The Nainital tourist district is the pride of the Kumaon region in Uttaranchal. While there are many other places equally beautiful, Nainital is certainly the most popular tourist destination in Kumaon. It's a pleasant hill station. For tourists looking for hustle and bustle the best time to go is the summer months when a lot of traffic ascends from Delhi and the plains. The town gets equally crowded during the September/ October season which coincides with the Diwali and Puja holidays. However, like most hill resorts, it has its quite periods too. During the winter, Nainital is quite another beautiful experience when it reverts back to the local population and the crowds are absent. Peaceful, open, and invigorating.
In Indian mythology, Nainital is regarded as one of the 64 'Shakti Peeths'. Legend has it that a grief stricken Lord Shiva was carrying Sati's body and one of her eyes fell here. The Nainital Lake is shaped like an eye and the town derived its name from the combination of Nain (eye) and Tal (lake). The Naina Devi temple is located at one end of the lake.
The place lay undisturbed till an English businessman chanced upon the location while hunting. The businessman, Mr. Barron, a sugar trader got enamoured of the place and decided to start a settlement on the side of the pristine lake. The British had occupied the area in 1815 and the first recorded reference to the township can be found in a journal entry in 1841 in 'Englishman Calcutta' which mentions a lake being discovered in the area. The English settlement soon had lovely cottages on the hillsides around the lake. Sometime later, a number of wealthy Indian families from the old town of Almora shifted to Nainital and the town flourished. Nainital was, at one time, the summer capital of Uttar Pradesh.
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Sports and adventure activity:
The Golf Club near the Raj Bhawan is a delight. For those interested in rock climbing and mountaineering, the Nainital Mountaineering Club would be a good place to start.
Walks around the town are interesting and the hilly region is covered with Sal, Pine ,Oak, Buruns, Kaphal and other trees growing unto 6000 ft. along with Deodar and Surai at the higher altitudes . There are magnificent views of the snow clad Himalayas and some of the peaks that can be seen include the 7817 metre high Nanda Devi.
During the pleasant walks around the town you will surely come across some Himalayan Langoors and rhesus monkeys. Also, if you are lucky you will spot some flying squirrels or Indian porcupines.
Some interesting walks are available. Dorothy's Seat (2292 metres) is named in memory of an English lady who is believed to have died in an air crash. The spot commands a sectional view of the town and the nearby region. China Peak (Naina Peak), at a height of 2610 metres is a 5.5 km trek and has a 4 roomed log cabin built for tourists. A ropeway has been built which takes one up to Snow View at 2270 metres.
One can trek up to Snow View too, or alternatively take the ropeway and then walk down to enjoy the scenery. Snow View provides a 250 km sweeping view of the Himalayan range.
Kilbury (2528 metres) is 12 kms from the town and is a great place for a picnic. There is a Forest rest house which can be booked through the District forest Officer at Nainital.
The Hanuman temple at Hanuman Garhi is 3.2 kms away and was established by Neem Kiroli Baba. A visit to the temple in the evening offers a very good view of the sunset. The Govt. Observatory is also worth a visit. Since there are specific timings for visitors it is advisable to check out details before taking the 4.5 km walk there.
The quiet hill station of Ranikhet is 60 kms from Nainital. It is mainly an Army cantonment and thus has not grown the same way as other towns in Kumaon. Ram Nagar is 65 kms from Nainital and famous for being the place to access Corbett National Park, 50 kms away. Mukteshwar was once a British cantonment. It is located 52 kms from Nainital and is really quiet, green and picturesque. It offers some of the most magnificent views of the Himalayan peaks. The oldest town close by is Almora, 60 kms from Nainital. Steeped in Indian culture and traditions, Swami Vivekanada recommended Almora as a great place to meditate in. The Nainital, Almora, Ranikhet route can be made into an interesting itinerary for someone interested in a quick 3 day tour of the area.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.