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Hi everyone 😀 Hope you are doing gr8 😀 Here’s the third and final part of of my Uttarakhand travel series 😀

For my first-time readers, here’s the link to the first & second part:

My Winter Holiday in Uttarakhand (Part I): Corbett

My Winter Holiday in Uttarakhand (Part II): Kausani

This part in the series is on Nainital. Before starting with my travelogue, here’s a bit about Nainital 😀

 

 

Nainital

 

The gem of Uttarakhand – Nainital (2,084 m) is a charming hill station that sits prettily at the green foothills of the Kumaon ranges in the Himalayas. Enveloped in a thick foil of nature, accentuated by the scent of the flowering blossoms blending miraculously in the crisp fresh air, it is the treasure trove of Kumaon.

Nainital was founded by the British due to its resemblance to the Cumbrian Lake district. The elegant colonial structures here amplify its natural beauty, making it among the most visited hill stations of North India since British period. 

Besides being a major hill station, Nainital is the judicial capital of Uttarakhand, the High Court being located here, and is the headquarters of the Kumaon division as well as an eponymous district. It also houses the Governor of Uttarakhand, who resides in the Raj Bhavan.

The quaint little city is set in a valley with the spectacular Naini Lake (after which the city is named) at its backdrop and surrounded by mountains, of which the highest are Naina (2,615 m) on the north, Deopatha (2,438 m) on the west, and Ayarpatha (2,278 m) on the south. It offers breath-taking sceneries and a pleasant climate throughout the year, and is especially preferred by families and honeymooners.  Moreover, it is a perfect weekend getaway from the Indian capital of New Delhi (345 km) and the state capital Dehradun (285 km).

Nainital is not only a famous tourist destination but is also known for its prestigious educational institutions and schools which have stood since British era.

Winters are very cold in Nainital, so the best time to visit is from March to October, with the peak season being March to June.

There are a number of things to do and see in and around Nainital. You can enjoy a boat ride in the Naini Lake, take a tour of other lakes like Bhimtal Lake, Naukuchiyatal Lake and Sattal Lake located within 50 km from the city centre. Surrounding the Naini Lake is the Mall road that offers great food and local souvenirs. Snow View Point and the Aerial Ropeway are among the most popular attractions in Nainital.

Here are some of the other tourist attractions…

Tiffin Top: A popular picnic spot in Nainital, Tiffin Top (also known as Dorothy’s Seat) located on Ayarpatta hill, offers a magnificent 360 degree view of Nainital city and surrounding hills of the Kumaon region. It also offers trekking and horse-riding activities. Built by British Army Officer J.P. Kellet, this popular place is surrounded by a dense forest of deodar, oak and pine trees and has a rich variety of flora and fauna species.

Naina Peak: Naina Peak (2615 m), also known as China Peak, is the highest peak of Nainital and a favourite place for trekking amidst a rich variety of flora and fauna. The peak offers splendid views of Nainital city and its neighbouring snow-covered Himalayan mountain ranges.

Eco Cave Garden: Nestled in the Sukhatal region, on the Kaladungi road, the Eco Cave Garden is a newly developed tourist attraction.  It has six inter-connected small caves in the shape of various animals, hanging gardens and a musical fountain with various audio video effects.

Nainital Zoo: Covering a small green area of 4.6 hectares, Nainital Zoo (officially named as Bharat Ratna Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo), located at a height of 2100m on a hill slope is the one and only zoo in Uttarakhand. It is home to several endangered species of animals and exotic birds including Tibetan Wolf, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Barking Deer, Himalayan Bear, Royal Bengal Tiger, Civet and Sambar.

ARIES: Perched atop the Manora Peak is a prominent astronomical institute of India – ARIES or the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences. This Astronomical Observatory helps you see the stars, celestial bodies, the moon and other heavenly bodies with the help of high powered, imported telescopes.

Thandi Sadak: Located at a distance of only 1.8 km from Tallital Bus Stand, Thandi Sadak is a pedestrian road with old-world colonial charm that offers a delightful experience for people who love jogging or taste mouth-watering morning snacks.

Kainchi Dham: Kainchi Dham is dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba, a Hindu saint and Guru who had numerous devotees from all over the world. It has a famous Hanuman temple, founded by Neem Karoli Baba in the 1960s. Kainchi Dham got huge recognition when people learnt that the ex-CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, had come to India to visit this place to find answers to his questions in 1974 and to become Neem Karoli Baba’s devotee, who had passed away by that time. Later, he encouraged the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, to make a trip to Kainchi Dham for the successful enlightenment of his career. Since then, the temple is packed with devotees. Other American tech visionaries to have made this pilgrimage include Google’s Larry Page and Jeffrey Skoll, co-ounder of eBay.

Hanuman Garhi: Standing at a height of 6,401 feet, this Hanuman temple was built by Neem Karoli Baba in 1950. It offers beautiful sunrise and sunset views.

Gurney House: Gurney House is the former abode of the British hunter, conservationist, naturalist and author – Jim Corbett.  It’s a private residence, but tourists are welcome to visit by prior permission. The charming colonial cottage is located near the Nainital Lake, and has a tiny museum with the achievements and life story of Jim Corbett. A quaint little nursery is also housed in the premises with a variety of shrubberies and plants.

Himalayan Centre of Aurobindo Ashram: Located in the Kumaon Valley at Talla Ramgarh, away from the din of the city, Himalayan Centre of Sri Aurobindo Ashram aims at helping its visitors attain, peace, health and relaxation of mind through yoga and meditation.

Lands’ End: Set across the Khurpa Tal and vast stretches of plains, the Land’s End is dotted with quaint little hamlets and lush greenery. It provides a breathtaking view of the Khurpatal Lake and its surrounding regions, which are covered with pine forests.

Khurpatal Lake: Khurpa Taal (1,635 m) is a pristine emerald blue-green lake situated at an elevation of 5500 feet. It is encircled by the lofty pine and old cedar trees offering a gorgeous vista of the mountains. 

Sariyatal: Located near Kaladhungi, Sariyatal, is an artificial lake constructed as a tourist spot ideal for solitude seekers, nature lovers and photographers. The tiny lake has numerous activities like paddle boating and water sports. It is also popular for the Himalayan botanical garden which is a research centre other than being a herbarium and a butterfly park.

St. John in the Wilderness Church: Situated adjacent to the High Court of Uttarakhand in Mallital, St John Wilderness Church was built in 1846 by Rev. Daniel Wilson and is one of the oldest heritage sites in Nainital. Perched atop a hill amidst beautiful pine and deodar trees, the church is constructed in Neo-Gothic style of architecture with beautiful stained glass windows.

Raj Bhawan: Raj Bhawan (also called as Governor House) is an awe-inspiring Victorian Gothic edifice built in 1899 by designer F.W. Steven. Known for its magnificent looks and old age charming architecture, Raj Bhawan previously served as summer residence of British Governors. It is now the official residence of Governor of Uttarakhand. Closely resembling the Castle of Scotland, it has 113 well-decorated rooms, garden, swimming pool and a 45-acre golf course. Besides this, there’s a spacious auditorium which is used to conduct seminars, oath-taking ceremonies and other government functions.

Peora: Situated at an elevation of 6000 feet, this place is serene and tranquil with scenic beauty in abundance. There are many British Era bungalows in this rustic place with snow-capped mountain views, lush greenery and a variety of fauna.

Kilbury: Developed as a splendid picnic spot, Kilbury is a bird watcher’s paradise. It is the home of Naina Devi Himalayan Bird Reserve famous for number of bird species. Tourists enjoys the relaxing sound of chirping of birds in the forests of oak, pine and rhododendron.

On the way to Kilbury is the Himalayan View Point (2300 m) which provides picturesque views of the Himalayan Mountains.

Jeolikot: Known as the Gateway to Naini Lake, Jeolikot (1,219m) is a pristine hill station famous for its butterfly population and floriculture.

Pangot: A scenic village nestled in the Himalayan hot-bed, Pangot is a village famous for its forests and birds.

 

Reaching Nainital…

By air, the nearest airport is the Pantnagar airport, some 72 km away. By train, the nearest railway station is the Kathgodam Railway Station which is about 36 km away. By road, Mallital is about 42 km away from Haldwani, a major district of Nainital. Haldwani is 2 km away from the Tallital bus stand. Local traveller cabs, private taxis and luxury buses are available to commute from the railway station to Mallital.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

 

We reach Nainital at around 1:00 pm. The chilling cold hits us when we step out of the taxi. Our hotel, Classic The Mall is in the city centre on the Mall Road, which is the pulse of Nainital.

Constructed by the British, the Mall Road was and is synonym to the city itself. Running parallel to the Naini Lake, it connects the city’s two ends – Mallital, the northern side of the lake and Tallital, the southern side. It was officially renamed as Govind Ballabh Pant Marg, but is still locally called and famous by its previous name, the Mall Road. It is the main shopping, food and cultural centre of Nainital. The road is lined by many hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, travel agencies, banks, and other business concerns.

Despite a thick fog around, the pristine Naini Lake looks splendid.

View from the room balcony…

Naini Lake (or Nainital Lake), a crescent-shaped blue-green freshwater lake covering an area of 3.5 km, is the major attraction of Naintal. Surrounded by seven hills, it’s a wonderful haunt for travellers to hang-out in the evening and enjoy the famous boating experience. It offers eye-catching scenic views during sunrise and sunset.

Hungry, we soon leave for lunch at the city’s popular food haunt, Sakley’s Restaurant and Pastry Shop. It is just a few blocks down the road in Mallital, which has great many shopping places, a variety of multi-cuisine restaurants and eateries and street food stalls. And of course, souvenir shops selling among other things, decorative candles and pinewood crafts by local artisans.

Sakley’s is a nice and cosy place with a variety of tempting sweet goodies. We start with ginger-honey tea. Lunch is Vegetable Pad Thai, Vegetable Au Gratin and Vegetable Pizza and Chicken Sizzler.

After lunch, we plan to go to Snow View Point, one of the most beautiful spots in the Nainital as it offers a magnificent view of the snow-covered mountain peaks of the Himalayas.

But Shilpa doesn’t feel good and wants to return to the hotel. I accompany her, while Swapna and Reshma stay back to sort out a few travel matters. Haha…Shilpa must have picked up the puking bug from me 😀 No, of course not! Thankfully, she feels better after some time with medicine and Electral water. Meanwhile the fog has cleared up and I get a nice and clear view of the lake and surroundings from the room balcony.

 

By the time we return to Sakley’s, it’s around 3:15 pm.

The Aerial Ropeway in Nainital is one of the biggest tourist attractions. It carries people from Mallital to Snow View Point (2270 m) in five minutes while offering the best bird-eye view of Nainital city and Naini Lake. Its timings are 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. So we hurry to the start point which is close by.

The two-way journey costs 300 rupees per adult and 200 rupees per child. The aerial trip offers panoramic views of Naini Lake and the mountain landscape. We are almost at the end point when the power goes off. Nothing to worry about. I remember the time when Shilpa, Swapna and I got stranded on the gondola (which at that time was Asia’s highest and longest cable car) mid-way in the snowy mountains in Gulmarg some 13 years ago in 2007. Haha… that was fun! The power outage lasted more than half an hour or so. This photo from inside the cable car while being stranded…

Okay, but here in Nainital, the power returns within three minutes. There are a number of tourists around since it’s the weekend. There is no entry free. Known as the best view point in Nainital, it is one of the most visited. Visitors come here by cable car, taxi or trekking. It is open on all days except Saturdays from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Enchanting views…

 

 

Watch my video:

 

Yours truly…

With Shilpa and Swapna…

After enjoying the breath-taking landscapes and capturing the best of enchanting views, we stroll over to the souvenir shops for window shopping.

Besides an amusement park, there are plenty of options for recreational activities and entertainment. And a number of restaurants and food stalls too.

In the entertainment area, Reshma and I try our luck at one of the carnival games. It costs 60 rupees. Slide down six balls one at a time and add the number of each place it reaches. There’s a small prize for some total points. I play the first game, but no prize. 60 rupees gone down the drain. Reshma plays, wins a prize… free game. Meaning 60 rupees saved. I play again and win this time… a pack of potato chips! Well, nothing to be so pleased about considering that the game cost 60 rupees and the pack of chips 20 rupees.

We move on to do bottle shooting. Nearby, there’s a well-trained horse doing cute antics for those paying for it.

After spending a little more than half an hour, we start our return journey.

Views from Aerial Ropeway…

Watch my video:

 

Next, we move towards the serene-looking Naini Lake, walking past the Flatts, a large ground. Numerous sports activities such as cricket, volleyball, basketball, badminton and boxing tournaments are held here from time to time. It’s the centre for cultural and recreational activities. All cultural fairs and festivals in Nainital take place in The Flatts.

Close by is the Tibetan Market, also known as Bhutia Market. It is the most popular street market in the city. Here, you can find everything from Tibetan clothes to Himalayan bags, shrugs, scarves, artificial jewellery, ethnic wear and woollen mufflers under one roof. It’s a must go-to place for shopaholics. Tourists flock to this bustling market to get amazed with its extensive variety of woollens and winter wears. You can do the bargaining and purchase the items at half the price. Other than that, the market is also popular for its sumptuous Tibetan food. Roadside stalls and eateries sell mouth-watering thukpa and momos among other regional food items. It is open from 9 am to 10 pm on all days.

Tibetan Market…

 

Watch my video:

 

Naina Devi Temple is beautifully located on the banks of Naini Lake. According to legend, the temple came into existence when Lord Shiva was carrying the corpse of Sati, and her eyes fell to the ground where the temple currently stands. The city, the lake and the temple borrow its name Naina (eyes) Devi temple. It is said that an ancient temple belonging to the 15th century AD was destroyed by a landslide. Later in 1842, the first Naina Devi idol was installed by Moti Lal Shah. However it was destroyed in 1880 by a landslide. The temple was rebuilt again in 1883 by locals.

Inside the main sanctum, there are three deities – Maa Kali Devi on the left, Maa Naina Devi representing two eyes (in the centre), who is an incarnation of Goddess Sati and Lord Ganesha on the right side.

 

Naina Devi Temple…

Watch my video:

The Mall Road becomes one-way in the evenings. This is the time when people flood the road for food, shopping and leisure. In the summer months of May and June, it is closed for vehicular traffic in the evening hours to facilitate Mall strolling which is the famous attraction for all the tourists. It’s the main source of fun and entertainment for people of all ages.

Mall Road…

Almost all the garment shops and stores in town are selling only winter wear.

The exclusive Boat Club is alongside the lake. Entry is strictly for members but Swapna knows someone there, so a visit is on the agenda. But by 6:00 pm, it gets very cold. Eager to return to the warm comfort of our rooms, we head back to the hotel.

On the way, we stop to try some veg momos at one of the many street food stalls doing brisk business.

Tomorrow, we have to leave for Kathgodam station before 7:00 am. So it’s early to bed, early to rise.

 

 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

 

At 6:40 am, we start our journey for Kathgodam station by tourist taxi.

Half an hour later, at Jeolikot, we get to see this absolutely beautiful sunrise! In a matter of a minute, I capture the mountain in the faraway distance cradling the orange ball.

Check it out…

Cool, huh? 😉

Watch my video:

 

Known as the Gateway to Naini Lake, Jeolikot (1,219m) is a pristine hill station famous for its butterfly population along with its floriculture. It serves as a pit stop for travellers en route to Nainital. In the pre-independence era, it used to be halt point for British to acclimatize before moving to the summer capital Nainital. Hence there are many old British structures here.

Yours truly in train at Kathgodam, all set for the journey to Delhi Station…

Being Republic Day, we expect tight security in Delhi. But on arriving, we find everything looking normal.

Delhi Station…

Watch my video:

Even at 3:30 pm, the weather is a bit cold for me. We soon get an Uber to the airport to catch our flight back home to Mumbai. And some hours later, our winter holiday in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand comes to an end…

 

 

 

 

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