The hill station 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).
Best Time 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 you want peace, try to avoid peak season from mid April to mid July, and Diwali vacation in October-November, as Indian holidaymakers converge on the place and hotel prices skyrocket. Nainital is extremely crowded during these months.
The nearest train station is at Kathgodam, around an hour away.
One of the best trains to take is the overnight 15013 Ranikhet Express from Delhi, which departs every evening at 10.30 p.m. and arrives at 5.05 a.m. Otherwise, if you'd prefer to travel during the day, the 12040 Kathgodam Shatabdi Express is a good option. It departs Delhi at 6 a.m. and reaches Kathgodam at 11.40 a.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 2 hours away away. Air India flies there daily from Delhi.
What to Do
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.
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.
Where to Stay
Most of the hotels in Nainital are set around the lake. Hotel Alka has a convenient location lakeside on The Mall, and a wide range of colonial style rooms (including a family apartment) starting from about 4,000 rupees per night. The restaurant is excellent as well. In a quieter location uphill from The Mall near the High Court, The Pavilion offers spacious rooms from around 3,000 rupees per night, although the cheapest rooms tend to be a bit dingy. A luxurious heritage option is the The Naini Retreat, with rates starting from around 9,500 rupees per night including breakfast.
It's the most popular hotel in Nainital. For a decent enough budget stay, try Hotel Himalaya near the bus stand in Tallital.
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. Or, stay in Jeolikote. The Green Lodge is one reasonably priced option there.
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 getaway only 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Nainital. In addition, it’s possible to visit Corbett National Park from Nainital.