Nainital – How to Plan your Trip & Explore

by Shivani Vedantam

India’s very own “Lake District”, Nainital is one of most picturesque and serene hill stations in India. Located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand state, the town owes its name to the pristine Naini Lake. The town is spread out in a valley nearly 7000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by gigantic peaks on all sides. In particular, seven hills, known as the “Saptashring” stand out – Alma, Ayarpatta, Handi Bandi, Deopata, Lariya Kanta, Naina, and Sher ka Danda. Taken together, the lake and the mountains bestow incredible beauty and charm to Nainital.

The resort town of Nainital was and still is famous for its lakes; and at one time there were as many as sixty lakes in the surrounding area. The unique thing about Nainital is that it lies at the exact midpoint of the plains and mountains. From several viewpoints, you will notice sprawling plains on one side and the majestic Himalayas on the other. The hills and valleys around Nainital are thick with forests of pine, oak and deodar and the sleepy, mysterious woods are fragrant with breezes. The town proper was established in the British Era and vestiges of that time remain – churches, cemeteries, bungalows and public schools will transport you to a bygone era.

Image: By Ekabhisheknainital

Below is a list of topics that I will be covering this article about Nainital. You can also click on the headings below to directly jump to that part of the post.

Where is Nainital Located?


Nainital is located in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand state in north India. This immensely popular hill station sits in a valley at the foothills of the outer Himalayas. At the heart of the Nainital is the mango shaped, jewel-bright Naini Lake which boasts a circumference of nearly 3 kilometers! Situated at a height of nearly 7000 feet above sea level, Nainital is surrounded by steep mountains on all side of which Naina, Deopatha, and Ayarpatha are the highest. Around Nainital, there is an incredible number of viewpoints which offer gorgeous panoramic vistas of the snowy ranges, tangled ridges and vast plains stretching as far as the eye can see.

Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Mussoorie

Why Visit Nainital


If you were thinking about visiting Nainital but not able to decide whether you should or not, then mentioned below are a few points that can help decide. To keep it brief, you should visit Nainital if:

  • You want to visit a colonial hill station of a bygone era
  • You want to relax in a soothing, calm; and above all cool temperature
  • You want peace and quiet from din and drama of city life
  • You want to add a sense of adventure to the trip; and want to go on a Jungle Safari
  • You want to explore the upper Indian Himalayas
  • You are traveling with family; and want to make sure your kids have a good time.
  • You want to visit a place that is easy to reach and very well connected

How to reach Nainital


Nainital is a very well connected town and getting there will not be a problem at all. Depending on your own preference, you can either chose to drive by your own vehicle or use public transport to get here. However, due to its location in the hills, there will definitely be some amount of road journey involved so if you were coming by flight or train, you will have to find the nearest airport or train station that is of convenience to you. More details on this are provided further in the article.

How to reach Nainital by Car / Motorcycle

There are two most common routes that you can take to travel from Delhi to Nainital. Up to Moradabad, it is actually the same road but after Moradabad, you can either take the road via Rampur and Haldwani; or you can travel via Kaladhungi. I will explain both.

Delhi to Nainital via Rampur

Delhi – Ghaziabad – Hapur – Garh Mukteshwar – Gajraula – Moradabad – Rampur – Haldwani – Kathgodam – Nainital

This route is more commercial and hence also the more crowded one. Until Moradabad, the journey is a smooth one but then it turns into a problematic one the moment you cross Moradabad and remains so until Nainital. You will have to cross the busy market of Bilaspur and Rampur to get to Haldwani, which is even more crowded. You will have to encounter all kinds of traffic here including light to heavy vehicles as well as bullock carts. Condition of this road is kind of a little bad and I will advise to not take this one.

Delhi to Nainital via Kaladhungi

Delhi – Ghaziabad – Hapur – Garmukteshwar – Gajraula – Moradabad – Tanda – Bazpur – Kaladungi – Nainital

As compared to the one via Haldwani, this route is much more scenic and a lot better. Heavy vehicles are not allowed on this road so there won’t be any buses or trucks to bother you. Condition of the road too is absolutely amazing and the total distance is only 265 kilometers. By this road, you can easily make it to Nainital from Delhi in about 6 – 7 hours.

Nainital Road Condition

Road conditions in Nainital and while getting there will be a mix of good, average and bad but it will mostly be good all the way. If you are driving by yourself, make sure you are confident about tackling the mountain roads, which are steep and full of hairpin bends.

Best Vehicle for Nainital

There is no best vehicle as such needed for Nainital trip. Though the place is at some height, I have seen the locals here drive around in a Maruti Alto as well. So as long as your car or motorcycle is well maintained, you will be able to visit Nainital irrespective of its engine size. Specially for motorcycles though, if yours was a 100CC or 125CC one, it would be better to plan the trip solo and travel as light as possible.

How to reach Nainital by Bus

There is a regular Bus service to Nainital from almost every major city nearby. These buses are operated by the local state transport as well as private operators. You can get to Nainital by either UP Roadways, Uttarakhand Roadways or other state-run buses depending on where you were coming from. Many private bus operators offer daily travel options from New Delhi as well as other cities and towns. You can choose from non AC, AC, Volvo or sleeper buses.

In terms of booking a Bus seat, If you were coming by a private Bus, you would have to work directly with the tour operator. For Uttarakhand state-run buses, you can do the booking at their official government’s website – www.utconline.uk.gov.in

How to reach Nainital from Delhi

There are daily bus services from Delhi to Nainital. The buses leave from ISBT Anand Vihar Delhi and are run by Uttarakhand Roadways.

Bus Fare to Nainital

This will entirely depend on the type of Bus and whether it was a state run or by a private tour operator one. But at an average, a Delux Bus to Nainital will cost you about Rs. 600 from places like Delhi and Dehradun. An ordinary Bus ticket will cost close to Rs. 300-400.

Buses from Nainital

For your return journey, most Buses leave Nainital from Tallital bus stand. If you weren’t able to find a Bus to your hometown directly from Nainital, you will have to first get to either Haldwani and Bhowali. Haldwani is a major Bus as well as Train Terminus and there are regular Buses from here to almost every major city nearby.

Below is a schedule of some buses plying directly from Nainital

  • Nainital to Delhi Bus: Departures at 9 am, 9.30am, 7.30pm 8.30pm, 9 pm. Fare Rs. 600 for AC Bus and Rs. 390 for non AC
  • Nainital to Haridwar Bus: Daily departure at 6.30pm. Fare is Rs. 355 and it is an ordinary Bus.
  • Nainital to Dehradun Bus: Departures at 5.30am, 7.30am, 6 pm, 8 pm. Fare is Rs. 425 per person.
  • Nainital to Almora Bus: Departures at 7 am and 10 am. Fare per person is Rs.100
  • Nainital to Haldwani Bus: A Bus at every half an hour from 5.30 am to 9 pm. Fare is Rs. 65 per person.

Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Gangotri

How to reach Nainital by Taxi

You can also book a private taxi to drop you at Nainital but it may turn out to be a costly affair. From Delhi or a city at the same distance, a private taxi to Nainital will cost about Rs. 4000 for a drop and Rs. 6000 for a return journey. If you opted for an SUV like Innova, this rent will be around Rs. 6000 for a drop and Rs. 9000 for a return journey.

How to reach Nainital by Train

Nearest railway station to Nainital is at Kathgodam, located about 35 kilometers away. It has robust connectivity to major Indian cities such as New Delhi, Kolkata, and Lucknow.  There are many daily trains to nearby states. Some of the frequent trains are Ranikhet Express, Bagh Express, Kranti Express, and Uttar Sampark Express. The best train by far is the New Delhi Kathgodam Shatabdi Express which operates daily. Travel time on this train is approximately 5.5 hours one way. From Kathgodam, you can book a private taxi or share a cab to reach Nainital.

How to reach Nainital from Kathgodam

From Kathgodam, private taxis charge about Rs 650-900 for a drop to Nainital. The price will be different between the types of car you chose. If you wanted to opt for a more budget option, you can also board shared taxis which would cost 150-300 per person. Most hotels can also arrange a pick up for you from the train station if you were staying with them. The cost will be the same as I mentioned above, Rs 600-900 for a drop.

Most cost effective method would be to walk to the bus stand which is about 1.5 kilometers away from railways station away, and take a bus to Nainital which will only cost Rs. 60-65 per person.

How to reach Nainital by Flight

The nearest airport to Nainital is Pantnagar Airport, located about 65 kilometers and 2 hours away. It is served by Air India and is one of the least busy airports in the country, handling only 6-7 scheduled flights a week. There are also private chartered flights to Pantnagar and it also provides helicopter landing pads. Direct flights to Pantnagar are available only from New Delhi and a private taxi from Pantnagar to Nainital will cost Rs. 4000-4500 in peak season.

Local Transport in Nainital


Once you have reached Nainital, below is how you can move around locally in the town and to nearby areas for sightseeing.

Private taxis

These typically charge Rs. 1000 per person for the Kathgodam-Nainital journey and Rs. 2000 for the Pantnagar-Nainital journey. A share taxi would reduce the cost to Rs. 300-600 per person.

Taxi rides within town cost Rs. 50 to Rs. 250.

Self-driving

Drive into Nainital from New Delhi via Ghaziabad and Hapur. Continue on NH 24 till you pass Moradabad and then transfer to NH 121. You will reach Nainital after passing through Kashipur, Tanda, Nandpur, Ramnagar, and Kalidhungi.  Try to begin your drive as early in the morning as possible to avoid getting stuck in traffic on the national highways.

Also Read: Uttarakhand Roadways Bus Time Table

Cycle Rickshaw

Some flat stretches in Nainital such as on the route between Malli Tal and Talli Tal offer cycle rickshaws. These are very popular with tourists these days. A prepaid cycle rickshaw will cost you about Rs. 10 per kilometer, which is dirt cheap. However, avoid these if possible. They are time-consuming and impossible to navigate through thick crowds. Also, certain areas of Nainital such as the Mall Road are closed entirely to vehicles. It is also pretty costly.

Cycle-rickshaws charge Rs. 30 along the Mall.

Rented Motorcycles

Another way to move around in Nainital would be to rent a motorcycle or an automatic bike like Activa. You can rent one from either Nainital itself or from Kathgodam or Haldwani (near bus stop and railway station)

Private Car

For a full day of sightseeing, it is wise to book a private car. The cost will be approximately Rs. 1800. At the day end, they will drop you where you wish.

Horse Riding

While prohibited inside the town proper, you can hire a horse to scale the surrounding hills. Bara Pathar is the best place to hire a horse.

Boats

Nowadays, Naini Lake resembles the Dal Lake in Srinagar due to the sheer number of crafts sailing on its waters. On any given day, you can choose to hire paddle boats, rowing boats or even a yacht. Since the Naini Lake has a circumference of more than 3 kilometers, you can moor your boat at some far off jetty and have a picnic on the Lakeshore, far away from the tourist crowd!

Walk

Nainital is best explored on foot. Take your time and enjoy the picturesque beauty of this hill station on long walks.

Weather of Nainital


Nainital retains a cool and pleasant climate throughout the year with misty mornings and evenings, bright sun and a clear sky. During monsoon, the sky is cloudy and it may rain for days on end. In the months of January and February, the region receives moderate snowfall and the temperatures can dip down to zero.

Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Chopta

Temperature in Nainital

Here is a month wise average temperature break up:

  • January – 2 to 10 degree Celsius; heavy woolen and warm clothes needed
  • February – 3 to12 degree Celsius; heavy woolen and warm clothes needed
  • March – 5 to 16 degree Celsius; snow begins to melt and the weather turns warmer
  • April – 12 to 21 degree Celsius; pleasant weather, light woolens needed
  • May – 14 to 24 degree Celsius; pleasant weather, plenty of cottons with jacket
  • June – 16 to 23 degree Celsius; pleasant weather, plenty of cottons with jacket
  • July – 16 to 21 degree Celsius; monsoon season, waterproof everything and carry umbrellas and raincoats
  • August – 16 to 21 degree Celsius; monsoon season, waterproof everything and carry umbrellas and raincoats
  • September – 14 to 20 degree Celsius; this is the best time to visit Nainital
  • October – 10 to 19 degree Celsius; winter starts to settle in towards the end of the month
  • November – 5 to 14 degree Celsius; snowfall so heavy woolen and warm clothes needed
  • December – 3 to 12 degree Celsius; snowfall so heavy woolen and warm clothes needed
Travel possibilities During different Seasons

During peak tourist seasons, all forms of transport will be highly expensive. To get to Nainital you must plan at least 2-3 months in advance and pre-book travel tickets. Otherwise, not only will you find prices sky-high, you may not be able to book a ticket at all. During monsoon, prices drop, but traveling through the mountain roads is tricky as landslides are frequent and devastating.

Best time to visit Nainital


Its location high in the Kumaon Hills means Nainital enjoys pleasant temperature and weather year round. One of the strange facts is that Nainital’s climate is affected by Naini Lake, which causes mild rain showers nearly every day! In winter months there is abundant snowfall, so temperatures take a nosedive. With the right clothing and equipment, you can explore Nainital anytime you wish!

Spring-summer (March through May): This is the best time to visit Nainital. All the tourist hot-spots, sightseeing places and adventure activities are open for business. The temperature ranges from 10 degree Celsius to 27 degree Celsius.

Monsoon (July through mid-September): This is the off-season time, and the areas becomes prone to landslides. If you like solitude, this is the time to visit. Also brilliant for a romantic getaway. Be aware that most activities, scenic spots and adventure sports will be closed during this time.

Winters (October through February): Fresh snowfall and sub-zero temperatures. Incredible time for honeymooners. Great for winter sports.

To sum up, here are the best times to visit Nainital:

  • With family – March, April, May and June
  • In winter – February and March
  • For photography – April, July, August, September and October
  • On Budget – July and August
  • For honeymoon – January, February and March
  • For snow – January and February
  • To see snowfall – January

For a more details version of the information above, please read When is the Best time to visit Nainital

Things to Pack for Nainital Trip


Clothes to Pack for Nainital

Carry warm clothes no matter what time of year you are travelling. Also, dress in layers so that you can put on or take off a layer when the temperature changes suddenly. In winter especially, thermal wear and heavy jackets are a must. Carry extra pairs of clean socks at all times. All mountain areas can experience sudden or continuous downpours at all times of the year, so carry an umbrella, poncho or windcheater. Nainital is best explored on foot, so sturdy, all terrain, all weather shoes are a basic requirement. Remember, respect the sentiments of the local tribal people and do not wear clothes which are revealing, especially when visiting a holy place such as a Monastery.

Documents

Carry at least 10 copies of your Identification proof and Address proofs along with the original documentation. Passport and Aadhar Card are the accepted ones. Also, carry several passport size photographs. It is also advised to carry a list of emergency contact numbers on your person at all times.

Hygiene and personal care

A basic first aid kit should be carried on a priority basis which includes not just bandages and gauze but also medication for fever, diarrhoea, indigestion, cold etc. If you take prescription drugs, carry the adequate dosage of the same to cover the duration of your trip. Many areas are very sparsely populated such that finding a medical store or a doctor is a miracle. If you plan to visit high altitude areas carry a small oxygen cylinder and medicine for altitude sickness. Carry your own toilet paper and tissues. Also, for women, carry sanitary products.

Also Read: Himalayas in Monsoon : Top Tips for a Safe Trip

Electronics

Carry at least two fully charged power banks at all times for your mobile phone or laptop along with extra batteries for torches. Photography enthusiasts should carry extra memory cards.

Food and medicines

Carry all the toiletries you usually require since you might not find them in the local markets. Hand sanitizer, mosquito repellent cream, and detergent soap sachets are essential. Carry a sunscreen of at least 30+ SPF and a good pair of sunglasses. Carry extra garbage bags to store laundry. Most of the trip will be covered by road and it can take more time than estimated to reach the destination. Also, for vegetarians, in particular, some areas may not offer much in the way of food. So, carry dry fruits and snacks for emergency food requirement.

Cash

ATMs are few and far between outside Nainital, and the ones which exist may not have adequate cash at all times. So, it is wise to carry a decent sum of cash. Don’t rely on payment through card as most hotels and nearly all shopkeepers only accept cash. Distribute cash through all your belongings for safety.

Other Items:
  • Warm Caps
  • Pair of warm, waterproof gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock lotion with highest SPF that you can find (if visiting in Summer)
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescribed medicines if you are on medication
  • Head Phones/Earphones
  • Power Bank
  • Chargers for your electronic items
  • Umbrella or a Rain Poncho (if visiting during monsoon)
  • Torch
  • Snow boots if visiting in winter
  • Comfortable pants if planning to go on a trek as a pair of jeans is not advisable for this purpose

What to See in Nainital


I have actually covered this topic in details in another article, Places to visit in Nainital and Things to do. But for a brief overview, below is a list of places that you can visit in Nainital.

  • Naini Lake
  • Snow view
  • Cheena Peak
  • Naina Devi Temple
  • Observatory
  • Zoo Gardens
  • St. John’s Church
  • Bhowali
  • Ghorakhal
  • Sat Tal
  • Kilbury
  • Bhim Tal
  • Naukuchiya Tal
  • Mukteshwar

What to do in Nainital


Below is a list of tourist activities that you can enjoy and be a part of in Nainital to make your trip a truly memorable experience. I have mentioned the name of the place and different types of activites you can do there.

  • Bhimtal: Activities – Nature walks, forest exploration, boating, bird watching and rock climbing
  • Naukuchiya Tal: Activities – Hiking, herbology, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding
  • Jim Corbett National Park: Activities – Jungle safari, tiger spotting, camping, bird watching and animal watching at the Ramganga reservoir
  • Naini Lake: Activities – Rowing, yachting, paddling
  • Tiffin Top: Activities – Picnic, hiking, photography
  • Nainital Mountaineering Club: Activities – Rock climbing
  • Hanuman Garhi: Activities – View the sunset
  • Nainital Ropeway: Activities – Ropeway ride to Snow View
  • Pangot and Kilbury Bird Sanctuary: Activities – Spot endangered birds such as Owls, Thrushes, Grosbeaks and Forktails along with Bears, Deer, Leopards, Goral and Civet to name a few in their natural habitat.
  • Cave Gardens: Activities – Explore a series of interconnected caves which educate about Himalayan flora and fauna. A must visit for kids and adults alike.
  • Water zorbing in Bhimtal lake
  • Paragliding in Naukuchiatal
  • Camping in Sattal
  • Short drive to Khurpatal and Sariatal falls

Also Read: Kedarnath – The Holy Adobe of Mahadev

Accommodation and Other Facilities


Hotels in Nainital

Nainital being a much in demand tourist hotspot, you will find hotels of all sizes, amenities and price ranges in this town. Again, it is wiser to pre-book accommodations to get a good deal. Here’s a tip – the state tourism body Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam operates a chain of hotels throughout the region. They are located at prime spots, sometimes a stone’s throw away from the best attractions. They are also clean and spacious with courteous and helpful staff.

Mobile Network in Nainital

All major mobile networks in India offer connectivity within and near Nainital. However, the farther you venture into remote areas, the lesser the chances of mobile connectivity, except BSNL network. Always carry a dumbphone with a BSNL SIM that you can use in case of emergencies. Dumbphone charge lasts for weeks and they are hardy in chilly weather. Any smartphone you carry should be kept close to the skin. Extreme cold can cause a smartphone battery to zonk out.

Since 2016, Nainital has free Wi-Fi. In fact, it was the first town in Uttarakhand to have this facility. At present, the Kathgodam Railway Station, Mall Road and Tibetan Market have free Wi-fi along with certain public sector areas.

Hospitals / Medical Assistance in Nainital

There are several hospitals and clinics in Nainital and you will have no problem getting medical assistance here. Listed below are some of the most well known hospitals here.

  • S.G. Foundation: Opposite Bhawali post office, Malli Bazaar, +91 97612 09915/95577 26236
  • G.B. Pant Hospital: Ramsay Hospital Road, Talli Tal, 05942 235388
  • D. Pandey Hospital: Nainital HO, 05942 235012
  • Ashok Hospital: Chaudhri Chauraha, Nainital HO,+91 95574 75754
Banks / ATMs in Nainital

All the commercial banks of India have branches and ATMs in various parts of Nainital. Here are the major banks and their locations:

  • ICICI Bank – Prem Restaurant, Malli Tal
  • State Bank of India – Bara Bazaar, Malli Tal
  • HDFC Bank – Mall Road
  • Yes Bank – Kosi Road, Ramnagar
  • Axis Bank – Prabhu Kund, Bara Bazaar, Malli Tal
  • Punjab National Bank – Bara Bazaar, Malli Tal
  • Punjab National Bank – Mall Road
  • Allahabad Bank – Bara Bazaar, Malli Tal
  • Bank of Baroda – Bara Bazaar, Malli Tal
  • UCO Bank – Grain Villa Compound, Talli Tal
Petrol Pumps / Mechanics in Nainital

Here are some petrol pumps and repair stops in and around Nainital:

  • Indian Oil Petrol Pump, Thandi Road, Talli Tal
  • HP Petrol Pump, Haldwani Road, Talli Tal
  • Indian Oil Petrol Pump, Ayarpatta
  • Petrol Station, Sukha Tal
  • IOC Petrol Station, Talli Tal

Mechanics too are available in Nainital and if you had a breakdown, you will be able to get it fixed easily. However, if it was something major, you may have to drive down to Haldwani.

Electricity and other facilities

Nainital does not experience frequent power cuts. However, you should carry a high power torch and extra batteries if you plan on traveling to remote areas. In the hotels, you will be provided with all basic facilities that you need as a tourist.

Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Lansdowne

Permits and visa

Sightseeing in and around Nainital does not require any permits or visa. However, if you want to visit the Observatory or camp at the Jim Corbett National Park, you will have to apply well in advance.

Currency and foreign exchange

The Indian National Rupee (INR) is accepted everywhere. If you need to exchange foreign currency, you will fund a number of money changers on Mall Road and in Bara Bazaar. It is essential that you carry adequate INR because no other currency is accepted.

People and culture


Nainital is an eclectic mix of various ethnic Kumaoni and Garhwali tribes (they lived here since time immemorial), Gurkhas, Nepalis, Tibetans, and migrants from the Indian plains who settled here decades ago. Although the town was established by a European country, it has a quintessential Indianness – of colourful, bustling and a perfect example of unity in diversity. Nainital celebrates tribal folk festivals, Tibetan holy days, Christmas, and of course the Hindu religious festivals with equal elan and enthusiasm.

Events and festivals

Nainital celebrates several festivals, as mentioned below, with happiness and fanfare:

  • January: Kale Kaua or Uttarani – Celebrates the beginning of winter’s end
  • February: Basant Panchami and Samvastar Pareva – Saraswati Puja
  • March: Phooldeyi – The homes are decorated with the first flowers of spring
  • April: Bikhauti –  A festival that celebrates Navratri, prayers for abundant future harvests and sibling love all in one!
  • July: Hariyala – A celebration for the wedding of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva
  • August: Olgia or Gheeya Sankranti – A festival to celebrate the ripening of the harvest and the full abundant treasures from nature
  • September: Nanda Devi Fair – An unbroken tradition since the 16th century, the Nanda Devi fair brings together Kumaoni people from all walks of life
  • October: Sharadotsav and Dussehra – This is the year’s busiest and most spectacular festivals and draws both domestic and foreign tourists. Lasting for nine days, these festivals involve pujas, melas, processions and street food galore!

What to Eat & Where


Kumaoni cuisine has a rustic character, being simple, homely, nutritious and inexpensive. Much of the food is grown and consumed locally. In fact, if you ask for local dishes, it is likely that the rice, wheat, vegetables or fruits are freshly harvested from some local garden. The organic produce tastes more flavorful than anything you would find in a city grocery. Food imports are mostly made to satisfy tourist tastes.

Local dishes emphasize pulses and wheat. For special occasions, meat dishes are served, which are delicately spiced and cooked, in stark contrast to other north Indian meat-based dishes. Meals are cooked with 4-5 ingredients and the combinations allow flavours to emerge perfectly.

Also Read: 12 Scenic and Offbeat Places in Uttarakhand

Cuisine and dishes

Here are some typical dishes you will find here:

  • Parathas – Slathered with fresh, unsalted butter and served with a tangy, sour apricot chutney
  • Chicken curry – Mildly seasoned and served on the bone
  • Fish – Caught from fresh water streams they are coated in millet past and fried to perfection. Served with apricot chutney
  • Mutton Kachmoli – An entire sheep rotated over the fire and seasoned sparsely to get an authentic, hunted-barbecue taste
  • Kachi – Locally prepared citrus liquor with a dash of lemon juice
  • Momos – A Tibetan gift and much loved. Served with Shezwan chutney
  • Maggie – Cooked with vegetables, each shop and stall offers its own version
  • Egg dishes – Hot omelettes and eggrolls on chilly evenings, how can you resist?
  • Bhaang Ki Khatai – A chutney of bhang seeds, cumin seeds and red chillies cooked in buttermilk and served with parathas
  • Thechwani – A snack of crushed radish roots and boiled potatoes seasoned with ginger, garlic and coriander
  • Sisunak Saag – Made with nettle leaves boiled in water, combined with butter, tomatoes and salt. A very nutritious side dish for rice
  • Kafuli – Gravy of mashed vegetables and Spanish leaves cooked in ghee or mustard oil. Served with kulcha or roti
  • Sani Hui Mooli – A paste of radish, bhang seeds and lemon juice
  • Bhutta – Fresh sweet corn is boiled or roasted
  • Ras – A number of dals are cooked together and served with bhang ki chutney and steamed rice
  • Bhatt ki churkani – This is a dish only served on special occasions and is prepared with black bhatt and rice paste
  • Aloo ke gutke – A popular snack, this spicy dish has boiled potatoes seasoned with red chillies and coriander leaves
  • Arsa – This dessert is much looked forward to at every wedding, festival and family occasion. It consists of rice, mustard oil and jaggery for sweetness
Where to eat

Nainital offers innumerable options to eat out – large restaurants on the Mall road, tiny hole in the wall shops, street stalls, roadside dhabas and Maggie points. You can eat a different dish every day at every meal! However, if you have the opportunity to befriend a local, try authentic homemade Kumaoni fare. Beats the market offerings any day!

What to Buy in Nainital & Where


Shopping in Nainital

Don’t leave Nainital without shopping to your heart’s content. Here are the Nainital’s most famous shopping choices:

  • Handcrafted woollens – Dresses, caps, pullovers, socks, scarves, shawls and mufflers. Special shout-out to Pashmina goodies
  • Brass and wooden knickknacks – Statues, walking sticks, boxes of various sizes and home decor pieces
  • Accessories – In the Tibetan section, you can find some very trendy, quirky and unique footwear, bags and jewellery
  • Souvenirs – Lampshades, prayer wheels, prayer flags, books and porcelain
  • Exotic candles – Nainital offers these unique candles, which quite literally come in every shape, size and aroma. They are incredibly beautiful works of art, and you will end up displaying them in your home rather than ever burning them! They make the perfect souvenirs for loved ones back home.
  • Fruits and fruit products – Nainital is somewhat of a hub for the local fruits industry. All year round, you can find a variety of fruits fresh from the orchards: strawberries, apricots, cherries, apples, lemons (Pahari nimbu) and plums. Fruits products such as red chilly pickles, chutneys, juices, jams, squashes sell out as soon as they are put on sale!
  • Plant fabric clothes – These garments are made from bamboo or papaya fibres. They are exclusively available only in Nainital. They are similar to Khadi, as in they keep the body cool in summer and warm in winter, and also smell fresh and odour free.
  • Bells – At the Ghorakhal Golu Temple, you will find thousands of brass bells, of all shapes and sizes. These are offered to the local deity, Lord Gholu. They make unique souvenirs.
Places to Shop in Nainital

Below are some of the places that are popular among the tourist lot for shopping.

Mall Road

As its name suggests, the Mall Road is a relic of the British Era. Constructed parallel to the lake, it is the heart of Nainital town. This area has not only a bustling market, but also cafes, restaurants, banks, and administrative offices.

Timings – 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Come here for – Traditional woollen garments, shawls and cardigans, textiles, handicrafts, wooden carvings and sculptures, souvenir items and candles in amusing shapes like fairies or fruits

Also Read: 7 Short & Easy Winter Treks in Uttarakhand

Bara Bazaar

This market is located in the Malli Tal area, and is a must visit for any food enthusiast. You can purchase fresh fruits, organic produce sourced from the surrounding hills. Some of the most popular fruits available here are strawberries, apples, cherries and blueberries. In fact, it is common to find tourists carting away these fruits by the crate loads, so delicious, are they!

Timings – 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Come here for – Fresh fruits, jams, preserves, juices, marmalades and a host of other fruit-based products, cane sticks, wooden carvings and candles.

Tibetan Market

Located next to the Naini Lake, this market is operated by the Tibetan refugees who fled the Chinese occupation. What began as a small outpost to cater to the community’s needs has now grown to an astonishing size. Explore this market and you’ll be fascinated by the variety of items on offer. Colourful, affordable and unique, this is a must visit for a shopaholic. You will need all your bargaining skills here!

Timings – 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Come here for – Mufflers, watches, ethnic costumes and dresses, scarves, exquisite shawls and handmade bags

Bhutia Bazaar

This market is the best place to find items of ethnic Kumaoni origin, in particular woollens made by the local women.

Timings – 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Come here for – Colorful and patterned scarves, mittens, shawls, sweaters, jackets, gloves and caps all handcrafted and made of pure wool.

Itinerary for Nainital


Time Needed for Nainital Trip

Nainital as a tourist destination has plenty of places to keep you occupied for days, weeks even. But assuming that you do not have that kind of time in hand, I will say that a period of 4 to 5 days is sufficient enough for planning a trip here. This will ensure that you are able to cover all of the must-visit places without rushing through in any part of your journey.

Also Read: Gaumukh Trek from Gangotri – A Complete Travel Guide

Nainital Itinerary

Below is a sample itinerary for Nainital trip. For the sake of explaining the route and travel plan, I will assume Delhi as your starting point. However, even if you were coming from a different city, only the journey on first and last day will be different. Rest of the details will still apply.

Covers: Naini Lake, Snow View, Cheena Peak, Naina Devi Temple, Zoo Gardens, Mall Road, Hanuman Garhi, Ropeway and Cave Gardens

  • Day 1: Depart from New Delhi to Nainital, preferably very early in the morning. If you are driving, you can have lunch at the various roadside dhabas. Reach Nainital in 6-7 hours and check in to the hotel. Relax for a bit. In the evening, explore the Mall Road.
  • Day 2: Sightseeing around Nainital – begin at the Naina Devi Temple and explore the lake and boating. Next, visit the zoo. For lunch, head up to Tiffin Top for a picnic. In the evening, take the ropeway to Snow point for the sunset.
  • Day 3: Excursion to Bhim Tal and Sat Tal. Alternatively, you can also visit and camp overnight at the Jim Corbett National Park.
  • Day 4: Shopping at the Bhutia Market, Tibetan Market and Bara Bazaar
  • Day 5: Breakfast followed by departure to New Delhi

History & Mythology


Brief History of Nainital

Nainital in its current form was established in 1841 when the Kumaon region was wrested from the Kingdom of Nepal by the British. Soon, large numbers of Europeans began visiting, attracted by the pleasant climate and wild beauty of the place. In time, it became a health resort and British officials, soldiers and their families escaped here at the peak of the Indian summer. Much later, Nainital was officially made the summer residence of the United Provinces’ governor.

 Mythology and Legends

Naini Lake and the surrounding areas have immense significance to the Hindu religion. The lake is renowned since ancient times and finds mention in the Skanda Purana, an important Hindu religious scripture where it is called “Tri Rishi Sarovar”. It is believed that three Rishis: Pulaha, Atri and Pulastya were passing through on a pilgrimage. They were thirsty, but there was no water to be found nearby. Together, they dug a hole in the valley and waters of the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet were diverted to form this lake.

The Naina Devi Temple, from which the lake and later the town got its name, is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths. It is believed that the Goddess Sati’s eyes (Nain in Sanskrit) fell here when her body was cut up by Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra. The temple was built at the exact spot where her eyes had fallen. Naina Devi is worshipped by people from all across India.

Other Tips


Is Nainital Safe to Visit

It is very safe to be in Nainital throughout the year. However, visitors are advised to stay cautious during monsoon season. The only thing visitors have to consider is to stay indoors as it may rain continuously during the rainy season.

The standard rules of safety like being alert with strangers and not to hang out in strange places will apply to everyone. If you are travelling alone then it is advisable to stay in a hotel in Nainital itself and not in a remote area.

Also Read: Rishikesh Taxi Rates – Taxi Fare in Rishikesh

Travel with family

Nainital is a child-friendly place and there are plenty of attractions to keep the young ones occupied and happy. However, since they will be unfamiliar with the terrain, it is important to keep an eye on them at all times, especially in the wilderness areas like forests, viewpoints and picnic spots.

Travel with partner

Nainital is perfect for a romantic getaway, whether for a week or even just a weekend!

Languages Spoken in Nainital

The local people speak “Pahari” which at its core is a distinct variation of Hindi that has evolved over centuries of isolation. However, most of them communicate in Hindi readily. Many even have a basic understanding of English. So, right there you have a choice of three languages to choose from!

  • Nainital Altitude: About 6800 feet above sea level
  • Does it snow in Nainital? Yes, it snows in Nainital towards end of December and in the month of January.
  • Nearby Town(s): Bhimtal, Ramgarh, Bhowali, Mukteshwar, Kilbury, Peora, Betalghat, Nathuakhan and Nainital Cantonment
  • Population and density: Just above 40,000 for locals, and a varying floating population of tourists and service providers during peak seasons
  • Religion: Majority Hinduism or derivations thereof, minorities of Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Sikhs and Muslims

Emergency numbers:

  • Police – 100
  • Fire – 101
  • Ambulance/Medical – 102
  • Women’s helpline – 1090
  • SMS emergency – 9411112780
  • Child helpline – 1098
  • Railway enquiry – 139
  • Disaster helpline – 108
  • Air ambulance – +91-7091360310 / 915285753, 9152826654, 9152551169
  • Pantnagar airport – 05944233685

Cultural differences:

  • It is highly inappropriate to touch a person of the opposite sex, even in conversation, even in a friendly manner, especially if you have just met
  • If you visit places of worship, then look around carefully. If others are removing their shoes or covering their heads, do the same
  • In monasteries and Buddhist temples always be silent
Traffic Rules

The entry of heavy vehicles is not allowed during the months of May, June, and October from 8 AM to 10.30 AM; and 2.30 PM to 10.30 PM, light vehicles from 6.00 PM to 10.00 PM and cycle rickshaw from 6.00 PM to 9.00 PM. There is no parking allowed on the Mall road except for designated parking places as mentioned below.

Parking Spots
  • Near Nagar Palika Nainital
  • Opposite SBI Nainital
  • At Tallital Haldwani Road.
  • Parking at Sukhatal, Opposite Petrol Pump Mallital.

Movement of vehicles is not allowed on Mall Road between 6 – 9 p.m during tourist season. Tallital to Mallital is converted into one-way route for LMV from 6 to 9 pm. During Off Season the Mall Road is closed between 6 – 8 p.m

Conclusion

That coverst most, if not all, of the information you need to know in terms of visiting Nainital. I hope the article above was of help. If you have any questions; or need any other details; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer. If you have been to Nainital and have a few tips to share to help others, I welcome you to comment and suggest.

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