raj Bhavan, residence of the Governor
Set in the middle of a green lawn, the 113-roomed two storeyed building resembles London’s Buckingham Palace. Visitors are permitted inside (entry fee applicable) only if the Governor of Uttarakhand is not in residence. Opens at 8am and closes between 4-6pm depending on the season. The adjacent golf course was laid out in the early 1920s (entry fee applicable).
Walk along the Mall Road (Govind Ballabh Pant Marg)
Sandwiched by the lake on one side and the town on the other, this is the busiest section of Nainital, an evitable walk if you want go boating and pony riding. Thankfully, during peak season, May-June and October, the road is closed to vehicular traffic (6-10pm), making it easier to take a stroll.